March 3rd, 2011
Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter
Watch the Full Film

American Masters congratulates Morgan Neville, director of the 2011 American Masters film Troubadours: Carole King/James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter, for winning the 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for 20 Feet from Stardom. Watch the full 90-minute documentary Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter, below.

The narrative begins in the ’60s, when Carole King and Gerry Goffin were writing their now-iconic songs at Manhattan’s 1650 Broadway hit factory, and James Taylor was emerging as a folksinger/songwriter. The location then shifts westward to L.A.’s Laurel Canyon, the breeding ground for the burgeoning singer-songwriter community, and to Doug Weston’s Troubadour, where the King/Taylor partnership begins to blossom and a close-knit crew of future legends — including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Eagles, and Elton John—performs on the small stage and holds court in the bar, the epicenter of the action.

The story is told through archival footage, much of it never before seen, which is intercut with the vivid recollections and incisive reflections of a wide cast of characters. Along with King and Taylor, contributors include David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Darrow, Kris Kristofferson, J.D. Souther, and Elton John; Taylor’s former manager and producer, music impresario Peter Asher; the one-time head of Ode Records and producer of King’s Tapestry, Lou Adler; musicians Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Craig Doerge and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar (Taylor’s childhood friend and King’s bandmate in The City); songwriters Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and (King collaborator) Toni Stern; rock critics Robert Hilburn (who covered the scene as Los Angeles Times’ pop music critic); Barney Hoskyns (author of the So Cal music histories Waiting for the Sun and Hotel California) and Robert Christgau; Troubadour denizens Cheech & Chong and Steve Martin; photographer/musician Henry Diltz; and King’s daughter Sherry Goffin Kondor.

King says early in the film, “When we sprang out of the box there was just all this generational turbulence, cultural turbulence, and there was a hunger for the intimacy, the personal thing that we did.” Browne provides a further explanation for the singer-songwriter phenomenon: “Maybe what it was is that people who wrote their own songs were in ascendance. The authenticity of somebody telling their own story was what people were interested in.”

  • Mike Heffley

    I find your site obnoxiously, teasingly unfriendly. Why don’t you make your videos more accessible? Why do you say “watch full film” when that is not what you allow?

  • Chad M Bouche

    Was it just me, but last night some audio on the James Taylor & Carol King episode wasnt hearable, I think it might be because it was in HD, and I have Standard tv and direct tv.

    Just wondering.

    Thanks I love the shows

  • Carl

    What a great show and wonderful tribute to the geniuses who gave us such a treasury of music.

  • colin fitzpatrick

    Hi Mike -

    I’m not sure what problems you may be having with the video. At times, during periods of heavy traffic, the PBS server may be slow to respond. We are currently working on increasing our capacity to accommodate more users and faster load times for video, but for now you may have to be patient while the video loads. Otherwise, if you are within the US, the video is live and should play when you click the button with the triangle symbol on the video player embedded on this page.

    Thanks for watching American Masters and visiting our Web site.

  • Dusting Off The Memories

    For those of us who were lucky enough to grow up listening to this music, this program is a treat to watch. Although I never got the chance to see anyone at the Troubadour, I have an older brother who did. I heard stories about what a special place it was and some of the artists he saw there. The L.A. music scene as a kid was incredible. I’l never forget seeing James Taylor at Universal Studios Amphitheater in ‘78 or ‘79. We took a picnic dinner (as he later wrote in a song) and saw one of the best concerts ever. Graham Nash and David Crosby joined him as they sang “Mexico” together. Amazing. At the start of the second set, after the intermission, the stage was dark and James began playing “You’ve Got a Friend.” A few moments later, this beautiful piano joined in and the lights came up on Carole King who joined James for the song. What an evening!
    Of course, “The Section” was playing that night with JT as well, as they have continued to do throughout the years.
    A few years earlier a group of us were waiting in line to see Jackson Browne at the Loyola Marymount gym (for $5.00!), when a yellow Pontiac Firebird drove up, parked and Jackson got out and walked into the gym to get ready for his concert. You wouldn’t see that these days!
    This program captures that era amazingly well and for those of us who grew up during that time, it’s a true treat to sit back and watch these great musicians talk about those times.
    A special “thank you” to the producers of “American Masters” for their great work!

  • Mary Ann Stott

    What a shame that the producers chose not to mention Carly Simon, one of the great singer song writers of this period. She performed at the Troubadour and opened for Cat Stevens. Why such an obvious oversignt?

  • Karen Mari

    I came to the website to see if management at WPT had posted an explanation for why, during the Troubadors
    program, for the first 45 minutes we saw many people with their mouth moving but NO SPEECH! It was the most
    peculiar technical problem I’ve seen on TV in my life. and I’ve been watching tv almost since its inception.
    No explanation? But on and off, there was sound, the music. I’m baffled. Wasn’t anyone at the station
    monitoring? TV stations used to have a message, “We are experiencing technical difficulties”. Are we moving backwards?

  • RP

    Chad Bouche, you’re right. For about 2/3 of the program, the audio was messed up, so that music tracks and background music came through, but narration and interview audio was missing. At least, that’s the way it aired on Wisconsin Public TV. Here’s hoping it’s re-aired.

  • Capitania

    This was so lovely, as was the doc on John Lennon. Thank you for making these programs available for those of us who are not plugged in to TV’s.

  • Alison

    I agree w/ Mary Ann. What a disappointing omission of Carly Simon.

  • Glen

    Back in the 70’s before the Universal Ampitheater was enclosed we used to sneak in and see a lot of these acts. Same for the Hollywood Bowl, there was a big door sized cut in the fence that we’d sneak through, me always with a Minolta camera with a huge zoom lens duct taped to the center of my back. Got a lot of good pictures of those times, and some of the best were of the old Survival Sunday concerts at the Bowl. But the Troub was a mecca for us all, along with the parties up in Laurel Canyon and out in Topanga Canyon…good times. When things get too heavy these days I can always put on one of Jackson Brownes first four albums and fire one up and bring myself right back to a better place.

  • Linda wants to know

    Will this air again? If so, when?

  • Marky Mark

    What an awesome show! Very interesting to see how so many of the greats of the 70’s all interacted with each other and got their start. Thanks for a great program!

  • JS Morris

    I Carly Simon is James Taylor’s ex-wife – that’s probably why she was left out. Too bad.

  • Pauline

    I thoroughly enjoyed this AM presentation and have been searching your website for a repeat of it on WNET (Channel 13), but have, so far, been unsuccessful. I hope you will seriously consider rebroadcasting it soon, as the story is one of the most profoundly pivotal in America’s history on so many levels…. Thank you.

  • Bill

    When will this air again? It was only broadcast once in the Chicago area (Ch. 11 WTTW) 2 in the afternoon! Who’s home to watch at that time? Shouldn’t Sesame Street be on then? And yet David Foster: The Hitman Returns is aired 8 times in one week in prime time, the new Suze Orman special gets 2 consecutive prime time airings on 2 different channels on the same night (Ch 11 WTTW and Ch 56 WYIN) ….. GRRR!!

  • Dave Roffman

    What a beautiful documentary. The music scene was so different in the late 60s. No big arenas to speak of, rather small nightclubs across America. I waited tables at one such in Washington, D.C. called The Cellar Door where the likes of James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and so many other singer-songwriters performed for a week’s booking. My fondest memories. Thanks to PBS for bringing it all home once again.

  • rb

    Mike Heffley…

    Refresh the page… … altho it warned me “NOT IN THIS CENTURY”… When I tried it… the video did play..

    This film/music/artists…. WONDERFUL…. many of us lived it….

    familiar… and yet … more revealed…..

    …. these are old friends…

  • Pam

    Here is the link for the full show:

  • james

    there is a fairly recent photo of james taylor with a much younger woman and two very young children. is it possible that james taylor didnt want carly simon included because of the current mrs. taylor? such a strange choice. and really hurts the credibility of the filmmaker. if he is going to leave out carly simon, what else did he leave out?

  • Rita

    I am very pleased to have the chance to see this documentary, but when I enlarge the video to full screen, it shows the status bar across the bottom and the “Embed”, “Share”, etc. boxes across the top. I’m using a Mac, is there anything I can do to escape this annoyance?

  • KIm

    I find the site hard to navigate as well. All I want to know is when Troubadours will air again …… can’t seem to find it anywhere? Why wouldn’t you put just underneath the program descriptions, the airtimes? Don’t understand it?? I heard raves about this Troubadour program and am so frustrated that I can’t figure out when and if it will air again.

    . I not interested in watching online

  • Jerome Golfman

    Awesome to see these old faces again and hear them tell what they saw when I was thinking how cool are the guys.
    I still think of them as cool beyond words but not beyond music.

  • Deb

    How could they omit Cat Stevens, still one of my favorite singer-songwriters of the 1970s !

  • Chris

    This isn’t really about every singer songwriter of that era – seems to be about the American scene and particularly those associated w/ the Troubador, Laurel Canyon, etc.

  • amintern

    Please check your local listings.

  • Rhythm-Hub

    What a moving show…I was born in 1967 so I started to recognize music at about age 5..these artist and their songs are etched into my DNA…I play to write a share this on my blog really soon

  • ann

    Yes, why can’t we pay to watch it on Amazon, or even here? come on, please catch up! You have the best shows, its just too hard to share! I got lucky and happened upon it, thought I recorded it, and can’t believe I can’t show it to my husband now. I would love to give you the money, I just want to see it, now.

  • marlo

    oy! it s a documentary, not a concert

  • John

    Lester Bangs was right about James Taylor and plenty of people remember him. Methinks the Kootch doth protest too much.

  • Sheskis

    Read “Fire and Rain by David Browne, it’s a good read about this era

  • Donna F

    What an incredible journey back to my era. Absolutely loved the special and have been a great fan of James Taylor since the early 70’s (he, by the way, sounds just as good – sans a bit of hair – as he did back in the day – and is marvelous in person….) It was so interesting to learn of the Troubador, as I wasn’t a California girl – mostly Midwest – Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan – but certainly followed the wave of rock as it emerged. Loved David Crosby’s comment on sex in the 70’s. Yes it was David – very cool. Kuodos on this special – it was indeed very special! Thank you!!

  • D Stone

    This film is a masterpiece. For me, it captured the musical and historical tapestry of the 70’s. Carole King and James Taylor provided a welcome respite from the daily images of the Viet Nam War, and Water Gate. To hear a new generation singing “You’ve Got a Friend” toward the end of the documentary was just thrilling. And I loved the waltz that King and Taylor did at the end.

  • Blake Havard (singer songwriter)

    This is all so inspiring to see this.
    My name is Blake Havard and i am a singer songwriter who grew up listening to the early 70s singer songwriter records my folks had.

    You can hear the influence on my track ‘Wave Goodbye’

    Hope you enjoy it!

  • tcsung

    Incredibly disappointing show. A hagiography of Taylor and King at everyone else’s expense. And where was Randy Newman, whose name was featured? If he was there, it was so fast that I missed him while trying to fast forward over the endless footage of present-day Taylor and King (whose music I loved back in the day).

  • Donna

    James Taylor has been my favorite singer since the early ’70s, and I love Carole King’s music, too. Since the documentary was not just about the two of them, though, I would have liked to see a few of the other significant singer songwriters of the time featured as well – like Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, and Jim Croce.

  • Michael

    I agree with tcsung’s lament of the inclusion of Randy Newman. In reality, he deserves a program solely dedicated to him. Randy Newman is unquestionably an American Master. Producers–get to work!

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