Since writing her first No. 1 hit, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, at the age of 17, Carole King has become one of America’s most prolific musicians, beloved for songs such as (You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman and You’ve Got a Friend. On 20 April, King’s 1924 model ‘M’ Steinway piano will be offered in The Exceptional Sale at Christie’s in New York.
King, whose Grammy Award-winning 1971 album Tapestry has sold more than 25 million units, became the first woman to be awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2013, presented to her by President Barack Obama. After she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, a bio-musical of her life, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, became a Broadway hit in 2014.
‘I would describe Carole King as a musical earth goddess,’ says Chilina Kennedy, who plays King in the long-running show. Kennedy was thrilled to be presented with the opportunity to play the model ‘M’ Steinway, which features with the singer-songwriter on the cover of her best-selling 1970s album Music, and the single Sweet Seasons. ‘The fact that Carole King’s hands have played these keys, and that she has sat with and composed on this piano... all of this makes this moment so special.’
From 1971 the piano sat in the living room of King’s house in Laurel Canyon, California — a house often filled with musicians and friends including the likes of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Lou Adler, Betsy and Peter Asher and Toni Stern.
‘Pianos are such works of art,’ says Kennedy. ‘They are made out of organic material and the fact that they have been played for so many years means there is a lot of energy invested in these beautiful instruments. By playing Carole King every night I get to experience all the songs that are part of the Carole King catalogue. I couldn’t believe how many No. 1 hits she has written.’
Kennedy reveals her two favourite songs in the show are Beautiful — which she performs in the short video above — and (You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman. ‘We all want to feel beautiful as we are, without all the bells and whistles,’ she says. ‘Carole was the embodiment of that — beauty shines from the inside out, and that is her point.’
‘[Carole King] is truly a natural woman,’ the actress adds. ‘She is true to herself and I think that women need those kinds of role models now more than ever.’
Ahead of the sale, the piano (estimate: $40,000-60,000) will be on public view from 12-20 April at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries. A portion of the proceeds of this lot will be donated to Alliance for the Wild Rockies.