“To think that came out of a Jewish girl from Brooklyn,” joked Michael Feinstein, host of concert last night celebrating the music of Carole King, this year’s recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
He was referring to her song “Way Over Yonder,” which Siedah Garrett delivered in a rousing version at the Library of Congress.
Peruvian artist Gian Marco sang King’s “Up on the Roof.” Attorney General Eric Holder said it was one of his favorite songs, and he called the concert “an hour of sheer joy.”
The program ended with King playing “You’ve Got a Friend” on George Gershwin’s piano while the crowd sang along.
At a lunch yesterday, the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, praised King, the first female recipient of the Gershwin Prize.
“She could travel the world and never be a stranger. Her imagination has empowered her fans,” Pelosi said of King, a singer-songwriter whose career spans five decades.
“I wouldn’t dare name a favorite,” Pelosi, now the House minority leader, said before sitting down for lunch in the Members Room of the Library of Congress, which for the past five years has presented the prize in honor of George and Ira Gershwin.
King was all smiles in her pink blazer, working the room like an adroit politician, shaking hands with everyone from Sharon Percy Rockefeller, the chief executive of local PBS station WETA, to the musicians who quietly played her tunes during the meal of lobster soup and chicken salad.
King, 71, is a Democratic fundraiser and passionate environmental activist. She thanked her host, Librarian of Congress James Billington, for his support of popular musicians. “For a long time we were kind of the stepchild,” she said.
Not for White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard, who grew up with her music.
“My parents had all her albums,” he said while catching up with Cappy McGarr, the president of MCM Interests LLC and managing partner of U.S. Renewal Energy Group.
Rockefeller remembered having seen King perform on a PBS special with her long-time friend and collaborator James Taylor.
Congressman Gregg Harper, the Mississippi Republican, showed King the flag that will be flown in her name above the Capitol. He told King his first concert was Herman’s Hermits, his favorite band, whose hit “I’m Into Something Good” was co-written by King.
“There’s not a person in this room who doesn’t revel in the beauty of your music,” said Representative John Dingell, Michigan Democrat, who was joined at the lunch by his colleague Representative Doris Matsui, California Democrat.
Tonight President Barack Obama will present the Gershwin Prize to King at a concert in the East Room of the White House, which will be broadcast on PBS on May 28.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Susan Antilla on books and Ryan Sutton on dining.
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