Ali Harper Covers Carole King Songs
Sequel hard on the heels of his previous hit show The gaze of lovewhich focused on the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Christchurch singer Ali Harper embarked on another nostalgic musical jaunt, this time covering the songs of Carole King, who produced dozens of Top Twenty songs with her writing partner and first husband Gerry Goffin, including Will you still love me tomorrow and (You make me feel like) A natural woman.
College sweethearts who married in 1959 when he was twenty and she was seventeen, they went on to write hits such as Take good care of my baby, Locomotion, go away little girl, A beautiful day for Cloths and Pleasant Valley Sunday for The Monkeys. They were one of the Brill Building’s most prolific and successful songwriting teams, churning out hit after hit for artists like The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva, Herman’s Hermits, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor and Celine. Dion, among many others.
John Lennon was quoted in 1963 as saying he wanted himself and Paul McCartney to become “King Goffin of England”, but they divorced in 1969. In a Vanity Fair interview, Goffin said he “wanted to be a hippie – my hair grew long – and Carole did it modestly… Then I started taking LSD and mesculine and Carole and I started breaking up because she felt that “She had to say things herself. She had to be her own lyricist. According to King’s memoir, Goffin suffered from mental illness from ingesting LSD, eventually undergoing treatment with lithium and electroconvulsive therapy, and was diagnosed with manic depression.
As the center of the recording industry shifted from New York to Los Angeles in the 1960s, King moved to California. She hung out in Laurel Canyon with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell and produced her first solo album Writer in 1970 for Lou Adler’s Ode label. Taylor played acoustic guitar and provided backing vocals, but he peaked at 84 on the Billboard Top 200. The following year, King released Tapestry which held the top album spot on the charts for fifteen consecutive weeks, won four Grammies and appeared on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time at number 36.
A graduate of Toi Whakaari: The New Zealand Drama School, Harper has starred in numerous musicals and plays across New Zealand, including such staples as Blood brothers, Mom Mia, Revenge of a Blonde, my lovely lady, Mary Poppins, The sound of music, guys and dolls, South Pacific, A shortcut to happiness, Side by side near Sondheim, Girls Calendar, Jerry’s Girls, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and tell me a sunday.
Tours through Aotearoa also include roles in musicals
Chess, Avoided, Pirates of Penzance,
Oklahoma and one woman’s game Bombsfor which Harper received the “Best Actress” award in New York in 2014 and “Best Actress Chapman Tripp” in Wellington in 2008. She presented her cabaret show A diva from below at Don’t Tell Mama in New York, as well as at the Metropolitan Room in 2013 and 2014, while the Court Theater production of her show songs for no one won the “Best One Woman Show” award at the United Solo Festival in New York in 2018.
Before Covid, Harper was a regular guest performer on cruise ships and after the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019 she wrote the single
Free our love, with proceeds going to Victim Supports’ GiveaLittle page. His six albums are The gaze of love, A special day Doris, legendary divas, naughty and nice, songs for everyone and something so right. Harper is also a Hansa-qualified yoga teacher who both teaches privately and leads yoga-focused wellness retreats.
With notable tracks like I feel the earth move, It’s too late, So farand You have a friend, Tapestry still stands the test of time. Cleverly accompanied by her understated but more than capable backing band (Nick Granville on guitar, Francis Meria on piano and Scott Maynard on bass), Harper’s show really comes to life when she’s joined by guest vocalist Frankie Leota, who provides some welcome harmonies and can even perform his own song King, accompanied by Harper on the piano.
But it’s Harper’s warm and intimate delivery, interspersed with some fascinating biographical detail, that sends nostalgic and evocative tingles down your spine. His final show runs until 2/19 at the Circa Theater in Wellington and at the Piano Center for Music and The Arts in Christchurch from 25-27/2. The number of spectators is limited, so reserve your tickets now. They sell out fast…
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