Carole King strikes the right chord for Democrats

The Colorado Statesman

The theme for a special Democratic fundraiser in Denver in late July by legendary songstress Carole King could have been “You’ve got a Friend,” the iconic song from 1971 that King wrote and included in her best-selling Tapestry album. Approximately 60 appreciative Democrats had the pleasure of hearing the sweet rendition by the Grammy Award-winning songwriter at a private event sponsored by the DNC Dialogue Forum Colorado.

Carole King expresses her gratitude to the local Denverites who attended her private fundraiser in Denver on July 24. King has made 25 solo albums, the most successful being Tapestry, which held the record for most weeks at No. 1 by a female artist for more than 20 years. She has won four Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her songwriting.

For a couple hours on the summery evening of July 24, the incomparable King serenaded guests in the lush backyard of hosts Diane and Tom Barrett at their home in a tony section of Denver. A majestic piano had been set up in the garden outside by the swimming pool and guests sat nearby under the Colorado sky as King sang many of the old songs from the 1970s that made her such a namesake for an entire generation.

King has been traversing the country this year, appearing at numerous fundraisers for Democratic candidates. Her appearance in Denver preceeded a second private fundraiser the next day in Aspen for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

Attorney Norm Brownstein and Sunny Brownstein visit with Carole King after the hour-long concert at the Barrett’s home in Denver. Brownstein recalled hearing King perform in Denver at the now defunct Rainbow concert hall back in 1984 during a benefit for U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, who was a candidate for president that year.

For her memorable event on this particular night, the 72-year-old King played an hour’s worth of well-known tunes that many in the somewhat “mature” audience were familiar with and to which they were able to hum along.

Interspersed in her mini concert were anecdotes about her friends and family and tales about growing up in the 1960s, many of which are chronicled in the current Broadway hit Beautiful, which follows King’s career in the 60’s when she, along with then-husband Gerry Goffin, wrote more than two dozen chart hits for numerous artists, many of which have become standards. King has continued writing for other artists since then.

Tom Barrett raises a glass of wine in a salute to Carole King, middle, while Diane Barrett enjoys the special moment in her home.
Photos by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Whatever your politics, King told the clearly partisan crowd, there remains one word that no politician ever wants to hear. “So I’ve changed the words,” she warned about her next ditty. Striking immediately recognizable chords on the piano, King belted out “Sweet Seasons” with a slightly altered first line that magically changed the word “lose” to “win” in the second reference. And the last line of the first stanza was subbed out so that “Just when you thought you had made it” reflected a more optimistic tone for party folk.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you win
And sometimes the blues get hold of you
We’re Democrats and we’re going to make it.”

The DNC Dialogue Forum Colorado is actually a spinoff of a 2012 organization called Obama Leadership Circle Colorado. The newly renamed 2014 group meets periodically in a series of dialogue events throughout the election cycle. The goal of the group, according to chairman Jim Polsfut, is to galvanize Democratic activists and opinion-leaders in the state into a proactive and cohesive group in support of shared values and the candidates who seek to represent them. There were about 120 members during the presidential election year of 2012, and approximately 80 this year.

As the name implies, Polsfut explained, real back and forth dialogue is encouraged. It’s not about food, drink and socializing — although that certainly takes place — the main emphasis is engaging in dialogue about the issues.

And it’s not about attracting the largest donors, Polsfut continued. Instead, a more grassroots approach is encouraged through civil discussion.

The DNC’s slogan is Change that Matters, businessman Polsfut pointed out, and the local group takes that very seriously. “That’s the focus amidst all this partisan gridlock,” he says. “We want to do what we can in a constructive manner.”

The Dialogue Forum, which has state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass and Denver attorney John Voorhees as vice chairs, meets a half a dozen times throughout the year. Events usually feature a prominent individual as a guest, sometimes drawn locally from Colorado and, at other times, from a national stage. Proceeds from events go in support of all Democrats on the ballot in Colorado in 2014. There are two levels of participation, $1,000 and $2,500, with special terms allowing for two entries for the price of one.

See the August 15 print edition for full photo coverage.