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Oakes: Back In Time With James And Carole

James Taylor and Carole King performed in Pittsburgh on June 26. (Keith Srakocic/AP)
James Taylor and Carole King performed in Pittsburgh on June 26. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

It was one of those nights when I hoped to crack open a door, dust off some memories and smile for hours.

I made the trek out to Tanglewood in the Berkshires on Monday night to see and hear Carole King and James Taylor, who are concert touring the country in a 40th anniversary “Troubadour Reunion.” It’s a tribute to their legendary 1970 performances at LA’s famed Troubadour Club.

OK. Truth is I haven’t listened to a whole lot of their music in recent years. Time seems to be an issue in this newsman’s life. And for years and years, the kids preferred Raffi. Thank goodness that phase is long over.

It has been over 30 years since I’ve seen and heard either one of them play live. But 30-plus years ago, they were a huge part of my daily songbook. Cassettes blasting for hours and hours on the road in my summer of 1975 coast-to-coast-to-coast tour with friends in Bob’s Ford Window Van — the one with six huge speakers in the walls, shag carpet on the floor and a bed in the back. From Massachusetts to Wyoming and Colorado and California and back, it was Bob the “Wild Child,” too many stories, most never told and never repeated.

Bob Oakes' international student ID, dated Dec. 8, 1975
Bob Oakes' international student ID, dated Dec. 8, 1975

So those days long, long gone, I was curious. What would it be like? I knew James and Carole had been picking up pretty good reviews on this tour. But I’m a professional skeptic now, you know.

The walk across the Tanglewood lawn to the Koussevitsky Music shed was like flashing through time. All that white hair, or missing hair (oh no, them is me!) The kids in the crowd were grandkids, and that pungent aroma was from cigars and not something else.

Suddenly the lights go down and within, like, minutes, you know, you’re doing the 55-year-old’s version of the boogie at your concert seat (and its great), and Bob is bellowing out, at Carole’s urging, “You—Make—Me—Feel—Like—A—Natural—Woman”.

For part of the time you’re leaning back in the seat with your eyes screwed shut so that you can focus on what you think is James and Carole harmony just about as perfect as it gets. And then, on the last song, Carole buries her head in James’s shoulder, and it looks as though she’s sobbing, because it’s over too soon.

Driving east down the Mass Pike at midnight, it’s still 80 degrees outside, so the windows are wide open and James and Carole are blasting out the dash, two songs of his, two of hers, repeat and repeat again, because on this night there is no such thing as… enough.

It’s 2010, not ’75, and the Ford Window Van is now a Prius, but it’s the road, and it’s great.

Bed at 1 a.m. Alarm at 3. On the radio at 5.

It was worth every minute of lost sleep, and the smile lasted for hours.

This program aired on July 6, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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