ZUMBROTA — Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon — a river runs through them.
And that connection will be explored in a tribute concert, “River,” to be presented at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the State Theatre in Zumbrota.
The show mixes songs by the three artists with stories about their lives and careers.
“It all flows together like a river,” said singer Deb Brown. She’s joined by singers Rachel Holder and Jana Anderson in the show, which was conceived by Brown and was presented earlier this year at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.
All three singers are based in the Twin Cities and have extensive experience in recording and performing. Anderson, in particular, has sung backup with Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Don Henley and Stevie Wonder.
King, Mitchell and Simon are connected in so many ways, Brown said. “But they didn’t really work together, or hang out together,” she said.
The three women, though, had to break through at a time when the culture was not necessarily friendly to women performing on their own. It was a time of transition for female artists.
“You didn’t see a lot of women out front, unless they were backed up by a man,” Brown said. “Carole King started so young in the 1950s, and she struggled with being taken seriously.”
Simon, coming to stardom a decade later, also wrestled with the expectations society placed on women. “In her song, ‘That’s the Way I Always Heard it Should Be,’ she wrote about marriage, and how everyone was supposed to have the perfect life.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, refused to be straight-jacketed by the pop or country rules by which women were expected to play. Her music mixed folk and jazz in ways that had not been previously explored.
Among the many songs in the show are Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and “Nobody Does it Better,” King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Natural Woman,” and Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and “Help Me.”
Brown, Holder and Anderson take turns singing the songs.
“All three of us cover all three artists,” Brown said. “But we don’t try to impersonate them. We don’t try to be them.”
In addition, band members Troy Norton and Dave Burkart will be featured on songs that include James Taylor — another connection all three women had — including “You’ve Got a Friend,” “You Can Close Your Eyes” and “Mockingbird.”
“This is not a big-lights show,” Brown said. “But those artists weren’t like that. It’s about music people want to appreciate. I think people will probably laugh a little and they’ll maybe even shed a tear.”