Carole King brought the fledgling singer/songwriter phenomenon to the masses with Tapestry. The first three songs on side one helped make it one of the most successful albums of the seventies: The raunchy “I Feel the Earth Move,” “So Far Away” and one of the world’s greatest break-up songs, “It’s Too Late,” co-written with Toni Stern who wrote the lyrics in a day, after her love affair with James Taylor ended. Tapestry stayed at number one for 15 weeks, and enjoyed more than 300 weeks on Billboard’s album chart and remained the best-selling album by a female artist for 25 years.
Carole King was born Carol Joan Klein on 9th February 1942 in Manhattan. Her mother, Eugenia was a teacher, and her father, Sidney N. Klein, was a fire fighter for the New York City Fire Department. Carole had an insatiable curiosity about music in general from the time she was about three years old, so her mother began teaching her piano. When Carole was four years old, her parents discovered she had developed a sense of absolute pitch, which enabled her to often name a note correctly by just hearing it.
She attend James Madison High School in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City where she formed a band called the Co-Sines, changed her name to Carole King and made demo recordings with her friend Paul Simon. Her first official recording was the 1958 promotional single “The Right Girl / Goin’ Wild”, released by ABC-Paramount – with both tracks penned by King.
King met her future song writing partner Gerry Goffin whilst attended Queens College and they married when she was just 17, in a Jewish ceremony on Long Island in August 1959 after King had become pregnant with her first daughter, Louise. With both holding down day jobs, Goffin and King would write songs together in the evening.
The couple’s first major success was The Shirelles’ 1960/61 Billboard number one and UK number four hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, (the first number one by a black all-girl group). Ten years later King recorded her own version for Tapestry, with Joni Mitchell and James Taylor on background vocals.
Over the next 10 years, they wrote some of the sixties biggest songs: “The Loco-Motion,” (for their babysitter Little Eva), “Up on the Roof,” for the Drifters, “I’m into Something Good” for Earl-Jean (later recorded by British group Herman’s Hermits), and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” for the Monkees.
Another classic song by Goffin and King was “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” the 1967 hit for Aretha Franklin, which was inspired by Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler. As recounted in his autobiography, Wexler, had been mulling over the concept of the “natural man”, when he drove by King on the streets of New York. He shouted out to her that he wanted a “natural woman” song for Aretha Franklin’s next album. King went home and wrote the song that night. Over 50 years later Aretha Franklin performed the song at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, to honor award-recipient Carole King.
By 1968, Goffin and King were divorced and King moved to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles to join the bohemian singer-songwriter set. She reactivated her recording career by forming ‘The City’, a music trio consisting of Charles Larkey, her future husband, on bass and Danny Kortchmar on guitar. The City produced one album, Now That Everything’s Been Said in 1968. A change of distributors meant that the album was quickly deleted resulting in the group disbanding the following year.
Still living in Laurel Canyon, King was hanging out with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell and released her debut solo album, Writer, (1970) with Taylor playing acoustic guitar and providing backing vocals, but the album failed to reach the Top 75. Writer features the much covered Goffin and King song “Goin’ Back” – Dusty Springfield, The Byrds, Deacon Blue and Nils Lofgren all recorded versions as well as Queen singer Freddie Mercury (on a Larry Lurex single).
King followed Writer in 1971 with Tapestry, which featured new compositions as well as reinterpretations of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The album was recorded concurrently with Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim, with an overlapping set of musicians including Danny Kortchmar, keyboardist Ralph Schuckett and Joni Mitchell. Both albums included the warm, mellow “You’ve Got a Friend”, which became a number one hit for Taylor in the summer of ’71 and won a Grammy Awards both for Taylor (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) and King (Song of the Year).
Other new songs like the hits “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move” rank solidly with past glories, while songs like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” take on added resonance when delivered in her own warm, compelling voice.
Tapestry was recorded in just three weeks, as the composer was trying to raise three young children. It’s an intensely emotional record, King’s everyday voice and personal lyrics connected with a huge audience, and it remains an illuminating experience decades later.
The cover photograph was taken at King’s Laurel Canyon home and shows the bare footed 29 year-old sitting in the living room, holding a tapestry she hand-stitched herself, with her cat Telemachus at her feet. Captured by photographer Jim McCrary, an interesting side-note is that King’s cat was moved while sitting on the pillow from across the room by McCrary to be used in the final cover shot.
Tapestry received four Grammy Awards in 1972, including Album of the Year and remained on the Billboard charts for 313 weeks and still holds the record for most consecutive weeks at number one by a female solo artist. By singing the songs that made her famous as a songwriter, King found her voice on Tapestry.
Carole’s many late-career achievements include a 50th anniversary Troubadour reunion run with James Taylor inspiring the pair’s 60-concert Troubadour Reunion world tour in 2010. She published her memoir, A Natural Woman, in 2012, which debuted on The New York Times best-seller list and in January 2014, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical opened on Broadway. The show became the hit of the season and won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and two Tony awards. In 2015 it opened on London’s West End, garnering 2 Olivier Awards.
The tribute performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin when Carole received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015 brought President Barack Obama to tears.
Important Dates In The Life Of Carole King:
19 Jun 2014
Gerry Goffin, who penned chart-topping songs with his then-wife Carole King died at the age of 75 in Los Angeles. He wrote dozens of hits over two decades, including 'The Loco-Motion', 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow' and '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman'. After their divorce in 1968, Goffin continued writing songs, including a hit for Whitney Houston 'Saving All My Love for You' in 1985.
17 Jan 2011
American music publisher, talent manager, and songwriter Don Kirshner who helped launch the careers of Neil Diamond, Bobby Darin, Carole King, Neil Sedaka, The Monkees, The Archies and Kansas, died of heart failure at the age of 76. Kirshner was hired by the producers of the Monkees to provide hit-worthy songs to accompany the television program and also served as a music consultant for almost two dozen TV series between 1966 and 1977.
10 Apr 2003
American singer Little Eva died in Kinston, North Carolina, aged 59. She had the 1962 US No.1 & UK No.2 single 'The Loco-Motion'. Eva was working as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin who asked her to record the song they'd just written. 'The Loco-Motion' was also a hit for Grand Funk Railroad in 1974 (US No.1) and for Kylie Minogue in 1988 (US No.3).
5 Nov 1988
'The Locomotion', became the first song to reach the US Top 5 in three different versions, when Kylie Minogue's reached No.3 on the US chart. Written by American songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King, the song is notable for appearing in the American Top 5 three times – each time in a different decade: for Little Eva in 1962 and for Grand Funk Railroad in 1974.
28 Jul 1987
Kylie Minogue released a cover version of the Gerry Goffin and Carole King penned song 'The Loco-Motion' in Australia, as her debut single. Minogue had first performed the song at an impromptu performance at an Australian rules football charity event with the cast of the Australian soap opera Neighbours. The song reached No.1 in Australia and the success in her home country resulted in her signing a record deal with PWL Records in London, England.
23 Apr 1987
Carole King sued record company owner Lou Adler for breach of contract. King claimed that she was owed over $400,000 in royalties. She also asked for all rights to her old recordings.
4 Mar 1986
American songwriter Howard Greenfield died of a brain tumour aged 50. Working out of the famous Brill Building with Neil Sedaka he co-wrote many hits including 'Calendar Girl', 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do', and 'Crying In The Rain' with Carole King. Also wrote TV theme songs including the theme to 'Bewitched.'
29 Mar 1980
Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon album spent its 303rd week on the US album chart, beating the record set by Carole King's 1971 No.1 album Tapestry. The album remained in the US Billboard charts for 741 discontinuous weeks from 1973 to 1988, longer than any other album in chart history. After moving to the Billboard Top Pop Catalog Chart, the album notched up a further 759 weeks, and had reached a total of over 1,500 weeks on the combined charts by May 2006.
31 Jul 1971
James Taylor went to No.1 on the US singles chart with the Carole King song 'You've Got A Friend', (included in her album Tapestry and James Taylor's album Mud Slide Slim). The song would go on to win the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal male Performance and Song Of The Year.
19 Jun 1971
Carole King started a five week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'It's Too Late / I Feel The Earth Move'. Both songs were from her million selling Tapestry album.
17 Jun 1971
Carole King went to No.1 on the US album chart with ‘Tapestry’ for the first of 15 consecutive weeks. The album contained ‘It's Too Late’, ‘I Feel the Earth Move’, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’’ and ‘You've Got a Friend’. The cover photograph taken at King's Laurel Canyon home shows her sitting in a window frame, holding a tapestry she hand-stitched herself, with her cat Telemachus at her feet.
10 Feb 1971
American singer-songwriter Carole King released her second studio album Tapestry. It is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 25 million copies sold worldwide. The lead single from the album 'It's Too Late'/'I Feel the Earth Move' spent five weeks at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The cover photograph was taken at King's Laurel Canyon home. It shows her sitting in a window frame, holding a tapestry she hand-stitched herself, with her cat Telemachus at her feet.
22 Sep 1964
Herman's Hermits were at No.1 on the UK singles chart with the Carole King & Gerry Goffin song 'I'm Into Something Good', the group's only UK No.1.
25 Aug 1962
Little Eva went to No.1 on the US singles chart with 'The Loco-motion'. The Carole King and Gerry Goffin song was offered to Dee Dee Sharp (Mashed Potatoes), who turned it down. The writers had their babysitter record it who took it to No.1.