Carole King (born February 9, 1942) is an American singer-songwriter and pianist. As a songwriter, she and songwriting partner and husband Gerry Goffin penned over two dozen chart hits for numerous artists during the 1960s, many of which reached number one chart positions and have since become standards; as a singer and performer, her iconic album Tapestry topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks in 1971, and remained on the charts for over six years.
King’s success as a performer was largest in the first half of the 1970s, although she was a successful songwriter long before and long after. She was just 17 when she wrote her first #1 hit with Gerry Goffin, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" in 1959. In 1997 she wrote "The Reason" for Céline Dion.
In 2000, King was named the most successful female songwriter of the 1955-99 pop music era by Joel Whitburn, a Billboard magazine pop music researcher, as she wrote or co-wrote 118 pop hits that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 during that time. This was featured in the Los Angeles Times.
King has released 25 solo albums, her most successful being Tapestry. Her most recent album is The Living Room Tour, which experienced great success on the charts in its first week alone.
She has won four Grammy Awards and was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her songwriting, along with long-time partner Gerry Goffin.
Carole King holds the record for the longest time for an album by a female to remain on the charts and the longest time for an album by a female to occupy the #1 position, for Tapestry.
The early years
Born Carol Klein in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York to a Jewish household, King started out playing the piano, then moved on to singing, forming a vocal quartet called the Co-Sines at James Madison High School.
She attended Queens College, where she was a classmate of Neil Sedaka and inspired Sedaka’s first big hit, Oh! Carol, to which she later wrote and recorded a tongue-in-cheek response, Oh! Neil. Along with Sedaka and Goffin, King also befriended Paul Simon at the same college.
The Goffin-King partnership
Goffin and King soon formed a songwriting partnership, eventually married, and had two daughters, Louise Goffin and Sherry Goffin Kondor, both of whom have also become singers. Working for Aldon Music in the Brill Building in the heart of New York’s music district, where chart-topping hits were churned out during the 1960s, the Goffin-King partnership first hit it big with Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Recorded by The Shirelles, the song topped the charts in 1961. It was later covered by Dusty Springfield, Little Eva, Roberta Flack, Laura Branigan, The Four Seasons, and King herself.
In 1962, Goffin and King co-wrote Up On The Roof, which was first recorded by The Drifters. Released at the tail end of that year, the song epitomized the urban romantic dream of the Brill Building era and became a big hit, reaching #5 on the U.S. pop singles chart and #4 on the U.S. R&B singles chart. It has since been covered many times over the decades by seminal artists like Laura Nyro (1970), James Taylor (1979), and Neil Diamond (1993), among others, and also by King herself in 1970.
The songwriting team’s 1965 Pleasant Valley Sunday, a #3 hit for The Monkees, was inspired by their move to suburban West Orange, New Jersey. Goffin and King also wrote several songs for Head, the feature film debut of The Monkees.
King the singer-songwriter
At the urging from others, King began her own singing career. She had a modest hit singing one of her own songs in 1962 with It Might As Well Rain Until September (#22 in the US and a top 10 success in the UK, and later a hit in Canada for Gary & Dave), but after He’s A Bad Boy made #94 in 1963, it would take King another eight years to reach the Hot 100 singles chart again.
During that time, King helped pioneer a record label, Tomorrow Records, divorced Goffin and married Charles Larkey (of the Myddle Class). Moving to the West Coast, Larkey, King and Danny Kortchmar formed a group called The City, which released one album, Now That Everything’s Been Said, but the album was a commercial failure. King then released Writer (1970), a critically acclaimed record, but unfortunately another commercial failure. Undaunted, the following year King gave thoughtful, folk-flavored reinterpretations of some of her early pop hits as a songwriter, interweaving them with new compositions in the aptly-titled Tapestry (1971). The album would become the turning point in her career.
Tapestry – a wondrous woven magic
Tapestry was instantly recognized as one of the landmark albums of the singer-songwriter genre of the early 1970s. With numerous hit singles, it would remain on the charts for nearly six years, selling over 10 million copies in the United States alone, and an estimated 22 million worldwide, making it King’s most popular album to this day among fans and critics alike. The album garnered four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year; Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female; Record of the Year (It’s Too Late); and Song of the Year (You’ve Got A Friend). Music (1971), Rhymes and Reasons (1972), and Fantasy (1973) followed, each earning either a gold or platinum RIAA certification.
Tapestry was placed at #36 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, while "It’s Too Late" was placed at #469 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. And until Michael Jackson‘s groundbreaking album Thriller came along in 1982, Tapestry was the top-selling pop solo album of all time, with sales of 13 million copies in 1971 alone.
In 1973, King performed at a free concert in New York City’s Central Park and broke all previous records for such a concert, with an attendance of over 100,000 people. (This record was subsequently broken in 1981 by Simon & Garfunkel, with 500,000 people.)
King also enjoyed major success with her 1974 album, Wrap Around Joy. The album reached number #1 on the Billboard charts, and for only the second time in her career, she had a song reach as high as #2 on the singles chart with the big hit Jazzman, as well as another top 10 single, Nightingale, from the album. Although the album did not have the long-lasting success and chart endurance of Tapestry, it was among King’s most successful albums at the time of its release, and the singles received very strong radio play the year of its release.
Goffin and King reunited to write four songs on Thoroughbred (1975). David Crosby, Graham Nash, and James Taylor, a long-time friend of King’s, all appeared on the record. Thoroughbred would be her last gold record. She married another songwriting partner, Rick Evers, after releasing Simple Things in 1977. Evers, however, died of a heroin overdose a year later.
Welcome Home to the present
In 1977, King moved to Idaho. She released Welcome Home (1978), which marked her debut as a co-producer on an album. Subsequent album releases included Touch The Sky (1979), Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King (1980), and One to One (1982). After releasing Speeding Time in 1983, King took a hiatus in Idaho, where she became an environmental activist (see below). That same year, she played piano in Chains And Things on the B.B. King album Why I Sing The Blues. In 1985, she wrote and performed "Care-A-Lot", the theme song to The Care Bears Movie. She returned to music in 1989, recording City Streets with guest Eric Clapton on two tracks, followed by Colour of Your Dreams (1993), with a guest appearance by Slash of Guns N’ Roses. In addition, her song Now And Forever was featured in the opening credits to the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
In 1988 she starred in the off-Broadway production A Minor Incident, and in 1994 she played the role of Mrs. Johnstone on Broadway in Blood Brothers. In 1996, she appeared in a production of Brighton Beach Memoirs in Ireland, which was directed by Peter Sheridan.
In 1991, she co-wrote the song If It’s Over for Mariah Carey‘s second album Emotions, after Carey turned down King’s proposal to cover (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman by her idol, Aretha Franklin.
An all-star roster of artists paid tribute to King on the 1995 album, Tapestry Revisited: a Tribute to Carole King. From the album, Rod Stewart‘s version of "So Far Away" and Céline Dion‘s cover of "A Natural Woman" were both Adult Contemporary chart hits. Other artists who appeared on the album included Amy Grant ("It’s Too Late"), Richard Marx ("Beautiful"), Aretha Franklin ("You’ve Got a Friend"), Faith Hill ("Where You Lead"), and the Bee Gees ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow?").
In addition to the numerous hit versions of her songs with Goffin and Tapestry Revisited, many other cover versions of King’s work have appeared over the years. Most notably, You’ve Got a Friend was a smash hit for James Taylor in 1971 (in fact, just two weeks after King’s "It’s Too Late" entered its fifth week at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100) and a top 40 hit for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway that same year. Barbra Streisand had a top 40 hit with "Where You Lead" – twice – by itself, and as part of the Grammy-nominated (1973) live medley, "Sweet Inspiration / Where You Lead". The Carpenters recorded It’s Going To Take Some Time in 1972 and reached #12 on the Billboard charts. Martika had a #25 hit in 1989 with her version of "I Feel The Earth Move", and "It’s Too Late" reappeared on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1995 by Gloria Estefan (Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me; 1994). Céline Dion also recorded "The Reason" – written for her by King – on her 1997 album, LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE.
In 1996, a film loosely based on King’s life was released. In Grace of My Heart, an aspiring singer, Denise Waverly/Edna Buxton, sacrifices her own singing career to write hit songs that launch the careers of other singers. Mirroring King’s life, the film follows her from her first break, through the pain of rejection from the recording industry and a bad marriage, to her final triumph in realizing her dream to record her own hit album.
King’s Where You Lead was the theme song of the TV series Gilmore Girls. In the TV theme version, King sings with her daughter Louise. King – who has appeared sporadically in acting roles – has guest-starred three times on the show (in its second, fifth, and sixth seasons) as Sophie, the owner of the Stars Hollow music store.
Politics and the environment
After relocating to Idaho in 1977, King became a staunch supporter of environmental issues. Since 1990 she has been working with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other groups towards passage of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA). This legislation will protect over 24,000,000 acres (97,000 km²) of land in the Northern Rockies ecosystem owned by all Americans, save taxpayers money, and create jobs. King has testified on Capitol Hill twice on behalf of NREPA: in 1994, and again in 2007. A bi-partisan bill, NREPA was re-introduced into the House in 2007 by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Christopher Shays (R-CT).
King is also very politically active in the United States Democratic Party. In 2003, she began campaigning for John Kerry, performing in private homes for caucus delegates during the Democratic primaries. On July 29, 2004, she made a short speech and sang at the Democratic National Convention, about two hours before Kerry delivered his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President. King continued her support of Kerry throughout the general election.
In 2008, King appeared on the March 18th episode of The Colbert Report, touching on her politics once more. She stated that she was currently supporting Hillary Clinton and mentioned that the choice had nothing to do with gender. She also expressed that she would have no issues if Barack Obama were to win the nomination (which he eventually did). Before the show’s conclusion, she returned to the stage to perform "I Feel the Earth Move".
Recent tours and releases
King launched her "Living Room Tour" (the genesis of which were her appearances in private homes for environmental and political fundraising) on July 15, 2004, at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. That show, along with the shows at the Greek Theater (Los Angeles) and the Cape Cod Melody Tent (Hyannis, Massachusetts) were recorded live and released as The Living Room Tour album on July 12, 2005. The 2005 leg of "The Living Room Tour" kicked off on July 3, 2005, in Ontario, Canada. "The Living Room Tour" also made stops in Australia and New Zealand. A DVD of the tour, called Welcome to My Living Room was released in October of 2007.
Also in 2007, King released Love Makes The World (Deluxe Edition) on her own label, Rockingale Records. The 2-CD set contained a bonus disc with five additional tracks, including "Where You Lead". In November of 2007, King toured Japan with Mary J. Blige and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.
King also recorded a duet with Anne Murray on the latter’s album Duets: Friends & Legends (2007). The song Time Don’t Run Out On Me (Duet With Carole King) was originally recorded by Murray for her 1984 album Heart Over Mind. The song was written by King and Goffin. Anne Murray had said that she wouldn’t have re-recorded the song as a duet with anyone else but King, as she had co-written the song.
Awards and recognitions
1987 – Goffin and King were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame
1990 – Goffin and King were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performer category for songwriting achievement
2002 – King was presented the Johnny Mercer Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame
2004 – Goffin and King were presented the Grammy Trustees Award
2007 – King was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame
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