By Steven M. Housman
One Fine Career
Carole King’s Career Now Spans 45 Years
Last summer, when Carole King was preparing to go on tour and release her 20th album (The Living Room Tour, a 27-song live set that includes seven #1 hits and two new songs), I was so intrigued, I had to go and take a look back on a career that was supposed to have only one title songwriter.
The 1970’s was one of the most important eras of popular music. It was considered the era of the singer-songwriter, and Carole King, with her smash album Tapestry, was considered by many in the industry to be the reason. The decade began with the demise of the Beatles, thus leading John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to break out on their own and to write their own music on their own terms. The team of Lennon and McCartney still stands as the most successful songwriting duo of all time. But during their heyday as the two leaders of the Beatles, another songwriting team was also making their mark on the world of pop music. Their names are Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Up until 1971, Carole King’s music was wildly familiar to the general public, but her name was not. To the music industry, she was considered one of the finest and most prolific songwriters of the 60’s, penning dozens of hit songs including four #1’s, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Go Away Little Girl,” “Take Good Care Of My Baby” and “The Loco-Motion.” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” became the duo’s first #1 song and put them on the map and very much in demand. Other hits that followed over the years were recorded by a who’s who of recording stars, including everyone from the Herman’s Hermits to Aussie diva Kylie Minogue. In between those two disparate artists, Goffin and King wrote enormous hits of the 60’s that were recorded by artists including the Drifters, the Chiffons, Donny Osmond, the Monkees and Aretha Franklin.
In 1968, after a decade of marriage, enormous songwriting success and one child (80’s pop singer Louise Goffin), the team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King parted ways. By the time 1970 had rolled around, King decided to put forth her new compositions and record them herself. Her first solo effort, Writer, did very little to attract an audience, but her second album Tapestry, an album that brought her worldwide acclaim, was meant to be a way for other artists to hear her songs and that was all. No one could have predicted what was about to happen. Tapestry went through the roof, selling 15 million copies. Just before the release of the album, King was quoted as saying “I don’t want to be a star.” After the enormous success of Tapestry, she didn’t seem to have much choice.
Carole King was born Carol Klein in Brooklyn, New York on February 9, 1942. By the age of four, Carol had learned to play piano and began writing songs! By her early teens, her inspirations were Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers. Carol was mesmerized by rock and roll and wanted very much to be a part of the creative process. While attending Queens College, she met her future husband, Gerry Goffin. Goffin had been writing songs since he was eight years old creatively, they were the perfect match. Klein married Goffin when she was just 17. At the time of their artistic partnership, Carol Klein chose to change her name to Carole King.
With very little income between the two young struggling songwriters, Carole had taken on babysitting chores. One of the parents happened to be singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka. Sedaka was so taken with King; he even wrote a song expressing his affection for the exuberant teenager. The song was “Oh! Carol” and it became Sedaka’s first top ten hit in the fall of ’59. In turn, King wrote a song titled “Oh! Neil” and it was a genuine, certified bomb! All was not lost. Within a few months, King and her husband had written the aforementioned “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and even though it was passed over by many singers, including one of the most popular singers of the day, Johnny Mathis, the Shirelles reluctantly agreed to sing it. As a matter of fact, they disliked the song so much, they had to be talked into it. With a new arrangement and Carole playing back-up, the song went to #1. King and Goffin were now on their way.
The success they received with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” was repeated many times over. Even Carole released her own single “It Might As Well Rain Until September,” which peaked at #22 in the early fall of ’62. By the end of 1963, King and Goffin had scored over a dozen top ten songs and had become the new darlings of the songwriting industry. Hits that followed included “Take Good Care Of My Baby” and “The Loco-Motion” (which incidentally is the only pop song to chart in three different decades; 1962 it was #1 for Little Eva, 1974 it scored the top spot again for Grand Funk and in 1988, Kylie Minogue had her first U.S. smash when her version reached #3). Other songs include “One Fine Day,” “I’m Into Something Good,” “Hey Girl,” “Hi-De-Ho” for Blood, Sweat & Tears, and “It’s Going To Take Some Time,” which became a smash for the Carpenters in 1972. Other hits that King included on her mega-smash “Tapestry,” which were recorded by other artists, include “I Feel The Earth Move” recorded by 80’s dance artist Martika, and “Where You Lead” and “Beautiful” recorded by Barbra Streisand, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, “So Far Away” by Rod Stewart and “You’ve Got A Friend” recorded by James Taylor.
Tapestry first entered the Billboard Album Chart on April 10, 1971. With the unexpected success of its debut, the first single “It’s Too Late” wasn’t released until one month after the album (a highly unlikely practice in the music industry) and within weeks became the #1 song in the country, remaining on the top of the Billboard charts for 5 weeks. The summer of ’71 was the birth of Carole King, the singer-songwriter-superstar. Tapestry spawned three more hit singles, “I Feel The Earth Move,” “So Far Away” and “Smackwater Jack.” The following winter, Carole King took home four Grammy Awards for Tapestry, Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“You’ve Got A Friend”), Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”) and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. Carole, once the hit machine behind other hit-makers was now a bonafide hit-maker herself.
Because of the enormous success of Tapestry, King has been credited for paving the way for other female singer-songwriters that have gone on to commercial success such as Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, and Carly Simon.
Following the success of Tapestry, King endured a dozen more hit albums and hit singles during the 70’s including “Sweet Seasons,” “Jazzman,” “Nightingale” and her own rendition of “One Fine Day.” In 1990, Carole King and Gerry Goffin were inducted as a songwriting team into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, King devoted herself to her first love, songwriting, and scored hits with such artists as Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Babyface and k.d. lang.
King has also immersed herself in charitable work, as well as working with the Human Rights Campaign, releasing the song “Uncommon Love” which is included on Love Rocks; a CD released this past February that benefits the HRC. Along with King’s own song, recording artist Mandy Moore contributed the King staple “I Feel The Earth Move.” 100% of the net proceeds from “Love Rocks” benefit the Human Rights Campaign’s work towards marriage equality and acceptance of the love and commitment between two people, regardless of sexual orientation. “Uncommon Love” was also featured on King’s last album, 2001’s “Love Makes The World.”
This brings us up to speed. When Carole King embarked on her very successful tour last summer, she performed in 27 cities, including Radio City Music Hall, her first New York City performance in over 12 years.
If you don’t already own The Living Room Tour CD, I highly suggest you warm your heart and head with Carole’s new CD. If you’ve ever been a fan of King’s, this new set is the ultimate collection.
How lucky we are that she had the “misfortune” of becoming one of the finest and most respected and successful recording artists of all time. The Living Room Tour CD is testament to that fact.
© 2006 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.