Perhaps the most successful female songwriter of the Rock era, Carole King did much to shape the sound of 60s and 70s Pop music, first as a prolific writer of hits for others and then as a hugely successful solo artist. The writer or co-writer of well over 100 songs that have made the Billboard singles chart, she also recorded one of the best-selling records in history, 1971’s Tapestry, considered one of the most important and influential albums connected to the Singer-Songwriter movement of the early 1970s.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, King demonstrated her musical ability at an early age, learning to play piano by age four. At age eight she was performing on television and by ten was writing originals songs. In high school she formed a band with Paul Simon, sold her first songs as a writer and recorded a few unsuccessful, singles.
While attending Queens College she met Gerry Goffin. The two became both songwriting partner and lovers, marrying when King became pregnant at 17. King was still a teenager when the pair wrote their first No. 1 hit, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” for the Shirelles. Perhaps it was Goffin and King’s youth that allowed them to tap into the mindset of teen record buyers — whatever the source of their powers, the pair racked up scores of hits, including “Crying in the Rain” by the Everly Brothers, “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva, “Up on the Roof” by the Drifters and “(You make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin.
Goffin and King’s songs exemplify what is now called the “Brill Building Sound.” Located on Broadway in New York City, the Brill Building was home to many music publishers who contracted songwriters, like Goffin and King, to churn out material for Girl Groups, Pop singers and other recording artists of the day. The building was a potent source of hits throughout much of the 1960s, but the Beatles ushered in a new era of artists who wrote their own songs, and by the end of the decade the heyday of The Brill Building was over.
King divorced and moved to the Laurel Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles, long a destination for musicians. Befriending locals like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, King began to pursued a solo career, for the first time writing songs for her own voice and expressing her own personal emotions.
Her first record sold modestly, but the second was Tapestry, which went through the roof. It hit No. 1 and stayed there for 15 weeks, winning Grammies for best record, song and album. The songs "It's Too Late," "I Feel the Earth Move” and “So Far Away” became radio staples; the record would eventually sell an estimated 25 million copies.
While King would never duplicate that success, she went on to make over 20 more albums; a live record with James Taylor, Live at the Troubador, went gold in 2010 and earned a Grammy nomination, leading to a 60-date world tour. In 2012, King released a memoir, whose title echoed one of her many hit songs: A Natural Woman.