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Carole King And James Taylor: A Friendship Created Through Music

Entertainment | March 29, 2022

American Pop musicians James Taylor, on guitar, and Carole King, on piano, perform in the Theater at Madison Square Garden during People Magazine's 25th Anniversary Celebration 'Carole King, Making Music With Friends' concert, New York, New York, October

In 1969, Carole King and James Taylor’s paths began to intertwine in California. The two would develop a relationship centered solely around music and friendship, as they never even dated. As Taylor once said in an interview, “[Carole] and I probably just have the same musical DNA.”  

Source: (CaroleKing.com).

King Got Her Start Writing Music For Others

Carole King was immersed in music from a very young age. When she went to college, she met Gerry Goffin, who became her songwriting partner in college, and her husband in 1959. Although she had recorded a hit in 1962 with “It Might As Well Rain Until September,” she didn’t have much success as a solo artist after that and abandoned her recording career in 1966. King and Goffin divorced, and she moved to Laurel Canyon in 1968. Once in Laurel Canyon, she restarted her recording career, creating The City, a musical trio, with Charles Larkey on bass, Danny Kortchmar on guitar and vocals, and King on piano and vocals. The trio recorded one album in 1968, Now That Everything’s Been Said. King did not want to perform live, leading to slow sales, and one year after the group had formed, they disbanded. 

Source: (I Love Classic Rock).

James Taylor Was First Signed To Apple

In 1968, when King moved to Laurel Canyon, James Taylor took a flight to London, where he was going to audition with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He played “Something in the Way She Moves” and they signed him immediately to make his debut album, which he did. Taylor, who had picked up a heroin habit, was released from his contract with Apple and checked in to a rehab facility. During his time in rehab, he wrote the majority of his songs for his second album, Sweet Baby James. Then, in 1969, he moved to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, where a new generation of singer-songwriters was emerging. It was here that he met Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and, of course, Carole King. While living in Laurel Canyon, he and Joni Mitchell started a relationship that would end after a year. 

Source: (Reddit),

They Made Great Music Together

Although King and Taylor met in 1969, King said that it was like they had been friends for years. As she explained, “It was like we were puppies rolling around; the music was just rolling in and around each other. His guitar and my piano just rolled around. And we felt like we knew each other and had played together forever.” King and Taylor both played at the Troubadour, the venue that was, in 1969, where Taylor made his debut. It was also here that they played a concert together in 1970.

In 1970, with encouragement from Taylor to return to her solo career, King started recording once again, releasing her first solo album, Writer. On the album, Taylor played acoustic guitar and sang background vocals. She returned the favor; when he started to record Sweet Baby James, he enlisted King to play keyboard on the album.

Source: (Society of Rock).

The Song And The Friendship That Lasted

Then, in 1971, King wrote “You’ve Got a Friend” while she was working on her own album, Tapestry. According to King in an interview in 1972, she “didn’t write it with James or anybody really specifically in mind. But when James heard it he really liked it and wanted to record it.” Taylor was working on Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon at the time and King allowed Taylor to record his own version for his album. Taylor recognized this as an extraordinary gift, while King said of his rendition that it was perfect. King recorded it for Tapestry as well, and so it was released on both albums concurrently and Taylor’s recording reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100. At the Grammy Awards held on March 14, 1972, both King and Taylor won Grammys for the song; King won for Song of the Year and Taylor, for Pop Male Vocalist. Although Taylor’s version was nominated for Record of the Year, King won the award for her song “It’s Too Late.”

Their friendship has continued over the decades, and they have played “You’ve Got a Friend” together multiple times, including during their 2010 Troubadour Reunion Tour, with King on piano and Taylor on guitar.

Tags: Carole King | James Taylor

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Linda Speckhals

Writer

When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.