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Carole King's Tapestry: Story And Trivia Of A Songwriter's Belated Success

Music | June 19, 2020

Left: Carole King and her cat photographed in her Laurel Canyon home for the cover of 'Tapestry.' Right: King in record producer Lou Adler's office holding the four Grammy Awards she received for the album. Soures: Amazon.com; Jim McCrary/Redferns

The 1971 album Tapestry by Carole King was a blockbuster, bringing one of the most successful songwriters in the business fame under her own banner. A songwriting prodigy, Carole King had been writing hits since her teens, several of which went to #1 on the Billboard chart -- for other artists. Then came Tapestry, with "I Feel The Earth Move," "It's Too Late," "So Far Away," "You've Got A Friend," and her versions of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Previously a faceless songwriting credit on a track listing -- usually "Goffin-King," with her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin -- Carole King became a household name and the most critically acclaimed act of 1971.

Source: (Brain Pickings)

Carole King’s mother began teaching her basic piano skills when she was three. By the time she was four, her mother started giving her real music lessons, including technique and music theory. By the time she was in high school, she formed a band called the Co-Sines and made demo records with her friend Paul Simon. Her first official recording was "The Right Girl,” a promotional single released by ABC-Paramount in 1958. King wrote the song and sang it to an arrangement by Don Costa. After high school, she went to Queens College where at 17 she met and married Gerry Goffin in 1959. They also became writing partners as well, with King focusing on the music and Goffin, on the lyrics.

Her Songwriting Career Takes Off

With Gerry Goffin, her husband and songwriting partner. Source: (American Songwriter)

While still in high school, she had a relationship with Neil Sedaka, who wrote the song “Oh! Carole” for her, and so her husband wrote a playful response: “Oh! Neil”. King sang and recorded the song. The song was not a hit, but when they wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” the Shirelles recorded it and it became the first #1 by a black girl group. After this success, Don Kirschner of Aldon Records offered them jobs writing songs and so King and Goffin gave up their day jobs to work full-time on their music. At this point, they became Brill Building songwriters, writing a large number of popular songs, including “One Fine Day” and “Up on the Roof,” which were top-five hits for The Chiffons and The Drifters, respectively  In 1962 they wrote “It Might As Well Rain Until September” for Bobby Vee, but King recorded it as well and the song made it to the top 40. All told, Goffin and King wrote more than 50 top 40 songs between 1960 and 1968.

A Step Closer To A Solo Career

With her short-lived band, The City. Source: (Light In The Attic Records),

When Goffin cheated on King, their relationship started to crumble. In 1965, they moved to West Orange, New Jersey, where they wrote the song “Pleasant Valley Sunday” for The Monkees. The song was intended as a commentary on life in suburbia. After they wrote "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” their writing partnership was over. They both moved to California, with King specifically heading to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, which, at that time, was a haven for songwriters. After the move to Laurel Canyon, she formed The City, a trio that lasted a year and released Now That Everything’s Been Said, but King was reluctant to perform live, which may have contributed to the slow performance of the album.  

King's Solo Career With A Little Help From Friends

With James Taylor. Source: (The Great Song Adventure).

She released her first solo album, titled Writer, in 1970. This album was comprised mainly of songs that she had written with Goffin. Earlier, she had met James Taylor in Laurel Canyon, who encouraged her to pursue her musical career by writing her own lyrics and music; Taylor played acoustic guitar and sang backing vocals on the album. In 1971, she released her second album, Tapestry, which she recorded in Studio B at A&M Studios in Hollywood, while Joni Mitchell was recording in Studio C and The Carpenters were in Studio A. Joni Mitchell and James Taylor also sang backing vocals. Unlike Writer, Tapestry was a blockbuster. While she did include reinterpretations of some of the songs that she had written with her husband, King included songs that she had written solo.  She demonstrated her strength not only as the music composer, but also as a lyricist on this album.  Incidentally, Taylor was recording Mud Slide Slim at the same time, and when he heard "You've Got A Friend," he asked if he could record the song as well.

'Tapestry' Dominated 1971

Source: (purpleclover.littlethings.com).

Tapestry was a critical success, winning four Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“You’ve Got A Friend”); Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late,” which had lyrics by Toni Stern); and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. Tapestry was also a tremendous popular success, selling more than 15 million copies over time. She also toured, with a notable performance in Carnegie Hall on June 18. 1971 and a free concert in Central Park, which attracted an audience of  more than 70.000 on May 26, 1973 and made the front page of the Sunday New York Times.  King also released her third album, Carole King: Music in 1971, and it wan in the top 10 at the same time as Tapestry.

Over the course of her career, she would record around 25 solo albums, the sales of which have been estimated to be more than 75 million copies worldwide.  

Tags: 1970s Music | Carole King | Classic Albums | Tapestry

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!