Friday, January 24, 2014

Carole King, The #36 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Carole Klein was born in Manhattan, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn.  She learned to play piano when she was four years old, and in 1950, she performed on The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour at the age of eight.  While at James Madison High School, she changed her name to Carole King, formed a band called the Co-Sines and made demo records.

King released the single "The Right Girl" in 1958 on ABC-Paramount Records.  King went to Queens College, where she met Gerry Goffin, who was to become her husband and famous songwriting partner.  The two left college and got daytime jobs, Goffin as an assistant chemist and King as a secretary.  At night, the two wrote songs together in an office belonging to Don Kirshner.   

At age 18, Carole wrote "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" with Goffin, and the Shirelles recorded it.  When the song hit #1, King and Goffin gave up their jobs to focus full-time on songwriting.  The pair wrote such classics as "One Fine Day" for the Chiffons, "Up On The Roof" for the Drifters, "The Loco-Motion" for Little Eva, "Take Good Care Of My Baby" for Bobby Vee, "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for the Monkees", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" for Aretha Franklin, and "I'm Into Something Good", later recorded by Herman's Hermits.

In 1962, King released "It Might As Well Rain Until September", one of eight singles she released before most people had heard of her.  The song caught on in the U.K., where it peaked at #3.

By 1968, however, King and Goffin divorced and Carole moved to Laurel Canyon, where she formed a trio called the City.  The group released one album (Now That Everything's Been Said) but disbanded the following year.

King released her first solo album, Writer, in 1970 on Ode Records, with James Taylor playing acoustic guitar and singing background vocals.  

In 1971, she released a masterpiece for the ages, the album Tapestry, which featured recent songs she had written as well as reinterpretations of two Goffin-King songs.  Simultaneously, she wrote "You've Got A Friend" for Taylor, which became a #1 song and one of his biggest career hits.

Tapestry was an instant success, thanks to the classic "It's Too Late".  The song took off, landing at #1 for four weeks in the United States and also hitting #1 in Canada, and peaking at #5 in Australia, #6 in the U.K. and #8 in Ireland.  It was honored at the Grammy Awards as the Record of the Year and earned King another Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

Tapestry went to #1 on the Album chart for 15 weeks and remained a best-seller for more than six years.  Tapestry held the record for most weeks at #1 on the Album chart by a female artist for more than 20 years, until Whitney Houston broke it with "The Bodyguard" Soundtrack.  King scored another smash when the flip side to "It's Too Late" also caught on.

King won two more Grammys--Album of the Year for Tapestry, and she became the first female in history to win the Song of the Year Award (given to songwriters) for "You've Got A Friend".  Carole had another double-sided hit next, with "So Far Away" went to #3 on the Easy Listening chart and a much underrated #14 overall in the United States and #17 in Canada.

The flip side was "Smackwater Jack".

King hit a musical home run, with every track playing through with no loss in quality, a rarity for an album.  This is "Beautiful".

While Taylor had the hit with her song "You've Got A Friend", King recorded a great version herself.

Carole included a reworked version of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" on Tapestry.

The classic album has now sold over 25 million copies worldwide.  The title track is an amazing piece of work, nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards, and one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

King released the album Music later in the year, and it went Gold within a few weeks.  It entered the Album chart at #8, becoming the first of several weeks that both Tapestry and Music simultaneously occupied the Top 10.  Carole released the single "Sweet Seasons", which reached #2 on the Easy Listening chart, #9 overall, and #12 in Canada.

Music remained on the Album chart for 44 weeks and sold over one million copies.  Carole continued her momentum with the album Rhymes and Reasons in 1972, which produced "Been To Canaan".   The single went to #1 on the Easy Listening chart, #24 overall, and #15 in Canada.

King released the album Fantasy the following year.  The album included two Top 10 Adult hits--"You Light Up My Life" reached #6.

King performed a free concert in New York City's Central Park in 1973, with 100,000 people attending.  "Corazon" was a Top 5 song on the Easy Listening chart for Carole.

In 1974, King released the album Wrap Around Joy, which sent Gold within a month and became another #1 album.  Carole toured to promote the album, and released "Jazzman" as the opening single.  It hit #2 in the United States and #5 in Canada, and was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.

"Nightingale" was the follow-up, and it topped the Easy Listening chart and peaked at #9 overall.

King recorded the album Really Rosie, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Album for Children.

In 1976, King released her final album on Ode--Thoroughbred.  Former husband Goffin teamed up with her to write four songs on the album, and friends James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Waddy Wachtel helped out as well.  King toured again, and she landed another #1 on the Adult chart with the single "Only Love Is Real", her ninth consecutive AC Top 10 song.

Carole released the album Simple Things in 1977, her last Gold album.  It included the single "Hard Rock Cafe", which peaked at #8 on the Adult chart and #12 in Switzerland.

In 1980, King released the album Pearls:  Songs of Goffin and King, which included Carole's updated version of the Top 5 Chiffons smash "One Fine Day" that she had written nearly two decades earlier.  It just missed the Top 10 at #11.

King moved to Atlantic Records and released One to One, then returned for three more studio albums on Capitol, including her last one, Colour of Your Dreams, in 1992.  In 1985, she scored and performed the soundtrack to the movie Murphy's Romance.

In 1987, Goffin and King were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  The pair received the National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award the following year. 

In 1988, King starred in the off-Broadway production A Minor Incident.  In 1990, King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her songwriting achievements.  In 1991, Carole co-wrote "If It's Over" with Mariah Carey for Carey's second album Emotions.  In 1992, Carole also recorded "Now and Forever", which is featured in the opening credits of the movie A League of Their Own.  The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture. 

In 1994, King starred in the Broadway play Blood Brothers.  King co-wrote "The Reason" for Celine Dion in 1997, which went to #1 and sold over one million copies in France, and peaked at #11 in the U.K.  Carole and Celine performed a duet on the first VH1 Divas Live benefit concert.  She also performed her "You've Got A Friend" with Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" with Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and others.  

In 1995, an all-star roster of artists paid tribute to King on the album Tapestry Revisited:  A Tribute to Carole King.  Celine Dion's cover of "A Natural Woman" and Rod Stewart's version of "So Far Away" were both Adult Contemporary hits.  Other artists who recorded songs were the Bee Gees ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), Aretha Franklin ("You've Got a Friend"), Faith Hill ("Where You Lead"), Amy Grant ("It's Too Late"), Richard Marx (Beautiful")

In 1998, King recorded "Anyone At All" for the box office smash You've Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  In 2002, King was honored with three inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame (for the entire Tapestry album and the songs "It's Too Late" and "You've Got A Friend"), and she received the Johnny Mercer Award (given to artists who have established a history of outstanding creative works) from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  In 2004, King was presented with the prestigious Grammy Trustees Award.

In 2007, King toured Japan with Mary J. Blige and Fergie.  In 2010, longtime friends King and James Taylor embarked on their Troubadour Reunion Tour, remembering the first time they played the famous Los Angeles club in 1970.  The tour grossed over $59 million, one of the most successful tours of the year. 

The show at the Troubadour was recorded and released as the album Live at the Troubadour.  The album was certified Gold and remained on the Album chart for 34 weeks. 

In 2012, King published her autobiography "A Natural Woman:  A Memoir".  It entered the New York Times bestseller list at #6.  In December, King received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  

King was awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by The U.S. Library of Congress.  King was the first and is still the only female recipient of the prestigious distinction given to songwriters.  

"Carole King has been one of the most influential songwriters of our time," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement accompanying the announcement.  "For more than five decades, she has written for and been recorded by many different types of artists for a wide range of audiences, communicating with beauty and dignity the universal human emotions of love, joy, pain and loss.  Her body of work reflects the spirit of the Gershwin Prize with its originality, longevity and diversity of appeal."  President and Mrs. Barack Obama hosted the Gershwin Award concert at the White House May 22, 2013, when the President presented the Gershwin Award to Carole King. 

In 2013, she did a tour of Australia and, after the Boston Marathon bombings in April, she performed in Boston with James Taylor in a benefit concert for victims.  King received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy Awards, and she was nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for A Holiday Carole.

Last year, producer Paul Blake announced that Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical starring Tony-nominated actress Jessie Mueller would appear on Broadway.  The play was scheduled for a pre-Broadway run at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco with Broadway shows premiering in November at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York City.

We will someday do The Top 100 Women in Rock*, which will take into account not only solo recordings but work in duos and groups, songwriting, musical skill, expertise on musical instruments, and influence in their lifetime and beyond.  When we do, Carole King will rank far, far higher than the #38 Ranking she attains for her recording career.

From 1955-1999, King wrote or co-wrote 118 hits; she is the most successful female songwriter of the Rock Era.  She has won six Grammy Awards out of 13 career nominations.  Carole has had 12 hits with four going Top 10 and one #1 song.  But on the top format, Adult Contemporary, King has excelled, with 16 AC hits, 10 Top 10 songs and four #1's.

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