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Herstory 34: Carole King's Songwriting Has Been Comforting You For Decades

Herstory 34: Carole King's Songwriting Has Been Comforting You For Decades

Carole King, circa 1970

Carole King, circa 1970

With Highest Distinction

Each year, the Kennedy Center Honors are held in Washington, D.C. awarding those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. The ceremonies date all the way back to 1978 (with Marian Anderson and others among its first recipients). In 2015, among the honorees was Carole King. 

In the lineup of tributes of her greatest hits were Janelle Monae, Sara Bareilles, and James Taylor. But to many watching, the biggest surprise of the night came when Aretha Franklin graced the stage:

Aretha Franklin performs “Natural Woman”, a song co-written by Carole King.

Touch The Sky

Born in February of 1942, Carol Joan Klein, spent her formative years in Brooklyn, New York. Starting to learn piano at the age of 4, Carol developed an insatiable appetite for music theory and technique. In her teenage years, Klein formed the Co-Sines and changed her name professionally to Carole King. 

After graduating, Carole moved to attend Queens College where she formed a writing partnership with Gerry Goffin. The two eventually became romantically involved, wed, and had their first child together. Shortly after becoming new parents, Carole and Gerry dropped out of College and took days jobs but continued to write in their remaining free time. Throughout the 1960s, Carole and Gerry worked launched and sustained their reputation for writing hit songs for a number of artists across a range of genres:

Carole’s babysitter, Little Eva, performing her hit “Loco-Motion”, 1962

The first King/Goffin-written hit “WIll You Love Me Tomorrow” performed by The Shirelles, 1960

A Carole King/Mariah Carey collaboration “If It's Over” from Carey’s second album, Emotions, 1992

And these are only a few examples of what King has demonstrated. To date, King has had a hand in writing over 400 songs, performed by more than 1,000 artists across a 50-year period.

As we got later into the 1960s, the success of Gerry and Carole fell to marital strain. After a series of dealing with Goffin’s multiple extra-marital affairs and mental health issues, the two separated in 1968. By no means did this slow Carole down. She focused on her solo career continuing to release albums (17 solo albums in total) as well as maintain her songwriting and collaborative relationships.

Carole King’s solo hit “I Feel The Earth Move” from her second album, Tapestry, 1971

Rhymes & Reasons

And the accolades were never limited to the Kennedy Center Honors. King has won a total of four Grammys, been inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and given the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (the first womxn to have received the award).

There’s something quite unique about the hidden influence of songwriting. For some, its an opportunity to hone their craft through the voices of emerging or established artists. For others, it's a chance to dodge the often overbearing consumption of fame. For Carole King, it was a way to go beyond the range and limits of genre and time. It’s difficult to describe just how infectious Carole King’s writing has been across half a century. 

“I just sort of try to be a good person; try to write music that lifts people and makes me feel good to sing”

One life-long career time has influenced countless musicians in both their technique and approach to songwriting that make a genuine connection with listeners. King hosts a musical library that has aged beautifully and no matter which voice is singing the lyrics, the emotion carries through. It’s intentional, careful and deeply appreciated. 

Have a listen to some of the selections that Carole had a hand in writing or released through her own solo career:

Thanks for reading! This blog series is brought to you by Solidarity in Sound, an educational platform for the global, music community.

For our Herstory Lessons blog series — we're retelling the stories of womxn in music that have been misheard, mislabeled, or erased completely from our history books.

If information looks incorrect, please let us know! When we're retelling stories that are left out of our history books, finding info can get tricky. We want to make sure we're portraying these stories as accurately as possible!

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