Carole King (born February 9, 1942) is an American composer and singer-songwriter.
King's career began in the 1960s when she, along with her then husband Gerry Goffin, wrote more than two dozen chart hits for numerous artists, many of which have become standards. She has continued writing for other artists since then. King's success as a performer in her own right did not come until the 1970s, when she sang her own songs, accompanying herself on the piano, in a series of albums and concerts. After experiencing commercial disappointment with her debut album Writer, King scored her breakthrough with the album Tapestry, which topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks in 1971 and remained on the charts for more than six years.
In 2000 Billboard pop music researcher Joel Whitburn named King the most successful female songwriter of 1955–99 because she wrote or co-wrote 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100. King wrote 61 hits that charted in the UK. In 2005 music historian Stuart Devoy found her the most successful female songwriter on the UK singles charts 1952–2005.
King has made 25 solo albums, the most successful being Tapestry, which held the record for most weeks at No. 1 by a female artist for more than 20 years. Her most recent non-compilation album was Live at the Troubadour in 2010, a collaboration with James Taylor that reached number 4 on the charts in its first week and has sold over 600,000 copies. Her records sales were estimated at more than 75 million copies worldwide.
She has won four Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her songwriting. She is the recipient of the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the first woman to be so honored. She is also a 2015 Kennedy Center Honoree.
Early life and '60s song-writing (1942–1969)
King was born Carol Joan Klein in February 1942, to a Jewish family in Manhattan. Her mother, Eugenia (née Cammer), was a teacher and her father, Sidney N. Klein, was a firefighter for the New York City Fire Department. She grew up in Brooklyn, learned the piano when she was four years old, and appeared on The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour with a school friend, performing "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake" when she was eight. While at James Madison High School in the 1950s, Carol Klein changed her name to Carole King, formed a band called the Co-Sines, and made demo records with her friend Paul Simon for $25 a session.
Her first official recording was the promotional single "The Right Girl", released by ABC-Paramount in 1958, which she wrote and sang to an arrangement by Don Costa. She attended Queens College, where she met Gerry Goffin, who was to become her song-writing partner. When she was 17, they married in a Jewish ceremony on Long Island in August 1959 after King had become pregnant with her first daughter, Louise. They left college and took daytime jobs, Goffin working as an assistant chemist and King as a secretary, while writing songs together in the evening at an office belonging to Don Kirshner's Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway opposite the Brill Building.
Neil Sedaka, who'd dated King when he was still in high school, had a hit in 1959 with "Oh! Carol". Goffin took the tune and wrote the playful response "Oh! Neil", which King recorded and released as a single the same year. The B-side contained the Goffin-King song "A Very Special Boy". The single was not a success. After writing The Shirelles' Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", the first No.1 hit by a black girl group, Goffin and King gave up the daytime jobs to concentrate on writing. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" became a standard.
During the sixties, with King writing the music and Goffin the lyrics, the two wrote a string of classic songs for a variety of artists. King and Goffin were also the songwriting team behind Don Kirshner's Dimension Records, which produced songs including "Chains" (later covered by the Beatles), "The Loco-Motion" for their babysitter Little Eva, and "It Might as Well Rain Until September" which King recorded herself in 1962—her first hit. King would record a few follow-up singles in the wake of "September", but none of them sold much, and her already sporadic recording career was entirely abandoned (albeit temporarily) by 1966.
Other songs of King's early period (through 1967) include "Half Way To Paradise" [Tony Orlando, covered by Billy Fury in U.K.], "Take Good Care of My Baby" for Bobby Vee, "Up on the Roof" for the Drifters, "I'm into Something Good" for Earl-Jean (later covered by Herman's Hermits), "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for the Monkees (inspired by their move to suburban West Orange, New Jersey), and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" for Aretha Franklin.
By 1968, Goffin and King were divorced and were starting to lose contact. King moved to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles with her two daughters and reactivated her recording career by forming the City, a music trio consisting of Charles Larkey, her future husband, on bass; Danny Kortchmar on guitar and vocals; and King on piano and vocals. The City produced one album, Now That Everything's Been Said in 1968, but King's reluctance to perform live meant sales were slow. A change of distributors meant that the album was quickly deleted; the group disbanded in 1969.
Seventies singer-songwriter and Tapestry (1970–1979)
While in Laurel Canyon, King met James Taylor and Joni Mitchell as well as Toni Stern, with whom she would collaborate on songs. King made her first solo album, Writer, in 1970 for Lou Adler's Ode label, with Taylor playing acoustic guitar and providing backing vocals. It peaked at number 84 in the Billboard Top 200. The same year, King played keyboards on B.B. King's album Indianola Mississippi Seeds.
King followed Writer in 1971 with Tapestry, which featured new compositions as well as reinterpretations of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." The album was recorded concurrently with Taylor's Mud Slide Slim, with an overlapping set of musicians including King, Danny Kortchmar and Joni Mitchell. Both albums included "You've Got a Friend", which was a number 1 hit for Taylor; King said in a 1972 interview that 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".
Tapestry was an instant success. With numerous hit singles – including a Billboard No.1 with "It's Too Late" – Tapestry held the No.1 spot for 15 consecutive weeks, remained on the charts for nearly six years, and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. The album garnered four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year; Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female; Record of the Year ("It's Too Late," lyrics by Toni Stern); and Song of the Year, with King becoming the first woman to win the award ("You've Got a Friend"). The album appeared on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list at number 36. In addition, "It's Too Late" was number 469 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Carole King: Music was released in December 1971, certified gold on December 9, 1971. It entered the top ten at 8, becoming the first of many weeks Tapestry and Carole King: Music simultaneously occupied the top 10. The following week it rose to No.3 and finally to No.1 on January 1, 1972, staying there for three weeks. The album also spawned a top 10 hit, "Sweet Seasons" (US No.9 and AC No.2). Carole King: Music stayed on the Billboard pop album charts for 44 weeks and was eventually certified platinum.
Rhymes and Reasons (1972), and Fantasy (1973) followed, each earning gold certifications. Rhymes and Reasons produced another hit, "Been to Canaan" (US No.24 and AC No.1), and Fantasy produced two hits, "Believe in Humanity" (US No.28) and "Corazon" (US No.37 and AC No.5), as well as another song that charted on the Hot 100, "You Light Up My Life" (US No.67 and AC No.6).
In 1973, King performed a free concert in New York City's Central Park with 100,000 attending.
In September 1974, King released her album Wrap Around Joy, which was certified gold on October 16, 1974, and entered the top ten at 7 on October 19, 1974. Two weeks later it reached 1 and stayed there one week. Wrap Around Joy spawned two hits. "Jazzman" was a single and reached 2 on November 9 but fell out of the top ten the next week. "Nightingale", a single on December 17, went to No. 9 on March 1, 1975.
In 1975, King scored songs for the animated TV production of Maurice Sendak's Really Rosie, released as an album by the same name, with lyrics by Sendak.
Thoroughbred (1976) was the last studio album she made under the Ode label. In addition to enlisting her long-time friends such as David Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor and Waddy Wachtel, King reunited with Gerry Goffin to write four songs for the album. Their partnership continued intermittently. King also did a promotional tour for the album in 1976.
In 1977, King collaborated with another songwriter Rick Evers on Simple Things, the first release with a new label distributed by Capitol Records. Shortly after that King and Evers were married; he died of a cocaine overdose one year later, while King and daughter Sherry were in Hawaii. Simple Things was her first album that failed to reach the top 10 on the Billboard since Tapestry, and it was her last Gold-certified record by the RIAA, except a compilation entitled Her Greatest Hits the following year, and Live at the Troubadour in 2010.
Despite its Gold-certified record status, Simple Things was named "The Worst Album of 1977" by Rolling Stone magazine. Neither Welcome Home (1978), her debut as a co-producer on an album, nor Touch the Sky (1979), reached the top 100. Pearls – The Songs of Goffin and King (1980) yielded a hit single, an updated version of "One Fine Day".
Later life and work (1982–present)
King moved to Atlantic Records for One to One (1982), and Speeding Time in 1983, which was a reunion with Tapestry-era producer Lou Adler. After a well-received concert tour in 1984, journalist Catherine Foster of the Christian Science Monitor dubbed King "a Queen of Rock". She also called King's performing "all spunk and exuberance."
In 1985, she wrote and performed "Care-A-Lot", the theme to The Care Bears Movie. Also in 1985, she scored and performed (with David Sanborn) the soundtrack to the Martin Ritt-directed movie Murphy's Romance. The soundtrack, again produced by Adler, included the songs "Running Lonely" and "Love For The Last Time (Theme from 'Murphy's Romance')", although a soundtrack album was apparently never officially released. King made a cameo appearance in the film as Tillie, a town hall employee.
In 1989, she returned to Capitol Records and recorded City Streets, with Eric Clapton on two tracks and Branford Marsalis on one, followed by Color of Your Dreams (1993), with an appearance by Slash. Her song, "Now and Forever", was in the opening credits to the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
In 1988, she starred in the off-Broadway production A Minor Incident, and in 1994, she played Mrs Johnstone on Broadway in Blood Brothers. In 1996, she appeared in Brighton Beach Memoirs in Ireland, directed by Peter Sheridan. In 1991, she wrote with Mariah Carey the song "If It's Over", for Carey's second album Emotions. In 1996, she wrote "Wall Of Smiles/Torre De Marfil" with Soraya for her 1997 album of the same title.
Early 1991 saw King's song "It's Too Late" covered by Dina Carroll on the Quartz album Perfect Timing. The cover topped the dance charts worldwide and reached No.8 in the UK Singles Chart in 1991. It was hoped that King would appear in the filming of the video for the song but she declined, citing her heavy tour schedule at that time.
In 1997, King wrote and recorded backing vocals on "The Reason" for Celine Dion on her album Let's Talk About Love. The song sold worldwide, including one million in France. It went to number 1 in France, 11 in the UK, and 13 in Ireland. The pair performed a duet on the first VH1 Divas Live benefit concert. King also performed her "You've Got A Friend" with Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain as well as "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" with Aretha Franklin and others, including Mariah Carey. In 1998, King wrote "Anyone at All", and performed it in You've Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
In 2001, King appeared in a television ad for the Gap, with her daughter, Louise Goffin. She performed a new song, "Love Makes the World", which became a title track for her studio album in autumn 2001 on her own label, Rockingale, distributed by Koch Records. The album includes songs she wrote for other artists during the mid-1990s and features Celine Dion, Steven Tyler, Babyface and k.d. lang. Love Makes the World went to 158 in the US and No. 86 in the UK. It also debuted on Billboard′s Top Independent Albums chart and Top Internet Albums chart at No. 20. An expanded edition of the album was issued six years later called Love Makes the World Deluxe Edition. It contains a bonus disc with five additional tracks, including a remake of "Where You Lead (I Will Follow)" co-written with Toni Stern.
The same year, King and Stern wrote "Sayonara Dance", recorded by Yuki, former lead vocalist of the Japanese band Judy and Mary, on her first solo album Prismic the following year. Also in 2001, King composed a song for All About Chemistry album by Semisonic, with the band's frontman Dan Wilson.
King launched her Living Room Tour in July 2004 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. That show, along with shows at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and the Cape Cod Melody Tent (Hyannis, Massachusetts), were recorded as The Living Room Tour in July 2005. The album sold 44,000 copies in its first week in the US, landing at 17 on the Billboard 200, her highest-charting album since 1977. The album also charted at 51 in Australia. It has sold 330,000 copies in the United States. In August 2006 the album re-entered the Billboard 200 at 151. The tour stopped in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A DVD of the tour, called Welcome to My Living Room, was released in October 2007.
In November 2007, King toured Japan with Mary J. Blige and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. Japanese record labels Sony and Victor reissued most of King's albums, including the works from the late 1970s previously unavailable on compact disc. King recorded a duet of the Goffin/King composition "Time Don't Run Out on Me" with Anne Murray on Murray's 2007 album Anne Murray Duets: Friends and Legends. The song had previously been recorded by Murray for her 1984 album Heart Over Mind.
In 2010, King and James Taylor staged their Troubadour Reunion Tour together, recalling the first time they played at The Troubadour, West Hollywood in 1970. The pair had reunited two and a half years earlier in 2007 with the band they used in 1970 to mark the club's 50th anniversary. They enjoyed it so much that they decided to take the band on the road for 2010. The touring band featured players from that original band: Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, and Danny Kortchmar. Also present was King's son-in-law, Robbie Kondor. King played piano and Taylor guitar on each other's songs, and they sang together some of the numbers they were both associated with. The tour began in Australia in March, returning to the United States in May. It was a major commercial success, with King playing to some of the largest audiences of her career. Total ticket sales exceeded 700,000 and the tour grossed over 59 million dollars, making it one of the most successful tours of the year.
During their Troubadour Reunion Tour, Carole King released two albums, one with James Taylor. The first, released on April 27, 2010, The Essential Carole King, is a two-disc compilation album. The first disc features many songs Carole King has recorded, mostly her hit singles. The second disc features recordings by other artists of songs that King wrote, most of which made the top 40, and many of which reached No.1. The second album was released on May 4, 2010 and is a collaboration of King and James Taylor called Live at the Troubadour, which debuted at No.4 in the United States with sales of 78,000 copies. Live at the Troubadour has since received a gold record from the RIAA for shipments of over 500,000 copies in the US and has remained on the charts for 34 weeks, currently (2011) charting at No.170 on the Billboard 200.
On December 22, 2010, Carole King's mother, Eugenia Gingold, died in the Hospice Care unit at Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach, Florida at the age of 94. King stated that the cause of death was congestive heart failure. Gingold's passing was reported by the Miami Herald on January 1, 2011.
In the fall of 2011 she released A Holiday Carole, which includes holiday standards and new songs written by her daughter Louise Goffin who also is producer for the album. The album would garner a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Pop Album.
Her autobiography "A Natural Woman: A Memoir" was published by Grand Central in the United States on April 10, 2012. It entered the NYT best seller list at No.6.
On Thursday, May 10, 2012, it was announced that Carole King was retiring from music and that her days in music have most likely ended. King herself also doubted she would ever write another song and said that her 2010 Troubadour Reunion Tour with James Taylor was probably the last tour of her life, saying that it "was a good way to go out." King also stated that she will most likely not be writing or recording any new music. However, on May 22, King wrote on her Facebook page that she never said she was actually retiring, and insisted that she was just "taking a break." Carole campaigned for Idahoan Nicole Lefavour and Barack Obama in 2012.
Early in December 2012, Carole received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2012 she was given the benefit concert 'Painted Turtle – a celebration of Carole King'. King also did an Australian tour in February 2013. Following the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013, she performed in Boston with James Taylor in order to help victims of the bombing.
In late 2012, the Library of Congress announced that Carole King had been named the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Gershwin Prize for Popular Song – the first woman to receive the distinction given to songwriters for a body of work. President and Mrs. Barack Obama hosted the award concert at the White House on May 22, 2013, with the President presenting the prize and reading the citation. In June 2013 she campaigned in Massachusetts for US Representative Ed Markey, the Democratic nominee in a special election for the US Senate to succeed John Kerry who had resigned to become Secretary of State.
Carole King was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year in January 2014.
In December 2015, King was honored as a Kennedy Center Honoree. She is set to perform at the British Summer Time Festival held Hyde Park, London on July 8, 2016.
King has appeared sporadically in acting roles, notably three appearances as guest star on the TV series Gilmore Girls as Sophie, the owner of the Stars Hollow music store. King's song "Where You Lead (I Will Follow)" was also the theme song to the series, in a version sung with her daughter Louise. King also appeared as Mrs. Johnstone as a replacement in the original Broadway production of Blood Brothers.
Personal life and family
King has been married four times, to Gerry Goffin, Charles Larkey, Rick Evers, and Rick Sorenson. In her 2012 memoir A Natural Woman, King wrote that she had been physically abused by her third husband, Rick Evers, on a regular basis. Evers died of a cocaine overdose days after they broke up in 1978.
Her children are musicians Louise Goffin and Sherry Goffin Kondor, artist Molly Larkey, and Levi Larkey.