Fab, Fearless Females: Carole King

Carole King Now

By: Honey Good

Fab, Fearless Females is going to be my weekly blog; every Tuesday. I am going to choose women of all walks of life. My goal is to research an interesting woman’s life and share her story with you. I will learn too. Today I choose Carole King, the legendary songwriter and singer. There will be women’s careers or political tendencies that do not interest you, but I implore you to read anyway because a little knowledge can go a long way for all of us.

And now the Carole King Story…

I really was not over the top excited to see the show Beautiful because I was fortunate to see the lead actress who played Carol King on Broadway preform many of Carole King’s songs from the show Beautiful at the Palm Springs Museum Gala last winter. I wanted to see Hamilton but the show was sold out and when I told the ticket broker we had not seen Beautiful and he said in his warm Brooklyn accent, “Well then, it is a no brainer. You’ve gotta see Beautiful!” I bought tickets and I am so glad I did.

It was a fabulous show; a joyful celebration of a treasure trove of great music combined with the story of Carole King’s professional and personal life. It was so fabulous that when we arrived back to our hotel, as tired as I was, I googled Carole King because I wanted to know everything about her life and share her story with you.

Carole King was born Carol Joan Klein, in 1942, to a Jewish family in Manhattan. She learned to play the piano when she was four years old. In high school she changed her name to Carole King and formed a band. She attended Queens College where she met Gerry Goffin who became her husband and song-writing partner. She married at seventeen and they had two daughters together.

The young couple quit college, took daytime jobs, he as a chemist, she as a secretary, and wrote songs together at night in the office of Don Kirshner, Aldon Music. They were in love, were great collaborators and made music.

During the sixties with Carole writing the music and Goffin the lyrics they wrote a string of classic songs for a variety of artists. They wrote, “Take Good Care of my Baby” for Bobby Vee, “Will You Love me Tomorrow” sung by the Shirelles and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for Aretha Franklin. Carole King had the voice to belt out her music but that was to come later.

It was her character that drew me to her. She was loving, understanding, loyal and tolerant. She was strong and dedicated to her music. She did not have an attitude. She had the best of values. Her looks were plain, almost dowdy but her personality drew you to her.

By 1968 King and Goffin divorced. She could no longer tolerate her philandering husband who had a dark side. But I think she always loved Gerry. She had the hutzpah to pick up her young daughters and her mother and go where the music was, LA! She moved to Laurel Canon where she knew no one! This change, over time, produced the Carole King of today; a writer and songstress who sings her own songs while accompanying herself on the piano.

But it was not easy. While in Laurel Canyon, King met James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Tom Stern with whom she would collaborate on songs. She made her first solo album Writer in 1970 for Lou Adler’s Ode label with Taylor playing guitar. It peaked at 84 in the Billboard Top 200. Then came Tapestry with the reinterpretation of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman." 

Tapestry was an instant success and sold over 25 million copies worldwide.

Tapestry generated four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, best pop Vocal Performance, and Female of the Year - Carole King became the first woman to win the award with the song, “You Got A Friend.”

In 1973 King performed a free concert in New York City’s Central Park with 100,000 attending.

Throughout the seventies she collaborated with several musicians and even collaborated with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin, on four songs.

Throughout the eighties and nineties Carole King performed all over the world to applause.

In 2012 she said she was retiring, announcing that her Troubadour Reunion Tour with James Taylor was probably her last.

In 2012 she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2013 she received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the Library of Congress, the first female recipient in the prizes history. Following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, she performed in Boston with James Taylor in order to help victims of the bombing.

Carole King has been one of the most influential songwriters of our time. For more than five decades she has written with the universal human emotions of love, joy, pain and loss.

The one problem I have with the story of Carole King is that she was married four times. She seemed to me to be such a sensible young woman; a good thinker and I thought that would include men. When it came to music she was a great picker of sounds and words. When it came to men…she was a bad picker.

She has four children, musicians Louise Goffin and Sherry Kondor, and artists Molly Larkey and Levi Larkey.

She lives outside of Ketchum/Sun Valley, Idaho where she has lived for thirty-two years.

Do something GOOD today…buy tickets for the stage show Beautiful.

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