t the age of just 17, Carole King wrote her first ever No. 1 hit song: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. It was a groundbreaking and somewhat shocking song at the time but one which is known and loved by every generation since it's release in 1960.
Never before had the subject of a girl's feelings after spending the night with a boy been tackled in a song. Sex before marriage was a taboo subject in the 1950s & early 1960s but the youth of America and indeed Britain were hungry for rebellious music: "sex, drugs and rock n roll" were about to become part of youth culture although that phrase would not be actually created until 1969 by LIFE magazine.
But let's get back to Carole King, our songwriter of the week. Carole was born to a Jewish family in New York, 1942. Her mother was a drama teacher so we can see already that there was always going to be a creative streak which showed itself when Carole was just three when she began playing the piano, with her mother's tuition. Carole's father, a firefighter was immensely proud of his daughter's musical talent and she worked hard at her lessons to make him happy. The family name was Klein and it wasn't until Carole was at High School that she changed her surname to King.
At High School, Carole formed a pop group called The Co-Sines. She was friends with the future songwriting legend, Paul Simon and together they made a demo record together.
It was while Carole was studying at Queen's College that she met Gerry Goffin, the man she would marry and have a daughter with, as well as form one of the most successful songwriting partnerships, ever. (Louise Goffin is also a successful singer/songwriter and is the image of her mother!)
When Carole became pregnant with Louise, she and Gerry both quit college to get jobs and together, they wrote songs in the evenings.After their first hit (Will You Love Me Tomorrow) the young couple both gave up their day jobs and became full-time composers. Like many other musicians who wrote songs, they worked out of the famous Brill Building, on 49th Street, Manhattan.
The hits just flowed. Mostly, Gerry would provide the lyrics with Carole composing the melody although there would be many times when she wrote a complete song herself.
One of the other famous names to occupy a space in The Brill Building was Neil Sedaka. It's widely known that he dated Carole King when they were in High School and that he wrote the song Oh Carol for her. Gerry Goffin responded with a song called Oh Neil! which Carole recorded. It was not a success but as we all know, Sedaka's Oh Carol was huge and remains a favourite song of its era.
Although the majority of King/Goffin songs were for other people, sometimes Carole would record one herself, one of her best known being It Might As Well Rain Until September in 1962. It was written with Bobby Vee in mind as the recording artist.
In 1968, Carole and Gerry had divorced and drifted apart as songwriters. Carole moved to Los Angeles where she met and began working with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. She revived her recording career and in 1971, wrote and released her classic album Tapestry.
Tapestry spawned several hit singles, including You've Got a Friend and It's Too Late. The album achieved no less than four Grammy awards, one of them being "Best Song of the Year" (It's Too Late). Carole King was the first woman to win that particular award.
Tapestry appeared at No. 36 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It's one of my favourite albums of all time too and I'm playing it as I write this article!
Carole King has never stopped writing and performing great music. Throughout every decade since her rise to fame, she has produced outstanding music for herself and for others, performed concerts and written for films too, including A League of Their Own, The Care Bears Movie & Murphy's Romance.
During the1990s, Carole took to acting and played the part of Mrs Johnstone in the Broadway production of Blood Brothers. The nineties and noughties saw Carole King collaborating with some of the major stars of the decades: Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan to mention just a few. She toured with Mary J Blige and with Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas. It's fair to say, Carole King never went out of fashion!
One of Carole King's most enduring songs is You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman. It's rumoured that James Taylor was the inspiration for that song and it's no surprise that Carole's 2012 autobiography is called: Natural Woman: A Memoir. So loved and respected is this wonderful songwriter that her book entered the New York Times Bestsellers list at No 6.
2012 was also the year that she was given her own star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. Honours and awards have continued to be piled upon Carole including 2015 Kennedy Centre Honouree. If you've never seen any of the Kennedy Centre Awards Concerts and tributes, you should check them out. There are lots on YouTube and they are all awesome!
In 1996, a film loosely based on the life of Carole King was released, called Grace of my Heart.
The musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical debuted on Broadway in 2013 and has been a huge success here in Britain too.
Here is a very short list of some of Carole King'sbest loved songs;
Some Kind of Wonderful - The Drifters (with Gerry Goffin)
Crying in the Rain - The Everly Brothers (With Howard Greenfield)
The Loco-motion - Little Eva / Kylie Minogue (with Gerry Goffin)
Go Away Little Girl - Bobby Vee (with Gerry Goffin)
Take Good Care of my Baby - Bobby Vee (with Gerry Goffin)
Halfway to Paradise - Billy Fury (with Gerry Goffin)
Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Monkees ( with Gerry Goffin)
Up On The Roof - The Drifters (with Gerry Goffin)
Oh No Not My Baby - Maxine Brown / Rod Stewart (with Gerry Goffin)
Don't Bring Me Down - The Animals (with Gerry Goffin)
If It's Over - Mariah Carey (with Mariah Carey)
Take Good Care of My Baby - Bobby Vee / Smokie (with Gerry Goffin)