After writing the soundtrack of the 1960s, Carole King wove a tapestry of emotion and introspection as a singer-songwriter in the 1970s. Her solo work was a clarion call to generations of female artists and millions of fans – giving them voice and confidence. King has too many accolades to list – six Grammys, the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize, a 2015 Kennedy Center Honor, and beyond. She is already a one-time Inductee with former husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, with whom she co-wrote numerous iconic songs. Many, like the Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” – for the first time ever in the music industry – spoke to, and for, young women.
King’s time as a Brill Building-style pop songwriter would be enough to make her a legend, but she was just getting started. With the launch of her solo career, she emerged as a strong, pensive singer-songwriter and Laurel Canyon star. Her sophomore release Tapestry (1971) swept the Grammys. On the Tapestry version of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” the danceable rhythms and full production of the girl group sound is replaced by aching piano chords, subdued tempo, and sparse instrumentation. Above this texture, her voice – honest and earthy, simple and beautiful – calls out from the place of a grown woman. The personal style of King’s performance on that track, on new songs such as “Beautiful,” and on subsequent albums like Fantasy (1973) and City Streets (1989), has connected with listeners – particularly women –because it came from a place of unabashed vulnerability.
Carole King’s life is a testament to perseverance and creativity, so much so that Beautiful: The Carole King Musical ran for five years on Broadway, scoring its own GRAMMY and two Tony awards. Everyone from the Beatles to Lady Gaga has covered her songs, and she defined what a singer-songwriter is for all who followed. King spent her career taking the concerns of women and girls seriously. By singing about her personal desires, heartaches, triumphs, and failures, Carole King gave women a voice and the confidence to change their own lives – and to collectively change our entire world.
Influences: Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Penguins, Laura Nyro
Legacies: Beatles, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion
Cleveland, Ohio 44114