When it comes to musical icons, little compares to the impact Carole King had on the industry. She had an incredible talent for songwriting and a lovely voice to go along with it. She had the rare ability to capture time and feeling in her music in such a special way. She was just a teenager when she heard one of the songs she had written on the radio. She was destined for stardom, but it wasn’t such a smooth path.
Carole King’s road to success began when she was in high school. She was a promising young musician with unbelievable talent. She got married and started a family at such a young age, but it didn’t stop her from following her dreams. While she was still a teenager, she suddenly heard one of the songs she wrote playing on the radio. After writing for legendary musicians like Aretha Franklin and James Taylor, King became a notable singer in her own right.
This is the career of the multitalented Carole King.
Her Real Name
Carole King is a songwriting icon, best known for her mega-hit album, Tapestry. She embodied the musical sound of the 1960s and 70s. But like many singers, her legendary name isn’t the one she was born with. Originally, she was named Carole Joan Klein.
In high school, she started a romance with Neil Sedaka from a band called The Tokens. Not long after they started dating, she took on the name Carole King and formed her own musical group called the Co-Signs (we’ll get to that in a minute). She always knew she wanted to be a musician and kept her high school stage name throughout her entire career.
Starting as a Youngster
King’s early musical inspiration came from her mother. She started arranging and composing music back when she was in high school, and that’s when she formed and performed in the vocal quartet called the Co-Sines, at just 15 years old. She briefly attended Queens College and dropped out to marry Gerry Goffin in 1959. He abandoned his dreams of becoming a chemist to write music with her.
Together, Goffin and King started writing songs for Aldon Music in a little cubicle next to the Brill Building on Broadway. It didn’t take long for the couple to become the most successful songwriting duos in the industry. Their first hit was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which was recorded by the Shirelles in 1961. The track became a number one single on the U.S. 100 while King was still a teenager. At 19 years old, she had a promising career ahead of her.
Carole King had to work extremely hard for success. She wasn’t able to put everything aside and focus only on her dreams; she had other people to take into consideration. When she was 17 years old, she had her first child, and she had two babies to take care of by the time she was 20. Needless to say, being a teen mom isn’t exactly.
Often times, when women have children at a young age, they have a hard time continuing their education or pursue time-consuming careers. But King was an exception. Not only did she manage to make it in the cut-throat entertainment industry (with two children), but she found immense success.
Songwriting Power Couple
King met her first husband, Gerry Goffin, at Queens College in New York. The pair hit off really well and became a songwriting team, and later, husband and wife. Shortly after they tied the knot, she gave birth to her first daughter. Together, the duo wrote hits for other artists and musical groups.
The songs on their impressive resume include “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)” for Aretha Franklin and “Pleasant Valley Sundays” for The Monkees. The power couple was great songwriting partners, but King was more successful as an artist writing independently. She revealed that writing without her hubby was initially very intimidating for her.
Partners and Heartbreak
Throughout the next six years, King and her husband composed hits with beautiful regularity. Some more of their number one songs include “Take Good Care of My Baby” (1961, by Bobby Vee), “Go Away Little Girl” (1962, by Steve Lawrence), “The Loco-Motion” (1962, by Little Eva), “Up on the Roof” (1962, by the Drifters), “One Fine Day” (1963, by the Chiffons), “Don’t Bring Me Down” (1966, by the Animals), and of course, “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” (1967, by Aretha Franklin).
In 1968, the pair got divorced. While discussing her 2014 musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, King opened up about her ex-husband: “And the people who love Gerry who were part of the production made him not a villain, rightly so. He always felt bad about having caused me pain, and to the end of his life [said], ‘I’m sorry I caused you so much pain.’ He wasn’t a villain; he had a mental illness.”
She Lived in A Mountain Town
King lived in Los Angeles and New York. But a little more surprisingly, she lived in a small mountain town in Idaho. She once stated that she never found peace until she moved to her Idaho home in 1978. The singer also revealed that moving to the state brought her a new appreciation for nature.
When you live in a busy city, it’s hard to stop and smell the roses. King didn’t realize how much she loved trees, mountains, and hiking. Her newfound love for nature encouraged her to become an environmental activist. She loves the planet, and keeping it clean and safe is extremely important to her.
An Environmental Activist
King is politically active, especially when it comes to environmental issues. King has been to Washington, DC many times to advocate for legislation with the Alliance for Wild Rockies.
When discussing her history in both New York and Idaho, she says, “Because I came from New York, I straddled both worlds. I understood what this was so important to people in New York City. They were killing a tourism source, in addition to something that was intrinsically valuable in its own right.”
She Went to College with Paul Simon
We know she met her husband at Queens, but that wasn’t the only significant person Carole met in college. She also made friends with Paul Simon, from Simon and Garfunkel. The pair got really close, but King said they didn’t write songs together because lyrics weren’t Simon’s strong suit.
However, Paul Simon was the brains behind the iconic song “The Sounds of Silence” for Simon and Garfunkel. The song was even included in The Library of Congress’ National Recording Register for its musical significance. So, I guess he was a better songwriter than she thought.
Friends with James Taylor
When Carole split up with her husband, she headed to Los Angeles to move into a writers’ community, near some ordinary people like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. She even joined Taylor’s band in a limited college-tour and played piano.
She said that James Taylor was a huge influence on her, and she wrote many songs for her hit album Tapestry during that time. She explained that even though she didn’t write songs for Taylor himself, his voice was “in [her] head.” Taylor’s version of King’s track “You’ve got a Friend” became a hit in the United States. With his encouragement, King used her talents to perform solo, and, in 1970, her debut album Writer came out.
The Release of Tapestry
However, King didn’t capture the attention of the country as a solo artist until later that year. She took a collection of catchy tunes and engaging lyrics and released her incredibly successful album Tapestry. It took the number one spot on the Billboard album chart for 15 weeks and was a best seller for over 300 weeks!
King also earned four Grammys for Tapestry. She landed the win for Album of the Year, in addition to the award for Best Song (“You’ve Got a Friend”), best single (It’s Too Late”), and best female vocal performance. Now that’s impressive! More notable songs on the album include “I Feel the Earth Move” and “So Far Away.”
James Taylor Was an Inspiration for Tapestry
When King moved to Los Angeles in 1968, where she founded the group The City. They released an album called “Now That Everything’s Been Said,” but, unfortunately, it never gained commercial success. Shortly after, King played with James Taylor. Not only did she accompany him on tour, but she sang on his 1970 album, Sweet Baby James.
These two musical icons worked together, but King and Taylor had been close pals for years. King admitted: “I wrote heavily under the influence of James Taylor.” The pair collaborated from their early years to their heyday and reunited in more recent years. We’ll get into all of that soon.
More Hits and Heartbreak
King continued to release popular albums. Many of them went gold, such as Music (1971), Rhymes & Reasons (1972), Fantasy (1973), and Wrap Around Joy (1974). She married the bass player of the City, Charles Larkey, but it didn’t last. In 1997, she walked down the aisle with her abusive manager, Rick Evers, who overdosed and died less than a year later.
King married once again in 1982. Unfortunately, she still didn’t get her happy ending, and the pair split up in 1987. Around this time, she gradually began fading from the music scene. Her focus has shifted to environmental advocacy in Idaho, where she lives.
Her 2007 Comeback
But in 2007, King’s music career jumped back to life. She reunited with James Taylor, and the old pals performed at Troubadour, a popular West Hollywood venue, for its 50th anniversary. In 2010, they released a Live at the Troubadour CD and DVD.
Shortly after, King and Taylor went on a Troubadour reunion tour. The reunion also inspired a 2011 feature-length documentary made for public television’s American Masters series called Troubadours: Carole King/James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter. It’s wonderful to see these two still working together after all these years.
Carole King took advantage of resurfaced popularity and released a holiday album in 2011 called A Holiday. Her daughter Louise Goffin produced it. She’s clearly following in the footsteps of her talented parents. King published her memoir, A Natural Woman, in 2012.
Two years later, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, a look at King’s singer-songwriter career, began its long Broadway run. It opened in London’s West End in 2015. King performed all the songs, in order, from her album Tapestry in London’s Hyde Park in 2016, and the CD/DVD Tapestry: Live at Hyde Park was released the next year.
Hall of Fame
In 1987, King was inducted into the songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and, in 2002, she received the Johnny Mercer Award for her “history of outstanding creative works.” In 1988, she and Goffin were awarded the National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award.
Then, two years after that, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2013, she was awarded the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and a Grammy Award for her lifetime achievement. If that wasn’t enough, in 2015, the multitalented star was named a Kennedy Center honoree.
Still Excited About Her Success
You would assume that after spending decades in the entertainment industry as an incredibly successful recording artist, fame might lose its initial appeal. However, no matter how many number-one hits this girl has, King said the excitement feels just the same.
King explained how happy and proud she felt the very first time she heard one of her songs on the radio. But she said the feeling didn’t go away or even change at all. She still feels the same when she hears one of her songs playing on the radio now.
A True Writer
After presenting the world with numerous songs, King has semi-retired from her musical journey. She is obviously a talented writer, and that doesn’t just go away. She still has a knack for songwriting, and, these days, she sits down to write whenever she gets inspired. For example, she re-worked one of her old songs to motivate people to vote in the midterm elections.
She also writes novels and, in 2012, she came out with a memoir entitled A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Carole King, appropriately named after one of her most popular hits she wrote for Aretha Franklin. Writing will always be her first love, and music just gives her beautiful words a heartwarming melody.
Four Marriages, Four Divorces
In her memoir, King wrote about her life as a singer/songwriter. One thing she wasn’t shy about was talking about her four marriages and heartbreaking breakups. She revealed how her third husband, Rick Evers, was physically abusive toward her regularly. Days after they separated in 1978, Evers died of a cocaine overdose.
Then, in 1982, King got married for the fourth time. This time, to Rick Sorensen, a carpenter from Idaho. Unfortunately, that romance didn’t last either. The pair broke up in 1987. Apparently, King wanted to spend more time in New York, and he wanted her to stay home with him.
Leaving a Legacy
Carole King had four children altogether. Her first two children are from her first marriage to Gerry Goffin: Louise Goffin and Sherry Goffin. She also has a son and a daughter from her second marriage to Charles Larkey: Levi Larkey and Molly Larkey. Her daughters are all working in the industry, but her son has managed to stay out of the limelight.
King will always be remembered as the genius behind some of the most memorable lyrics of our time. Despite being a musician in during the periods of “sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” Carole King managed to stay out of trouble throughout her career and steer clear of all scandals. But that’s not to say that some of her buddies weren’t involved in drug indulgence and dependency.