Born Carole Klein (February 9, 1942), in Brooklyn, New York, she began playing piano at the age of our, and formed her first band, the vocal quartet, the Co-Sines, while in high school. A fan of the composing team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who wrote numerous hits for Elvis Presley, the Coasters and Ben E. King, she became a fixture at DJ Alan Freed’s local rock ‘n’ roll shows. While attending Queens College, she palled around with songwriters Paul Simon and Neil Sedaka as well as Gerry Goffin, with whom she formed a writing partnership. (In 1959, Sedaka scored a hit with “Oh! Carol”, written in her honor).
King and Goffin eventually married and wrote songs in the Brill Building. Her heart-wrenching melodies and Gerry’s lyrics captured the tone and vernacular of their audience’s inner experiences with uncanny accuracy; Carol had a gift of arranging a song – from the hook through the chord manipulation and instrumental counterpoint. In 1961, Goffin and King scored their first hit with The Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”; their next effort, Bobby Vee’s “Take Good Care of My Baby”, also hit Number One, as did “The Locomotion”, recorded by their babysitter, Little Eva. Together, the couple wrote over 100 chart hits, including The Chiffons’ “One Fine Day”, The Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, The Drifters’ “Up on the Roof”, The Cookies’ “(My Baby’s Got Me Locked Up in) Chains”, Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman”, and The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)”.
Charles Larkey, the bassist for the group The Myddle Class, and King’s second husband, co-founded the band, The City, which recorded one LP, Now That Everything’s Been Said, but did not tour due to King’s stagefright. The album was a commercial failure, although it did feature songs later made popular by Blood, Sweat and Tears (“Hi-De-Ho”) and James Taylor (“You’ve Got a Friend”).
James Taylor encouraged her to pursue a solo career. Her debut album (1970’s Writer) fell short of expectations; however, in 1971 she released Tapestry, which topped the charts for over six years and was the best-selling album of the era, selling ten million copies in the United States alone. While seminal in the development of the singer/songwriter genre, Tapestry scored a pair of hit singles, “So Far Away” and It’s Too Late”, whose flip-side, “I Feel the Earth Move”, received major airplay as well. Music (1971) also hit Number One, and generated the hit “Sweet Sensations”; 1972’s Rhymes & Reasons reached Number Two on the charts, and 1974’s Wrap Around Joy, which featured “Jazzman”, again hit the Number One spot.
In 1975, King and Goffin reunited to write Thoroughbred, which also featured contributions from James Taylor, David Crosby and Graham Nash. After 1977’s Simple Things, she mounted a tour with the backing group, Navarro, and married her frequent songwriting partner Rick Evers, who overdosed and died a year later. Pearls (1980), which featured performances of songs written during her partnership with Goffin, was her last significant hit, and King soon moved to a tiny mountain village in Idaho, where she became active in the environmental movement. After 1983’s Speeding Time, she took a six-year hiatus from recording before releasing City Streets, which featured guest Eric Clapton. Color of Your Dreams (1993) included a cameo from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash.
With songs covered by artists ranging from Chrissy Hynde to Billy Joel, veteran songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
In 2001, she returned with Love Makes the World, a self-released disc on her own Rockingale label. Four years passed before her next record, The Living Room Tour, a double-disc set documenting her intimate 2004-05 tour that found her revisting songs from throughout her career with only her piano and acoustic guitars as accompaniment.
The Living Room Tour, a live double disc named for its spare instrumentation, arrives so well coated in the Hall of Famer’s particular brand of populist, listener-loving pixie dust you half expect it to leave a glowing, sticky residue on your fingers. Radiating the maternal warmth and honesty that translated Tapestry into a 25-million seller, King sprawls comfortably (aided, probably, by the couches and coffee tables hauled onstage for these shows) into favorites like “Jazzman,” “So Far Away,” and “I Feel the Earth Move.” Older songs made famous by other artists, including “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “One Fine Day,” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” get an unfortunate, yet effective, slice-and-dice medley treatment.
Carole King devotees won’t find a lot of reviews that overlook the minor vocal flaws on this latest outing, but a barrel of bum notes couldn’t keep the 63-year-old legend from connecting with an audience. The intimacy-to-the-masses approach of this tour suits the early-’70s earth mother material best, and intermingled with a few recent songs, the mix soothes, reassures, and satisfies. If you haven’t listened to King in a while, it’s not too late, baby.
Carole King’s first ever holiday album, A Holiday Carole (2011), was released by Hear Music/Concord Music Group in November 2011. Produced by her daughter Louise Goffin, the album’s twelve songs artfully blend the sacred and the secular with an eclectic mix of well-chosen standards and newly-written material. Goffin co-wrote three original tracks on the album, including the Latin-flavored “Christmas in Paradise,” on which she collaborated with Grammy-winners George Noriega and Jodi Marr, the sublime Goffin/Marr composition “Christmas in The Air,” and the deeply moving “New Year’s Day,” co-written with renowned songsmith Guy Chambers.
“As an experienced producer,” King remembers, “Louise’s first question to me as her artist was, ‘What songs do you like?’” After compiling a list of favorites, Goffin went on the hunt for more unusual tracks, coming up with tunes like William Bell & Booker T. Jones’ Stax classic “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday.” King puts her own indelible stamp on the music, lending it a special seasonal flair.
For King, the album’s emotional highlight is undoubtedly “Chanukah Prayer.” “Louise had the brilliant idea to take the Chanukah prayer that I learned from my parents, and they learned from their parents, and back through generations,” she explains. “She said ‘I want to record you singing that and I’m going to build a track around it.’“ The result is a warm, jazz-inflected tune that brings together three generations on vocals: King, her daughter, and her grandson.