A Little Ditty About Carole King

Carole King, born Carole Klein, February 1942, is the daughter of a firefighter and school teacher. With perfect pitch, Klein began playing the piano at age four.

While attending James Madison High School, she, along with other female students, formed a musical group called the Co-Sines. In her freshman year, Klein played piano in the annual Madison Sing as classes competed in elaborate musical productions. By her senior year, Klein had released her first single on ABC-Paramount Records as “Carole King.”

After graduation, she enrolled in Queens College intending to become a school teacher. During this time, the now “Carole King,” recorded several demos with her classmate Paul Simon for which they were paid $25 apiece. King played piano and drums, Simon played guitar and bass. One demo, “Just To Be With You,” became a minor hit for The Passions.

carole king RCA records
Carole King at a recording session at RCA Studio in New York City, 1959.

King’s professional career began in the ‘60s when she and her first husband, Gerry Goffin, wrote more than two dozen chart hits for numerous artists, many of which have become standards. King’s success as a performer in her own right did not come until the ‘70s, when she sang her own songs, accompanying herself on the piano, in a series of albums and concerts. After experiencing commercial disappointment with her debut album Writer, King scored her breakthrough with the album Tapestry, which topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks in 1971, and remained on the charts for more than six years.

Today, Carole King is recognized as the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century, having written or co-written 118 pop hits between 1955 and 1999 in the US, and 61 hits that charted in the UK.

King has also made 25 solo albums – the most successful being Tapestry, which held the record for most weeks at No. 1 by a female artist for more than 20 years. She has won four Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her songwriting. She is the recipient of the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the first woman to receive the honor, and she is also a 2015 Kennedy Center Honoree.

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