CAROLE KING: born a songwriter

by Norman Warwick

Tina Benitez Eves, once wrote in American Songwriter, that ´Carole King was born a songwriter,´ When Carole was a teenager, and still attending James Madison high school in Brooklyn, New York, Carole King was already selling songs to publishing companies throughout the city, while writing songs for her band Co-Sines and making demo albums with her schoolmate Paul Simon. By the 1960s, King met her soon-to-be husband and co-writer Gerry Goffin at Queens College and went on to write some of the biggest hits throughout the 1960s, ’70s and a career spanning more than six decades. So, come follow your art down sidetracks and detours woven into a tapestry that still endures.

We alluded to Tapestry (left) in our preview of this article because, of course, the album was such an enormous seller at the time and has endured for more than fifty years, remaining a relevant and effective balm for new generations as they fall in and out, or are taken in or dropped by, love.

The truth  is though, as Tina Eves Benitez pointed out in an article in American Songwriter, King’s hit songs for other artists actually exceed even the enormity of her 1971 solo album Tapestry and her own hit singles like You’ve Got a Friend, I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, and It’s Too Late.

King earned her first No. 1 hit as a songwriter with The Shirelles’ hit Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, released on the girl group’s 1960 debut album Tonight’s the Night, and subsequently recorded by King herself on Tapestry. King later composed Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman along with Goffin and producer Jerry Wexler.

Throughout the 1960s, alone, King wrote smash after smash hit crossing and fusing genre, from doo-wop and pop, R&B, soul and rock. She also wrote a couple of songs The Beatles covered with Take Good Care Of My Baby and Chains.

Take Good Care Of My Baby, was actually first recorded by Bobby Vee. Written by Carol with Gerry Goffin the songreachedthe top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in September 1961.The song was also covered by The Beatles, Dion and the Belmonts, Bobby Vinton, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz and many more in the years that followed. 

I never shooped the shoop or danced the mashed potato but like everybody in the sixties, I did  The Locomotion along with Little Eva.

Originally written for the R&B singer Dee Dee Sharp, who turned down the song, The LocoMotion became an instant hit for Little Eva in 1962 and throughout the next two decades. The song remained a hit in 1974 for the rock band Grand Funk Railroad and again in 1987 when Kylie Minogue released a cover of the track on her 1988 debut Kylie, which reached No. 3 in the U.S. on the Hot 100.

Also Written by Carole King, Chains was recorded by The Cookies in 1962 and  by The Beatles in the following year.

Originally written for the Brooklyn, New York-bred The Cookies, Chains was the first time the R&B group had charted since their 1956 hit In Paradise. Over in Liverpool, England, The Beatles were also using the song in their live sets, and by 1963, the band recorded a version for their debut Please Please Me.For “Chains,” George Harrison took over lead vocals for the first time.

A Carole King collaboration with Howard Greenfield, , a co-worker of King and Goffin at Aldon Music, Crying In The Rain joined a long line of hits for The Everly Brothers when they recorded it in 1962.

 Crying In The Rain was recorded by The Everly Brothers and reached No. 6 on the U.S. Pop charts. Aretha Franklin also included a live recording of the track on her 1968 album, Aretha in Paris. In 1990, Norwegian band A-Ha also recorded Crying in the Rain, on their fourth album, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which remains on their set list to date.

The Goffin and King partnership co-write of Up On The Roof, was recorded by  The Drifters  in 1963

Reaching No. 5 in the U.S. on the Pop Singles chart and No. 4 on the R&B singles chart for the doo-wop and R&B group The Drifters, Up On The Roof was released on their 1964 album, Under The Boardwalk—the title track became another big hit for the quintet a year later. Up On the Roof was also listed as the one the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

One Fine Day, written by Carole King, was a huge hit for The Chiffons (right) in 1963

Inspired by the title of the Puccini aria “Un Bel di Vedremo” from the opera Madama Butterfly, “One Fine Day” was recorded by girl group The Chiffons and became a mega hit. Covered by everyone from Bette Midler, to The Carpenters and more, King also recorded the song in 1980, and it was featured on soundtrack for the 1996 romantic comedy of the same name, starring George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer, along with a version by Natalie Merchant. 

The Goffin King partnership also wrote I’m Into Something Good, which became the breakthrough hit for Herman’s Hermits

Although it had been originally recorded by The Cookies, British band Herman’s Hermits ended up taking the song to No. 1 in the UK and even entered the U.S. charts at No. 42 at the height of the British Invasion. King revealed that the song was inspired by The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.

Oh No Not My Baby,” by Maxine Brown in 1964 was another Carole King song by everyone from Cher to Aretha Franklin, Linda Rondstadt, and Dusty Springfield. Oh No Not My Baby tells the story about the denial of accepting the reality of a partner’s numerous infidelities. In 1964, the song reached No. 24 on the pop chart for R&B singer Maxine Brown.

Goin’ Back, a hit by Dusty Springfield back in 1966 is a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin that has grown more and more important to me during my dotage.

Singing about the loss of  innocence that comes with adulthood—

I think I’m goin’ back

To the things I learned so well in my youth

I think I’m returning to

Those days when I was young enough to know the truth 

Goin’ Back was made famous by Dusty Springfield in 1966 and was later covered by Diana Ross, The Pretenders, Bon Jovi, Phil Collins, and even Freddie Mercury, later released on a compilation of the Queen singer’s singles, Messenger Of The Gods: The Singles, in 2016.

Wasn’t Born to Follow, written by Carole King and recorded by The Byrds in 1968, is one of my favourite songs of all time, with The Byrds version being my favourite.
Off The Byrds’ fifth album The Notorious Byrd Brothers, the song also made its way onto the soundtrack of the 1969 road drama Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. That year, King also recorded her own version of the song while fronting the group The City, and in 1999, Dusty Springfield covered the song on her album of lost recordings, Dusty in London.

Great songs can follow sidetracks & detours, through many genres, all across the arts.

In so doing they reveal some strange bedfellows. It is only as I post this piece that I realise that despite knowing Carole King´s songs so well, and this particular era of The Byrds being my favourite I am not sure I would have immediately thought of them all sharing the same shaded part of any Venn diagram.

Of course it is said that wen we write songs we must intend them for ight years of travel, but it must have been an incredible trip that transferred Carole King song to The Byrds !

But then, if you are born a songwriter, as Tina Benitez Eves, implies Carole King was, I guess you can manage to travel through time and space. and get to have a musical staged in your honour (see our cover photo)

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