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1971: Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’ Is Released, Stuns America

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Carole King at an interview at Boston's JFK Presidential Library, Apr. 12, 2012.Credit: Michael Borkson/Wikimedia Commons

On February 10, 1971, Ode Records released “Tapestry,” the second solo album of singer-songwriter Carole King. The record was Billboard’s No. 1 album for 17 weeks, and it remained on the best-seller charts for six years. It also yielded three Grammy Awards for King: for best album, best record (the single “It’s Too Late”/”I Feel the Earth Move”), and best female vocalist.

The day before “Tapestry” came out, Carole King turned 28, by which time she had been in the music business more than a decade – or, more than 25 years, if you go back to the first record she cut: “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” at age 3, on the boardwalk at Coney Island.

She was born Carol Joan Klein, on February 9, 1942. Her mother, the former Eugenia Cammer, was a teacher. Sidney N. Klein, her father, was a fire fighter. Both of them loved music and encouraged their daughter’s interest in it. Carol began piano lessons at age 4, and when she was 8, appeared with a classmate on the live television show “The Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour,” singing “If I’d Known You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake.”

By the time she was in high school, she had organized a singing quartet called the Cosines, and assumed the stage name of “Carole King.” After graduating, at age 16, she began studying at Queens College, which is where she met Gerry Goffin, a chemistry major and budding song lyricist.

She and Goffin began writing together – Gerry the lyrics, Carole the music. When Carole got pregnant, they did the right thing and, in August 1959, got married. Soon after, they were signed as songwriters for the New York music publisher Aldon, named for its owners Al Nevins and Don Kirshner.

During the next few years alone, Goffin and King turned out such classic hits as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (recorded by the Shirelles, 1960), “Take Good Care of My Baby” (Bobby Vee, 1961), “Chains” (covered famously by the Beatles, in 1963), “The Loco-Motion” (first recorded in 1962 by Little Eva, who also happened to be Carole and Gerry’s babysitter), “Up on the Roof” (the Drifters, 1962); and “I’m into Something Good” (recorded by Herman’s Hermits in 1964).

When King and Goffin (who died last year) divorced, in 1968, she moved to Los Angeles with their two daughters, to the famed Laurel Canyon section.

The earth felt King move

The first album recorded by King on the West Coast was “Writer” (1970). Though well-reviewed, it was not a commercial success. It was released by Lou Adler’s Ode Records, but it was only on her next recording that Adler – already famous for his work with Sam Cooke and the Mamas and the Papas – among others, became her producer.

“Tapestry’ was recorded in January 1971 at A&M Recording Studios. Seven of its 12 songs – including “So Far Away,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “I Feel the Earth Move” – were by King exclusively; three were by King and Goffin (including “A Natural Woman,” of which Jerry Wexler was also a co-writer), and two songs had lyrics by Toni Stern, another Laurel Canyon denizen.

King provided keyboards and lead vocals, additional voices came from Mitchell and Taylor, among others, and backup musicians included Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel and bassist Charles Larkey (who became King’s second husband, and father to two more of her children).

The album’s cover showed King by the window of her home, working on a needlepoint (a tapestry) and her cat Telemachus peering into the camera lens.

Critical reception was enthusiastic. Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau called “Tapestry” a work of “surpassing personal-intimacy and musical accomplishment,” and it went on to become one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, with a total of more than 25 million sold internationally in the four-plus decades since then.

In 2003, “Tapestry” was one of 50 recordings chosen by the National Recording Registry to be placed in the Library of Congress as part of America’s sound-recording heritage.

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