The Untold Truth Of Carole King

Chances are, even those who have never heard of Carole King have heard her songs a hundred times over. Along with her first husband, King was the musical mind behind some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, many of which have become timeless classics. After years of contributing her songwriting chops to the stratospheric success of several other artists and groups, King decided to try singing her songs herself. And following a shaky start, she emerged as one of the most successful musicians of the 1970s.

Carole King's heartfelt lyrics have given life to the careers of some of the most popular folk and soul artists of all time; to a beloved family drama; and to a critically acclaimed Broadway musical. She has made history as a woman in music, and paved the way for new generations of female singer-songwriters. Here are some things many may not know about an artist who played an integral role in shaping the sounds of the '60s, '70s, and beyond.

Carole King's musical gifts emerged when she was a toddler

Carole King's affinity for music began in the womb. Her grandmother had exposed her mother to music, and her mother passed her love of classical, pop, and show tunes down to King. "I loved music and it made a lot of sense to me the gift that I have for it," King recalled in an interview for Achievement. "I was able to understand it and learn it and recreate it ... I don't know if they told me I was gifted, and I don't know if I knew I was gifted. I just liked it. I had almost perfect pitch."

King created her first recording, a rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," as a toddler, in a recording booth in Coney Island. She began playing the piano at age four, per All Music. As she grew older, her musical gifts helped her navigate the insecurities and comparisons that often come with being a young girl. "I couldn't compete with girls who were thought of as beautiful, so I found my niche in music," she told Achievement. "And that was where I found my beauty."

Carole King made demo tapes with Paul Simon in the 1950s

Carole King formed her first band, a quartet called the Co-Sines, while she was a student at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, per Biography. She then attended Queens College, where she met fellow future music star Paul Simon. According to Rolling Stone, Simon ran a business creating studio demos for $25 a pop at the time. King and Simon were both first-year students when they met during a demo session and began performing and recording together. 

"Carole would play piano and drums and sing. I would sing and play guitar and bass," Simon recalled (via Rolling Stone). "The game was to make a demo at demo prices and then sell it to a record company. Maybe you'd wind up investing $300 for musicians and studio time, but if you did something really good, you could get as much as $1,000 for it. I was never interested in being in groups, I was only after that $700 profit."

Neil Sedaka's hit 'Oh! Carol' was inspired by Carole King, whom he dated as a teenager

As a teenager in Brooklyn, Carole King ran around in the same music circles as singer Neil Sedaka, and the pair even dated in high school. "I brought Carole King, who I dated in high school, up to Aldon [Music]," Sedaka recalled during a 2012 interview for Forward. "This was a Jewish phenomenon. Neil Diamond lived across the street ... Barbra Streisand. Barry Manilow. We all lived in Brooklyn. It was a wonderful time. It must have been something in the egg cream. We used to hangout in the sweet shop and have egg creams and potato knishes."

In 1959, Sedaka released the song "Oh! Carol," which was inspired by King and met with major success. "I will always want you for my sweetheart/ No matter what you do/ Oh! Carol/ I'm so in love with you," he sang. The following year, King released a less successful song in response, titled "Oh! Neil," with the lyrics, "Oh! Neil/ I've loved you for so long/ I never dreamed you'd put me in a song."

Sedaka sang King's praises in a 2012 interview with Billboard. "When you've written so many great ones like Carole King it's difficult to top yourself," he said. "She's certainly one of the great pop writers of the last 50 years."

Carole King wrote some of the major standards of the '60s with her first husband, Gerald Goffin

Carole King is one of the many songwriters who contributed to the historic "Brill Building sound." The Brill Building stands at 1619 Broadway in New York City. According to the Daily Telegraph, the building opened in 1931 and attracted people from various levels of the music industry, including composers, producers, and publishers, as well as musicians themselves.

King never actually worked at the famous building; she worked across the street at 1650 Broadway with her first husband, fellow songwriter Gerry Goffin. She did, however, contribute to the general "Brill" sound, along with friends Paul Simon and Neil Sedaka. She and Goffin worked on several hits, and even standards, of the 1960s. They wrote songs such as The Drifters' "Up on the Roof," Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion," and The Shirelles' number-one hit "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," per

Carole King's friend James Taylor encouraged her to pursue a solo career

Carole King met fellow singer-songwriter James Taylor at a concert in New York City, and the pair became fast friends. According to PBS, it was Taylor who encouraged King to sing her own songs rather than only writing songs for other musicians. In the 1970s, King and Taylor were both living in the Laurel Canyon area of California, along with several other prominent songwriters of the time. "It really was a perfect moment, that Laurel Canyon period," Taylor told The Guardian in 2020. "Carole lived up there, Joni and I lived in her house there for the better part of a year ... There was a sense of there being a community: myself, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Crosby, Stills and Nash. David Geffen was in the mix a lot. Linda Ronstadt, Peter Asher, Harry Nilsson. You know, it was pretty much what they say. Things really worked well."

According to The Guardian, Taylor's lyric, "I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend," from "Fire and Rain," inspired King to write the song "You've Got a Friend" for him. The old friends toured together as recently as 2010, per NPR.

Carole King's singing career took a few years to take off

One of Carole King's many undertakings in the music world was a trio called The City. According to All Music, King formed the group in the late '60s, following her divorce from her first husband, Gerry Goffin, and her move to Laurel Canyon. King sang and played piano alongside Danny Kortchmar and Charles Larkey, the latter of whom she married in 1970. The City released its first and only album, "Now That Everything's Been Said," in 1968. According to Biography, King's stage fright prevented the group from touring, which led to poor promotion and the end of the group.

In 1970, King shifted to singing her own songs with the release of her first solo album, "Writer." Among the album's tracks were "Up on the Roof," which was later recorded by The Drifters, and "Child of Mine," which was later recorded by Billy Joe Royal, per Music Connection. "Writer" did not gain nearly as much attention as King's sophomore effort, "Tapestry," but it hit the charts following the latter album's success in 1971.

Carole King set audience and album-selling records in the 1970s

Carole King set two significant records in the 1970s. First, her second solo album, "Tapestry," sold over 25 million copies worldwide, per The Current. At that time, it was the best-selling album of all time. While this record has since been broken, "Tapestry" remains among the most commercially successful albums in history.

On May 26, 1973, Carole King drew the largest audience ever for a concert in Central Park. At the time, The New York Times reported it was "one of the largest crowds ever to see a concert in the park," with "well over 70,000 people." It has since been reported that the crowd set an all-time record with more than 100,000 people, per PBS and Song Facts. Stars like Joni Mitchell and Jack Nicholson were in attendance, and the concert was filmed from a "cherry picker" crane for television broadcast, per The New York Times. Following the show, some audience members stuck around to help clean up the park.

Carole King experienced a physically abusive relationship

Carole King met her third husband, fellow musician Rick Evers, shortly after divorcing her second husband, Charles Larkey. According to Next Avenue, King met Evers at a party thrown by Eagles frontman Don Henley. It was love at first sight, and the couple holed up in a remote Idaho cabin for three years. She milked goats, skied, and homeschooled her two children.

But there was trouble in their mountain paradise. Evers grew physically abusive to King, once hitting her in the jaw. "I had always been judgmental about women who stayed in abusive relationships," King wrote in her 2012 memoir "A Natural Woman." "I'd always thought, if I found myself with a man like that, the first time he struck me I'd be out of there in a New York minute. I would never stay with an abuser. Until I did." King also spoke about the abusive relationship in a 2012 CNN interview. "Hope springs eternal," she said of her justification for staying with Evers after he grew physically violent. "But the answer is not that simple ... the reason that I [wrote about it in the book] is that I wanted people to read this in that similar situation and to understand what it was that I was going through."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Carole King made history as the first woman to win certain major music awards

On March 14, 1972, at the 14th annual Grammy Awards, Carole King became the first woman to win multiple Grammy Awards in the general category. Her second solo album, "Tapestry," won Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. "You've Got a Friend" won Song of the Year, and "It's Too Late" won Record of the Year. According to Grammy, the album and both songs were later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The Recording Academy also awarded King the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Also in 2013, King made history once again as the first woman to ever receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. President Barack Obama gave King the award during a ceremony at the White House that May. According to the Library of Congress, previous recipients of the Gershwin Prize include Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and King's old friend Paul Simon. "For more than five decades, Carole King has enriched our lives through her music," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said at the time. "She has been an influential force in the industry and her music reflects the beauty and universality of the human experience."

Carole King created a mother-daughter version of her hit 'Where You Lead' for 'Gilmore Girls'

The original 1971 recording of Carole King's song "Where You Lead" included the lyric, "I never thought I could get satisfaction from just one man, but if anyone could keep me happy, you're the one who can." But years later, King stopped performing the hit because she felt its sentiments did not reflect the times. "[She] was not singing that song much anymore because it had these kind of 'stand by your man' lyrics and she wasn't feeling it anymore," her daughter, fellow singer-songwriter Louise Goffin, told Buzzfeed News. "She didn't feel like it was an empowering song."

But in 2000, King had the opportunity to revamp the song for the television series "Gilmore Girls." She enlisted Goffin's help for a mother-daughter rendition that would become the show's theme song. The revived version of "Where You Lead" featured the same chorus, but with more modern lyrics, such as "Just as long as we're together, we can find a way."

"When she was singing it with me, it just gave it a whole new spin," Goffin told Buzzfeed News. "She realized she was singing from the point of view from a mother to a daughter rather than a woman to a man." Goffin and King both appeared in "Gilmore Girls": King as Sophie, the music-store owner; and Goffin as the sister of the Stars Hollow troubadour.

Carole King is an environmental activist who has worked on Rocky Mountains conservation

While living in a cabin in the mountains of Idaho, Carole King grew inspired to participate in environmental activism. One of her major undertakings during her 30 years of activism has concerned the conservation of the Rocky Mountain region. She has spent nearly 20 years lobbying in favor of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, which was designed to protect the region from new construction and other man-made forces. According to The Lewiston Tribune, King testified before Congress in favor of the NREPA as early as 2005. According to NPR, she testified before Congress in favor of the bill once again in 2009.

King was still advocating for the bill a decade later, in 2019. "There's a team of people that have been working on this for 20 years and it grew out of science," King told The Hill that year. "And it was so visionary then that it anticipated climate change perhaps without knowing it anticipated protecting a carbon sink. But it takes areas that are now roadless — that's a technical designation, but it also means they don't have roads — in our national forests. And it designates them as wilderness and gives them a higher level of protection."

As of 2021, lawmakers are still trying to push the bill through Congress, according to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney.

'Beautiful: The Carole King Musical' was one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history

"Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" opened on Broadway in New York City on January 12, 2014. The musical followed King's journey through the music world as a singer and songwriter, featuring actors including "Supergirl" star Melissa Benoist and "A Thousand Miles" singer Vanessa Carlton in the titular role, per the New York Post.

According to Carole King's official website, the musical was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2014, and went on to win two: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, for Jessie Mueller, and Best Sound Design of a Musical. The musical's original Broadway recording also won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2015, per Carole King's website.

According to Playbill, "Beautiful" concluded its Broadway run in July 2019, after over five years. As of 2019, it was the 27th longest-running Broadway musical of all time. The show's North American tour continued beyond its Broadway run. In 2015, Variety reported that the musical was being adapted for the big screen and would be produced by actor Tom Hanks.