April 11, 2012

Reflections from a life in song

By Carole King
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When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand, chances are you've found comfort in the music of Carole King, the Brooklyn-born musical prodigy with the unruly mane whose 1971 Tapestry album still holds the record for spending more than six years on the Billboard charts.

In A Natural Woman, which was named for the breakthrough 1967 hit that King and husband/co-writer Gerry Goffin wrote for Aretha Franklin, the iconic singer-songwriter traces six decades of making music that changed our lives and hers.

While still in her teens, King scored her first #1 hit in 1961 with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" More than two dozen Goffin/King pop classics followed, including "One Fine Day," "The Loco-Motion" and "Up on the Roof."

During the decade that followed, however, King's life and music would reflect a woman's changing place in the world. After producers coaxed her into singing her own songs, her work became increasingly personal with her divorce from Goffin and disorienting relocation to Los Angeles as a single mom trying to raise young daughters in the psychedelic '60s.

While Tapestry catapulted King to rock stardom, it also set up the push-and-pull between her desire to create music and her search for a simpler life far from the madding crowd that would last the rest of her life. Following the dissolution of her marriage to L.A. musician Chuck Larkey, King’s next two husbands, Rick Evers and Rick Sorensen, were towering mountain men who introduced the city girl to the physical, mental and emotional highs and lows of pioneer life in rural Idaho.

King's voice, clear and immediate throughout, turns introspective when reflecting on her years as a commuting earth mother, torn between family and career and silently enduring domestic abuse. As much as the simple life appealed to her nurturing side, once the kids were grown the sounds of the city slowly lured King from her rural exile. Chance encounters with Paul and Linda McCartney, John and Yoko Ono and musical soul mate James Taylor over the years all served to remind her that the true solace for any artist lies with the art itself.

King's timeless music earned her four Grammy Awards and induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. A Natural Woman reminds us why we learned every song by heart.

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A Natural Woman

A Natural Woman

By Carole King
Grand Central
ISBN 9781455512614

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