Fifty Years Later, ‘Tapestry’s’ Hope And Optimism Still ResonatesRoundup
tags: music, popular culture, womens history
Tanya Pearson is director of the Women of Rock Oral History Project, a PhD candidate in history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and author of Why Marianne Faithfull Matters.
One of music’s greatest albums just turned 50.
Carole King recorded her second solo album, “Tapestry,” in 1971. Its appeal transcended demographic lines, luring listeners from their first look at the cover art. Pictured on the album cover: an ordinary woman with curly hair and blue jeans sitting casually in front of a window in her house, a cat peering at the camera in the foreground.
The album embodied King’s musical genius, capturing her optimism and perseverance, which enabled her to make it in a man’s world and has given the album great longevity and appeal to fans of all types of music.
Carol Klein was born in Brooklyn in 1942 to supportive parents who encouraged her creative and professional drive. She had mastered the piano by age 4, and at 15 pitched songs to New York record executives who offered her a contract with ABC Paramount. She added an ‘E’ to her first name, Anglicized her last name and voilà! Carole King, the hitmaking machine, was born.
She met her first husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin, a chemistry major while they were students at Queens College. King had her first child at 18 and her first number one hit (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”). She and Goffin established a successful career as a Brill Building songwriting duo in New York. Together, they wrote hits for Little Eva (“Locomotion”), Bobby Vee (“Take Good Care of My Baby”) and the Shirelles (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”) among others.
This remarkable string of hits was even greater considering the odds facing King: The plausibility of a successful female songwriter in the music industry machine in the 1950s and ’60s was slim to none. Like King, the other few female songwriters in the Brill Building era were one half of male/female songwriting teams. While these ‘duos’ were organic pairings, it is doubtful the young Jewish King would have been granted access into the boys club without Goffin. King acknowledged often being the only woman in the room but was so confident in her profession and abilities that it never occurred to her that she didn’t belong, a familiar narrative for women of her generation who were able to break barriers and make a name for themselves.
In 1967, Aretha Franklin recorded King’s “A Natural Woman,” and brought the song to life as it existed in King’s head, but in a manner she was unequipped to perform on her own. She described the performance as the height of all of her dreams and expectations.
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