Fifty years ago this week, an 18-year old songwriter landed her first hit on Billboard's
Hot 100. The song, the Shirelles'
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow," is universally regarded as a pop classic. So is the song's co-writer, Carole King
. King is, by most measures, the most successful female songwriter of all time. She has written or co-written more than 100 Hot 100 hits, including eight that reached #1.
Collaborating with her then-husband Gerry Goffin
, she amassed four #1 hits (by four different artists, yet) before her 21st birthday.
King has also had great success as a recording artist. Her 1971 blockbuster Tapestry
is one of the most successful albums of all time. The "soft rock" classic topped The Billboard
200 for 15 weeks, longer than any other album by a female solo artist. (See The Fine Print below.) Tapestry
has logged 305 weeks on the chart, which is also the record for a female artist.
King has been at the forefront of two of the most storied music scenes of the past half-century: the Brill Building songwriting scene of the early '60s and the Laurel Canyon rock scene of the early '70s.
A highly successful reunion with James Taylor
has put King back in the spotlight. Their album, Live At The Troubadour
, was her first to reach the top 10 since Gerald Ford
was President. It's a sure bet to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album and could even be up for Album of the Year.
Without further ado, here are 40 milestones in the life of a pop music legend.
Nov. 21, 1960-Goffin & King land their first Hot 100 hit with the Shirelles'
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow," which had an emotional honesty that was rare in the teen pop of its time. The song reaches #1 in January, becoming the first single by a "girl group" in the rock era to top the chart.
Sept. 18, 1961-Bobby Vee's
"Take Good Care Of My Baby" becomes Goffin & King's second #1 hit.
Aug. 25, 1962-Little Eva's
dance smash "The Loco-Motion" becomes Goffin & King's third #1 hit. That same week, King's recording of "It Might As Well Rain Until September" enters the chart. It peaks at #22 in October.
Jan. 12, 1963-Steve Lawrence's
"Go Away Little Girl" becomes Goffin & King's fourth #1 hit.
Feb. 9, 1963-The Drifters'
sublime "Up On The Roof" reaches #5.
Aug. 19, 1967-The Monkees'
anti-conformist "Pleasant Valley Sunday" hits #3. It later appears on their #1 album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
Nov. 4, 1967-Aretha Franklin's
"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" reaches #8. Goffin & King wrote the song with music legend Jerry Wexler
Aug. 8, 1970-Blood, Sweat & Tears 3
hits #1 on The Billboard
200. The album's biggest hit is the Goffin & King song "Hi-De-Ho," which cracks the top 20 three weeks later.
June 19, 1971-King tops The Billboard
200 with Tapestry
and the Hot 100 with the letter-perfect "It's Too Late." In September, the album spins off a second top 20 hit, "So Far Away."
July 31, 1971-James Taylor's
tender rendition of King's "You've Got A Friend" hits #1. A soulful version by Roberta Flack
and Donny Hathaway
cracks the top 30 two weeks later.
Sept. 11, 1971-Donny Osmond's
cover version of "Go Away Little Girl" hits #1. The richly melodic ballad is the first song in the rock era to hit #1 for two artists. Osmond follows it with another remake of a Goffin/King classic, "Hey Girl," which makes the top 10 in December.
Jan. 1, 1972-Music
becomes King's second #1 on The Billboard
200. The album, which is later certified platinum, spawns the top 10 hit "Sweet Seasons." The Carpenters'
version of "It's Going To Take Some Time" makes the top 20 in May.
March 14, 1972-King becomes the only woman in Grammy history to sweep the "Big Three" awards (Album, Record and Song of the Year). Tapestry wins for Album, "It's Too Late" for Record and "You've Got A Friend" for Song. King also wins for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.
Dec. 16, 1972-Rhymes & Reasons
reaches #2, a position it will hold for five weeks. The album's lead single, "Been To Canaan," makes the top 30 the following week.
Feb. 12, 1973-King makes the cover of TIME
as part of their story, "Inside Pop Records." Also on the cover: Roberta Flack
, Harry Nilsson
and Ian Anderson
of Jethro Tull
July 7, 1973-Fantasy
becomes King's fourth top 10 album in a row. The album spawns two top 40 hits, "Believe In Humanity" and "Corazon," which she sings in Spanish. Also that summer, King gives a free concert at Central Park in New York City, which draws more than 100,000 fans.
May 4, 1974-Grand Funk's
cover version of "The Loco-Motion" hits #1 on the Hot 100. It's the second song in the rock era to hit #1 for two artists. (Goffin & King wrote them both.)
Nov. 9, 1974-Wrap Around Joy
becomes King's third #1 on The Billboard
200. The album spawns back-to-back top 10 hits, "Jazzman" and "Nightingale." "Jazzman" brings King another Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.
Feb. 19, 1975-The children's special Really Rosie
airs on CBS. King composes the music to accompany Maurice Sendak's
lyrics. The soundtrack cracks the top 20 in April. It brings King a Grammy nomination for Best Recording For Children.
Feb. 28, 1976-Thoroughbred
becomes King's sixth regular studio album in a row to reach the top 10. The lead single, the hearth-warm "Only Love Is Real," cracks the top 30 the following month.
Sept. 17, 1977-Simple Things
becomes King's eighth top 20 album. The spirited "Hard Rock Café" cracks the top 30 in September.
April 1, 1978-King's Her Greatest Hits
cracks the chart. It is certified platinum in 2001.
July 26, 1980-King's remake of "One Fine Day" reaches #12. The Chiffons'
original version hit #5 in 1963. The hit is featured on King's album Pearls-Songs Of Goffin and King
1987-Goffin & King are inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Two other legendary songwriting teams are also inducted: John Lennon & Paul McCartney and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil.
Nov. 12, 1988-Kylie Minogue's
version of "The Loco-Motion" reaches #3. It's the third time the song has cracked the top five. "The Loco-Motion" is the first song in the (then) 30-year history of the Hot 100 to reach the top five for three different artists.
1990-Goffin & King are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Oct. 5, 1991-Mariah Carey's Emotions
enters The Billboard
200 at #4. The album features "If It's Over," which King and Carey co-wrote.
July 1, 1992-A League Of Their Own
, starring Tom Hanks
, opens. King's "Now And Forever," featured over the opening credits, becomes a top 20 adult contemporary hit in September. It later brings her a Grammy nomination for Best Song Written Specifically For A Motion Picture or For Television.
1994-King joins the cast of Blood Brothers on Broadway, playing the role of Mrs. Johnstone.
July 17, 1995-Tapestry receives a Diamond award from the Recording Industry Assn. of America, signifying U.S. sales of 10 million copies.
June 12, 1996-Tapestry Revisited-A Tribute To Carole King,
in which top artists cover all the songs on the classic album, is certified gold. Rod Stewart's
"So Far Away" was an airplay hit. Other artists featured on the album include the Bee Gees
, Celine Dion
, Faith Hill
, Amy Grant
and Richard Marx
Jan. 17, 1998-Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love
reaches #1 on The Billboard
200. The album includes "The Reason," which King co-wrote and on which she sings backup vocals.
April 14, 1998-King is featured on the initial VH1 Divas Live
. She sings "It's Too Late," teams with Celine Dion
to sing "The Reason" and teams with all the honorees to perform "You've Got A Friend" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." An album from the show is certified gold in November.
Oct. 5, 2000-The Gilmore Girls debuts on The WB. The theme song is a new version of "Where You Lead," recorded by King and her daughter Louise Goffin. King also acts in a few episodes. The show runs for seven years.
June 13, 2002-King receives the Johnny Mercer
Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She's only the third woman to receive the honor, and the first to get it on her own. Betty Comden
received it in 1991 with songwriting partner Adolph Green
. Marilyn Bergman
received it in 1997 with songwriting partner (and husband) Alan Bergman
Feb. 8, 2004-Goffin & King receive a Grammy Trustees Award.
July 30, 2005-King's live album The Living Room Tour
cracks the top 20.
Oct. 6, 2007-Reba McEntire's Reba Duets
hits #1 on The Billboard
200. McEntire and King team on the track "Everyday People"
November 2007-King and James Taylor
perform a series of shows at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, Calif. They are backed by Danny Kortchmar
, Leland Sklar
and Russ Kunkel
, the same musicians who backed them when they played the club in 1970.
May 22, 2010-Live At The Troubadour enters The Billboard 200 at #4. It's King's first top 10 album in 34 years. The album is later certified gold.
The Fine Print: Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard
soundtrack logged 20 weeks at #1 on The Billboard
200, five more than Tapestry
, but it's not strictly a solo album. It also included tracks by six other artists.
This is the third of these anniversary pieces that I've compiled. I also wrote about Elton John's 40th anniversary on the charts (here's a link) and Tina Turner's 50th (here's a link). Which of today's artists and songwriters will inspire similar salutes 40 and 50 years from now? Discuss amongst yourselves.
On a personal note, Tapestry was the first album I ever bought. A good choice, I would say.