Landmark Carole King LP Tapestry Turns Fifty Ahead of Rock Hall Recognition

Tapestry photo shoot, 1971 Laurel Canyon / Photo: Jim McCrary/ Courtesy Lou Adler, Ode Records

Fifty years ago, two Carole King songs dominated U.S. radio, spilling from speakers across the land. The Billboard-declared “double A-side” single of “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move” was released on April 16, 1971; it hit number 1 on June 19 and remained in heavy rotation for months after. The album that produced these songs, King’s landmark Tapestry, also reached number 1 on June 19; it stayed in that slot for 15 weeks—and on the charts for not weeks but years.

The single’s two sides present highly contrasting stages of a love affair. The narrator of “I Feel the Earth Move” is suffused with excitement at the very presence of her lover, while “It’s Too Late” chronicles love’s end: “Something inside has died,” King sings, “and I can’t hide, and I just can’t fake it.”

I had just turned four when Tapestry came out, on February 10, 1971 (one day after King’s 28th birthday). I remember these hits remaining as radio stalwarts for years; indeed, they both hold “classic” status and receive some significant play to this day. “I Feel the Earth Move” was a song I liked to dance to as a child, in the privacy of my bedroom. The narrator sings of feeling the earth shaking, the sky tumbling, and her heart trembling when someone else shows up—but the track’s feel is deeply self-possessed. King’s soulful, straight-ahead piano chords are highlighted in the mix; her voice sounds powerful rather than acted-upon. This song has a spirit of strength and joy, to which I reacted with improvised jumps and spins.

“It’s Too Late,” on the other hand, has for all these years been hard for me to listen to. I can’t relate to the concept of love disappearing for reasons unknown (“One of us is changing,” King sings, “or maybe we just stopped trying”). But many women who’d married young in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, as was the societal norm, were discovering feminism in the years around when Tapestry was released. They were realizing they had not known their partners well upon marrying; that they’d been too young even to deeply know themselves. A collective understanding seemed to be dawning: “I don’t have to stay. And that doesn’t mean you’re horrible; and it doesn’t mean I’m horrible either. It just means my future is somewhere else.”

Norms have changed, and women of subsequent generations tend to take more time before marriage. Granted, we still get into serious relationships at young ages—and I’ve spent perhaps too much time, while trying to write about “It’s Too Late,” thinking about which of my exes I still have love for; which I don’t, and why not; and which I thought I loved, at the time, but have come to see that the “love” was something else—entrenchment in youthful drama, a desire to feel needed, fear of being alone. (For the record, this is not an especially enjoyable exercise.) We still have progress to make, in feminism and in the messages young women receive about relationships. But at least it’s less likely now that a woman will wake up, after several years of marriage, and see that her husband is little more than a stranger.

King wrote the melody for “It’s Too Late,” but her collaborator Toni Stern wrote the lyrics—and it’s no surprise that they appear to have come from her own experience. “I won’t say who ‘It’s Too Late’ is about,” Stern told author Sheila Weller in Girls Like Us. “I don’t kiss and tell.”

Elsewhere in King’s repertoire, she’d allude to specific situations in which walking away from a relationship is a necessity. But “It’s Too Late” exists in a grey area—and captures a time when valuing one’s own needs as much as one’s partnership was a relatively new and radical idea.

Photo Credit: Jim McCrary

Though Tapestry was a career triumph, King had topped the charts before—just not as a singer. Her path to solo success involved the successes of many other musicians as well.

Born in Brooklyn as Carol Joan Klein, King began to play piano at age four. At eight, she made her TV debut, singing on The Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour with a classmate. In high school, she formed a vocal quartet (the Cosines) and started to call herself Carole King.

A gifted student, she graduated from high school at 16, in 1958, and moved on to Queens College. There she met a chemistry major named Gerry Goffin, who was beginning to write song lyrics. King paired up with Goffin romantically and professionally; he wrote lyrics, and she wrote music.

At age 17, King got pregnant—and so, in August of 1959, she and Goffin got married. Meanwhile, they signed as songwriters for music publisher Aldon—and together wrote hits for other musicians, including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (the Shirelles, 1960); “Chains” (the Cookies, 1962; the Beatles, 1963); “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva, 1962—the singer was King and Goffin’s babysitter); and “I’m Into Something Good” (the Cookies, 1964; Herman’s Hermits, also 1964). Their “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which became a hit for the Monkees in 1967, was written about the New Jersey suburb in which they lived—where King felt out of place as a working mother. “Natural Woman,” recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1967, was also theirs, with Jerry Wexler as a co-writer—the song’s lyrics, ironically, written by a man.

Unfortunately, Goffin and King also decided to compose “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss),” which was recorded by the Crystals in 1962 and was based on what Eva (last name Boyd) told King about domestic violence within her relationship. King has since spoken out against the song, and to be fair, the lyrics were Goffin’s (“And when I told him I had been untrue/He hit me, and it felt like a kiss”).

Goffin had an extramarital relationship with the Cookies’ Earl-Jean Reavis, who became pregnant; the baby was named Dawn Reavis and was born in the summer of 1964. Earl-Jean and the baby received financial support from Goffin—and, by extension, from King, who was still his wife.

But not for long: King and Goffin divorced in 1968, and King moved with her two daughters from the East Coast to the Laurel Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles, following friends Joni Mitchell and James Taylor to the area. She released an album called Writer in 1970; it was critically praised but not a major commercial success. Meanwhile, King married bass player Charles Larkey, also in 1970; she was pregnant with their child when Tapestry was recorded and released. It was created in about one month—January, 1971—at A&M studio in Los Angeles.

Tapestry Sessions / Photo Credit: Jim McCrary

Culturally, Tapestry’s importance can hardly be overstated: an example of one person’s personal journey tapping into the hearts of millions. On the album, she reclaims “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Natural Woman” in, literally, her own voice. She debuts the ode to platonic devotion “You’ve Got a Friend,” which would be covered by actual friend Taylor a few months later, marking his first number-one hit. She yearns for distant loved ones (“So Far Away”) and urges us all to celebrate life’s everyday wonders (“Beautiful”). Carole King revealed her heart in song—and listeners worldwide embraced it.

Billboard would rank “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move” as the number 3 record for 1971. Tapestry won Grammys in 1972 for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. “It’s Too Late” won that year’s Grammy for Record of the Year, and “You’ve Got a Friend” won for Song of the Year.

Meanwhile, King and Larkey divorced after five years and two children; King would have two husbands after him. In tragic irony, given “He Hit Me…,” King later wrote in her memoir, A Natural Woman (2012), about being a victim of domestic abuse in her third marriage (to musician Rick Evers): “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 has recorded fifteen more albums and had many more hits since Tapestry; she has also garnered countless awards and honors, and she is still collecting them (next up: induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in October 2021; she’s been included for her songwriting since 1990, but will now be recognized as a performer, as well). She is single, a mother of four, and living in Idaho—apparently very happily so. When a reporter asked her a few years ago what she would say to her younger self, she responded, “You’re going to have a very rich and wonderful life.”

Seems to me the confidence I sensed when I spun around to “I Feel the Earth Move” years ago may have been legit: before you’re passionate about others, you’ve got to make sure you shine your passion on yourself.

Follow Carole King on Twitter for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Louise Goffin Enlists Fanbase for Uplifting “Every Love Song” Video

Photo Credit: Jeff Fasano

There’s a distinct energy to the video for Louise Goffin’s “Every Love Song” that makes space for self-expression. Featured on Goffin’s 10th studio album Two Different Movies, the video for “Every Love Song,” directed by Scot Sax, resulted from a virtual playback party Goffin hosted for her fans (who unanimously alerted the singer that the track was single-worthy) in honor of the album’s release in June. Goffin not only took their request to heart, but brought them into the project by incorporating fan-submitted clips, each of which highlights unique aspects of their personalities.

Interpretations range from shadows dancing on the wall to a pair of young sisters sharing a loving embrace, interspersed with shots of Goffin perched on a spinning vinyl record, the vibrant colors exuding a psychedelic effect like that of looking through a kaleidoscope. “[Being part of the video] gave people a lot of joy,” Goffin tells Audiofemme, adding that she hopes it offers them a “feeling of community and friendship.” “I really wanted it to be everyone’s video and everybody’s song.”

Celebrating those little quirks in her fanbase was a natural extension of the song’s theme, which sees the singer sharing honest emotions with those she cherishes most. “I see you wake up just to make it through the day/Like you don’t matter at all/I want you to know you matter to me/In more ways than I can ever recall,” she sings on the track, its conversational tone elevated with gospel-referencing organ. Co-written with Nashville-based songwriter Billy Harvey, “Every Love Song” lends an intimate vibe to that shout-it-from-the-rooftops feeling of truly being in love. But Goffin, the daughter of iconic singer-songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin, wisely recognizes that even when we’re overcome with emotion, we don’t always share that with those closest to us – even when they’re the inspiration for those warm fuzzies.

“I grew up with a lot of people withholding affirmations from me because they felt I didn’t need it. But inside I was desperately insecure,” Goffin confesses. “So many of the times, we want to tell people things we don’t tell them. ‘Every Love Song’ is all the things I’ve never said before – and I’m telling you now. It’s coming out with vulnerability and truth, and recognizing that it makes a difference.”

Another key element to the song is owning one’s power and voice when it comes to expressing desires. “That’s moment of vulnerability could also not just be about ‘I’ve never told you how great you are,’ but it could also be ‘Here’s what I want for myself,’” she says. “It’s really stepping into that voice of speaking up for your love of others, for your dreams and love of self and what you want for the world. We have to somehow find the courage to speak, and that will change our destiny.”

The video heartwarmingly illuminates the symbiotic relationship between fans and artists, but Goffin also felt a deep appreciation for the relationships her fans displayed toward one another, and what that revealed to her about human nature. “I think there is a theme in this song and in the video of this masculine and feminine really uniting to make a mutually loving, mutually inclusive wholeness,” she says. Goffin points to a specific example of unity in the couple who’s waving to the camera against a vibrant blue backdrop, a sweet moment she captured during a trip in Cuba in 2018, revealing that the insight she’s gained through her vast travels also played a role in the video. “The thing about being a musician is that culturally… it’s all stories and people and songs and heartbreak and heart healing. That’s in me and in my life and I wanted the video to be reflective of all of that.”

Follow Louise Goffin on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

BOOK REVIEW: Classic Albums By Women

The art of listening to an album—front to back—is in some ways, a lost one. At least, this is what Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy believed when she founded Classic Album Sundays, a worldwide podcast and website made specifically for album lovers that features filmed interviews with artists, stories behind classic albums, curated playlists and more.

“I founded Classic Album Sundays in 2010 as a response to a societal disposition that I felt was devaluing music, the act of listening and the significance of my beloved album format,” she writes in the introduction to the new book, Classic Albums By Women, released by Classic Album Sundays and ACC Art Books.

Conversely, Murphy noted the devaluing of the albums of women musicians despite their manifest, and emotionally resonant, contributions. So, a few weeks before International Women’s Day in 2018, Murphy set out to highlight those women-made albums with a social media campaign.

“I came up with the last-minute idea to ask our friends in the world of music to nominate their favorite album by a female musicians by taking a ‘selfie’ of themselves holding up their chosen album, and giving an account as to why that album held such personal importance,” she wrote.

Murphy received over 100 entries, and eventually, those entries turned into the 200-page “Classic Albums By Women,” which features the album picks of music industry players from across generations and genres.

Elsa Hill, DJ from Worldwide FM, holding her favorite women-made album.

While reading the book, you may not immediately recognize the name of every curator—but Classic Albums by Women contains the views of some industry heavyweights. For instance, Michael Kurtz, the co-founder of the ever-popular Record Store Day, contributes his pick.

“I have so many favourite albums by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Regina Spektor (to name a few), but right now the album that demands my attention and makes me see the world differently is Rabbit Hole by Mindy Gledhill,” he writes in the book.

Additionally, the music critic at the Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick, vouches for Beyonce’s Lemonade. He notes, “Female musicians have been undervalued, undermined and underpromoted ever since there has been a music business…There has never been so much great music by woman as there is right now. Beyonce is a towering start making shape-shifting, genre-busting R&B hip-hop pop with depth and purpose.”

The book also highlights how the albums of women inspired new generations of women to pursue music-making.

Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order, with his favorite album by a woman.

“I remember the first time I heard [Carole King’s] Tapestry,” writes musician KT Tunstall. “It became my song-writing bible; a masterclass in how to remain strong and vulnerable in equal measure.”

Likewise, as DJ/producer Honey Dijon writes about her pick, Island Life by Grace Jones: “Grace Jones is the reason I felt free enough to become an artist,” she writes.

Overall, this little book—perfect for quick, casual coffee table thumb-through or a more thorough read before an album listening session—is a great way to learn more about your favorite artists, and learn about some new women that have impacted people along the way. The long list of curators involved with the book also provide a tether to the worldwide, album-loving community so you can find your next favorite podcast or music journalist. Most importantly, Classic Albums by Women is a towering testament to the power women artists have had, and continue to have over listeners of all walks of life.

Classic Albums by Women is available on Amazon or through the publisher, ACC Art Books.

ONLY NOISE: Love From Afar

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They say everyone is good at something. My mom can tie cherry stems into knots with her tongue. My tenth grade English teacher looked alarmingly natural in pirate shirts. I once saw a man scale a 30-foot coconut tree with his bare extremities. Personally, I have a long history of romancing incredible men…who live very far away from me. It is a history that dates back to the preteen era: my first kiss occurred at a punk show (Clit 45, inappropriately enough) in Costa Mesa, California, approximately 1,000 miles south of my hometown. His name was Kevin. It didn’t work out.

A couple of years later, I fell head over heels for a punk rock Adonis at a tiny gig in Seattle. I can’t remember my exact tactics, but I somehow acquired his email address, which was surely a Hotmail account. That was it. I would finally have my mohawked boyfriend I had so longed for throughout my rural Washington existence. I gathered the courage to e-ask him out. He e-laughed, and informed me that he lived in New Jersey.

I don’t want to sound like Ludacris by saying I have hoes in different area codes or anything, but I must admit, traveling romances and meeting men who are just passing through has turned into an unwanted skill. I think guys can just smell the unavailability when you step off the plane, ya know? Whether it’s Portland or Paris, I’ve found myself loving from afar more than a couple of times. It has turned into some cruel joke at this point, but fortunately, I have a wonderful sense of humor. Ha. Ha.

Typically, when someone sees a continual pattern in their life, they might try to thwart it, or at least analyze why it keeps happening. But I tend to just score the phenomena with appropriate songs. Which is kind of like giving someone who’s starving an issue of Food and Wine Magazine instead of making them a sandwich?

I guess my point is, this week I am saluting the long-distance love song. We’ve all missed someone, so naturally, there is an entire canon of music to nurse such a woe. One of my favorites is the unbearably obvious, but undeniably good “So Far Away” by Carole King from her groundbreaking LP Tapestry. “So Far Away” exists within a mini-theme of the album, which includes “Way Over Yonder” and “Where You Lead-” tracks that likewise express a longing for faraway things. “So Far” takes the trophy, however, as it is the only song with the required dose of hopelessness lyrically. What can I say? I don’t like half-assed sad. Might as well do it right. King laments her solitude by wryly asking: “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?” No, Carole. No.

The great thing about love songs is their ability to be universal, but also to be even more universal in their specificity. I am in utter admiration not only of the fact that humans went beyond inventing the wheel and created the love song, but also that there are so many iterations and sub-genres of such. I can’t think of a more absurdly specific faraway tune than “Come Back From San Francisco” by the morose Magnetic Fields, who excel at writing a particular brand of pathetic love song. It is probably one of the most alienating miss-you tunes, with its nods to bisexual, novelist city dwellers, but, being a pretentious music journalist living in New York City, I’d say it’s right on the money for me.

When we zoom in on music this much or any medium for that matter, there is always the risk of ruining things; it’s fair to ask if we are accidentally taking the soul out of it all. Getting too close can expose blemishes, imperfections, or worse, isolate the beautiful abstract from the mere molecules; like reminding someone that gravy is essentially boiled blood. I want to keep these songs categorized as gravy, but I like to dig a little deeper. I like to see how the gravy is made.

It is funny, and also frustrating that though all of humanity has felt the sensation of longing for another person, only a select few of us can distill that longing into an art form. Painters paint, sculptors sculpt, and of course, songwriters write songs. The rest of us make playlists, mixtapes, CDs. They are in a way collages or monuments of found objects…a kind of paint-by-numbers for those of us who know dick about color theory. It feels democratic, even like recycling to use someone else’s song to express your adoration for a far off lover. Because in the age of text and email, how do you expect to get your weightiest points across? Emoji?

There is, of course, snail mail, but what’s in a letter that hasn’t been bested by Tom Waits singing about slow-grown love in “Long Way Home” off of Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards? Chances are what you pen in that note won’t be sticking in anyone’s head the way a ballad can. To forge an association between yourself and a song in someone else’s mind is like snagging free ad space during the Super Bowl. That sounds creepy, but you know what I mean.

A classic phrase for the faraway is: “Wish You Were Here,” but I will spare you the Pink Floyd and Incubus references. Nick Lowe has his own version from 1983’s The Abominable Showman, which could sneak by as an upbeat number if it weren’t for the subject matter. Because despite all of the puns and harmonies, there is still a lack that can only be answered thus: “having said that my dear/how I wish that you were here.”

Of course, at the end of the day, someone has to offer a solution to all of this wanting. Who better to lay down a piece of his mind than Bob Dylan, who closes 1969’s Nashville Skyline with one of my favorite songs in this category, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” It is the quintessential, end-of-the-romantic-comedy song, in which the protagonist disrupts some form of transportation to spend at least a little more time with the object of their affection. In movies, it’s usually a plane. With Dylan, it’s obviously a train.

“Throw my ticket out the window/Throw my suitcase out there too/Throw my troubles out the door/I don’t need them anymore/’Cause tonight I’ll be staying here with you.

I should have left this town this morning/But it was more than I could do/Oh, your love comes on so strong/And I’ve waited all day long/For tonight when I’ll be staying here with you.”

It’s the end we all hope for, but that few can afford. Finding a new suitcase and train ticket were obviously within Dylan’s realm of financial capabilities. But I’d like to end with this one, because despite the rest, it’s the one song within this hyper-specific class that at the very least offers a modicum of hope…that maybe throwing caution, and one’s worldly possessions to the literal wind and living off impulse is a very good idea. That remains to be seen, but at least we can commiserate with a few songs before taking that leap off the train, so to speak.