A Natural Songsmith

By Siiri Gilness

 

Okay, baby boomers and music buffs, here’s a trivia question for you: what do the following songs have in common?

 

Will You Love Me Tomorrow by The Shirelles

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin

Pleasant Valley Sunday by The Monkees

Crying in the Rain by the Everly Brothers

Hi De Ho by Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Up on the Roof by The Drifters

 

Believe it or not, every song in this mixture of pop, soul, R&B, and jazz was written or co-written by the same person: Carole King.

 

Born in New York City in 1942, Carole King was a pioneer in her profession.  A young woman in the male-dominated 1950s songwriting industry, she was just 15 years-old when she was offered her first recording contract and 16 when she released her first two singles in 1958.

 

At age 18, King co-wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” with her then-husband, Gerry Goffin.  The song was recorded by The Shirelles and reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1960.  Since then, King has penned more than 400 songs that have been recorded by over 1000 artists.

 

While King has focused much of her career on the creative process of writing songs for other artists, she also recorded and released many of her own albums across the past five decades.  Her most successful album, 1971’s Tapestry, reigned as the best-selling album by a female artist for a quarter century.

 

Carole King was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.  Earlier this year, she was awarded the fifth Library of Congress Gershwin Prize, given annually to an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding.

 

In 2012, King released her best-selling memoir, A Natural Woman, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and career of a woman who had a profound impact on 20th century American music.  A new musical based on Carole King’s life and achievements, Beautiful, opened on Broadway in 2014.

Art Matters is a weekly column sponsored by Leach Theatre, a division of Student Affairs, on the campus of Missouri S&T, and produced by Emily Brickler, Managing Director of the theatre and ten-year veteran teacher with a Masters of Art in Teaching from Webster University.

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