The Rich Musical Tapestry Of Carole King

by Kevin Burton

   I think this happened twice. I know it was at least once.

   We have packed up our suitcases, equipment and high hopes and the Wichita Sonics are on the road, headed to a beep baseball World Series. I’m in charge of the team, right down to the music in the van.

     Once the wheels start turning. There is a huge sense of relief and accomplishment. That first tune and the lyrics just cover me in joy, “Lift me, won’t you lift me, above the old routine. Make it nice, play it clean, jazzman!….”

   That’s from Jazzman, a number two smash from 1974 by Carole King.  That soaring saxophone on it is by Tom Scott. That song has lifted me countless times, above my dreary routine. I don’t get that same feel from any other song.

   What a glorious piece of music.  It’s my favorite, but by no means the only gem from the performance career of the great Carole King.

   I mention this because Carole King was voted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as a performer. The announcement came May 12. 

   King was already enshrined in the rock hall as a songwriter, teamed with former husband, the late Gerry Goffin. This second honor is an official confirmation of her greatness. 

   Upon hearing the news, King wrote: “I wanted to be a songwriter so I could meet all the great artists and they would know who I was. I thought being inducted into the Rock Hall as a songwriter with Gerry Goffin was the pinnacle. Until now. Thank you for ALSO inducting me as an artist. And to my fans always.”

   King says she never set out to be a performer, just a songwriter. If you have paid attention at all to popular music from the 60s on, you will have appreciated her many talents.  She is just so prolific.

   If you’re in a trivia contest and need to tell who wrote such and such a song, guess Carole King and you may be right.

   The website lists “19 popular songs you didn’t know were written by Carole King.”  Among them are, “Take Good Care of My Baby” by Bobby Vee, “One Fine Day,” by the Chiffons, “I’m Into Something Good,” by Herman’s Hermits and “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” by the Monkees.

   Three others, “You’ve Got a friend,” by James Taylor, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” by the Shirelles and especially “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin are so associated with their singers that you hardly think of the songwriter. But King is behind all those great songs.

   And don’t you wish Franklin had gotten such good material her entire career?

   I think of King and think of “Smackwater Jack.”  As a songwriter myself, that song is a marvel.  That was a Goffin-King creation released in 1971 on her mega Album Tapestry. 

   How do you get your mind to a place where it’s possible to write a song like that? “I Feel the Earth Move” and “So Far Away” are my other favorites from Tapestry.

   Yeah, betcha five dollars I love me some Carole King.

   Tapestry was on the Billboard top 200 album list for 302 consecutive weeks from April of 1971 to January of 1977 and is on just about everybody’s short list of best and most influential albums.

   Others inducted in the 2021 Rock Hall class are Jay-Z, the Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Todd Rundgren and Tina Turner.

   The hall said its 2021 class includes the “most diverse list of inductees in the history of the organization.”

   I’m surprised Rundgren wasn’t already in the Hall.  He is a rocker’s rocker. He passes all those litmus tests that keep The Carpenters out of the hall.  

   I applaud Rundgren’s contributions and those of the underrated Go Go’s. But King is the talent that for me, stands out most in this class. 

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