Occasionally I have posted an article originally commissioned by Discrepancy Records here at Vinyl Connection. This is one of those posts, the catalyst being comments on the appearance of Carole King in the recent Album Cover Quiz.
No matter what the decade, a good song is a good song. And they don’t come much better than the dozen on Carole King’s 1971 album Tapestry. In fact, it is fair to say that Tapestry set the bar for seventies singer-songwriters… and set it very high indeed. This, her second album, was well received and remains enduringly popular—a classic, even—but there is more to Ms King’s life than this worldwide hit. In fact you could probably write a musical about her.
Carole had changed her name from Carol Klein while at high school in the fifties, hoping for a reduction in anti-Semitic attention. While at college, she received a more positive kind of attention from Gerry Goffin, a fellow student, who she married at age seventeen after falling pregnant with her first daughter. Music was there right from her teen years, whether recording demos with Paul Simon or dating Neil Sedaka. But it was writing ‘Will you love me tomorrow’ that changed everything. The Shirelles 1961 recording of this Goffin and King classic shot to Number 1, allowing its composers to give up their day jobs and become full time songwriters. Their register of hit songs throughout the sixties is huge, including ‘The Locomotion’ (Little Eva), ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ (The Monkees) and ‘(You make me feel like) A Natural Woman’ (Aretha Franklin).
After splitting with Gerry Goffin, King moved to the West Coast of the USA and began to establish her own musical career. Her first LP, Writer, was a modest success, but her second became a phenomenon. Tapestry spent fifteen weeks at #1 on the US Billboard Chart and more than six years in the charts overall. It was a top five album in Australia, Spain, Canada, the UK and Japan and has clocked up sales of over 25 million world wide.
So much for facts and figures. The truly memorable aspect of Tapestry is its songs. As well as the previously mentioned ‘Will you love me tomorrow’ and ‘(You make me feel like) A natural woman’, the LP is one of those special albums that doesn’t have a dud track. Somehow, King’s songs of human connection (or disconnection) manage to be as intimate as warm breath on your neck while communicating to millions. Personal yet universal; it’s some feat. From the rolling, gently funky ‘I feel the earth move’ through the resigned heartbreak of ‘It’s too late’ to the loving celebration of friendship in ‘You’ve got a friend’, Tapestry has something to thaw the coldest heart. And for those feeling heartless, there’s always ‘Smackwater Jack’.
Carole King changed the game for female singer-songwriters. So it is no surprise that someone did indeed writer a musical about her life. It is called ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ and of course there is an original cast recording.
It’s also worth noting that, in addition to the recent vinyl re-issue of Tapestry (with two bonus tracks), there is also an MFSL Original Master version for audiophiles and a 2017 live recording (from London’s Hyde Park).
Nothing about this tapestry has faded.
This article was written for Discrepancy Records, and first published at their blog in October 2019. It is re-posted here with the kind permission of Discrepancy, who have a range of Tapestries to choose from.
© Bruce Jenkins 2019