Childhood & Early Life
Carole King was born Carol Joan Klein in Manhattan, New York City, on February 9, 1942, into a family of Jews. Her father worked as a firefighter, while her mother was a teacher. Soon after Carole’s birth, the family moved to Brooklyn and bought an affordable two-story duplex.
Music was a key part of the household as Carole’s mother, Eugenia, was a keen pianist. Eugenia’s inclination toward music brought Carole further close to music. Carole had been practising the piano since the age of three and discovered that she had a natural flair for it.
Carole had a very special talent and had the ability to sense “absolute pitch” at the tender age of four. Eugenia soon started giving Carole piano lessons, and by the time Carole was 10, she played as good as her mother. Carole practised regularly to hone her piano skills and also played the songs she heard on the radio.
Carole was a great student in school and was promoted directly to second grade after kindergarten. As she grew up, she attended the ‘James Madison High School,’ where she first got acquainted with the art of songwriting. While in school, she started her own band, named ‘Co-Sines,’ and changed her name to “Carole King.”
Once out of high school, she attended ‘Queens College,’ where she met Gerry Goffin. She married Goffin when she was 17. He was an aspiring songwriter too and the couple started working together.
After finishing college, Carole started working as a secretary and wrote songs along with her husband. In 1960, a song written by them, titled ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,’ became a mega hit. This was their first major breakthrough. They quit their day jobs and concentrated on their careers as songwriters.
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The early 60s were the beginning of a successful career in songwriting for the couple. They released hits such as ‘Goin’ Back,’ ‘You Make Me Feel Like,’ and ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday.’ At that time, the music industry was male-dominated and songs expressing a woman’s point of view were not heard very often. Gerry realized that his wife possessed a rare talent and the couple maintained their collaboration.
However, toward the mid-60s, their personal relationship became increasingly strained, in spite of the fact that they tasted significant professional success together. Gerry’s infidelities affected Carole immensely, and in 1968, she got divorced from Gerry. Carole told the story of her heartbreak through her song ‘The Road to Nowhere.’ After the divorce, they went their separate ways, and this was the beginning of a solo music career for Carole.
In 1968, she moved to Los Angeles and collaborated with another writer, Toni Stern. They wrote a song, ‘It’s Too Late,’ which is known as one of the most successful songs of her entire career. In the late 60s, she became part of the group ‘The City,’ with her second husband, Charles Larkey, and Danny Kortchmar. The band released only one album, titled ‘Now That Everything’s Been Said.’ Several tours were cancelled because of Carole’s severe stage fright. ‘The City’ eventually collapsed and Carole decided to sing her own songs from then on.
Although her first solo album, titled ‘Writer,’ was a colossal failure, her sophomore effort, ‘Tapestry,’ turned out to be a game-changer in every possible way. The album was released in 1971 and remained on the top of the ‘Billboard’ charts for 15 weeks following its release. It made the record of staying on the ‘Billboard’ charts for six years. This was a major record and was broken only by Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ in 1982.
Some of the hit songs from the albums, such as ‘It’s Too Late’ and ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ had been written previously, and she herself sang them. Her third album, ‘Music,’ too was also a roaring success but could not reach the benchmark set by ‘Tapestry.’ It was certified “gold” by the ‘Recording Industry Association of America’ (RIAA).
In the following years, she recorded several albums, such as ‘Wrap Around Joy,’ ‘Fantasy,’ ‘Thoroughbred,’ and ‘Rhymes and Reasons.’ She collaborated with her ex-husband, Gerry Goffin, for ‘Thoroughbred.’ Many of her albums achieved the “gold” status, and she continued being successful as a musician, singer, and songwriter.
Apart from working on her music, Carole kept herself busy with other activities too. As her music career took a downward spiral in the 80s and the 90s, she associated herself with social causes. She has worked for the passage of the ‘Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.’ She showed her all-round support for the ‘Democratic Party’ and became actively involved in electoral politics.
Toward the late 90s, she was ready to make a comeback to music. In 1997, Canadian singer Celine Dion recorded her hit song ‘The Reason,’ which was written by King. In 2004, Carole recorded a live album, titled ‘The Living Room Tour,’ and in 2007, she toured with young singers Fergie and Mary J. Blige and performed successfully. In 2010, she collaborated with James Taylor and released a live album, ‘Live at the Troubadour,’ which became a hit.
Over the years, Carole won four ‘Grammy’ awards and was inducted in the ‘Songwriters Hall of Fame’ and the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.’ She has written more than 400 songs that have been used by more than 1000 artists, bringing her immense fame as a songwriter.
To date, Carole King has married four times. She married her college boyfriend, Gerry Goffin, in 1959, followed by fellow musician Charles Larkey, in 1970. Both her marriages fell apart after a few years.
She then married Rick Evers and later claimed that he had brutally assaulted her and that he was a cocaine addict. Rick died of a cocaine overdose a few days after their separation in 1978. She then married Rick Sorenson. Carole also had a long-term friendship with musician James Taylor, with whom she worked on many projects.
She has four children, including musicians Louise Goffin and Sherry Goffin Kondor and artist Molly Larkey.