Terry Gross recently had a long interview with Carole King on Fresh Air, where they discussed becoming a songwriter, Gerry Goffin (King’s writing partner and ex-husband), and King’s life in music. It’s worth listening to.
To put the conversation in a bit of context, Gross wanted to be a songwriter when she was younger, and King was just a few years older and from around the same neighborhood.
One thing King doesn’t talk about in that interview is how she became a performer: she moved to Los Angeles (Laurel Canyon, specifically) and was part of James Taylor’s band. JT encouraged her to sing her songs on stage as part of their set.
“I was just with him on his little college tour the first year he went out,” she says. “And James one night just said, ‘You’re going to perform ‘Up on the Roof’ tonight.’ It was just a wonderful transition for me, from being really scared to realizing that the audience was with me, and it’s because James had set me up for that.” -NPR
Taylor recorded King’s song “You’ve Got a Friend” (and played guitar on her recording of it on Tapestry). On their recent reunion album “Live at the Troubadour,” Taylor says, to introduce the song:
I remember standing there and hearing maybe the best pop tune ever written. I didn’t realize it at the time that I would be singing that song every night for the rest. of. my. life. [laughter] But it’s a great song to be known for and I’ve travelled around the world on this tune.
For an altogether weirder, fictional take on King’s world, you can check out the Alison Anders movie “Grace of My Heart” (IMDb, Wikipedia) which follows a songwriter through a tumultuous marriage and eventual success on stage. The movie’s a bit goofy, but if you know the people who made pop music in that era, it’s fun to see how they are fictionalized.