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On This Day in History, February 9: Songwriter Carole King Born in Flatbush

Carole King was born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn on Feb. 9, 1942, the daughter of an insurance broker and a public school teacher.

At the age of 4, King began playing piano. She attended local public schools and graduated from James Madison High School, where she formed a vocal quartet called The Cosines.

Bitten by the rock ‘n roll bug, she was a fixture at many of Alan Freed’s rock ‘n roll extravaganzas at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater. She was greatly influenced by the work of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, the songwriting team who wrote hits for The Coasters, Ben E. King, and Elvis Presley.

While attending Queens College she met fellow budding songwriters Paul Simon and Neil Sedaka, as well as lyricist Gerry Goffin, whom she soon married. The two newlyweds began working on songs, and before long, became two of the most important and influential songwriters of the era.

King and Goffin started writing songs in a little cubby-hole in the legendary Brill Building in Manhattan, the era’s equivalent to Tin Pan Alley. Some of the greatest songwriters of the time composed in the cubicles of that building.

The first King/Goffin hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (1961) was recorded by The Shirelles and remained on the Billboard charts for 19 weeks, becoming no. 1. With its morning-after theme, the song subtly addressed a real-life sexual issue during a very straightlaced time, setting the tone for many future compositions by the husband-wife team.

Over the next six years they wrote literally dozens of hit singles, including three more that reached no. 1: “Go Away Little Girl,” “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “The Locomotion.” Among the many awards and accolades the songwriting duo received, perhaps the greatest testament of their influence was John Lennon’s  statement in 1963 regarding the Beatles: “We want to be the Goffin/King of England.”

After the arrival of two children, King and Goffin separated. She continued her career on the West Coast, writing songs and forming bands. Subsequent marriages followed. Number two was Charles Larkey, which ended in divorce. Number three was Rick Evers, who died in 1978. Number four was Idaho rancher Rick Sorenson, which also ended in divorce.

King continued a solo career with many other hits that topped the charts. She closed out the ’70s with two platinum albums, six gold albums and the album “Tapestry,” which became the best-selling album of all time up to that point and was named Best Album of the Year. It was the pinnacle of the music profession. King also received Grammys for Best Song, “You’ve Got a Friend,” for Best Record, “It’s Too Late,” and for Best Female Vocal Performer.

During the 1980s, King quieted down her career and moved to a small mountain town in Idaho, where she became an environmental activist in support of the preservation of national forests, which she continues to this day.

In 1987, Goffin and King were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the following year received the National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement award.

In 1990, they were inducted (along with The Who and fellow Queens College alums Simon & Garfunkel) as a songwriting team into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

King ushered in the ’90s with an Academy Award nomination for “Now and Forever,” the title song from A League Of Their Own. Several new albums were released, and in 1994, she took the starring role in the Broadway production of Blood Brothers. It was merely a new challenge in a long career of breaking down barriers.

She continues to perform and recently mounted a tour with longtime friend James Taylor, which resulted in their joint album “Live at the Troubadour.”

King became an honoree on the Brooklyn Celebrity Path at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1987.

February 9, 2012 - 9:52am


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