Carole King: Smackwater Jack

9 Feb


Carole King

Carole King: Tapestry

It’s not too late to extend birthday greetings to singer/songwriter Carole King, born Carole Klein, who celebrates No. 69 today.

When it comes to No. 1, King reached the charts twice with songs she wrote and sang (It’s Too Late, I Feel the Earth Move), but she was a constant in the top 10 with songs she wrote and others sang. Whatever stage fright King might have endured as a performer early in her career, she suffered no corresponding bouts of writer’s block.

Her partner in lyrics and matrimony was Gerry Goffin, whom she met at Queens College, where her classmates included Paul Simon and Neil Sedaka — the latter wrote “Oh! Carol” for King.

King was 18 when she and Goffin wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which the Shirelles used in 1961 to become the first all-girl band to reach No. 1 (years later, King’s doorbell played it at her Los Angeles home). After that, King and Goffin produced hit songs in bulk, and became more of  a fixture on the charts than any of the groups they wrote for. Their clientele was as diverse and international as the pop scene itself. To wit, all of the following were King/Goffin songs:

  • Up on The Roof, by the Drifters in 1962, reached No. 4 in the U.S.
  • Don’t Bring Me Down, by the Animals in 1966, reached No. 12.
  • One Fine Day, by the Chiffons in 1963, reached No. 5.
  • I’m Into Something Good, by Herman’s Hermits in 1964, reached No. 13 (No. 1 in Great Britain).
  • Take Good Care of My Baby, by Bobby Vee in 1961, reached No. 1.
  • Chains, by the Cookies, reached No. 7.
  • Pleasant Valley Sunday, by the Monkees in 1967, reached No. 3.
  • Go Away Little Girl, by three different artists — Steve Lawrence in 1962, the Happenings in 1966 and Donny Osmond in 1971. Lawrence and Osmond each had No. 1 hits with the song.
  • (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, by Aretha Franklin, in 1967, reached No. 8.
  • Hi-de-Ho, by Blood Sweat & Tears in 1967.
  • The Loco-Motion, which Little Eva, the couple’s babysitter, used to reach No. 1 in 1962. More than a decade later, Grand Funk Railroad re-recorded the song and reached No. 1; more than a decade after that, Kylie Minogue re-recorded it. By then, the song was so obviously overexposed it only reached No. 3.

King and Goffin split up in 1968, and King’s solo career soared in 1971 with Tapestry, her second album. It had her two No. 1 hits, and another in You’ve Got a Friend by her good friend James Taylor. The album was the top-selling solo album of all-time until supplanted by Michael Jackson in 1982.

In recent years, King has been active touring with Taylor, in theater and TV, supporting political causes and even writing a song for Celine Dion. Off the charts, perhaps, but not so far away.

A recent live version of Smackwater Jack, from Tapestry, below.


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