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While the landmark album Tapestry earned her superstar status, singer/songwriter
Carole King had already firmly established herself as one of pop music's most
gifted and successful composers, with work recorded by everyone from the Beatles
to Aretha Franklin. Born Carole Klein on February 9, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York,
she began playing piano at the age of four, and formed her first band, the vocal
quartet the Co-Sines, while in high school. A devotee of the composing team
of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller (the duo behind numerous hits for Elvis Presley,
the Coasters and Ben E. King), she became a fixture at influential DJ Alan Freed's
local Rock 'N' Roll shows; while attending Queens College, she fell in with
budding songwriters Paul Simon and Neil Sedaka as well as Gerry Goffin, with
whom she forged a writing partnership.
In 1959, Sedaka scored a hit with "Oh! Carol," written in her honor; Carole King cut an answer record, "Oh! Neil," but it stiffed. Carole King and Goffin, who eventually married, began writing under publishers Don Kirshner and Al Nevins in the famed pop songwriting house the Brill Building, where they worked alongside the likes of Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and countless others. In 1961, Goffin and King scored their first hit with the Shirelles' chart-topping "Will You Love Me Tomorrow; " their next effort, Bobby Vee's "Take Good Care of My Baby," also hit Number One, as did "The Locomotion," recorded by their baby-sitter, Little Eva. Together, the couple wrote over 100 chart hits in a vast range of styles, including the Chiffons' "One Fine Day," the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday," the Drifters' "Up on the Roof," the Cookies' "Chains" (later covered by the Beatles), Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman" and the Crystals' controversial "He Hit Me (and It Felt like a Kiss)."
Carole King also continued her attempts to mount a solo career, but scored only one hit, 1962's "It Might as Well Rain Until September." In the mid-1960s she, Goffin and columnist Al Aronowitz founded their own short-lived label, Tomorrow Records; Charles Larkey, the bassist for the Tomorrow group the Myddle Class, eventually became King's second husband after her marriage to Goffin dissolved. She and Larkey later moved to the West Coast, where in 1968 they founded the City, a trio rounded out by New York musician Danny Kortchmar. The City recorded one LP, Now That Everything's Been Said, but did not tour due to King's stage fright; as a result, the album was a commercial failure, although it did feature songs later popularized the Byrds' ("Wasn't Born to Follow"), Blood, Sweat and Tears ("Hi-De-Ho") and James Taylor ("You've Got a Friend").
Taylor and Carole King ultimately became close friends, and he encouraged her to pursue a solo career. 1970's Writer proved a false start, but in 1971, she released Tapestry, which stayed on the charts for over six years and was the best-selling album of the era. A quiet, reflective work which proved seminal in the development of the singer/songwriter genre, Tapestry also scored a pair of hit singles, "So Far Away" and the chart-topping "It's Too Late," whose flip-side, "I Feel the Earth Move," garnered major airplay as well. 1971's Music also hit Number One, and generated the hit "Sweet Seasons; " 1972's Rhymes and Reasons reached Number Two on the charts, and 1974's Wrap Around Joy, which featured the hit "Jazzman," hit the Number One spot.
In 1975, Carole King and Goffin reunited to write Thoroughbred, which also featured contributions from James Taylor, David Crosby and Graham Nash. After 1977's Simple Things, she mounted a tour with the backing group Navarro, and married her frequent songwriting partner Rick Evers, who died a year later after a heroin overdose. 1980's Pearls, a collection of performances of songs written during her partnership with Goffin, was her last significant hit, and King soon moved to a tiny mountain village in Idaho, where she became active in the environmental movement. After 1983's Speeding Time, she took a six-year hiatus from recording before releasing City Streets, which featured guest Eric Clapton. 1993's Colour of Your Dreams included a cameo from Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash; a year later, Carole King made her Broadway debut in the drama Bloodbrothers.
Carole King's first single, "The Class," showcased his skills as an impressionist; while the record became a minor novelty hit, none of its immediate follow-ups were successful. In 1960, however, he recorded "The Twist," a cover of a 1958 Hank Ballard & the Midnighters B-side; Checker's rendition de-emphasized the original's overtly sexual overtones, focusing instead on the song's happy-go-lucky charms. The single rocketed to number one during the autumn of 1960, remaining on the charts for four months; some time after it dropped off, it slowly returned to prominence, and in late 1961 it hit number one again; the only record ever to enjoy two stays at the top more than a year apart. After "The Twist" first made Checker a superstar, he returned to the top in 1961 with "Do the Pony"; that same year, he also reached the Top Ten with "Let's Twist Again," which assured the dance's passage from novelty to institution.
In addition to 1961's "The Fly," Carole King’s other Top Ten hits included three 1962 smashes: "Slow Twistin'," "Limbo Rock," and "Popeye the Hitchhiker." He even starred in a pair of feature films, Twist Around the Clock and Don't Knock the Twist. In total, Checker notched 32 chart hits before the bubble burst in 1966; as interest in dance novelties dwindled, he briefly turned to folk music, and became a regular on the nightclub circuit. From the 1970s onward, he was a staple of oldies revival tours; in 1982, more than a decade after his last studio LP, he signed with MCA and issued the disco-inspired The Change Has Come, scoring a pair of minor hits with the singles "Running" and "Harder Than Diamond." In 1988, Checker returned to the Top 40 for the first time in a quarter century when he appeared on the Fat Boys' rap rendition of "The Twist," and Carole King continues touring regularly.
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