The story behind Carole King and James Taylor’s biggest successes

Here are some of the duo’s biggest songs and the story behind them.

King composed “You Have a Friend,” which she said was a song she wrote herself quickly. Taylor heard it the next day and knew the tune would be a hit.

Taylor recalls, “As soon as I heard it, I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s it. It’s a great, great song.”

At the time, King was recording her own album, but allowed Taylor to get her first crack at it and released the song as a single on his own album.

“It was extraordinary,” Taylor said of King’s generous friendship.

“he heard [Taylor’s] Handing it over for the first time, it was like oh my god. King said.

Taylor recorded it and won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance in 1971. The song climbed to number one on the Billboard 100.

During the Troubadour Reunion Tour in 2010, Taylor and King played the song together, King on piano and Taylor on guitar.

“After I play ‘You Have a Friend,’ tears roll down their faces, and then for 5 minutes and 12 seconds everyone gets along,” King said.

Carolina on my mind

While on a trip to an island off the coast of Spain, Taylor was missing his home state, North Carolina. At the time, Taylor was recording his debut album in London on The Beatles’ Records label, Apple Records.

He joked in 1970, “I was homesick at the time. I didn’t have a home, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling homesick sometimes.”

Taylor wrote the tune about southern sunshine, sunsets, and old friends. He also mentions a woman named Karen who was with him on a trip to the Spanish island of Formentera.

After writing the song, the challenge was to record the song.

“The Beatles took a break. The studio they were using…when they weren’t there, I was there. I would kind of sneak in there and put some of my little tracks on and off before they came back,” Taylor told Seth Meyers in 2020.

Taylor knew at that moment that “Carolina in My Mind” would be a hit.

“I knew it was extraordinary and extraordinary,” Taylor said. The song was on his 1968 album, “James Taylor”.

It’s his favorite song to play, Taylor told Parade. “My audience responds well to it, and because it dresses so well, I love ‘Caroline In My Mind’. I play it almost every time, and I never get tired of it,” Taylor said.

“(You make me feel) a normal woman”

Early in her career in the early 1960s, King composed tunes for piano and written by her songwriting partner, Jerry Goffin. They produced some of the era’s most appealing tunes recorded by famous artists, including Drifters (“Up on the Roof”), Chiffons (“One Fine Day”), Monkees (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”), and the Beatles (“Chains”). ”) and Linda Ronstadt (“Oh No, Not My Baby”).
One of these hit songs was “(You Make Me Feel) A Natural Woman.” King and Goffin created the song and handed it over to The Power Aretha Franklin.
King says she and Goffin were walking down a New York street one day when music producer Jerry Wexler, a top executive at Atlantic Records, pulled up in a limousine, rolled out the window and said, “I’m looking for a big hit car for Aretha. How about writing a song? Titled “A Normal Woman?” The couple, who was married at the time, went home that night and created the music and lyrics.

What does it mean to be a “normal woman”? The song was written as a kind of thank you from a grateful woman to her lover, but Aretha turned it into a broader statement about the strength of a confident woman at peace with herself. The song reads, “Before the day I met you, life was so cruel. But your love was the key to my peace of mind.”

Franklin’s version of this song climbed to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.

King created the song herself by providing a performance of her own for her solo album “Tapestry”. Its abstract version has a slower tempo with a more prominent piano component.

It was also the inspiration for the title of her memoir, “Carole King: Natural Woman,” published in 2012.

“fire and rain”

Taylor wrote “Fire and Rain” in 1968 about his experience living with drug addiction and the suicide of his childhood friend Susan Schneier. He was 20 years old at the time.

When Schneier died, Taylor was recording his debut album in London. Taylor told NPR in 2000 that his friends hid the news from him because they didn’t want to distract him from a big break or make him sad. He said he only learned of her death months later

The song, while taking on a heavy subject matter, was quick and simple to write for Taylor, and he said the song was almost therapeutic to produce.

“That song relieved a lot of tension. There were things that I needed to get rid of or at least get out of me or stand in front of me or at least have a relationship other than feeling it internally, either by telling someone or just by putting it in shape in front of me so I can To say, “Here they are,” you know, made them external in some way. And that was the hard part, having the feelings that had to be expressed that way. But it was actually a relief, like a laugh or a sigh,” Taylor told NPR.

The song reads, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times I haven’t found a friend. But I’ve always thought I’d see you again.”

The line about ‘not finding a friend’ has really popped up on King. She said, “You have a friend” was a response to “Fire and Rain.” Rolling Stone reported that King told him “Here’s your girlfriend” after she wrote her song about friendship.

The personal and emotional lyrics connected with audiences and became Taylor’s first major hit when they were released/raised to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Taylor told the American songwriter.


“Beautiful” is a soft, upbeat rock song that shares a simple message: Love yourself and show the world your love.

King said the song came across spontaneously. While riding on the New York subway, she realized that the way she looked at others reflected her feelings.

The chorus says, “You have to wake up every morning / With a smile on your face / And show the world all the love that is in your heart / Then people will treat you better / You will find, yes you will / You are as beautiful as you feel.”

In his 2012 title “A Natural Woman: A Memoir,” King wrote about the song’s weirdness.
The legendary Carol King

I wasn’t aware of the professional details about the song until a fellow songwriter pointed it out: There are no rhymes in the chorus—unless you count the extension of ‘will’ to ‘weel’ as the wrong rhyme for ‘feel’.

“I still believe that everyone is beautiful in some way, and by seeing the beauty in others, we make ourselves more beautiful,” she added.

The song “Gamila” was the fifth song on her album “Tapistre”. It was later covered by other artists, including Barbra Streisand.

The song was the inspiration for the name of the Broadway musical about her life, titled “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which ran on Broadway from 2014 to 2019. It chronicles King’s beginnings as a singer-songwriter and her professional and personal partnership with Goffin.

The show received seven Tony nominations and won twice.


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