1971 was the year which saw Carole King’s Tapestry transform the New York native from one of the most prolific songwriters of the era into a world-renowned singer and performer. In the 50 years since its release, Tapestry has touched generations, and Carole King’s timeless introspection continues to capture the very heart of human experience and emotion.
Tapestry received critical and commercial success upon its release, staying at No.1 for 15 weeks and selling over 25 million copies. It secured four Grammys and made King the first woman to win Best Song of the Year. Looking back at both the chart hits King and her then-husband Gerry Goffin had written for the likes of The Animals and Aretha Franklin in the 60s, as well as the musicians which had accompanied the production of Tapestry, including James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, reveals that the release of a hit album was only a matter of time.
The opening ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ introduces the listener to King’s lively but grounded voice, and immediately foreshadows what is to be an album of unprocessed emotional awareness. Evoking the raw sentiment of everyday emotions that we’ve all felt at one point or another in our lives, is something King does with ease. Whether it’s the clarity of a break-up in ‘It’s Too Late’, the tranquillity of belonging in ‘Home Again’, or the call for self-love in ‘Beautiful’, King avoids aloof notions of the everyday, and relies instead on an earnest, uncluttered depiction of life. ‘So Far Away’ is perhaps eerily relevant in today’s pandemic era, when the feelings of loneliness and distance-induced longing are an everyday feature of reality. As a companion to loneliness, however, ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ promises security and comfort in those closest to us.
The ultimate highlights of Tapestry are ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ and ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’. Both were written by King and Goffin in the 60s, and became hit staples for the Shirelles and Aretha Franklin, respectively. King’s vocal range naturally can’t compare to the likes of the queen of soul, but she brings to the songs a voice unafraid of breaking, of capturing the raw feeling and conviction of the lyrics themselves. While ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’, with the background vocals by Joni Mitchell, is an ode to the fleeting nature of love, ‘A Natural Woman’ remains an anthem of empowerment and womanhood.
Tapestry manages to paint a picture of human experiences in a manner both timeless and contemporary, a manner so cloaked in authenticity it has eluded time and continued to touch King’s audiences at their core. With a sense of serenity and calm, Tapestry perhaps captures the nuances of everyday life now more than ever. Fifty years later, Carole King’s seminal album and its unfiltered notions of friendship and disappointment, of loneliness and empowerment continue to shine a comforting light on the tapestry of our everyday existence.
Words by Stella Baricic
This article was published as part of The Indiependent‘s May 2021 magazine edition.
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