Carole King autobiography is an enjoyable amble that dishes no dirt
Carole King has published her autobiography, "A Natural Woman." It's an enjoyable amble, but certainly no juicy tell-all, according to freelancer Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett.
Special to The Seattle Times
'A Natural Woman'
by Carole King
Grand Central Publishing, 450pp, $27.99
The title of Carole King's autobiography is a good fit for the humble, glamour-free portrait she paints of her seven decades. It's also a stroke of marketing genius.
"(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" was the megahit King and her first husband and longtime collaborator Gerry Goffin wrote for Aretha Franklin in 1967 that's been sung by countless rockers, rappers, divas and secret shower-
soloists. It is also likely the best-known track on King's 1971 smash album "Tapestry," which has sold upward of 25 million copies. Now those of us who wore out our record players listening to it are a publisher's dream demographic: young enough to still have rock 'n' roll in our heads, old enough to pay full price for a hardcover book without feeling ripped off.
"A Natural Woman" is an enjoyable amble, not a definitive music history, and certainly not a juicy tell-all. King dishes no dirt, about herself or others. She is even kind when describing beatings from Rick Evers, her third husband, who later died of a drug overdose. (She's slightly tougher on her Idaho neighbors who fought her in court over rights to an access road.)
Of course, what with writing hundreds of songs in a male-dominated industry, raising four children and surviving four marriages, at least three to very troubled souls, King didn't have much time to trash hotel rooms.
The book gives a chatty overview of her life and work, from 1950s doo-wop to folk-influenced rock, recalling how some of it got written and played, recorded and performed. Her prodigious gifts, including a platinum work ethic, come through even as she downplays them. At 15 she finagled her way into a recording session where she spontaneously picked up a baton to lead the orchestra when the conductor left for a moment. It became a familiar pattern: nervy confidence when she was immersed in making music, self-doubt returning when the last note faded.
Carol Klein was born in 1942 in New York City. She began playing piano at age 3 and started junior high at age 10. She was 17, and Goffin's young bride, when they wrote their first hit, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?," recorded by the Shirelles in 1961. A decade later, James Taylor's fans fell in love when he performed King's lyrics and music for "You've Got A Friend." With 250 album credits, and her work recorded by more than 1,000 artists worldwide, King has a remarkable career by any measure. She still draws crowds, her appeal spreading across four generations.
King is often asked to explain the huge success of "Tapestry." Luck and a great production team were key, she says: "I wasn't in the same league vocally as Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, or Barbra Streisand (whom I considered 'real singers'), but I knew how to convey the mood and emotion of a song with an honest, straight-from-the-heart interpretation."
Yeah, that's the sound of a natural woman talking.
Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett is a writer living in Portland.