A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Carole King
(Grand Central Publishing, 2012, 488 pages)
I listened to the audiobook, A Natural Woman: A Memoir, written and read by multi award-winning singer/songwriter, Carole King. With the national tour of the Broadway musical about King’s life, Beautiful, coming to St. Louis in February, I thought I would check it out. In the 1960s, King co-wrote hit songs with husband Gerry Goffin, such as Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” The Shirelle’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” Bobby Vee’s “Take Good Care of My Baby,” the Chiffon’s “One Fine Day,” and Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion.” Little Eva was King and Goffin’s children’s babysitter, and after the song became a hit, they had to find a new babysitter! It was interesting to learn the stories behind many of these songs and about how a record was made in the studio. The book spans several decades, and King spends a good amount of time talking about the culture of the 60s, which made for an interesting history lesson. King began a successful solo career in the 1970s, especially with her number one album Tapestry, containing the songs “I Feel the Earth Move,” “It’s Too Late,” and “So Far Away.” James Taylor had a number one hit with King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” The book contains details about the making of Tapestry and about her long-time friendship with Taylor.
In addition to the music, King talks extensively about her personal relationships. She was married four times, once to a husband who physically abused her. There were other significant relationships, too, and it was sometimes hard to keep track of which one she was talking about!
One surprising thing I learned is that King is also an actress, having starred on Broadway and in the TV show Gilmore Girls.
Listening to King read about her life made me feel a personal connection to her. When she talked about meeting celebrities, she often reported feeling star-struck. Similarly, I would think, “Wow, I can’t believe she got to hang out with John and Yoko!” Then I remembered how famous she was herself. Periodically King breaks into song, and it’s nice to hear her voice so raw and vulnerable without instrumentation.
Carole King has won many prestigious awards over the years, most recently the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. I highly recommend A Natural Woman: A Memoir, especially if you’re planning to see the national tour of Beautiful.