If you are a baby boomer — indeed, if you were alive anytime after 1960 and were born blessed with hearing — then you have heard a Carole King song. She had her first Number 1 hit at the age of 18, incidentally launching the ‘Girl Group’ craze of the early ‘60s, with the Goffin and King classic, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." In 1997, she had her last chart topper with “The Reason” which was written for Aerosmith, but performed by Celine Dion. In between she had 116 other pop hits, according to Billboard Magazine. Making her, far and away, the most successful female songwriters of the last half of the 20th Century.
As if that wasn’t enough, her 1971 album, Tapestry, won her four Grammy Awards as a performer. It also topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks in 1971, and remained on the charts for more than six years. Until Michael Jackson's Thriller, it was the biggest selling pop album by a solo artist in history. She still holds the record for the longest time for an album by a solo female to remain on the charts for Tapestry at 306 weeks. An amazing feat when you consider the competition: Madonna, Cher, Aretha, Barbra Streisand, Joni Mitchell — the list is endless and impressive.
It's doubly impressive when you take into account that she hates touring, and even at the height of her career as a singer and performer she only toured for short stints away from home, as she wouldn’t be separated from her children for any length of time. She also hated being in the spotlight.
But A Natural Woman: A Memoir isn’t about the most successful female songwriter of (probably) all time. And it’s not about the singing sensation with the four Grammys and perhaps the record-est breaking album by a female singer or a solo artist. It’s not even about the woman who, if not the creator of, then certainly is one of the pioneers and legends of the “Singer/Songwriter” genre of the early ‘70s (think Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Leon Russell, James Taylor, Jim Croce, et al). It’s not even about the woman who has starred on Broadway as the lead actress. It’s not about the woman who was the subject of Neil Sedaka’s first hit song in 1958, about his then girlfriend, Carol Klein who would change her name for a less ‘Jewish sounding’ name to Carole King. It's about A Natural Woman. And it’s about a woman who not only achieved all of those marvelous goals listed above, but who has written one of the most engaging, honest, stories this reader has read in a very long time. And what is more, it’s her story.