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Carole King named first female recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song

by Brandy McDonnell Published: December 13, 2012
Carole King performs on the NBC "Today" television program with James Taylor in New York Friday, June 18, 2010. (AP)
Carole King performs on the NBC "Today" television program with James Taylor in New York Friday, June 18, 2010. (AP)

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced that Carole King is the 2013 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

She is the first female recipient of the esteemed honor. King joins prior recipients Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney and songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David in receiving the honor.

The iconic singer-songwriter, known for such beloved hits as “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “I Feel the Earth Move,” will receive the prize in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2013. She will be feted with a series of events, including an honoree’s luncheon and musical performance in the Library of Congress’s historic Coolidge Auditorium. The prize honors the lifetime achievement of artists whose work exemplifies the standard of excellence associated with towering songwriters George and Ira Gershwin, according to a news release.

“Carole King has been one of the most influential songwriters of our time,” Billington said in the release. “For more than five decades, she has written for and been recorded by many different types of artists for a wide range of audiences, communicating with beauty and dignity the universal human emotions of love, joy, pain and loss. Her body of work reflects the spirit of the Gershwin Prize with its originality, longevity and diversity of appeal.”

King said in the release, “I was so pleased when the venerable Library of Congress began honoring writers of popular songs with the Gershwin Prize. I’m proud to be the fifth such honoree and the first woman among such distinguished company. I look forward to performing in the nation’s capital.”

As previously reported, The Recording Academy announced Wednesday that King, along with Glenn Gould, Charlie Haden, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Patti Page, Ravi Shankar and the Temptations, has been selected as a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. A special invitation-only ceremony will take place during Grammy Week on Saturday, Feb. 9, and a formal acknowledgment will be made during the 55th Annual Grammy Awards telecast, which will take place at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10, and broadcast live at 7 p.m. on the CBS Television Network.

King’s breakout 1971 smash album “Tapestry” remains one of the best-selling records of all time. It is the first female solo album to reach diamond status, surpassing 10 million copies sold, as certified by the Recording Industry Association of America’s Gold and Platinum Program, a milestone achieved by only 11 other female solo artists in history. “Tapestry” set a record for a female artist by staying at No. 1 on the Billboard chart for 15 weeks. The album’s success established King as an influential force in the industry and she built a legacy of deeply personal communication through song that endures today. The Library named “Tapestry” to the National Recording Registry in 2004. King was the first woman to win four Grammy Awards in a single year (Best Album, Best Song, Best Record and Best Vocal Performance in 1972). Her 25 solo albums have garnered a total of six gold awards, two platinum awards, and one diamond award. To date, more than 400 of her compositions during a five-decade career have been recorded by more than 1,000 artists and resulted in 100 hit singles.

The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song was created in 2007 to honor artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by bridging musical styles, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering their mutual respect and appreciation.

In making the selection for the prize, the Librarian of Congress consulted leading members of the music and entertainment communities, as well as curators from the Library’s Music Division, American Folklife Center and Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

The Library of Congress is home to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, the world’s preeminent resource for the documentary legacy of the Gershwin brothers. It includes a wealth of manuscripts, printed music, photographs, correspondence, business papers, scrapbooks and iconography. The Library’s Gershwin Room is a permanent tribute to the Gershwins and their work. It features George’s piano and desk, Ira’s typing table and typewriter, self-portraits of both brothers and a selection of musical manuscripts from Gershwin stage and screen shows such as “Lady Be Good,” “Funny Face,” “Girl Crazy” and “Of Thee I Sing.”

Read more about Carole King after the break.

About Carole King

King wrote her first No. 1 hit at age 17, penning “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for the Shirelles with then-husband Gerry Goffin. The dozens of chart hits Goffin and King wrote during this period have become part of music legend, including “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Chains,” “The Loco-Motion,” “One Fine Day,” “Up on the Roof” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” It was 1971’s “Tapestry” that took King to the pinnacle. It spoke personally to her contemporaries and provided the spiritual musical backdrop to the decade. With more than 25 million units sold worldwide, “Tapestry” remained the best-selling album by a female artist for a quarter century, and was No. 36 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 best albums of all time. “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move” were both No. 1 songs for King from the album, and “So Far Away” reached No. 3. Other songs from the album that reached No. 1 include “You’ve Got a Friend” recorded by James Taylor and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” recorded by the Shirelles.

Her songs have been recorded by The Beatles, Mary J. Blige, Cher, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Little Eva, Lorrie Morgan, the Monkees, Aaron Neville, Laura Nyro, Donny Osmond, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Tina Turner, Bobby Vee, Dwight Yoakam and hundreds more.

King has written songs for movie soundtracks including “Now and Forever” for “A League of Their Own” in 1992 and “Anyone At All” for “You’ve Got Mail” in 1998.

She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

In November 2007, King and Taylor recorded six performances at the legendary Troubadour in Los Angeles which were documented in the GRAMMY™ Award-nominated, gold-certified “Live at the Troubadour” CD and DVD, released in May 2010. The event was the inspiration for the pair’s sold-out “Troubadour Reunion” world tour of 2010, as well as the feature-length documentary “Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter” that premiered on PBS.

In April 2012, King’s memoir, “A Natural Woman,” debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at No. 6. As a companion to King’s life story, Concord/Hear music released “The Legendary Demos” with 13 previously unreleased demo recordings featuring some of her most celebrated songs from 1960-1970.


by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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