This is it – today, exactly 50 years ago, on February 10, 1971, one of greatest records in pop history was released: Tapestry by Carole King. As such, we’ve come to the final part of my series to celebrate this iconic record. Perhaps some readers will breathe a sigh of relief, after having seen Carole King-related posts from me for the past nine days in a row! 🙂
To quickly recap, during the previous nine parts, I’ve covered all of side A – I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, It’s Too Late, Home Again, Beautiful and Way Over Yonder – and most of the B-side, i.e., You’ve Got a Friend, Where You Lead, Will You Love Me Tomorrow and Smackwater Jack. This leaves two tracks: The album’s title song and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
I’ll leave it up to Carole to comment on the title track: “It is typical of the magic that seems to surround that album, a magic for which I feel no personal responsibility, but just sort of happened, that I had started a needlepoint tapestry a few months before we did the album, and I happened to write a song called ‘Tapestry,’ not even connecting the two up in my mind,“ she explained during a recorded 1972 conversation with producer Lou Adler, as quoted by Songfacts. “I was just thinking about some other kind of tapestry, the kind that hangs and is all woven, or something, and I wrote that song. And, you being the sharp fellow you are, (giggles), put the two together and came up with an excellent title, a whole concept for the album.”
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman is a tune Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote together with input from Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler. It was first recorded and released by the amazing Aretha Franklin in 1967. One of Franklin’s signature songs, it peaked at no. 8 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100.
Apparently, the tune was inspired by a chance encounter between Gerry Goffin and Jerry Wexler. Songfacts again quotes Lou Adler: “Last year (2007) I spoke to Jerry Wexler at his home in Florida, and he told me the story that Gerry was coming out of a building in New York, (Goffin now remembers it as an Oyster House), and Jerry Wexler is passing in a car, and yells out, ‘Why don’t you write a song called ‘Natural Woman’?’ They felt the title was so distinct and so important to the song that they gave him a piece of it.” Certainly a nice way to earn a credit!
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman is yet another track from Tapestry that never became a single. I guess in this case, it’s understandable – after all, who could possible trump the Queen of Soul. Here’s Aretha Franklin’s incredible cover.
According to this Los Angeles Times story, Tapestry was recorded in just three weeks. Carole and her studio musicians worked pretty quickly, recording two to three tracks per day. Adler noted the album’s studio budget was only $22,000.
Tapestry is one of the most successful albums in pop history. It topped the Billboard 200 for 15 consecutive weeks and to this day holds the record for most consecutive weeks at number one by a female solo artist. Altogether, Tapestry was listed on this chart for 318 weeks between 1971 and 2011, including 302 weeks consecutively from April 10, 1971 to January 15, 1977. It took until 2017, until English songwriter and vocalist Adele beat that record with her album 21.
Tapestry has been certified 13x Multi-Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as of February 5, 2021, meaning it has reached at least 13 million sold copies. The album won four Grammy Awards in 1972, including the particularly prestigious Album of the Year. In Rolling Stone’s most recent 2020 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Tapestry was ranked at no. 25.
The above Los Angeles Times article also noted Carole was largely indifferent about the popularity Tapestry had brought her. While she went on to release 15 additional studio albums, she didn’t tour behind her records or do much else to promote her music.
One exception happened in 2010 when Carole teamed up with James Taylor for an international tour – that’s the one I missed, for which I could still kill myself! “It worked extremely well,” Taylor told the L.A. Times. “Then at the end of it, when everybody’s saying, ‘Keep the big ball rolling,’ Carole says, ‘No, let’s quit while we’re still ahead.’ And she walked away.”
On March 4, 2004, Tapestry was among 50 recordings that were added for 2013 to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Recordings added to this registry are selected to be preserved in the Library of Congress, since they are considered to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.” Some of the other additions for 2013 included Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles), At Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash), What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye) and Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen).
Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Los Angeles Times; RIAA website; Library of Congress website; YouTube