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Inside Column: A King for all seasons

Chris Hine | Monday, September 18, 2006

“Winter, spring, summer, or fall/all you have to do is call/and I’ll be there, yes I will/ you’ve got a friend.”

God, I used to think that song was so corny. That is, until I discovered the wonder of Carole King’s songwriting. She is much more than that lady who sings the theme to “Gilmore Girls.”

I grew up on the music of the 60s and 70s. It was the only music I heard, because it was all that my dad played. Somewhere around the age of 12, thankfully, my parents finally let me out of my caged existence and let me try something modern. So, for a few years, I listened to “cool” music.

Then when I was 16, I was in Barnes and Noble and they had a display out of “classic albums.” One of those albums was King’s “Tapestry.” I looked at the back cover of the CD and there were many songs on there I recognized that other people had made famous: “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away” and “Natural Woman.” I figured, why not buy it? These are songs I know, thanks to dad.

My ears have yet to hear anything resembling the idiosyncratic beauty and deceptive simplicity of Carole King’s songs.

I do not know that much about music, but I do know that King’s songs are more than just hooks thrown to together to make a hit. Her songs, (along with lyricist, Gerry Goffin, with whom she wrote most of her big hits) have emotional punch behind them, and the melody and chords complement the lyrics, to underscore the feelings of the singer. Other times, the melody is more ironic, revealing emotions the singer does not want to acknowledge.

In “You’ve Got a Friend,” the verses contain minor chords, to convey sadness and depression, and the lyrics of the verses are sad and longing for someone. The chords then become major chords around the chorus, to show happiness to go along with the lyrics that convey the singer’s relief that she will always have a friend.

Goffin/King songs are songs that have no writers. They exist within our consciousness, buried within our memories because we either heard them on TV, in a movie, or on our parent’s stereo. Whenever we hear one of their songs, we may not know the singer, but we have heard that song before. They are engrained in our minds and will stay there forever.

After hearing “Tapestry,” I bought many other Carole King albums. The same craftsmanship is present in all of her songs.

The greatness of Goffin/King was not lost on Lennon/McCartney, who said they wanted to become “the Goffin and King of England.” I encourage all of you to buy “Tapestry” or go and download one of the over 500 songs King wrote that were recorded by others.

If she’s good enough for the Beatles, she’s good enough for you.