Rare 1989 Carole King Interview
Carole King: Rewriting Her Legacy
Ain't This the Way
By Ron Fell
 
Carole King literally grew up in the music business. In the early sixties she 
and her ex-husband Gerry Goffin were two of the most prolific and successful pop 
songwriters of that era. Having penned classics such as "Will You Love Me 
Tomorrow?," "Up On the Roof," "I'm Into Something Good," and "The Loco-motion," 
Carole played a critical behind-the-scenes role for many of the day s brightest 
stars.
Later in the decade she began recording entire volumes of her songs and her 1971 
album "Tapestry" is considered a milestone in popular music--eventually selling 
more than 13,000,000 copies. "Tapestry's" success became the inspiration for 
many female singer-songwriters. 
It was no more likely that Carole could ever hope to top "Tapestry" that Michael 
Jackson could succeed "Thriller", but she has continued to make significant 
contributions as a writer and performer. After a recent hiatus from the world of 
music Carole has returned with a new album, "City Streets" on Capitol Records. 
We recently conducted this exclusive interview with Carole at her home in Idaho 
where she s recently been preoccupied defending her property rights from strip 
miners and governmental gold diggers.
 
Ron Fell: When did the Gavin Report first sneak into your life?
Carole King: What I remember, and this goes back a long way, is a mimeographed 
piece of paper typed on both sides and that was it. It was very home grown, I 
don t remember what year that was, I just remember that it was very early in my 
career and following what Gerry Goffin and I had written was picked up by the 
Gavin Report.
 
RF: Did you sense that getting any endorsement in this magazine actually had 
impact?
CK: At the time it was more of a newsletter rather than a magazine and yes, it 
was always done very favorably. We felt if we got picked up. by the Gavin then 
we were doing well.
 
RF: In those early days, obviously you were considered a writer of hit pop 
singles. We hear these legends of the Brill Building and Tim Pan Alley where you 
and people like Gerry Goffin sat in a cubicle cranking out songs. What was it 
really like? 
CK: The well-known cubicle story is about what it was like, the difference being 
that we didn't operate in the Brill Building. It was widely thought that we did, 
but we operated out of 1650 Broadway around the corner. There were writing teams 
each in their own cubicle trying to write the next follow-up for the Shirelles 
or the Drifters and were all cranking out things that sounded similar to the 
record that had just been out.
RF: Who made up the writers collective that was Aldon Music? 
CK: It was Donny Kirshner and Al Nevin's company. Our office was comprised of 
Neil Sedaka, Howie Greenfield, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, myself, and Gerry 
Goffin and others. 
RF: Was it truly an assembly line of hit makers cranking out hits as we assume? 
Was it lucrative? 
CK: You call it an assembly line. I guess it s a close to anything like that and 
still be creative, it was highly competitive. I don t think it was assembly line 
because it was still a creative endeavor. And was it lucrative? For some of us 
at times, yes. 

RF: How would a song you and Gerry wrote get to Phil Spector, the Drifters, or 
the Shirelles?
CK: Gerry and I would write a song, Barry and Cynthia would write a song, 
another team would write a song and Don Kirshner would take all of them. He 
didn't really make a judgment as to whether it was good or not. I think he 
believed in us so she assumed they would be good.
 
RF: Would you have an assignment to write a song about a specific subject?
CK: Oh no, we were never given an assignment as to subject matter. We were well 
aware of the current hit of the artist when we were writing, and we were told to 
write the follow-up. Sometimes we would try to write the same song upside down, 
backwards and sideways. Other times we would try to do something immensely 
different and creative and both things worked. 
 
RF: Sometimes those immensely different, creative records would become 
inspiration for other people or yourselves to emulate. 
CK: Absolutely.
 
RF: In 1962, while you were still a very successful songwriter you actually had 
a top twenty record with It Might as Well Rain Until September. What prompted 
you to start your career as a singer? 
CK: As a songwriter, my job was to communicate the song to another artist and it 
still is in many ways. I d make a demo, and everybody kept saying that the demos 
were much better than or certainly equal to the records. I'll say better cause 
that s what people said to me. So Kirshner, no fool, says why don t I just put 
out the demo. They started a record company and began putting out the demos that 
Gerry and I were making, with me singing. "Loco-motion" with Little Eva was, I 
believe, a demo for Dee Dee Sharp. It Might as Well Rain Until September may 
have been a demo for Bobby Vee and Kirschner just decided why not make the 
artist money and record money too? 
 
RF: One of the milestones in popular music was your album Tapestry in 1971. It 
is still considered one of the most important and popular albums of the decade. 
There appears to have been a gap in you recording career from about 63 to 70. 
Was this like the launching of a new career for you in 1970?
CK: Yeah, putting out a record as an artist in 62 was an accident. It was just 
Kirshner saying here s the demo, let s put it out. But I didn't want to be an 
artist. I wasn' t very comfortable being an artist. But in 1969 I did the album 
before Tapestry called Writer and one before that was with the group called 
City. That was me easing into being an artist, but I always preferred being a 
songwriter. So Tapestry was the album in which it came together. Tapestry was 
really a collection of songs that I was doing demos of.
 
RF: They were all incredibly important songs and showed an amazing maturity. 
Obviously a lot has changed since 1970 but you assumed a rather large 
responsibility when that album became so popular. You became the 
singer/songwriter of the female persuasion. 
CK: I didn't assume that. It was put on me. I never accepted it. I just did what 
I did and interestingly you mentioned that a lot of this stuff was coming from a 
mature woman. Goffin wrote some of the lyrics and he s a man, and Toni Stern 
wrote some of them, and she s a woman. Gerry writes amazingly from a woman s 
point of view. Think about "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" , "(You Make Me Feel Like 
a) Natural Woman", and one I didn't write with him, "Saving All My Love For 
You". I didn't feel the weight of responsibility even though I wrote a lot of 
those lyrics too. I just didn't think about it.
 
RF: Wasn't there something about timing? Women were stepping out in many careers 
and starting to assert themselves more, and the sheer acceptance of Tapestry 
encouraged a lot of other women to step out and make a name for themselves.
CK: So I m told. I was not conscious of it. In my career I have never felt that 
my being a woman was an obstacle or an advantage. I guess I've been oblivious. I 
just do what I do and assume it s going to be well received if I m good at it. 
Nobody has every said You can t do this, you re a woman. 
 
RF: We had a lot of sex symbols in the 50s and 60s in rock n roll and popular 
music, but we didn't have as many of those sensitive singer/songwriters. In the 
early 70s women like yourself became more than a sex symbol--they became role 
models.
CK: Sensitive, humbug. Everybody thinks I m sensitive. Wait until they hear my 
new album (laughter). I have been told by some people that I was the first woman 
they ever actually saw give a downbeat. Fine, cool.
Webmaster's Note: On a Merv Griffin episode-a celebration of Ms's magazine's 
10th anniversary-broadcast in 1982, Gloria Steinem told Carole that she was the 
first woman she ever saw give a downbeat. Carole performed "One to One," "Go 
Away Sam," and "Natural Woman." 
 
RF: What do you think of the new wave of women singers and writers that have 
come about, particularly people like Diane Warren who's almost become the Carole 
King of the 80s in terms of writing hit singles.
CK: Oh, I love her work.
 
RF: What about Madonna?
CK: I think Madonna has a great deal of intelligence and capability. I have a 
lot of respect for her. In some ways she s taken her career and maximized it 
with intelligence and creativity.
 
RF: Your family is now in its second generation with the success your daughter 
Louise (Goffin) has had with her projects. What kind of encouragement have you 
given her?
CK: When she was twelve I asked Louise, Are you sure you want to do this since 
it s very difficult? She said Yes I want to do this -- this being singing and 
writing. I love her work. I m a true fan and all I've done since then, I think, 
is encourage her. 
 
RF: After a gap of about six or seven years we finally have a new Carole King 
album, "City Streets" on the radio. I m curious to hear your thoughts with the 
album as a project. What were you hoping to accomplish? 
CK: Glad you asked. There is a downside to having one of the biggest selling 
albums ever and having as much history as I've had. The downside is that people 
loved what the history was about and grew attached to that. The new album 
acknowledges that history . The word sensitive might apply or the word 
introspective might apply to some of the cuts on this album. This album is a 
breakthrough for me in that it rocks. I m really in a place where I m not trying 
to be anything other than what I am. What I am right now is more of a rocking 
artist paying tribute to the rock n roll that I've admired all these years and 
have not quite been able to do myself until this album. I loved the old rocking 
Stones and artists like Patti Smith really inspired me. There are so many 
influences that I had making this album. My co-producer, Rudy Guess, is a guitar 
player who just loves to play rock n roll. It is a more guitar- oriented album. 
I've been playing guitar with Rudy and one of my co-writers on this album, Paul 
Hipp. I m really getting better at guitar and it s a whole different attitude. I 
m not trapped behind a piano. It s a wonderful place to be but you can get out 
and move with a guitar and still direct the band with an instrument. I've also 
gotten to where I trust my band and don t worry about having any instrument at 
all.
 
RF: You didn't need to do another album. You have had a very successful career. 
Was there something that kicked you in the butt and said I've got to get out 
there and do another album? 
CK: The muse was dormant for a while and I was more involved in my work in Idaho 
defending my property rights for one thing.
 
RF: What do you mean by that?
CK: There was an attempt to take over my land by the government. They wanted to 
strip-mine the mountains behind my ranch. They were telling people lies about 
how I was blocking public access. I was fighting for my property rights and my 
reputation. In the process of defending my property, I also got involved in what 
was really behind it and that was to take over the wilderness and strip-mine it. 
So I got involved in the fight for wilderness in Idaho.
 
RF: Nothing like taking away property rights to turn even the most timid people 
into environmentalists, but my guess is that you were an environmentalist before 
the issue
CK: I definitely was, but my husband and I uncovered a nest of corruption in 
this state that extended into both parties and it was unavoidable for me to deal 
with it, so that took a lot of my time and attention. Then I also got into 
acting which I have been doing for years. I went to the High School for 
Performing Arts in New York for acting. I've studied it on and off for years and 
have done some theater and film. I've done two plays, one in New York and one in 
Los Angeles in the past couple of years and I've done a couple of films as well. 

 
RF: Tapestry could be the inspiration for a much larger project, something that 
will have visuals associated with it? 
CK: I have no plans for it. Someone has produced a revue involving six 
characters and a lot of my songs. It s currently Off Broadway. 
 
RF: Which songs from the early days give you the greatest pride as a composer 
and as a performer? 
CK: It s like asking me which one of my children do I have more feeling for. 
I'll tell you that the writing of "You've Got a Friend" was one of the most 
incredible experiences because it was mostly inspiration. It just came to me 
almost as we hear it.
 
RF: It kind of rolled off the end of your fingers onto your piano?
CK: Exactly and at the time I didn't have a tape recorder going. On my new album 
there s a song called "Ain't That the Way" and that song came to me very 
similarly, only I had a tape recorder working. I now have experience of being 
able to listen to the moment of discovery. I say discovery because I was playing 
a small Hammond organ in an apartment I was staying at in New York. I had turned 
on the tape recorder and the chords just started coming. When I finished the 
first verse I stopped and went "yeah" and quietly I played it again without 
listening to it. The second time I played it, it came through the same way and 
stronger --and it was like "yeah" with a lot of exclamation points. The third 
time I knew I was onto something and it just kind of wrote itself from there. On 
"You've Got a Friend" it lives in my mind, but now I have it in my mind for 
"Ain' t That the Way" and it also lives on tape.
 
RF: You've been around long enough to see the whole business of music change 
radically. What do you consider to be the changes, good or bad, in the music 
business in the years that you've been part of it?
CK: I think the advent of CDs is a positive change. Digital sound, when it first 
came out I was very leery of it, and had bad experiences. Digital sound tended 
to take out the warmth, and I m an artist whose sound depends on warmth, but now 
it s to the point where we record digitally. My CD is triple D. Digitally 
recorded and mixed and so on. I've had mixed emotions about videos. The video I 
did on City Streets is a representation of what I saw when I was writing that 
song. It was a real thrill to take my ideas, which I've always been able to put 
on the audio and then do the visual. The downside is that it will put my vision 
in front of other people, so they might not get the chance to create their own. 
I want it to be seen by as many people as possible, but I also want to say to 
people Having seen it, make up your own images now. 
 
RF: Any artist, no matter how good they are, has to appeal to a new generation 
in order to sell the volume that justifies your existence with record companies. 
It seems you've taken the tack of putting out a rocking album that will endear 
itself to younger generations.
CK: I really hope people are able to make the transition with me. I m the same 
person and I've paid tribute to that on the album. But at the same time I also 
feel brand new. I feel different, expanded and powerful with the new album. It 
is very common with artists who are of a generation that has already gone by to 
get overly concerned with Oh my God I have to sell to the younger generation. In 
this album I was not deliberately reaching out to the younger generation. In 
fact, a lot of the work is traditional. It s just me. I've never really tried to 
say Okay, I m going to go after this market. I've just always tried to do what I 
feel because I feel in tough with the music of this generation. I was really 
influenced by T' Pau on one of the cuts on this album. There are artists of that 
mid-generation like Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. Debbie Gibson and Tiffany are 
the artists of the MTV generation who have also accumulated years as they 
accumulate success. I m not worrying and never have. I've just felt the music as 
I feel it.
 
RF: Even though you were away from the recording process for awhile you've 
stayed in touch with what is contemporary. What type of radio stations do you 
listen to? 
CK: I listen to both oldies and contemporary stations. I enjoy listening to 
current stuff because there s an energy to it that I tried to incorporate it in 
my work because it s inspiring. I may not like the lyrics of some contemporary 
songs because they tend to repeat the same phrase over and over and over.
 
RF: This is not the first time. Wasn't there a lot of repetition in the songs 
that were being cranked out of those cubicles in Manhattan?
CK: Yes there was. And can we discuss the lyrics to "Tutti Frutti" so I m not 
being judgmental of the generation thing. I m saying that in common with "Tutti 
Fruitti" today s records--even though they may be lyrically repetitive and not 
saying anything particularly heavy--they have energy.
 
RF: There s an attitude too, rock n roll has an attitude to it.
CK: Absolutely. And that attitude was the same as when Little Richard first came 
out and I was going to see him at the Allen Freed shows in New York. What a 
lineup: Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, The 
Penguins, Jay and the Americans in the same show. I have memories of that kind 
of energy. You see that at a Bruce Springsteen concert which is to me one of the 
all time great concerts I've ever seen, any Springsteen show. That s energy!
 
RF: How did you get Eric Clapton to play on the album?
CK: His drummer Steve Ferrone, plays on many of the cuts on my album and Steve 
was delayed in starting my project because Eric extended his tour. So I said, 
Fine, just bring Eric back with you, and he did.
 
RF: No reciprocation in there, do you owe Eric anything at this point?
CK: I actually went to London and performed in Eric Clapton s concert at the 
Royal Albert Hall, Of course, I'll work with him any time he asks me.
 
RF: Are there people you would like to collaborate with that you haven t yet?
CK: Yes, John Lennon, but I'll have to wait for that. God, I don t know. 
Generally I m lucky. Eric Clapton is my dream guitarist, my co-producer Rudy 
Guess is also excellent. I love the way he plays. But it was really an honor to 
have Eric on the album. The musicians I asked to work with me on the album all 
showed up and that really meant a lot to me. Some came telling me that it was 
way of paying tribute to me. Well, my having them on the album was me paying 
tribute to them. I've had a great career. I hope it continues to be as much fun 
for the next thirty years. 
(Source: The Gavin Report, Issue 1753, April 21, 1989.)

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