On June 19th 1971, Carole King earned her first #1 single as a performer with the double-sided hit “It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move.”
Carole King began her career in music as a young newlywed and college graduate, working a 9-to-5 shift alongside her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, in Don Kirshner’s songwriting factory, Aldon Music. It was there, working in a cubicle with a piano, staff paper and tape recorder that she co-wrote her first hit song (the Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” 1960), her second and third hit songs (the Drifters’ “Some Kind Of Wonderful” and Bobby Vee‘s “Take Good Care Of My Baby,” both 1961), her 14th and 17th hit songs (the Chiffons’ “One Fine Day,” 1963, and Herman’s Hermits’ “Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good,” 1964) and so on and so forth. It was not until 10 years after her songwriting breakthrough, however, that Carole King finally fulfilled her long-held dream of having her own hit record as both singer and songwriter. On June 19th 1971, the double sided single achieved that.
King’s hit single came from one of the best and most popular albums of the singer-songwriter era—an era that Carole King helped usher in. Tapestry was a milestone not only for Carole King, but for women in rock and roll in general. As the critic Robert Christgau put it: “King has done for the female voice what countless singer-composers achieved years ago for the male: liberated it from technical decorum. She insists on being heard as she is…with all the cracks and imperfections that implies.” On the heels of Tapestry‘s success, up-and-coming solo female performers like Carly Simon and Rickie Lee Jones found an easier path to popularity, and the great Joni Mitchell entered the period of her greatest commercial success.
The success of Tapestry and Carole King’s first #1 single launched her career as a solo performer, but a look around the pop charts of 1971 reveals just how big a force she remained behind the scenes. Among the artists who earned #1 pop hits that year, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Rod Stewart, Isaac Hayes, George Harrison and Paul McCartney all recorded a Carole King song at one point in their careers, and Donny Osmond and James Taylor owe their only chart-topping 1971 hits (“Go Away Little Girl” and “You’ve Got A Friend,” respectively) to her songwriting talents.