Adele may be the current Queen of the Tearjerker, but decades before the British songstress was even born, Carole King was making us feel everything through her earnest and soulful songwriting. To celebrate the Grammy winner’s 80th birthday on February 9, 2022, we’ve compiled a list of her most emotional career highlights, from her melancholy radio hits of the 1970s to her more recent, much-deserved honors from the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress. Put on your headphones and grab a box of tissues — you’re in for a teary ride!
King cowrites the ultimate breakup anthem “It’s Too Late” — but it’s not even about her breakup! (1971)
“And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late / Though we really did try to make it,” King sings on her sorrowful breakup song from the 1971 album, Tapestry. “Somethin’ inside has died / And I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it.” Many listeners assumed the song had been written about King’s divorce from her former songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, but in fact, she was responsible only for the music. The lyrics came from Toni Stern, 77, who wrote them in a single day after her breakup with James Taylor, 73. “I was feeling rather blue, looking for love, not being able to find it,” Stern told NPR in 2000. “And the first line came to me and the rest of the song just flowed.”
Types of tears shed: Defeated but wistful.
Watch it: “It’s Too Late” from BBC in Concert
King rerecords “Where You Lead” with her daughter for Gilmore Girls (2000)
When Amy Sherman-Palladino, 56, asked King for her permission to use this song about devotion as the theme for her new mother-daughter dramedy Gilmore Girls, the singer had a brilliant idea: She’d reimagine the dated lyrics and rerecord the tune with her daughter Louise Goffin. “She changed the lyrics because she’d outgrown the stand-by-my-man theme of the original,” Goffin recently told Entertainment Weekly, which had ranked “Where You Lead” the sixth-best TV theme song of the 21st century. “The song had a new life.” You can watch the duo perform it together in the concert film Carole King Tapestry: Live in Hyde Park.
Types of tears shed: Warm and maternal. Go call your mom (or your daughter)!
Don’t miss this: Celebrating Carole King's Tapestry 50 Years Later