A Natural Woman: A Memoir

By Carole King

(Grand Central, $27.99, 496 pages)

Who is this author?

If you love rock ‘n’ roll, I don’t really have to answer that question. You already know that Carole King, a singer, songwriter and pianist, wrote, collaborated on or performed many of rock’s greatest all-time hits. The list is fabulous: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (her first No. 1 hit, when she was18), “One Fine Day”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “The Loco-Motion”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “(You Me Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” all of which she co-wrote with her first husband, Gerry Goffin, and many, many more. And she was no flash in the Tin Pan Alley: “Tapestry,” her 1971 solo album, won four Grammy awards and was on the Billboard charts for six years, a record for an album by a female artist, and was No. 1 for 15 consecutive weeks. She’s written more than 100 top-selling songs and recorded 25 solo albums.

The good news is that she can write a good memoir, too.

What is this book about?

It’s about her life and career, which started early. Now 70, King looks back at growing up in Brooklyn as Carol Joan Klein, scoring her first record contract at 15, marrying for the first time at 17 and going on to become a rock legend and to work with James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Neil Sedaka and many other stars. (Sedaka was her boyfriend for a time, and his hit song “Oh! Carol” was inspired by her.)

That may all sound familiar, but there are other, less-well-known aspects to King’s life: after divorcing Gerry Goffin, she married three more times and suffered abuse at the hands of husband No. 3.

Having lived in New York and California, she later developed a deep interest in environmental issues that were inspired by living with her family in Idaho’s mountain country.

Why you’ll like it:

King came from an ordinary background and she writes in a straight-forward, regular-person way. It’s fascinating to read how she evolved from being a kid who liked to scribble down lyrics to the creator of so many heartfelt songs that spoke eloquently to an entire generation and beyond, and how she managed this in an industry long-dominated by men. The book is enhanced with childhood and family photos and shots taken during and behind the scenes at her performances.

What others are saying:

Says Kirkus Reviews: “a down-to-earth, optimistic and liberated worldview of a woman with some timely stories to tell….when her marriage deteriorated, she set off for Los Angeles to seek her own voice. That voice comes through strongly on every page of this memoir, an engaging assortment of recollections comprising a journey that started in her working-class Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, took her to Manhattan and Laurel Canyon and saw her escape what Joni Mitchell called “the star maker machinery” to settle in rural Idaho. She is also refreshingly candid about her four marriages. A warm, winning read that showcases baby-boomer culture at its best.”

Publishers Weekly says: “Weaving a tapestry of rich and royal hue, King’s affecting memoir eases readers through her life, from the girlhood in Brooklyn where she was already jotting down lyrics.”

 “…There’s a big audience for this memoir by the four-time Grammy Award winner, who says, sweetly, that “the journey probably started with my grandparents,” says Library Journal.

When is it available?

You can find it now on the new book shelves of the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

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