Our Top 10 Carole King songs list looks back at the care of one of the most important and influential songwriters in classic rock history.
New York’s favorite daughter is simply one of the most successful songwriters in modern music history. Born in Manhattan, her father was a New York City Firefighter and her mother was a teacher. Carole King’s songwriting career began in 1958 with the release of the single “The Right Girl.” From that point on through the 1960’s, Carole King enjoyed great success writing multiple hit songs for various artists.
Carole King’s Tapestry album would become for a time, one of the biggest selling albums in popular music history. It was a record that contained new songs, but also presented fans with new versions of Carole King songs she had written in the1960’s for various artists. Carole King continued to release albums thought out the 1970’s on a consistent basis. Her recorded output slowed down in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Her last album of new material, Love Makes the World Go Around, was released in 2001.
Carole King has written so many wonderful songs that there are bound to be many people who will argue over certain songs that did not make this list. We tried picking the most important Carole King Songs as far as cultural impact goes. We also picked some of our favorites which is why these lists are always based on subjectivity. It is fun to pick songs, and it’s even more fun having to choose only 10. Let us know which ones you think we missed. But then you would have to take one away; that’s where it get tough.
# 10 – City Streets
We open up our Top 10 Carole King Songs list may surprise some fans. Carole King has written so many classic numbers over the past fifty years, that it may seem odd that a relatively unknown song would make this list. But if you take one listen to this spectacular track, we are sure you will be won over. The song “City Streets,” was the title track from the album City Streets. The album was released in 1989,.
The album featured an all-star cast of musicians It doesn’t get much better than Eric Clapton on guitar. The man really lights it up on this one. Also featured on the song was the late Michael Brecker who stands as one of the greatest saxophone players of the jazz fusion era. Wayne Pedzwater played bass and the great Steve Ferr0ne sat in the drum seat.
# 9 – The Loco-Motion
Every generation yields at least one dance craze. In the 1950s and 1960s there were multiple dance crazes that shook things up for teens from coast to coast. In 1962, Carole King and Gerry Goffin part in contributed to the dance craze madness by writing the “Loco-Motion,” for their babysitter Little Eva. The song became a huge hit for the trio as it reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard music charts.
A little over ten years later, the popular rock band Grand Funk Railroad scored another Number 1 hit with their version of the “Loco-Motion.” And of course, three times the charm, because in 1987, Kylie Minogue’s recording of the song reached No.3 on the Billboard music charts.
# 8 – Oh No Not My Baby
Just the title alone brings shivers and tears to anyone who has ever been cheated on. This heartbreaking Carole King song was written in 1964 and released the same year by Maxine Brown. The song reached Number 24 on the Billboard music charts. The song has been recorded by many of the biggest names in the music business. Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Aretha Franklin, Manfred Mann, Dusty Springfield, and of course Carole King herself have all recorded beautiful versions of this heartbreaking song.
# 7 – Been To Canaan
With a beautiful piano introduction, this warm-hearted song settles into a soulful laid-back groove that is pure perfection. Carole King’s sweet harmonies fill the song with complete wrap-around joy. “Been To Canaan,” was the lead single from Carole King’s Rhymes and Reasons album. The record was released in 1972. It’s interesting that although the song was the lead-off single to the album, it was placed as the last song on the album. The album was produced by Lou Adler.
# 6 – Jazzman
After the enormous success of Tapestry, it seemed to be an incredibly daunting task to follow up that amazing record. However, a few years later in 1974, Carole King did indeed rise to the occasion. With the release of her album Wrap Around Joy in 1974, Carole King once again hit Number 1 on the Billboard Album Charts. From the album, Carole King released two wonderful singles that were huge hits.
Both “Nightingale,” and “Jazzman,” broke the U.S, Billboard Charts Top 10 list. But it was the jazz-inspired riffs of Carole King’s “Jazzman,” that defined one of Carole King’s most unique singles of her career. With legendary saxophonist Tom Scott blowing throughout the tune, Carole King went on to record one of her finest vocals ever.
At the time in 1974, artists like Elton John, Steely Dan, and Paul McCartney were dominating the airwaves with perfectly crafted pop gems. Carole King’s “Jazzman,” was a masterpiece that helped define that great year in popular music history. Although the song was a huge hit, we always felt it was one of her most overlooked songs because Carole King has simply has written just so many hits for such a long period of time.
# 5 – It’s Too Late
With all the legendary songs that were given new treatments on Carole King’s Tapestry album, it was a brand new song that became the album’s biggest hit. Released as the lead-off single, “It’s Too Late,” was a huge smash hit for Carole King. The song will definitely go down in history as having one of the greatest opening piano licks.
The song reached Number 1 on the Billboard music charts. On the other side of the 45 rpm single was the great track “I Feel The Earth Move.” It would be highly unfair to call that one a B-side. The song “It’s Too Late,” was written by Carole King and Toni Stern who wrote the lyrics.
# 4 – Up On The Roof
Some people love the Drifters’ version of this song, others prefer Carole Kings’. Regardless of which version one prefers, there is no doubt that “Up On The Roof,” is an all-time classic pop song. Most writers would give anything to write a song like “Up On The Roof,” in their career. Carole King has made a living writing classics just like this one. Most songwriters write bridges to songs to break up the monotony of the verses and chorus. Carole King’s bridges were often the highlights of many of her songs.
Listen to the bridge on this great track and you will understand what we are talking about. The song was originally recorded by the Drifters in 1962. It was also recorded by Laura Nyro in 1970, James Taylor in 1979, and countless others. Bruce Springsteen often performed it live in the mid-1970s. Carole King’s own version of the song was released on her 1971 album Writer.
# 3 – You’ve Got a Friend
The last top three songs on this Top 10 Carole King Songs list are pretty interchangeable as far as ranking goes. We switched them around multiple times and then just gave up. If we had to choose the most popular Carole King song of all time it would be “You Got A Friend.”
How many times in history can you count that two artists released the same song at the same time and huge hit singles with both releases? Well, Carole King and James Taylor did it back in 1971. Carole King won the Grammy for Song of the Year for You Got a Friend in 1971. James Taylor won the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for the song.
# 2 – Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
Out of all the songs that Carole King has written this one may just be her most beautiful one. The song was originally recorded in 1960 by The Shirelles. The Shirelles had a Number 1 hit with the song. Since its original release, the song has been recorded by hundreds of artists including The Four Seasons, Dave Mason, Linda Ronstadt, Bryan Ferry, and Amy Winehouse. But we feel the most beautiful version of all was Carole King’s own recording of the song that was released on her Tapestry album.
# 1 – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Choosing the Number 1 song on this Top 10 Carole King Songs list was no easy feat. However, the great recording of Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin is what sealed the deal. It doesn’t matter who sings a song if there is not much of a song in the first place. However, when you take a great song and then pair it with perhaps the greatest rhythm and blues singers in history, well then you have something very special.
We love Carole King’s version. King’s version on Tapestry is as earnest as one can get. It’s beautifully sung, played, and produced. Nonetheless, Aretha Franklin’s talent helps to define just how great of a songwriter Carole King is. It was a moment in history when two of the best in their own fields came together to create one of the most incredible recordings in popular music history.
Photo:By Michael Borkson [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Carole King Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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