There aren’t many singer-songwriters whose ongoing impact compares to Carole King. The native New Yorker co-wrote the Shirelles’ No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 classic “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” when she was still a teenager and went on to change the genre with 1971’s Tapestry, which topped the Billboard 200 for 15 weeks and continues to inspire everyone from Taylor Swift to Mary J. Blige.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 1990 (along with ex-husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin) for her songwriting, King woke up to a text message from a friend on Wednesday (May 12) morning informing her that she’ll be inducted into the Rock Hall’s Class of 2021 as a performer.
“It was a ‘wow’ moment,” King tells Billboard over the phone from Idaho. When told that this makes her the first person, period, inducted as a performer and non-performer in the Rock Hall’s history, King sounds genuinely exuberant. “That rocks. I have nothing better to say than ‘that rocks,'” she says, laughing.
While the honor is richly deserved, King never planned on becoming a famous singer in her youth. When she initially entered the music business as a Brill Building scribe in the late ’50s, she only saw herself as a songwriter.
“I became an artist [in the late ’60s], not reluctantly, but it was just the right circumstances that brought me into being an artist,” King recalls to Billboard. “And really, as a songwriter, you’re always the artist when you’re presenting the song to another artist. Through Lou Adler and with James Taylor’s help, I took ownership of being the artist who sang my own songs.”
Fans of King’s warm, wistful style will be thrilled to hear that she is not only planning on attending the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2021 induction ceremony on Oct. 30 in Cleveland, but she’s aiming to perform. “I don’t know if it would be one song — there’s too many people, I wouldn’t be able to do a full set anyway – but I could see myself potentially performing. One of the joys of my life that I’ve missed is playing with a band. I love playing with the cats. If I get to play with the cats again at the Rock Hall of Fame, that will be fantastic. Whatever way I get to play or sing with a band — hang out with a band and be up there onstage — that’s just the best part of both aspects of my career.”
While King somewhat retired from music in 2012, she re-recorded a 1977 composition in 2018, “One,” to help combat the toxic political climate. And though she feels better about the world these days, she’s careful to point out that it’s “complicated.”
“We have so much work to do on so many fronts,” King says. “I would remind people, because of how many decades I’ve been around, history has a funny way of doing horrible, awful things and then sometimes we have really good times. And history does that and all we can do is to try and be on the right side of it. Unfortunately, some people who are hateful think that’s the right side. You just go along and try to make the world a better place in whatever ways you can. You try to focus on love and what’s really good about people, because there are so many good people in the world, and that’s what keeps me going.”