Yesterday came the announcement we all look forward to in the Music Division: the naming of the next Gershwin Prize recipient! Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced singer-songwriter Carole King as the next recipient of the distinguished Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The Gershwin Prize “celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding,” and Carole King established herself decades ago as both a versatile songwriter and a performer who effectively communicates on a most personal and intimate level. She began writing songs in the later 1950’s/early 1960’s with her then-husband Gerry Goffin for a diverse array of artists including The Shirelles (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”), The Drifters, (“Up on the Roof”), Little Eva (“The Loco-motion”), The Monkees (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”), and Aretha Franklin (“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”), among others. After over a decade of writing hits that other artists popularized, King experienced the public limelight with the release of her solo album Tapestry in 1971. Tapestry spoke to a wide audience – the album became the most popular, best-selling album of that early 1970’s period. To date, more than 400 of Carole King’s compositions have been recorded by more than 1000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles – many of them reaching no. 1.
The Library of Congress holds printed sheet music, songbooks, and unpublished copyright deposits registered by King. This past year King published her memoir, A Natural Woman: A Memoir, and our collections also include the book You’ve Got a Friend: Poetic Selections from the Songs of Carole King, edited by Susan Polis Schutz. There is certainly plenty of material to explore as we prepare for events honoring King next spring. For more information about Carole King and the Gershwin Prize, take a few minutes to read yesterday’s press release.