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#2 1971 Lyrics Icon Videos Icon

"It's Too Late"
Carole King
Ode 66015

Carole Kingn 1957, Carole Klein was a Brooklyn high school student with more than a passing interest in a local combo called the Tokens. Although warned by her parents that they were a bad influence, she steadily dated their lead singer -- a pudgy young pianist named Neil Sedaka. In emulation, she formed her own group, the Cosines, and even adopted a professional name -- Carole King.

Sedaka finally left the Tokens and went out on his own as a soloist. Meanwhile, Carole enrolled at Queens College, where she met fellow student Gerry Goffin, who enjoyed matching his lyrics to her melodies. Before long, they quit school, got married, and signed with Neil's publisher, Aldon Music, as staff songwriters.

Gerry and Carole were assigned a small, one-bench, one-piano cubicle, similar to those shared by the other cogs in Aldon's hitmaking factory -- Sedaka and Greenfield, Barry and Greenwich, Lieber and Stoller, and Mann and Weil. Over the next eight years, the fusion of Goffin's words and King's music would result in three dozen Top 40 hits, running the gamut from passionate surrender to vengeful fury. The simple, direct, highly personal romanticism of their songs was tempered, but not undermined, by their own New York street sense. Gerry and Carole's talents were in full flower from the very start, as their first effort, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," became a #1 smash for the Shirelles in 1960.

Week of June 19, 1971

1. It's Too Late
Carole King

2. Rainy Days & Mondays

3. Want Ads
Honey Cone

4. Brown Sugar
Rolling Stones

5. It Don't Come Easy
Ringo Starr

Goffin and King broke up -- professionally and personally -- in 1968, with Carole moving to L.A. to rebuild her career. She lacked confidence in herself and was terrified of "forgetting the words" in live appearances. James Taylor offered encouragement and took her along with him on the road. She played backup piano.

In December 1970, James introduced Carole to his audience at Toronto's Massey Hall. Accompanying herself on the piano, she got through ten songs and earned a rousing ovation. A solo album was made, Writer, and for the first time, Carole began thinking of herself seriously as a lyricist, as well as a composer. She credited James Taylor as a major influence: "James has a strong but gentle quality about his lyrics, and it was like that opened up that side of me, and I felt another way to go. It resulted in Tapestry."

Carole King - Tapestry

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The album Tapestry, released early in 1971, included "I Feel the Earth Move," an upbeat example of Carole's resilient piano technique. It was chosen as the A side for a single. As a flip, the company picked "It's Too Late," a medium-tempo lament of resignation. Many observers feel that "It's Too Late" was inspired by a short-lived romance with James Taylor, who later was to court and marry Carly Simon. Carole has never said; but then again, she's hardly ever said anything to the press.

"I Feel the Earth Move" got air play right away; but then, after a few weeks, deejays discovered the brooding power of the record's B side. Before long, both tunes were getting heavy exposure, with a decided listener preference for "It's Too Late." By June the single was topping the charts, and on July 21, it was certified gold by the RIAA.

"It's Too Late" went on to win a Grammy Award as Record of the Year. The album it came from, Tapestry, won two: Album of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The Grammy-winning Song of the Year, "You've Got a Friend," was also featured on Tapestry (although the hit version, with Carole on piano, was cut by James Taylor).

Tapestry was a record-breaking record in every sense of the word. It stayed on the album charts for over six years, selling more than 13 million copies. Until 1976, it was the largest-selling album ever.

One other single was pulled from Tapestry -- "So Far Away," backed with "Smackwater Jack." Predictably, both sides became major hits. After that, Carole cut seven more albums for Ode, all of which eventually went gold. From them came the singles "Sweet Seasons" and "Been to Canaan" (1972); "Believe in Humanity" and "Corazon" (1973), "Jazzman" (1974), "Nightingale" (1975) and "Only Love Is Real" (1976). In 1977, "Hard Rock Cafe" became a Top 30 hit on her own label, Avatar.

 Reader's Comments

Cecil Smiggins

The article appears to suggest that Carol King wrote the lyrics to It's too late. She did not. Tony Stern did. And wonderfully poignant and dignified lyrics they are, too

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