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BOOMER LIFE

By Annette Kurman

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Carole King’s Tapestry cover

BOOMER LIFE 1If you’re like me, you had the album Tapestry vertically lined up on a shelf, perhaps arranged alphabetically if you were a bit OCD and maybe even on a shelf created with several cement blocks. Maybe your parents even had a copy. Some considered it a ground-breaking generational crossover album.

But as you played the LP after its release in 1971, singing loudly along with Carole King while you examined the album cover, did you ever wonder how they got that cat to “pose” for the album’s cover photo?

I don’t know about you, but from my experience, I haven’t observed a cat doing anything it doesn’t want to do, especially for any length of time and especially for a photo shoot.

Before we get to her cat, Telemachus*, a short paragraph or two about Tapestry.

In 1972 we were already familiar with many of King’s (and ex-husband Gerry Goffin) songs that Aretha Franklin (Feel Like) A Natural Woman, 1967, and the Shirelles’ (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”), 1960, made into hits. Goffin and King became Brill Building songwriters, writing a large number of songs, including “One Fine Day” and “Up on the Roof,” which were top-five hits for The Chiffons and The Drifters, respectively. In 1962 they wrote “It Might As Well Rain Until September” for Bobby Vee. All told, Goffin and King wrote more than 50 Top 40 songs between 1960 and 1968. 

Now for the awards: Over 400 compositions, recorded by over 1,000 artists, 100 hit singles, more than 75 million albums sold.

NOW, back to the cat. Different from most album covers, King sat barefoot on the window ledge of her Laurel Canyon (of course Laurel Canyon) living room lit by natural light coming through the window while she was working on a tapestry.

In a piece written by Valerie J. Nelson in 2012:

“(A&M staff photographer) Jim McCrary was on the verge of shooting one of his most famous images when he stopped to ask singer Carole King if the cat sleeping across the room could be part of the tableau.

He remembered the results of a Kodak survey that found “after children, the most popular thing people photographed was their own cats,” he later said. “I saw a cat, and I wanted to get something good.”

When King confirmed to him that her Telemachus was tame, he carried the cat and its pillow to the window ledge and into the frame. “By the third click of his camera, the cat had slipped away, but McCrary had what he needed: a picture of both the barefoot songstress and her whiskered feline that became the cover of King’s landmark 1971 “Tapestry” album.”

Other photos taken from the session were of King seated on the window ledge, looking out the window and two close-up photos of her with legs drawn in, and one where she is working on a tapestry.


The awards and accolades

King’s Tapestry, in a first for a female writer/artist, earned four GRAMMY Awards® — Record, Song and Album Of  The Year as well as Best Pop Vocal Performance.

Tapestry has been certified 14× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in the US,[5] and has sold an estimated 30 million copies worldwide,[6] making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. In 2000, it attained number 74 in Colin Larkin‘s All Time Top 1000 Albums,[7] and in 2020, it was ranked number 25 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[8] 

The album remained on the Billboard charts for 313 weeks (second only to Pink Floyd’s 724 weeks with The Dark Side of the Moon).[18] 

For more than 40 years, Tapestry held the record for the longest charting album by a female solo artist in the US until Adele‘s 21 broke the record in 2017.

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Perhaps the most famous tabby cat on earth,” King wrote. “Telemachus, in Greek Mythology, is the sone of Odysseus and Penelope, who is a central character in Homer’s Odyssey.

Tapestry frequently appears on critics’ lists of the best albums. It ranked 36th both in 2003 and 2012 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, moving up to No. 25 in a 2020 update of the list. The album was also listed by VH1 at number 39 on their list of 100 Greatest Album and was one of 50 recordings chosen to be added to the National Recording Registry, recordings selected to be preserved in the Library of Congress as they are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”[36] Based on such listings, Acclaimed Music ranks Tapestry as the 69th most acclaimed album in history.[14] 

King was featured in Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter in PBS’s “American Masters.”

As an aside, you may recall watching “Gilmore Girls” with your daughters;  Where You Lead,” was chosen as the Gilmore Girl’s theme song. 

More Carole (born as Carole Joan Klein)

Carole King’s mother taught her basic piano skills when she was 3. At age 4, her mother started giving her real music lessons, including technique and music theory. By the time she was in high school, she formed a band called the Co-Sines and made demo records with her friend Paul Simon. After high school, she went to Queens College where, at 17, she met and married Gerry Goffin in 1959. They also became writing partners as well, with King focusing on the music and Goffin, on the lyrics. 

While still in high school, she had a relationship with Neil Sedaka, who wrote the song “Oh! Carole” for her, and so her husband wrote a playful response: “Oh! Neil.”

When Goffin cheated on King, their relationship started to fall apart. In 1965, they moved to West Orange, New Jersey, where they wrote the song “Pleasant Valley Sunday” for The Monkees, a commentary on life in suburbia. Their writing association concluded following the collaboration on “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman.” Although they both moved to California, King headed to Laurel Canyon, known at the time as a haven they both moved to California, with King specifically heading to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, which, at that time as a haven for songwriters.


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You can reach Annette Kurman at annettekurman@gmail.com

           

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About this Author

Annette Kurman

A native of Philadelphia with baccalaureate degrees in journalism, nursing, as well as an MBA from now defunct Daniel Webster College, Nashua, her endeavors in various roles and industries — as well a very supportive husband — once again bring her to the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”