Tribute to a Natural Woman
No one in my family can pinpoint the gene that granted my siblings and me our musical talent, but it’s clear that my mother’s passions for literature and writing were passed directly down to me. I haven’t yet figured out how to weave both talents together, though I have always greatly admired anyone who can write powerful lyrics and set them to music. Carole King has been a constant source of inspiration and fascination to me since I first listened to “You’ve Got a Friend” in second grade and was entranced by the live performance of Beautiful in Los Angeles. As a young Jewish girl hoping to one day pursue music journalism, I have learned many lessons from King as both an artist and as a strong, independent female.
For the majority of last winter, my head was buried in A Natural Woman: A Memoir. This 500-page book gives a detailed account of Carole’s life: the highs and lows of a teenage student trying to sell her songs to a record label; the struggling young mother in an unhappy marriage; the divorcee raising her daughters as a single mother in world-famous Laurel Canyon while touring with her good friend James Taylor; and the newly married woman educating her daughters in the quiet landscape of Idaho.
What inspires me most about Carole is her ability to achieve her dreams (she is the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century) while also being the caring and attentive mother she was to her four children. During her decades of success, she did not lose touch with her previous identity as a struggling artist or with her obligations as a mother.
King’s lifestyle as a stay-at-home-mom/songwriter/pop star was highly unusual for a woman in the 60s. She did have the help of a babysitter for a while (Little Eva, who launched King’s catchy pop hit “The Loco-Motion” to unprecedented heights in the Motown industry), but once she moved to Idaho in 1977, she added “educator” to her long list of tasks and accomplishments. She homeschooled her daughter until she matriculated to Columbia University, while simultaneously campaigning for environmental rights, John Kerry, and the Democratic Party.
Her commitment to her family and to many worthy human rights causes amidst her extremely busy professional life resonates with me, as someone who pursues many different interests and supports a variety of organizations. She has shown me that it’s possible to maintain relationships with the people and causes that matter most to you, despite achieving fame.
I’m also inspired by the fact that, in her memoir, King openly shares her alarming reality of frequent physical abuse by her third husband, Rick Evers. I was shocked to find out that someone as poised and publicly confident as King had suffered such hardship and pain. It’s often very difficult for women to come forward and disclose such experiences, so it’s inspiring that a celebrity as respected and celebrated as King was able to pave the way for other women to safely open up about a disturbing and all-too-common statistic.
Though it’s usually people of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations who recall fond memories of listening to Tapestry on vinyl as teens, I can also proudly declare that this album is the soundtrack of my childhood. King has touched millions of people with her music and has changed many lives, including mine, with the stories she has told. She is my biggest celebrity role model, but she isn’t flashy or dramatized or anything but herself. I appreciate her authenticity, her pure talent, and her concrete efforts to do good in the world. She is a natural woman, and I wouldn’t want her any other way.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Corwin, Dorrit. "Tribute to a Natural Woman." 3 November 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 29, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/tribute-to-natural-woman>.