1971 was a good year for female singer-songwriters. Make that the year, as the release of Joni Mitchell?s Blue and Carole King?s Tapestry – the quintessential albums of the nascent genre — made clear. Blue remains a touchstone for all pop poetesses who followed, yet Tapestry was nothing less than a commercial and cultural phenomenon. The question of why the latter touched the hearts (and pocketbooks) of so many listeners is raised once again by the new double-disc Legacy Edition of the classic recording. The answer may lie in the album’s dual nature. King tapped brilliantly into the zeitgeist, merging the confessional, feminist, and psychological/spiritual ruminations of a nation in flux (“You?ve Got a Friend,” “Beautiful,” “Way Over Yonder,” and the blatantly personal title track.) Yet Tapestry is also characterized by the seductive musical craftsmanship that had already established King as a legendary Top 40 composer. “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Where You Lead,” “So Far Away” are examples of gorgeous pop at its most polished and accessible. And it didn?t take a radical politico to parse the lyrics, or feel the earnest tug of the album?s doggedly optimist nature. Not to beg comparisons, but King was not about to spill blood or ponder the abyss as willingly as Mitchell did on her opus. But when has America been anything other than a dual-natured animal, its people longing for idiosyncratic expression and well-made comfort in equal measure? In that regard, King had her finger firmly on the nation?s pulse.
About the Author
Steve Futterman writes the "Jazz and Standards" listings for The New Yorker.