Songs You Didn’t Know Carole King Wrote
via Carole King/YouTube
A Prolific Songwriter
Before launching a successful career as a solo artist, Carole King used to work as a staff songwriter at the Brill Building. It goes without saying that she has immense talent in that department, and in fact, she wrote or co-wrote 118 hits that landed on the US Billboard Hot 100 and 61 that charted in the UK.
As a tribute to this iconic singer-songwriter, let’s revisit some of the songs you probably didn’t know she wrote.
10. “He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)” – The Crystals (1962)
Looking back, we have no idea who gave this song the go signal. It’s disturbing to say, the least. Written alongside King’s ex-husband Gerry Goffin, the pair wrote this after learning that their babysitter and American pop singer “Little Eva” Boyd was being beaten by her boyfriend. Although it received some airplay, there was public outcry even back then.
King looked back and noted, “I wrote the music to ‘He Hit Me (and It Felt Like A Kiss).’ Obviously, I’m complicit in having written that song. I kind of wish I hadn’t written any part of that song, but Gerry wrote that lyric. … And I think in some ways – I’m only speculating – that for some women that may be the only manifestation of what they perceive as love. And that’s certainly true for the woman in that song. And you know, that’s all wrong. So, again, that’s one song I kind of wish I hadn’t had any part of writing.”
9. “Take Good Care of My Baby” – Bobby Vee (1961)
Co-written with Gerry Goffin, Bobby Vee’s producer Snuff Garrett heard King recording a demo version of “Take Good Care of My Baby”. Publisher Don Kirshner liked it but thought it needed an introductory verse so Goffin and King wrote it. The song was a massive success for Vee, peaking at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and spending three weeks in that spot. It also dominated the charts in other countries.
8. “Go Away Little Girl” – Steve Lawrence (1962), The Happenings (1966), Donny Osmond (1971)
Co-written with Goffin, this was originally recorded by Bobby Vee. Three cover versions became top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. There was a bit of controversy after an article in The New York Times accused the song of being about underage girls.
7. “Chains” – The Cookies (1962), The Beatles (1963)
From the Goffin-King songwriting partnership, it was a hit for girl group The Cookies and became a favorite of The Beatles – not only did the Fab Four include it in their setlist for but they also recorded it for their debut album. George Harrison took over the lead vocal duties.
6. “Porpoise Song (Theme From ‘Head’)” – The Monkees (1968)
From King and Goffin, it featured the psychedelic vibe of the ’60s. According to director and producer Bob Rafelson, “Carole King was living in an apartment building on Sunset Boulevard, and I went to her apartment every day, and we would sit and we would talk. That song was critical to me. ‘A face, a voice, an overdub has no choice.’ In other words, the whole synthetic process of making The Monkees’ records was about to be [examined] in the movie. They are constantly being picked up, used, transplanted, subjected to influence by the [guru], by the war, by the media, and all of these things are exposed. They are always [portrayed] as the victims of their own fame. That’s what I chose to make the movie about…. It was Carole or Gerry’s idea to record live porpoise sounds and use them on the track. That’s what you hear [at the end of the song]. I just thought that they were the appropriate people. It is far and away my favourite Monkees’ song.”
5. “Up on the Roof” – The Drifters (1962)
King came up with the tune while she was driving and then asked Goffin to write the lyrics. Goffin told Ken Emerson, “Carole came up with the melody in the car – an a cappella melody. I said, ‘How about a place to be alone?’ She says, ‘My secret place.’ So the song was originally called ‘My Secret Place.’ I said, ‘No, that’s no good. How about ‘Up on the Roof’? It was imaginary – maybe something that I copped out of West Side Story.”
4. “If It’s Over” – Mariah Carey (1991)
Written alongside Mariah Carey, King recalled to USA Today: “It was a true collaboration. I’d come up with an idea. She’d come back with something else. In the end we came up with what we both think is a wonderful song. I love her voice. She’s very expressive. She gives a lot of meaning to what she sings.”
3. “I’m Into Something Good” – Herman’s Hermits (1964)
A Goffin-King collaboration, it’s the debut single of Herman’s Hermits. King revealed that she found inspiration from Brian Wilson. She said, “I make no bones about it, that song was influenced by Brian’s music.”
2. “Don’t Bring Me Down” – The Animals (1966)
A solid hit for The Animals, it’s a Goffin-King composition. Frontman Eric Burdon told SongFacts, “I didn’t realize that it was a Goffin, King song until I was in a doctor’s office in Beverly Hills and Ms. King came in and sat next to me. I didn’t know it was her, I was just reading a magazine and she turned to me and said, ‘You know, I hated what you did to my song.’ I didn’t know what to say, so all I said was, ‘well, sorry.’ and then as she got up to go into the doctor’s office, she turned around and said, ‘but I got used to it.'”
1. “The Loco-Motion” – Little Eva (1962), Grand Funk Railroad (1974), Kylie Minogue (1988)
Little Eva was Goffin and King’s babysitter who was paid $35 a week to look after daughters Louise and Sherry. King wrote in her 2012 memoir A Natural Woman, “Though ‘The Loco-Motion’ alludes to dance movements, neither Gerry nor I had envisioned an actual dance. Eva had to invent one for personal appearances. Standing beside a locomotive for publicity photographs, with ‘The Loco-Motion’ playing on loudspeakers, Eva moved her body that day in imitation of the arm that drives a locomotive, and a dance was born.”