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Tapestry: by Loren Glass

Loren Glass opens his entry to the 33 1/3 series with an introductory chapter recalling the impact of Carole King’s landmark album Tapestry on his own life. Here Glass situates King and her work in a transforming culture by placing the album in relation to the transformations he experienced: Glass’ mother left his father, came out as a lesbian and joined the women’s movement in California in 1970, the year before Tapestry was released. Maintaining strong relationships with both of his parents, Glass, along with his sister, was swept up in the consciousness-raising and alternative lifestyle of his mother’s community. He notes that he still has his mother’s copy of Tapestry on vinyl and tears up on when he hears the chorus of “It’s Too Late.”

Glass’ narrative creates a credible space in which he can write about the album and the deeply personal way that many fans feel an attachment to it. In the last chapter, he mentions some of the posts on King’s official website that marked the 48th anniversary of the album’s release. His commentary fit neatly into this fandom, which is central to his discussion of why Tapestry still resonates with fans, even those born well after the album’s release. Working to articulate how a solo album composed and performed by a single woman who chose not to tour because she wanted to stay at home with her daughters requires cultural context, and Glass effectively tells the story of Tapestry by telling King’s story as well.

King is considered an iconic singer-songwriter, but her career began composing pop hits with her first husband, Gerry Goffin. Among their best-known collaborations are “Up on the Roof,” “The Loco-Motion” and “One Fine Day.” Glass outlines King’s career as moving from writing songs for radio airplay to writing lyrics and music for herself, which corresponds to her move from New York City to the Laurel Canyon neighborhood in Southern California and her move to becoming a single mother. Finding her place in Laurel Canyon meant writing and performing with artists including James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Danny Kortchmar, who all became part of King’s inner circle. For Tapestry, Taylor sang backing vocals on “You’ve Got a Friend” and recorded his own version of the song, which became a chart-topping hit for him.

Like many of the other songs on Tapestry, “You’ve Got a Friend” paints King as a gentle, easygoing friend, expressing a sensibility that listeners could relate to, finding that it correlated with their own feelings about friendship. This is the case with much of the album, leading listeners to make it their own in whatever ways they saw fit. The concerns and emotions in King’s songs connected deeply with her listeners, in part because the speaker was an independent woman, determined to experience love, sexuality and friendship on her own terms. The songs are not anthems of the women’s movement; rather, they served as a soundtrack.

Glass recognizes two complementary paths to the album’s popularity. First, the tracks that were released as singles had so much airplay that when “you brought the album home and put it on the turntable it already felt familiar.” He also argues that Tapestry’s release coincides with a cultural moment that makes a distinction between singles/AM radio and albums/FM radio, in which albums evolved into conceptual, wholly planned musical experiences. The idea of sitting down to thoughtfully engage with an entire album may seem quaint now, but in the early 1970s was seen as a culturally relevant practice of appreciating music.

Glass details the album’s tracks with regard to inspiration, meaning, reception and legacy. Tapestry’s legacy plays a crucial role in understanding its significance. Not only is it an album that has been passed down from mothers to daughters and from friend to friend, it is also an album full of songs that have been covered by other artists for the last 50 years. The publication of Glass’ book coincides with the 50th anniversary of Tapestry, and for many listeners the music feels fresh while also feeling familiar.

In writing about Carole King’s subsequent albums, Glass seems remorseful that they were not terribly successful, although it is unclear whether the lack of success came from the albums being weaker or the critical reception being primarily negative. Nonetheless, the abiding popularity of (Tapestry not only continues but has been revived with King’s occasional but rare live performances as well as the publication of her memoir in 2012 and a Broadway play, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, the following year. In providing an effective history of King’s career and influence, Glass helps to make clear why the anniversary of Tapestry is worthy of celebration.

Summary
Glass’ narrative creates a credible space in which he can write about Carole King’s Tapestry and the deeply personal way that many fans feel an attachment to it.
83 %
Nostalgic & resonant legacy

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