James Taylor, Roberta Flack, Tori Amos, Joan Armatrading, Rufus Wainwright and more on the 70s masterpiece
The singer-songwriter genre was named around 1970, give or take, and was said to apply to me and, among others Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Jackson Browne. Why that supposed movement didn’t begin with Bob Dylan or even Woody Guthrie or Robert Johnson beats me – maybe they were still “folk”. But, if it means anything, Carole King deserves to be thought of as its epitome. I’d been deep into her songs – Up on the Roof, Natural Woman, Crying in the Rain – for a decade before Danny Kortchmar introduced us in Los Angeles in 1970. She played piano on my Sweet Baby James album while working on the songs for her own Tapestry. Our collaboration, our extended musical conversation over the next three or four years was really something wonderful. I’ve said it before, but Carole and I found we spoke the same language. Not just that we were both musicians but as if we shared a common ear, a parallel musical/emotional path. And we brought this out in one another, I believe.