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Carole King Honored With Gershwin Prize at White House Ceremony

Singer-songwriter becomes first woman to receive the award

Carole King and President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC.
Yuri Gripas-Pool/Getty Images
May 23, 2013 10:30 AM ET

Carole King was was presented with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at the White House last night by President Obama, who called the singer-songwriter a "living legend," The Associated Press reports.

"It is yet another of the many important messages to young women that women matter, women make a difference," King said in an interview with the AP. "That popular music is recognized by the Library of Congress as being worthy of a place in history is especially significant to me."

Carole King Musical Aims for Broadway

King became the first woman ever to win the Gerswhin Prize, which is given by the Library of Congress each year. Previous recipients include Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. King accepted the award on behalf of the co-writers she worked with throughout her career, including Hal David and Gerry Goffin, who helped her craft such classic songs as "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "You've Got A Friend."

Held just two days after a tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, President Obama spoke of rebuilding and recovery, and the role music can play in that process: "Eventually, life will go on and new memories will be made. New laughter will come. New songs will be sung," he said. "And that's often why we turn to music during trying times, for comfort and for inspiration, and sometimes just for a good diversion."

King opened the show playing the piano before taking a seat next to the president and Vice President Joe Biden; she closed the ceremony as well with a duet of "You've Got a Friend" alongside James Taylor. Gloria Estefan, Trisha Yearwood and Emeli Sandé further honored King with a rendition of her "Will You Love Me Tomorrow."

King also performed "I Believe in Loving You," she co-written with Hal David, a Gershwin Prize recipient who died last year: "I'm hoping that this will become a song that people will want to play at their weddings," she said of the track, which she hopes to release as a single. "It's so romantic. Hal is such a great writer, and his words live on forever."

At 71, King seemed ready to retire last year following the release of her memoir A Natural Woman, but has since toured Australia and is set to perform at a benefit concert for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

"I still feel that it would be lovely to retire, but that time is not yet here apparently," King said.

Last night's tribute was a part of Obama's "In Performance at the White House" series, and the show will air on PBS on May 28th.

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