Taylor Swift celebrated the singular songwriting of Carole King, describing her work as “precious heirlooms,” while inducting the legendary singer-songwriter into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Saturday, Oct. 30.’
“Her songs speak to the true and honest feelings that everyone has felt, is currently feeling, or hopes to feel one day,” Swift said. “So it is only right for them to be passed down like precious heirlooms from parents to children, from older siblings to younger, and from lovers to each other. These songs come to you from somewhere else — a loved one, a friend, the radio. And then, suddenly, they are partly yours.”
This marks King’s second time entering the Rock Hall, as she was first inducted back in 1990 as a non-performer along with her former husband and songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin. This year, she’s being inducted as a performer, making her the third double female inductee (after Stevie Nicks and Tina Turner), as well as the first woman to join as both a performer and non-performer.
In inducting King this year, Swift was able to repay the favor from when King presented her with the Artist of the Decade Award at the 2019 American Music Awards. In thanking King that night, Swift said, “My parents are here tonight and they would listen to Tapestry and all your other records in high school… when they had my brother and I, they played those records for us. When I fell in love with music, it was right around when I realized how marvelous it was an artist could transcend so many different phases and changes in people’s lives. You taught me that’s a possibility.”
Read the full text of Swift’s speech at the Rock Hall below.
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know Carole King’s music. I was raised by two of her biggest fans, who taught me the basic truths of life as they saw it: That you should treat people the way you want to be treated, that you must believe that you can achieve whatever you want to in life, and that Carole King is the greatest songwriter of all time.
There have been times when any fan’s dedication to the artist they love can complicate things in their personal life. For example. My dad once told me a story from when he was in college and a girl he was just starting to date flirtatiously asked him if there were any songs that made him think of her. He instantly responded with his absolute favorite song, which was ‘It’s Too Late’ by Carole King — not taking into consideration that the lyrics include lines like ‘Something inside has died and I just can’t hide and I just can’t fake it.’ Shockingly the relationship didn’t work out. But if it had, I wouldn’t be here tonight.
I grew up dancing around the living room in socked feet to the sounds of Carole’s soulful voice, her infectious melodies and lyrics that I, a seven-year-old, thought had been crafted for my exact, specific life experience. I listen to Carole’s music now and feel that same tingle of recognition. Her songs speak to the true and honest feelings that everyone has felt, is currently feeling, or hopes to feel one day. So it is only right for them to be passed down like precious heirlooms from parents to children, older siblings to younger, lovers to each other. These songs come to you from somewhere else — a loved one, a friend, or the radio. And then, suddenly, they are partly yours.
The purity to the music she creates exists between two worlds: the mysterious magical inspiration and decades of hard-earned, and hard-learned, craftsmanship. Just because Carole King makes what she has accomplished look so effortless doesn’t mean it has been. She started out writing songs as a staff songwriter in the legendary Brill Building when she was a teenager and a young mother. She wrote hits for other artists and if I try to list them all, I will be here all night. But the lyrics and melodies Carole has written have been sung by legends like Aretha Franklin, the Drifters, the Monkees, Mariah Carey, James Taylor, and the Beatles — two of whom we are lucky enough to have in this very room tonight.
Later in her songwriting career, Carole had to be coaxed to step out front and perform her songs herself. And what a moment in music history that was. With Tapestry, she became one of the most successful female artists of all time. Her persona on Tapestry feels like listening to a close friend intimately sharing the truths of her life so that you can discover the truths of your own. It feels like sage wisdom, gentle comfort, and reassurance that you aren’t alone in this life. It was a watershed moment for humans in the world who have feelings and for cats who had big dreams of one day ending up on iconic album covers.
Carole taught artists like me that telling your own story is worth the work and struggle it takes to earn the opportunity for your story to be heard. That musical connection can be generation spanning. She created the purest works of love and strength and catharsis while navigating the politics of an era that didn’t make space for the idea of a female genius. Slowly but surely, Carole King worked and worked until she had created one. And it will hers forever.
She is an immensely generous artist in every sense of that term. She has given us all so much. And that’s why I’m so moved and honored to be here this evening to give something back to her. Carole, please accept your well deserved place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.