Talent and Honesty



Carole King – A Natural Woman – A Memoir, by Carole King


The famous many of my generation are now writing memoirs trying, I think, to explain their lives more to themselves than to their fans and other readers. Of course, a number of the memoirs I’ve posted on here have been by the musicians of my age – some of these to put a positive spin on their somewhat dysfunctional lives, others to blame friends, family, and outside forces for the obstacles said memoirists seem not to have surmounted. Carole Kind seems here to have done a bit of all of these things.


This memoir traces her life from a New York Jewish kid with smarts and insecurities to age eighteen, when she marries her favorite songwriting partner Jerry Goffin, and has her first Top Ten hit song recorded. In one sense her life becomes ho-hum after that; in another, she begins a slow progression of musical and performing expertise, of an ability to deal with men, particularly four husbands, and of finding out who she is in a psychological/spiritual sense. In the arena of entertainment, of course, longevity usually equates to success, and by her accounting, Ms. King has managed to make of her life a slowly fructifying success.

Her writing here is somewhat cautious and pre-planned in places (no big surprise for a Tin Pan Alley songwriter). In others she is both charming and confessional. Her biggest confession here is that of a physically abused wife by her third husband, something she clearly found hard to write about. And in one poignant segment, when meeting Paul and Linda McCartney in Tokyo, for her first extended social with either, she begins to lament comparing the way  Linda seems to make Paul both proud and happy while Carole can’t help but think of her string of ultimately unhappy husbands.


Of the memoirs I’ve read by musicians of my era, this one seems to strive more for the essence of memoir – understanding one’s life. That takes honesty and true writing talent, things Ms. King seems to have worked hard to manage.


My rating: 16 of 20 stars



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