For my book writing course, I am reading and really enjoying Girls Like Us, Sheila Weller's joint biography of Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Carly Simon. It's a page-turning, deeply-reported account of how female musicians in the sixties and seventies exploded popular notions of what was appropriate for women to write and sing and speak publicly about. There was Joni Mitchell's "Little Green," a love song to the daughter she had out of wedlock and gave up for adoption; Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," an unmarried girl's cautiously hopeful--and wonderfully frank--ballad about entering into a sexual relationship; and Carly Simon singing "Nobody Does It Better," which Radiohead's Thom Yorke (decades later) called "the sexiest song ever written." (Watch this very 1980s Carly performance. He was sorta right.)
All three women experienced more than their fair share of heartbreak, but I was particularly moved by the story of Carole King's difficult early twenties. Her first husband and songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin, was not only a manic-depressive addict, but had an open affair--and a child--with Jeanie Reavis (stage name: Earl-Jean), a pop/soul singer with a gorgeous, smooth voice. It was Carole and Gerry who co-wrote Earl-Jean's classic hit, the love song "I'm Into Something Good."
Carole found out about the affair and the baby, but didn't immediately leave Gerry. In fact, Goffin and King--by then hugely successful songwriters--bought a house in their white, suburban New Jersey neighborhood for Reavis to live in with her husband, their kids, and the new baby girl.
Both marriages (surprise, surprise) eventually disolved, and Carole moved to Los Angeles, where she launched her massive solo folk-rock career. And I maintain that her own performances of her songs are the classic ones--they are just so deeply felt. Here is one of my all time favorite love songs.