Singer-songwriter Carole King is a Kennedy Center honoree and has been inducted into both the Rock & Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame. For EW’s Best of 2018 issue, she spoke about the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin, who famously covered King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Aretha Franklin died in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., on Aug. 16 at age 76.
Gerry Goffin and I were thrilled to be able to write [“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for Aretha]. When we heard it, it was not only her magnificent voice, but the whole arrangement. It was very different than the demo I had made, and then there’s the version that I did on Tapestry, which is very different from her version as well. I mean, there’s just all these different ways to do it. Many great female singers have recorded it. But nobody can do it better than she can.
The only thing that topped the original was her performance at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015. She gave her all. After all these years, not only did she still have it, she had it and more. She came out and then she sat down at the piano, and my face just lit up. She’s one of the most gifted piano players. Period. But she didn’t [play that much publicly] in her later years. Then she dropped the mink coat — one of my friends who was down on the floor level said it dropped with a huge thud. After that, she just took the song to a new level. I was absolutely blown away. We didn’t really see much of each other but affection and respect was evident on both sides at that performance.
She is one of the purest vocalists. Many gospel singers don’t deign to go pop. She was happy to. When you hear her perform, what comes to you is the utter joy of that instrument, and she brought that to every performance of every song that she did, be it gospel or pop. She really loved to sing, and she really loved to play piano. She always saw her role as I kind of see mine, which is just show up and be the instrument. She had a profound influence on music and on humanity.