A Natural Woman

A Memoir

by Carole King

A Natural Woman

Paperback, 488 pages, Grand Central Pub, List Price: $16.99 | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
A Natural Woman
Subtitle
A Memoir
Author
Carole King

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Other editions available for purchase:

Hardcover, 488 pages, Grand Central Pub, $27.99, published April 10 2012 | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
A Natural Woman
Subtitle
A Memoir
Author
Carole King

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Book Summary

The legendary, award-winning singer, songwriter and pianist tells her life story — beginning with her childhood in Brooklyn, through her marriage to co-writer Gerry Goffin, her experiences as a mother, and what it was like to write and record Tapestry.

Read an excerpt of this book

Awards and Recognition

3 weeks on NPR Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller List

NPR stories about A Natural Woman

Carole King is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Richard Drew/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Richard Drew/AP Photo

Carole King is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Richard Drew/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Richard Drew/AP Photo

Carole King was in a doo-wop group called the Co-Sines when she was a teenager. Jim McCrary hide caption

itoggle caption Jim McCrary

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: A Natural Woman: A Memoir

In the first decade of the twentieth century a man and a woman from Poland, another man from Poland, and a woman from Russia undertook to cross a continent and an ocean with little more than a fierce determination to find a better life in America. They were my grandparents, and they found that better life in Brooklyn, New York. Had my grandparents not emigrated when they did, I might have been born Jewish in Eastern Europe during World War II, or I might not have been born at all. Instead, I was born in 1942 in New York City.

The story I heard was that when each of my grandparents landed on Ellis Island, an American immigration official wrote down his or her name. My paternal grandparents' surname, Glayman (pronounced GLYE-man), was written down as Klein, which means "small" in German. Though not German, my grandfather, David, was of small stature and, at four foot eight, his young wife, Mollie, was even shorter. Their DNA and the similar stature of my maternal grandparents would foreclose a prepubescent dream of at least one of their future American granddaughters. Predestined to reach a maximum adult height of five feet two inches, I would never grow up to become a tall, slender fashion model.

My name at birth was Carol Joan Klein. It would take me five decades to appreciate my surname and the history that came with it. Along the way I would add an "e" to Carol and acquire several more surnames.

Note to self: wanting to change your surname is not a good reason to get married.

My father's name was Sidney Klein. Everyone called him Sid. My mother's name was Eugenia Cammer. Everyone called her Genie. They met in an elevator at Brooklyn College in 1936. Dad was studying chemistry; Mom's majors were English and drama. They were married on October 6, 1937, after which my mother rechanneled her considerable ambition and intelligence into running a household on a weekly budget of fifteen dollars. My dad left college before graduating and worked briefly as a radio announcer, thereby setting the precedent of a Klein in front of a microphone. He didn't stay in that job very long. With job security on his mind during the Great Depression, he went into civil service and found his calling as a New York City firefighter.

My dad liked helping people and solving problems. He did both every time he pulled someone out of a burning building. My father's captain proudly described him to my mother as "always first on the nozzle," a revelation that brought little comfort to a fireman's wife. Though many of his colleagues died saving others, my dad lived for many years after his retirement. When I was very young, his shift at the firehouse kept him away from home for several days and nights at a time. I missed him, but the upside was that we were able to do things as a family on his days off. Sometimes we went to Coney Island, a short bus ride from our house, where Mommy and Daddy would sit on a bench nearby while I played in the cool, damp sand under the boardwalk. After a while I'd climb up onto the splintery wood and let Mommy brush the sand off me. Then I'd skip along the boardwalk between Mommy and Daddy, holding both their hands, until we arrived at the stand where Daddy always gave me a nickel to buy a huge sugary mound of cotton candy.

But the thing I remember most about Coney Island is Daddy, Mommy, and me crowded into one of those primitive audio recording booths to record my voice on a black acetate disc so they could preserve the moment for posterity. That was my first recording experience. I no longer have that disc, but I still remember my three-year-old baby voice saying, "My name is Carol Joan Klein, and I live at 2466 East 24th Street in Brooklyn, New York." I sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." And then I began to cry.


From "A Natural Woman: A Memoir," by Carole King. Copyright 2012 by Carole King. Excerpted with permission from Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group.

Reviews From The NPR Community

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.