OK, so I’ve mentioned that my wife is my best friend once or twice previously. But Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” belongs on the blog for reasons beyond that (and beyond the fact that we’ve sung along with it innumerable times).
For one thing, the song was a #1 hit for James Taylor, one of Joanna’s favorite performers (his version here). Also, we’re big fans of King’s singing, and we once lived not far from her in Idaho (keeping in mind that “not far” in the West means something entirely different than it does “back East”). You can see some photos of her in Idaho on her website.
Finally, King is an amazing songwriter, producing a range of songs that most people have no idea were hers. Besides Taylor, others who had hits with King songs included the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, the Shirelles, the Everly Brothers, Dusty Springfield, the Chiffons, Bobby Vee, Little Eva, Steve Lawrence, the Drifters, Herman’s Hermits, the Byrds, the Monkees and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Her songs have been part of two great movies: “Wasn’t Born to Follow” in “Easy Rider” (1969) and “Now and Forever” in “A League of Their Own,” 23 years later. No wonder she’s in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
There are some nice versions of “You’ve Got a Friend” in which King is joined by others. She and Taylor have performed it together many times. And years ago, a televised version featured King with Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain.
Lyrics here, with nice live Carole King video below.
Ten days ago I featured the “Queen of Gospel” — so now how about the “Empress of Soul”? Gladys Knight & the Pips were a 1970s R&B group that I enjoyed while in high school, and no doubt innumerable couples have considered “You’re the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me” to be “their song.” It’s also another one that Joanna and I have sung along with many times while on the road.
Many people may not know or remember that Gladys Knight & the Pips weren’t the first to have a hit with the song, written by Jim Weatherly (who once quarterbacked a national championship Mississippi football team). A country version by Ray Price topped the country charts in 1973, a year before the GK&P released theirs. Crooners Dean Martin and Steve Lawrence apparently also did it in 1973, followed by Andy Williams in 1974. (Interestingly, even Weatherly’s own website and the article linked above seem to have the order of the Knight and Price recordings wrong.)
It’s no wonder that so many artists and others liked the song. I assume that every guy in a happy marriage feels that his life would be much less happy — and much less successful — without his wife, and probably almost every happily married person can identify with the opening verse:
I’ve had my share of life’s ups and downs
But fate’s been kind, the downs have been few
I guess you could say that I’ve been lucky
Well, I guess you could say that it’s all because of you
For the rest of the song, check out the lyrics here, or the video below.