Published May 22, 2013
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is showing singer-songwriter Carole King that she has friends at the White House.
In the East Room on Wednesday night, Obama is presenting the 71-year-old singer-songwriter with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. She is the first woman to receive the award given by the Library of Congress.
King made famous such hits as "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "You've Got a Friend."
Several friends from her five decades in the music business will be on hand to perform in King's honor, including Gloria Estefan, Billy Joel, Jesse McCartney, Emeli Sande, James Taylor and Trisha Yearwood.
King is expected to perform, too.
She told The Associated Press that it's a tremendous honor to be recognized with a place in history she never would have expected, and to have it happen at such a historic venue.
Past recipients of the prize include Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.
"It is yet another of the many important messages to young women that women matter, women make a difference," King said in the AP interview. "That popular music is recognized by the Library of Congress as being worthy of a place in history is especially significant to me."
As her memoir, "A Natural Woman," began to sell last year, King hinted that she would like to retire. But she since has gone on tour in Australia and plans to sing at a benefit concert for Boston Marathon bombing victims.
She also plans Wednesday to introduce a song co-written with Hal David, titled "I Believe in Loving You." She told the AP she plans to release the song as a single next month to honor David, a Gershwin prize recipient who died last year.
"I'm hoping that this will become a song that people will want to play at their weddings," she said in the interview. "It's so romantic. Hal is such a great writer, and his words live on forever."
King now says she's too busy to retire. She recently received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and a Broadway musical based on her life is in the works.
King got her start in music while growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and wrote her first No. 1 hit at age 17 -- "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" for the Shirelles -- with then-husband Gerry Goffin.
Her breakout 1971 album "Tapestry" remains one of the best-selling records of all time. It is the first female solo album to reach Diamond status, surpassing 10 million copies sold. The album included No. 1s "It's Too Late" and "I Feel the Earth Move," as well as "You've Got a Friend" recorded by Taylor.
More than 1,000 artists have recorded hundreds of King's songs, including The Beatles, Mary J. Blige, Cher, Phil Collins, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand and many others.
James Billington, the librarian of Congress, said that's part of what makes King so remarkable.
"When the Beatles got off the plane, the first person they wanted to meet was Carole King when they first came to America," he said Tuesday at a Library of Congress tribute for King. "She was kind of a phenomenon among the performers themselves. That's an important endorsement."
In 1990, King and Goffin were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Wednesday's tribute is the latest in the "In Performance at the White House" series. It will televised nationally by PBS stations on May 28.