Her creativity and confidence led the New York girl born Carol Klein, beginning at 15, to write the songs that were a major part of the soundtrack of a turbulent time. Songs like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and “A Natural Woman, ” co-written with her husband Gerry Goffin, helped women remake themselves when Mad Men mores still dominated society. Later, her 1971 album "Tapestry" revealed her own performing gift as singer-songwriters were coming of age in pop music.
In 1975, King left what she considered the shallow world of southern California, to move to Idaho, pioneering a route tens of thousands would follow in the next three decades. From Robie Creek to Burgdorf north of McCall and, finally, to Robinson Bar near Stanley, King grew into the life of an Idahoan, and still calls the state home today.
King’s new memoir, "A Natural Woman," which she has been writing for years, tells how a Queens girl was able to get in on the ground floor of rock and roll in the Brill Building music machine of the early 1960s and rise to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, winning multiple Grammy awards with songs like “It’s Too Late,” “I Feel The Earth Move” and “You Got a Friend.”
Remarkably, King, who always sought to protect her private life, reveals relationships with her four husbands that were unsettling and sometimes painful. Goffin suffered mental health issues that forced King to become a single mother. Her third husband, Rick Evers, brought her to Idaho and, she reveals in the book, physically abused her regularly.
In one of the most dramatic pages in the book, King writes what she said was more difficult to acknowledge: “I stayed.” She told the story so that other women in similar circumstances can relate and perhaps find their own way out of abusive relationships.
Her gutsy introspection adds a new chapter to her pioneering life.
For Idahoans, the real treat is her own story of life here. She lived with Evers up Robie Creek on Ashton Creek with three of her four children. There she washed away the pretentions of urban life and fond solace in the hot springs, rocks and trees.
After Evers died of an overdose in 1978, she moved to a cabin in Burgdorf living with an outhouse, cooking game on a wood stove, milking goats and homeschooling her children. She met and married carpenter Rick Sorenson, whose living arrangement on his mining claim on the South Fork of the Salmon River gave him the name “Teepee Rick.”
Together they moved to Robinson Bar Ranch in the White Clouds in 1981. The old stage stop brought King’s lifestyle back into the 20th Century, but set up a dispute that unfortunately defined for many Idahoans the celebrity in their midst.
The road that ran through the ranch and right past her front door had been taken out of public use decades before, she had been told, but she allowed her neighbors to use it when they asked. Even though another open road skirted the ranch, Custer County decided to challenge her and declare the road public.
Instead of looking at King as the consummate Idahoan, fighting for her property rights and liberty, the commission and many people in Challis viewed her as an outsider closing them off to their public lands. I spoke to King several times through this period and you could hear the frustration in her voice as she described the legal battles.
It comes through in her book as well. She explains how the Idaho Supreme Court eventually resolved the issue in her favor. Her efforts to reach out to Custer County residents, like when she brought local children to her pool for swimming lessons, have healed much of the old rancor.
King and Sorenson eventually parted and she has had Robinson Bar up for sale for several years. But she still calls Idaho home in the book and in the many interviews she has done to promote A Natural Woman.
She stops short of telling the story I know best, of her environmental advocacy. The story of her fight to pass the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, which she has waged since 1990, is for another time, she said.
Ultimately, King returns to her life as a musician, the life she has shared with several generations. We have found our own solace with her songs and piano playing in the background.