Carole King back in the spotlight

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Carole King.

CBS

For millions of Americans, Carole King's songs are woven, like a tapestry, you might say, through the very fabric of their own lives.

As CBS Correspondent Russ Mitchell reports, the good news for Carole King fans is she is still at it. The pop icon is writing and performing and touring again, singing her heart out on what she calls the "Living Room Tour."

"I'm having so much fun, " King told Mitchell. "All I have to do is be myself and sing the songs and they love it."

As Carole King is happy to tell you, she's 63 -- and proud of it. And she has no problem listing some of the nicest compliments she's received over the years.

"'I love your song' or 'Your song really touched me' or 'Your song got me through my divorce' or 'We sang your song at our wedding'... 'My son and I became closer because of your song'," said the legendary artist.

For Carole King, serious song writing started early at Queens College, in New York. That's where she hung out with a couple of other aspiring young songwriters --Neil Sedaka and Paul Simon. And that's also where she met Gerry Goffin who would become her husband and her first collaborator.

Carole King recalls the first song they wrote together was "Will You Love Me Tomorrow." Carole was 18 and her husband was 21.

"That was the one that allowed Gerry to quit his day job," she said.

"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" was a hit for the Shirelles in 1961. After that, it was just one hit after another. Carole King and Gerry Goffin were two full-time song writers -- with two little girls -- and dozens of hits.

King told Mitchell that generally she would write the melody and her husband would write the lyrics.

"Often I would write the melody first -- like up on the roof -- and he filled in the blanks," she said.

King estimates that she and Coffin have written 500 songs together -- including one for their babysitter.

"She actually could sing and we knew that when she came to work for us as our babysitter," said King. "We just got her to sing on the demo which we might've even written for someone else and that demo didn't get to anybody else."

The demo was for the song "Locomotion" and the babysitter, Eva Boyd, became Little Eva.

"We lost a babysitter... Guess who got all the work?" King joked. "I was writing songs and cleaning house and taking care of the kids, but oh well, that's the life of a woman."

Although the names of Goffin and King will be forever linked in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the marriage didn't last. Carole King began performing, overcoming her stage fright, and stepping up to the microphone, with a little help from a friend -- James Taylor.

"I used to worry about when an audience would like me or not and James Taylor helped me through because he introduced me to the audience in a way that they were gonna like me," said King.

King said that Taylor listed some of the audience's favorite songs. Then he revealed that the woman about to come on stage wrote all of them

"I call it 'pre-love'," said King of Taylor's introduction.

Carole King began writing the words, as well as the music, with lessons she had learned from Gerry Goffin.

"I sort of applied what he taught me -- say it truthfully and make it rhyme -- and it all sort of came out," said King. "It worked."

One of King's first solo efforts was a little album called "Tapestry," which spent 15 weeks at Number One -- and became one of the best selling albums of all time.

King says rather than getting swept up in trappings of fame, she chose to immerse herself in her family. She dropped out of the LA scene, moving to rural Idaho with her second husband Charles Larkey, with whom she had two more children.

Carole King says that while she tried not to pay attention to all the "static" around her, she admits that having an album on the charts for 350 weeks was cool.

Mitchell asked King how she managed to stay grounded.

"That has been my priority," she said. "I have always my whole life made having a life my priority."

Having a life has meant making time for her family, as well as campaigning for candidates, and causes, she cares about.

And she's still writing songs -- with guitarist Gary Burg.

"I feel lucky and gifted and it's not me saying like, 'Aren't I wonderful?' I say, 'Aren't I lucky?' I have a gift for music and I've been lucky enough to be in a position to share that gift with so many people."

After singing a generation of baby boomers through marriages and divorces and kids, Carole King is still out there showing us all how to rock on at 63!

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com