You've Got a Friend
"You've Got a Friend" is a 1971 song written by Carole King. It was first recorded by King, and included in her album Tapestry. Another well-known version is by James Taylor from his album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. His was released as a single in 1971 reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The two versions were recorded simultaneously in 1971 with shared musicians.
|"You've Got a Friend"|
Scandinavian single with "Beautiful" on the B-side
|Song by Carole King|
|from the album Tapestry|
|"You've Got a Friend"|
|Single by James Taylor|
|from the album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon|
|B-side||"You Can Close Your Eyes"|
|Format||7-inch 45 rpm|
|James Taylor singles chronology|
"You've Got a Friend"
"You've Got a Friend" won Grammy Awards both for Taylor (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) and King (Song of the Year). Dozens of other artists have recorded the song over the years, including Dusty Springfield, Michael Jackson, Anne Murray and Donny Hathaway.
"You've Got a Friend" was written by Carole King during the January 1971 recording sessions for her own album Tapestry, and James Taylor's album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. King has stated that "the song was as close to pure inspiration as I've ever experienced. The song wrote itself. It was written by something outside myself, through me." According to Taylor, King told him that the song was a response to a line in Taylor's earlier song "Fire and Rain" that "I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend." King's album was recorded in an overlap with Taylor's, and King, Danny Kortchmar, and Joni Mitchell perform on both. The song is included on both albums; King said in a 1972 interview that she "didn't write it with James or anybody really specifically in mind. But when James heard it he really liked it and wanted to record it".
Taylor's version was released as a single, and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The James Taylor version also spent one week at the top of the Easy Listening charts. Billboard ranked it as the No. 17 song for 1971.
During the recording process, Taylor also offered to his Apple Records labelmate Mary Hopkin a chance to record the song, which she turned down, a decision she later said she strongly regretted.[dubious ]
James Taylor and Carole King performed "You've Got a Friend" together in 2010 during their Troubadour Reunion Tour. In 2015, Taylor performed an acoustic rendition of the song at Hôtel de Ville, Paris at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in tribute to the victims of the January 2015 Île-de-France attacks.
According to author James D. Perone, the song's themes include an expression of "a universal, sisterly/brotherly, agape-type love of one human being for another, regardless of gender." The "reassuring" lyrics have long made the song popular with lonely people needing a boost of self-confidence. The song's messages of friendship having no boundaries and a friend being there when you are in need has universal appeal. For Taylor the lyrics had particular resonance due to the depression he had recovered from shortly before hearing King play the song. The music moves between a major and minor key, which according to music critic Maury Dean gives the song a "sympathetic mood."
In his review of Tapestry, Rolling Stone critic Jon Landau called "You've Got a Friend" Carole King's "most perfect new song." He particularly praised how the melody and lyrics support each other, and the "gorgeous, righteous rock melody" of the ending lyrics. Mojo considered the song to probably be "the core of Tapestry. Allmusic critic Stewart Mason commented on the "plainspoken intimacy" of King's performance. Mason finds that the "shyness" of King's voice gives her recording of the song a sincerity that he finds Taylor's to lack. Mason also praises the "depth and shading" provided by the string instruments on King's recording.
In his review of Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, Rolling Stone critic Ben Gerson described "You've Got a Friend" as an "affirmative song," but suggested that James Taylor's version was too similar to Carole King's original version to have been worth including on his album. Music critic Maury Dean describes Taylor's performance style for the song as minimalist and folkish and comments on his "star-spangled sincerity."
Carole King versionEdit
- David Campbell – viola
- Terry King – cello
- Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar – acoustic guitar, conga, electric guitar, vocals
- Charles "Charlie" Larkey – string bass
- Joni Mitchell – background vocals
- Barry Socher – violin
- James Taylor – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
James Taylor versionEdit
Dusty Springfield recorded the song in early 1971 during the sessions for her third Atlantic Records album Faithful. Her recording predates that of James Taylor, but it was shelved until 1999 when it was included as a bonus track on the 1999 Deluxe Edition of her first Atlantic album, the critically acclaimed Dusty in Memphis (which contained four Carole King compositions). Faithful went unreleased due to disputes between Springfield and Atlantic but the sessions were eventually issued as a standalone album in 2015.
The song was recorded by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway for their 1972 album Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, and was released as the album's first single. The single was released a year before the album was, and coincidentally was released on the same date as James Taylor's single: May 29, 1971. The Flack and Hathaway version reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #8 on the R&B chart.
This song was also recorded by Aretha Franklin for her 1972 live performance Amazing Grace, although was not released on that album. Consequently, this version of the song was not heard by a wide audience until the 2018 release of the documentary featuring film of those concerts, also titled Amazing Grace.
In approximately 1973 or 1974, the song was covered by Cambodian singer Pou Vannary with the lyrics translated into Khmer. Vannary's rendition is featured in the soundtrack to the 2015 documentary film Don't Think I've Forgotten.
"You've Got a Friend" was performed by Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Gloria Estefan, and Carole King at the VH1 Divas Live concert in Beacon Theatre, New York, 1998. It was released as a single and reached number 74 on the Belgian Flanders Airplay Chart.
In 2004, English R&B singer Javine released her cover of the song as half of a double A-side single, along with a cover of "Don't Walk Away". Her recording was included in the soundtrack for the 2004 film Garfield.
In 2005 British pop rock band McFly's cover of this song charted at number one in the UK Singles Chart This was released as a Double-A side along with the band's song All About You. This was also the official 2005 Comic Relief single.
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