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It’s never ‘Too Late’ to discover Carole King

William C. Curtis/Globe Staff

On the left is how Carole King must have looked around the time my mother fell in love with “Tapestry.” My mom was only 15 when that landmark record was released in early 1971, but she listened to it on a loop in college after hearing “It’s Too Late” on the radio.

Up until then my mother’s taste in music leaned toward the Beatles and Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.” King’s music was different — written for everyone, but from a woman’s perspective.

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“Her songs had meaning,” my mother told me recently, before she launched into the first line of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”: “Tonight you’re mine, completely,” she sang on the phone from her home in Illinois. “I used to listen to that and cry about your father.” (Spoiler alert: They got divorced.)

“Tapestry” became something of a soundtrack to my childhood, the one album my mother kept on cassette and transferred to every new car she got. I suspect I’m representative of how most people under the age of 35 discovered King. I remember long drives singing along to “I Feel the Earth Move,” hitting high notes that puberty would soon wipe out.

It was poignant, then, when I finally saw King in concert with James Taylor at TD Garden in 2010. (They’ll both be back there on May 30 for the Boston Strong benefit.) The songs that evening were familiar, even though I wasn’t even born when they were popular.

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As an adult, I suddenly heard that album in a new light, and King — the definition of growing old gracefully, seated at the piano and still sporting a nest of springy curls — seemed to savor and connect with the lyrics in a way that she probably couldn’t have as a younger woman.

I called my mother after that concert, and she was so happy I had seen King (above right, at the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony) even though she herself hadn’t. “Tapestry” resonates with her as much as it ever did. As recently as last week, she made a confession: “I still have that album on cassette in the car. Except my car doesn’t have a cassette player now.”

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.
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