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King's career began in the 1960s when she, along with her then husband Gerry Goffin, wrote more than two dozen chart hits for numerous artists, many of which have become standards. She has continued writing for other artists since then. King's success as a performer in her own right did not come until the 1970s, when she sang her own songs, accompanying herself on the piano, in a series of albums and concerts. After experiencing commercial disappointment with her debut album Writer, King scored her breakthrough with the album Tapestry, which topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks in 1971 and remained on the charts for more than six years.
In 2000 Billboard pop music researcher Joel Whitburn named King the most successful female songwriter of 1955–99 because she wrote or co-wrote 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100. King wrote 61 hits that charted in the UK. In 2005 music historian Stuart Devoy found her the most successful female songwriter on the UK singles charts 1952–2005.
King has made 25 solo albums, the most successful being Tapestry, which held the record for most weeks at No. 1 by a female artist for more than 20 years. Her most recent non-compilation album was Live at the Troubadour in 2010, a collaboration with James Taylor that reached number 4 on the charts in its first week and has sold over 600,000 copies. Her records sales were estimated at more than 75 million copies worldwide.
She has won four Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her songwriting. She is the recipient of the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the first woman to be so honored. She is also a 2015 Kennedy Center Honoree.
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