Carole King is not only a key innovator (along with the late Laura Nyro) in the American female singer/songwriter movement. But her entire career mark puts her into the position of being an honorary queen of ivory soul. She began as a songwriter in NYC’s famous Brill Building-working with her than husband Gerry Goffin in writing such hits for black girl groups such as The Shirelles “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. King’s “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” also became famous by Aretha Franklin in 1967. After moving to Laurel canyon following her divorce,she became part of a new trio called The City.
This band introduced her to longtime guitarist Danny Kortchmar. After her solo debut Writer made little impact on the public,her sophomore set Tapestry not only broke her commercially,but became the blueprint for the female singer/writer of the early 70’s. It did so by employing heavy gospel/soul elements in uptempo songs like “I Feel The Earth Move” and the ballad “It’s Too Late”. Two albums later,she dived headlong into the soul/funk territory with her 1973 album Fantasy. One of its moderate hits was a song I am going to discuss today entitled “Believe In Humanity”.
King’s ultra bluesy piano stomp begins the song,along with a stomping bass line before the call and response drums of the refrain come in. These are somewhat reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” in approach. Before the similarly themed chorus,there’s a B-section with the horn section scaling up into that chorus. Kortchmar provides a high up on the neck guitar pluck on each piano/horn accent. The bridge takes takes the chords down a notch with King providing a jazzy piano lick before an extended instrumental chorus takes the song out on one elongated piano chord.
“Believe In Humanity” sets the stage for the socially conscious funky soul song cycle that is the Fantasy album. Its heavy,stomping horn funk all the way. With plenty of bluesiness and jazziness-right down to Harvey Mason’s mean slogging drumming. Lyrically the music carries it well-especially with the first line of “if you read the papers you may see history in the making”. It urges people to “listen to the case” as James Brown put it-instead seeking to gain actual human experience with stories through the media that might carry personal bias. That makes it superb message oriented “people music” funk.