Taylor Swift had the first word at the 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night in Cleveland.
After opening remarks by Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation President John Sykes, Swift took the stage at Rockey Mortgage Fieldhouse in a glittering, form-fitting outfit to sing a vibey, electronic-flavored rendition of Rock Hall inductee Carole King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” the 1960 Shirelles No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit King wrote with her first husband, Gerry Goffin, and also recorded for her own Billboard 200 chart-topping Tapestry album in 1971. King and Goffin were inducted into the Rock Hall as songwriters in 1990; on Saturday, King was inducted a second time, as a performer. After Swift’s performance, King mimed wiping tears from her eyes and bowed in thanks.
In her induction speech, Swift spoke about being raised by parents “who taught me the basic truths of life as they saw it,” among them that “Carole King is the greatest songwriter of all time.” That included a father who once told a woman he was dating that King’s breakup ode “It’s Too Late” was a song that she reminded him of. Swift added that King’s lyrics “speak to the true and honest … It is only right for them to be passed down like precious heirlooms from parents to children.”
She also saluted King for “navigating the politics of an era that didn’t make space for a female genius. Slowly but surely Carole King worked to create one, and it will be hers forever.”
After thanking Swift “for carrying the torch forward” and calling her “like my professional granddaughter,” King paid tribute to Goffin and other collaborators and supporters, including Tapestry album producer Lou Adler and James Taylor, as well as musicians, managers and others.
“I keep hearing it, so I’m gonna have to try to own it, that today’s female singers and songwriters stand on my shoulder,” said King. “Let it not be forgotten they also stand on the shoulders of the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. May she rest in power — Miss Aretha Franklin,” she said, to a huge ovation from the arena crowd. King then introduced Jennifer Hudson, start of the Franklin biopic Respect, who delivered a powerhouse version of the King-written Franklin hit “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (which King also later recorded for her own Tapestry).
“Ms. Franklin was the one who inspired me; she said ‘Jennifer, always use your voice,’” Hudson, who co-wrote “Here I Am” with King for Respect, told the crowd. “And it was Miss King who told me to use my words. ‘Your voice means nothing if you can’t have your words.’ That means so much.”
King, joined by longtime backing musicians Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar and Russell Kunkel, and their band the Immediate Family, closed the segment with her “You’ve Got a Friend,” which had the audience singing along.
The Rock Hall inductions were filmed by HBO and will be aired starting Nov. 20.
Watch a clip of Swift’s live rendition of King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” below.
SHES SMILING SO MUCH YALL I CANT DO THIS LOOK AT TAYLOR LOOK HOW HAPPY SHE IS pic.twitter.com/n6jrvgkegf
— tayte⸆⸉ (@longlive2am) October 31, 2021