EXCLUSIVE: Believe it or not, musical legend Carole King is turning 80 years old on February 9, which just happens to be the day this year’s Oscar nominations are announced. King has had many career pinnacles in her songwriting and singing career including numerous Grammys, Kennedy Center Honors, and twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — first as a songwriter and then just last October as a solo performer. However, in her 60-year-plus career she has never been nominated for an Oscar.
This year, the original song from the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect that King collaborated on with star Jennifer Hudson and Hudson’s longtime songwriting partner Jamie Hartman, has been shortlisted for a Best Original Song nomination. What a nice birthday present it would be for King to finally add that honor to her long list of awards. The song is called “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home),” and it seems to perfectly sum up not only the great Queen of Soul’s career, but that of King and Hudson too.
Of course, Hudson was famously selected by Franklin to play her in this film, and King back in 1967 wrote the famous anthem “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” that helped send Franklin’s career into the stratosphere (and which Hudson sang for King when she was inducted again into the Hall of Fame last fall).
Because of Covid, this song had to be written over Zoom. How did they do it? For the first time you can see that first songwriting session as the trio meets and begins the process of actually creating a song, title and all. Watch the video above and see how it was done.
So how did it all come about? King told Deadline sister publication Variety about the initial call. “It was Zeke Lewis, your A&R, who brought us together, right, Jen?,” King said in an interview with Hudson. “He’s with Epic and thought that this would be a great combination, and the three of us [including Hartman, a longtime Hudson co-writer] just clicked at that first meeting, when we talked about ideas. Jennifer really contributed so much about Aretha and her understanding of the little girl Aretha that wasn’t heard. … She was an incredible person with so many incredibly painful experiences, and being not heard and being ignored… Respect is so the appropriate title of the movie, because she did not even have that.”
Hartman explained the rest of the process to Deadline.
“Yes as you can see, the song began there, in that first Zoom call.” he said. “The concept of ‘Here I Am’. The idea of Aretha not being heard. And Jennifer describing how she always felt that she sings her way home whenever she performs — and how that mirrored Aretha’s own life and experiences. These concepts were forming clearly in the conversation. We then Zoomed again the following week a couple of times and nailed down chords, melodies and lyrics as well as the structure, and Carole sang a demo reference of it on the piano. Then Jennifer sat with it and it was perhaps another couple of months before the whole song was complete — adding the front gospel section. After that, naturally it took a little longer to record with will.i.am, because of the nature and the process of recording remotely during the pandemic. The song was finally recorded with will.i.am and all of his carefully chosen live players in the studio in Los Angeles while Jennifer was on live Zoom singing a cappella from Chicago. The band followed her lead despite the latency and the distance — and that’s what you hear in the recording. Quite an astonishing feat.”
The song has been nominated for a Society of Composers and Lyricists Award, as well as a Grammy in the Song for Visual Media category, in addition to making Oscar’s shortlist to date. Hudson recently won a SAG nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture.
Click on video above to see the songwriting session, and click below to watch the video of Hudson singing the finished song.
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