"You've Got a Friend" is a 1971 song written by Carole King. It was first recorded by King, and included in her album Tapestry, although the better known version is by James Taylor from his album Mud Slide Slim, which was released as a single in 1971, and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The two versions were recorded simultaneously in 1971 with shared musicians.
"You've Got a Friend" was written by Carole King during the January 1971 recording sessions for her own album Tapestry, and James Taylor's album Mud Slide Slim. King has stated that "the song was as close to pure inspiration as I've ever experienced. The song wrote itself. It was written by something outside myself, through me." King's album was recorded in an overlap with Taylor's, and King, Danny Kortchmar, and Joni Mitchell perform on both. The song is included on both albums; King said in a 1972 interview that she "didn't write it with James or anybody really specifically in mind. But when James heard it he really liked it and wanted to record it".
Taylor's version was released as a single, and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The James Taylor version also spent one week at the top of the Easy Listening charts.Billboard ranked it as the No. 17 song for 1971.
During the recording process, Taylor also offered to his Apple Records labelmate Mary Hopkin a chance to record the song, which she turned down, a decision she later said she strongly regretted.
According to author James D. Perone, the song's themes include an expression of "a universal, sisterly/brotherly, agape-type love of one human being for another, regardless of gender." The "reassuring" lyrics have long made the song popular with lonely people needing a boost of self-confidence. The song's messages of friendship having no boundaries and a friend being there when you are in need has universal appeal. For Taylor the lyrics had particular resonance due to the depression he had recovered from shortly before hearing King play the song. The music moves between a major and minor key, which according to music critic Maury Dean gives the song a "sympathetic mood."
In his review of Tapestry, Rolling Stone Magazine critic Jon Landau called "You've Got a Friend" Carole King's "most perfect new song." He particularly praised how the melody and lyrics support each other, and the "gorgeous, righteous rock melody" of the ending lyrics.Mojo Magazine considered the song to probably be "the core of Tapestry.Allmusic critic Stewart Mason commented on the "plainspoken intimacy" of King's performance. Mason finds that the "shyness" of King's voice gives her recording of the song a sincerity that he finds Taylor's to lack. Mason also praises the "depth and shading" provided by the string instruments on King's recording.
In his review of Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, Rolling Stone critic Ben Gerson described "You've Got a Friend" as an "affirmative song," but suggested that James Taylor's version was too similar to Carole King's original version to have been worth including on his album. Music critic Maury Dean describes Taylor's performance style for the song as minimalist and folkish and comments on his "star-spangled sincerity."
The song was recorded by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway for their 1972 album Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, and was released as the album's first single. The single was released a year before the album was, and coincidentally was released on the same date as James Taylor's single: May 29, 1971. The Flack and Hathaway version reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #8 on the R&B chart.
In 2004, English R&B singer Javine released her cover of the song as half of a double A-side single, along with a cover of "Don't Walk Away". Her recording was included in the soundtrack for the 2004 film Garfield.