It's Too Late (Carole King song)

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"It's Too Late"
Single by Carole King
from the album Tapestry
A-side "I Feel the Earth Move"
Released April 1971
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Soft rock, doo-wop[1]
Length 3:51
Label Ode Records
Writer(s) Carole King, Toni Stern
Producer(s) Lou Adler
Certification Gold (US)
Carole King singles chronology
"He's a Bad Boy"
"It's Too Late"/"I Feel the Earth Move"
"So Far Away"/"Smackwater Jack"

"It's Too Late" is a song from Carole King's 1971 album Tapestry. Toni Stern wrote the lyrics and King wrote the music. It was released as a single in April 1971 and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. Sales were later certified Gold by the RIAA. Billboard ranked "It's Too Late" and its fellow A-side, "I Feel the Earth Move", as the No. 3 record for 1971.

Music and lyrics[edit]

The lyrics describe the end of a loving relationship without assigning blame.[2] Music critic Dave Marsh noted the implicit feminism in the fact that the woman has left the man.[3] Marsh also remarked on the maturity of the theme.[3] Music critic Robert Christgau claimed that "if there's a truer song about breaking up than 'It's Too Late,' the world (or at least AM radio) isn't ready for it."[4] Marsh describes the melody as Tin Pan Alley and the arrangement as a cross between light jazz and "L.A. studio craftmanship."[3] Rolling Stone Magazine stated the King's "warm, earnest singing" on the song brought out the song's sadness.[5] According to author James Perone, the feeling of the song is enhanced by the instrumental work of Danny Kortchmar on guitar, Curtis Amy on saxophone and King on piano.[2] Kortchmar and Amy each have an instrumental solo.[2]

The sadness of the song is emphasized by the music being in a minor key.[6] Perone also notes several melodic techniques King uses in the song which helped make the song such a hit. She builds the melody out of syncopated rhythmic motifs which are modified and combined over the course of the song, in contrast to many songs in which the rhythmic phrases are simply repeated.[2] Perone also believes that she makes the melody easy to remember by establishing the highest note in the melody by repeating it several times before the melody descends to the tonic.[2] This establishes the highest and lowest notes in the listeners ear, aiding recognition.[2] An important element of the melody from an emotional standpoint is that rather than ending on the tonic, as most songs do to establish a final resolution, "It's Too Late" ends on the mediant, which is related to the tonic but still leaves a sense of inconclusiveness.[2] This effectively contrasts with the lyrics, which imply that the singer has fully accepted the end of the relationship.[2]

Toni Stern said to Sheila Weller that she wrote the lyrics in a single day, after her love affair with James Taylor was over.[7][8] The recording won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1972, and the song is included on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.


Additional musicians

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by


"It's Too Late" has been featured in Hollywood films, including Fandango (1985), The Lake House (2006), and Invincible (2006).

Awards and recognition[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Gloria Estefan version[edit]

"It's Too Late"
Single by Gloria Estefan
from the album Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
Released June 1995 (1995-06)
Format CD Single
CD Maxi single
Recorded 1993-1994
Genre Pop
Length 03:57
Label Epic
Gloria Estefan singles chronology
"Everlasting Love"
"It's Too Late"
"Cherchez La Femme"

"It's Too Late" was the third promotional (U.S.), and fourth overall single released by Gloria Estefan on her fourth studio album Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.

Formats and track listings[edit]

U.S. CD Promo Single (ESK 77877)
  1. "It's Too Late" (Radio Mix)
  2. "It's Too Late" (Album Version)
  3. "It's Too Late" (Piano Mix)
Australia CD Maxi Single (662020 2)
  1. "It's Too Late" (Radio Mix)
  2. "It's Too Late" (Album Version)
  3. "It's Too Late" (Piano Mix)
  4. "Cherchez La Femme" (Doom Dub)
  5. "Cherchez La Femme" (Piano Mix)

Official versions[edit]

Original versions
  1. Album Version — 3:57
  1. Piano Mix - 3:38
  2. Radio Mix - 3:19


  1. ^ "Counterbalance No. 66: Carole King's 'Tapestry'". PopMatters. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Perone, J.D. (2006). The Words and Music of Carole King. Greenwood Publishing. pp. 34–35. ISBN 9780275990275. 
  3. ^ a b c Marsh, D. (1999). The Heart of Rock and Soul. Da Capo Press. pp. 312–313. ISBN 9780306809019. 
  4. ^ Christgau, R. "Carole King". Retrieved 2014-04-15. 
  5. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Tapestry". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  6. ^ Dean, M. (2003). Rock 'n' Roll Gold Rush. Algora. p. 256. ISBN 0875862071. 
  7. ^ Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, volume 2. Scarecrow Press. pp. 326–327. ISBN 0810882957. 
  8. ^ Sheila Weller (2009). Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon - and the Journey of a Generation. Washington Square Press. pp. 325–328. ISBN 9780743491488. 
  9. ^ "Brother, Brother, Brother > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles" at AllMusic. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  10. ^ "Quartz - It's Too Late ft Dina Carroll". Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Various- 80's Re:Covered - Your Songs With The 80's Sound". Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  13. ^ "Item: 7739 - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  14. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  15. ^ a b c d Hawtin, Steve; et al. "Song title 422 - It's Too Late". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  16. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  17. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 7/17/71". 1971-07-17. Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  18. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1971". 1971-12-25. Retrieved 2016-07-27. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Want Ads" by The Honey Cone
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
double A-side with "I Feel the Earth Move" (Carole King version)

June 19, 1971 (five weeks)
Succeeded by
"Indian Reservation" by The Raiders
Preceded by
"Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters
Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single (Carole King version)
June 26, 1971 (five weeks)
Succeeded by
"You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor