‘Gilmore Girls’ creator Amy Sherman-Palladino on Carole King: ‘I’m grateful to her forever’

Carole King
Carole King circa 1971’s “Tapestry.” An updated version of the album’s “Will You Lead” was the theme song for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s breakthrough TV show, “Gilmore Girls.”
(Jim McCrary / Ode Records / Lou Adler Archives)

When I was growing up there were several records hanging around the house that were played on a loop. “Judy” by Judy Garland. “I’m a Woman” and “Waitress in a Donut Shop” by Maria Muldaur. The Eagles’ “Hotel California.” Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s “The 2000 Year Old Man.” And Carole King’s “Tapestry.”

Read into it what you want, but that is the soundtrack of my childhood.

I know I’m hardly the only person who learned every word of Carole’s perfectly crafted songs by heart before they really even thought about what kind of music they liked. I was fortunate. My parents basically said, “Here’s what good music is. Now don’t grow up and embarrass us. At least not with your musical choices.”

Carole King left her life in New York for L.A., and with the support of friends like James Taylor wrote “Tapestry,” one of the best-loved albums ever.

Feb. 4, 2021

And while Mel and Carl taught a young girl from the San Fernando Valley to love Borscht Belt timing so much that she actually found a way to earn a living later in life, it was “Tapestry,” which turns 50 on Feb. 10, and particularly the song “Where You Lead,” that dominated her plastic record player for many, many hours.


Cut to:

“Gilmore Girls.” My first important show (meaning the first one that wouldn’t get canceled after the pilot aired). We were wrestling with the main title conundrum. It had to have a theme song that said what the show was about.

Now, this was back in the day where shows still had theme songs, though they were becoming less important, especially as the commercials kept eating up program time. But I wanted a theme song. I loved theme songs. Archie and Edith singing “Those Were the Days” on “All in the Family” was as iconic as the show itself. It said everything about the characters, where they came from and the journey they were about to take you on. I wanted that.

Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham, left, and Alexis Bledel.
(Richard Foreman / the WB)

And I remember having many conversations about it, saying, “You know, it should be something like ‘Where you lead, I will follow.’ A song like that would set the stage perfectly.”

And after a thousand “something like that” conversations, someone suggested we just contact Carole. See if she’d let us use the song. I was shocked. It seemed crazy. She was a legend and we had a time slot against “Friends” and “Survivor.” It seemed like there was no way we were going to get her, or anyone who knew her, on the phone.

But somehow, we got word to her people who got word to her, and the next thing I knew I was on the phone with the loveliest person I could ever hope to meet. She said she wanted to remake the song into a mother/daughter valentine, changing the original theme from the journey of a woman following a man to two women devoted to each other. Was I cool with that? I threw up, passed out and then remembered long distance is expensive. Cool. Yes. Very cool. The coolest.


The next thing I knew she was rerecording it with her fabulous daughter, Louise Goffin, and a song that meant so much to me for as long as I could remember was now retailored (word? Sigh) to be an ode to the unending bond between a mother and daughter, their love of coffee and the ability to speak at warp speed. Well, the last couple of things were implied. The bottom line is that this wonderful song now was tied to my work. I have never felt so lucky and so honored.

The years passed, “Gilmore” went on. Carole actually played a character on it, flitting in and out throughout the seasons just to remind me what magic was. When we did our “Gilmore” movies for Netflix we asked her to come join us again. She did. She came to Stars Hollow and sat there in an unairconditioned town meeting for a thousand hours, chatting, laughing, not once using the “I’m a living legend, where’s my goddamn Diet Coke?” line like I would’ve — she was just one of us.

And then when the scene was done, she strolled over to the barely tuned piano in Miss Patty’s and sang “You’ve Got a Friend.” And I sat there in Burbank and cried. And not for the reason I usually cry in Burbank, which is because, you know, I’m in Burbank, but because that moment was exactly why I got into this business in the first place. To be in the presence of someone so special and gifted you feel nothing but anger and jealousy and an utter lack of worthiness.

It’s one of the top five moments of my life. I am grateful to her forever. For the music, for the moment, for “Tapestry.”

Sherman-Palladino is the Emmy-winning creator of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Bunheads.” She is currently shooting season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”