This was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. They were a married couple who helped shape the Brill Building sound, named for the famous building in New York City where many hits from the '60 were written and recorded. Ode Records owner Lou Adler, who worked closely with King and Goffin, said: "Gerry Goffin is one of the best lyricists in the last 50 years. He's a storyteller, and his lyrics are emotional. 'Natural Woman,' 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.' These are perfect examples of situations, very romantic, almost a moral statement. Coming out of the 1950s, with the type of bubble gum music, and then in 1961, Gerry is writing about a girl who just might let a guy sleep with her and she wants to know, 'is it just tonight or will you still love me tomorrow?' Goffin could write a female lyric. If he could write the words to 'Natural Woman,' that's a woman speaking. Gerry put those words into Carole's mouth. He was a chemist before he was a full time lyricist. He's very intelligent and obviously emotional."
Regarding the origins of the song, Adler added: "Last year (2007) I spoke to Jerry Wexler at his home in Florida, and he told me the story that Gerry was coming out of a building in New York, (Goffin now remembers it as an Oyster House), and Jerry Wexler is passing in a car, and yells out, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Natural Woman'?' They felt the title was so distinct and so important to the song that they gave him a piece of it. So, when I spoke to Jerry recently to call him on his 90th birthday, he said, 'Isn't it amazing what those kids gave me? The checks keep coming in and I'm really happy about it.' Knowing how much he added to the song, not really as a third writer but the title and the inspiration of what was to be, a great song."
The recording features the vocal talents of three Franklin sisters - Erma and Carolyn are singing in the background. Erma had a record deal in the '60s, but didn't have much success. Her biggest hit was the 1967 song "Piece Of My Heart."
Carole King recorded her own version of this song on her 1971 Tapestry album.
When Aretha Franklin performed this song in tribute to Carole King
at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, she brought the house down, wowing King and the many luminaries present, including Barack and Michelle Obama. The crowd rose to its feet when Franklin shed her fur coat to belt out the end of the song.
This was used on the TV shows Murphy Brown (in the 1988 episode "Respect" ) and Northern Exposure (in the 1991 episode "Animals R Us"). It was also featured in the movies The Big Chill (1983) and Street Smart (1987).
Several artists have covered this, including Peggy Lee, Freddie Hughes, Rod Stewart, and Celine Dion. Amber Riley also covered it on the 2014 Glee episode "Bash," and Mary J. Blige performed it during an appearance on the crime drama New York Undercover in the 1995 episode "Tag, You're Dead." Blige's version, found on the show's soundtrack, went to #95 on the Hot 100.
Carole King named her 2012 best-selling memoir, A Natural Woman, after this song.
The song landed at #79 on the UK singles chart in the week following Aretha Franklin's death. Surprisingly, Franklin's version of the Carole King-penned track had never charted in the UK before, though Mary J. Blige's interpretation did reach #23 in 1995.
Yolanda Adams, Andra Day and Fantasia performed this in tribute to Aretha Franklin at the Grammy Awards in 2019.