Carole King wrote this with Toni Stern, a free-spirited painter and lyricist from Los Angeles who complemented King very well. Said Stern: "I'm sure there was a California quality in me that appealed to Carole. She was moving from a familial, middle class lifestyle to Laurel Canyon, where she started to let her hair down, literally and figuratively. We worked off our contrasts."
Stern would usually agonize over lyrics, but she wrote these very quickly. Stern also worked with King on the Tapestry track "Where You Lead."
This intimate song is a great example of the singer/songwriter sound that King helped popularized. Over a moody melody, King sings about how she realizes her once-promising relationship is over. While she's putting on a brave face, she's feeling tormented inside.
This was released as the B-side to "I Feel the Earth Move." After a few weeks of continuous airplay with "I Feel the Earth Move," many DJs all over the States decided to give "It's Too Late" an equal amount of airplay. Soon, it came to the point where everyone preferred "It's Too Late," which ended up topping the charts by May of 1971. "I Feel the Earth Move" never charted.
In the "You're So Vain" vein, this song was rumored to be about James Taylor, who was good friends with King and played on the Tapestry. In early 1971, Taylor and King toured together with King the opening act. Many people tended to think that this song was about a short romance between the two. King never confirmed these rumors, and Taylor later dated and married Carly Simon.
Toni Stern, however, did have a relationship with Taylor and wrote the lyrics after they broke up and he moved on to Joni Mitchell, but she won't confirm it's about the troubadour. "I won't say who 'It's Too Late' is about," she told Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us. "I don't kiss and tell."
This song won a Grammy for Record Of The Year in 1972. In addition, her song "You've Got a Friend" won a Grammy for Song Of The Year, and her album Tapestry won Grammys for Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.
Some people saw a political message in this song, as the idealism of the '60s had faded and the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968 had left a young generation jaded, believing that "It's too late" to change things.
Other artists who have covered this song include Gloria Estefan, Denise LaSalle, Johnny Mathis, The Stylistics, Kyle Vincent and Andy Williams.
Suggestion credit: Jerro - New Alexandria, PA, for all above
This was used in the 2006 movie The Lake House starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves.
Suggestion credit: Erik - Fairfield County, CT
Curtis Amy played sax on this song, and his wife at the time, Merry Clayton, sang backup on some songs for the album. Amy played the sax solo on The Doors' "Touch Me."
Amy Grant recorded this for the 1995 album Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute to Carole King.
I think that the idea of the lyrics of the song came from the song 'Hello It's Me' written and recorded in 1968 by Todd Rundgren's band 'Nazz'. But it was not a hit. So Todd recorded again in 1972 as a solo artist and released and became a big hit. That means Noone seemed to know about the song until 1972. I think Carole knew about the song before 1972. Because there is a story in common on both songs and it goes like this. 'There is something wrong here between us'. The story is impressive and I think you can't miss! The traces remain, too!
David from Sydney, AustraliaThe first two chords in this song are just great, they set up this classic song.
Christy from Santa Barbara, CaI was about 6 years old when "It's Too Late" came out. The lyrics were very upsetting to me because I thought the song was about a miscarriage! My mom was pregnant at the time, and she had explained to me that sometimes babies die in their mommy's tummies (she wanted me to be prepared just in case). I just pictured a mommy staying in bed because she was sick and didn't want the baby to go away... yep, I was a weird kid---took things way too literally!! I would cry every time I heard the song and I finally told my mom "I don't want my little brother/sister to die!!"
Esskayess from Dallas, TxAmy Grant covered this song on the 'Tapestry Revisited" album in 1995. A few years later, it became autobiographical for her.
Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThis was the song that put Carole King on the map as a singer-songwriter after co-writing many hits for other artists with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin. It turned out to be a classic that I never get tired of hearing. I also enjoy Gloria Estefan's version a lot. One night when my girlfriend and I were driving to her place from a softball game, we heard Estefan's rendition on one of the satellite stations and then when I was driving home, the 70s station played King's big hit.
Dane from Lima,ohio, Fl"Still I'm glad for what we had,& how I once loved you"That does it for me every time.Very adult,very sad.Great piano too.My favorite song by her.
Butch from Strongsville, OhIf I was to list all the "one of the best songs of all time" referenced in these comments on this site and others, the list would be endless. "Best", like maybe No. 2,359,533? I myself would rank this one at No. 4,793. If that can be construed as "one of the best", so be it.
Paul from Washington Dc, DcI remember when I bought "Tapestry" with my allowance money back in '71. Driving home from the shopping mall, my mom semi-jokingly asked me, "What did you waste your hard-earned money on this time?" so I handed it to her, she looked at it for a moment and went "Hmm--well..." and handed it back to me. "Just don't blast the roof right off of the house with it", she said. Indeed. Anyway, "It's Too Late" is without a doubt the finest "breakup" song ever written. The influence of Billie Holiday is quite evident here. It's amazing how many beautiful songs have been written which have their genesis in such profound sorrow.
German from Costa Mesa, CaNo way... ain't nothin' like the real thang baby! Nothin' tops Carole's version in my humble opinion. The chords that end the song on piano are as soothing and tragical as it can get.
Jane from Austin, Txi prefer Gloria Estefan's version too.
Musicmama from New York, NyNow we come to #9 on my all-time list. It's one of the best-written songs I've heard: every verse resonates. And the understated arrangements only underscore the power of this song--and Carole King singing it.
Guy from Woodinville, WaYES! One of the best songs of all time! Carole King's consistent brilliance over so many years really peaked with this one! The poignance of an ending love affair is captured here better than anywhere words in any medium I've ever seen. It's because music can uniquely capture our emotions so much better than other media. And Carole proves it here! Also, it's from one of the top rock albums of all time. Tapestry is right up there with Who's Next and Sgt. Pepper.
Joe from Monroe, NyOne of the best songs of all time. Carole King & Toni Stern captured the spirit of the early 70's and combined it with a Santana-ish sax riff AND a 60's girl group chorus........absolutely brilliant work !
Joycemorrison from Phi actually like this more than "You've Got A Friend". although lyric wise, the latter is more "universal". but the wistfulness and sentiment and emotional regret of "It's Too Late" really cuts me up.
Silverado from Green Bay, WiCarole King is on of the most successfull female songwriters of the rock era. Wrote several hits with he husband of 10 years Gerry Goffin in the early 60's.
Jameson from Lexington, KyBeautiful song, no matter who sings it -- while I love Carole singing it, I think I prefer Gloria Estefan's version just a little better, though they're almost identical.