Taylor heard this song for the first time in November 1970, when he played a week of shows at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. By this time, his album Sweet Baby James
had taken off, and Taylor was drawing large crowds. He asked his good friend Carole King to be his opening act, and King grudgingly accepted - she wasn't used to playing her own songs live and was very nervous.
King had written "You've Got a Friend" for her upcoming Tapestry
album, and during soundchecks, she played the song while Taylor listened in the balcony.
Later, during a recording session for his Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon
album, Taylor had some studio time left over after recording two songs that day. His producer, Peter Asher
, suggested they take a crack at "You've Got a Friend," so Taylor and his band recorded the song.
It sounded great, but Taylor didn't want to steal King's song out from under her, so Asher called her with the bold request to let Taylor record the song, which was clearly destined to be a hit. King graciously granted permission, and Taylor's version was released as a single, going to #1 in the US. This worked out well for King, however, since it became a lynchpin of her Tapestry
album, and while she never released her version as a single, the album sold over 10 million copies in the US.