The song was written by Carole King and first released on her famous 1971 album Tapestry. James Taylor also released it on his 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. He also released as a single, backed with “You Can Close Your Eyes.” King says that this was one of those songs that practically wrote itself. It was inspired as a response to the line in Taylor’s song “Fire and Rain,” that states “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.” King’s album was recorded around the same time as Taylor’s. They both have King, Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, and Joni Mitchell playing on them.
Taylor’s single of “You’ve Got a Friend” rose to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. It was #2 in Canada, #4 in the U.K., and #14 in The Netherlands. The song won Taylor a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and King an award for Song of the Year. There have been numerous covers, including ones by Dusty Springfield, Michael Jackson, Anny Murray, and Donny Hathaway, just to mention a few.