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Alicia Keys
January 09, 2014 04:45 PM

Every year, the Recording Academy chooses a recipient for its annual MusiCares Person of the Year award, in honor of a musician’s creative achievements and charitable works.

When it was announced that this year’s honoree would be four-time Grammy winner Carole King, whose 1971 seminal album Tapestry has sold over 25 million copies worldwide (and who is the subject of a current Broadway musical called Beautiful), PEOPLE asked if Alicia Keys could say a few words about King, 71, whom she considers both an inspiration and a friend.

Keys, 32, herself a 14-time Grammy winner who is currently up for the R&B album of the year, readily agreed.

When I think of Carole King, I think of one of the most significant inspirations of my life. She is pure, powerful and one of the greatest songwriters of all time! I swear when I sit down at the piano to sing and play “Natural Woman,” I can only daydream about the moment in her life that ignited what I would call a perfect song. It gives me chills.

She reminds us that a woman alone at a piano can be as powerful as a 30-piece orchestra or an electrifying rock band. Her legacy is enduring and her albums will be passed down to generations almost as a rite of passage.

Carole and I are connected in so many ways – growing up in New York, discovering music at an early age, and our shared desire to find a deeper truth about life on the keys of a piano. I am so grateful to her for all, the inspiration she’s given me, I’ll never be able to thank her enough. And when I think about the fact that I can call her a friend, I almost faint!

For more of Alicia Keys’s heartfelt tribute to Carole King, see the Grammy Insider section in the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

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