By Susan Horsburgh
October 15, 2001 12:00 PM

Growing up the daughter of Carole King had its benefits in the late ’60s—like coming home from school to find Monkees heartthrob Davy Jones sitting in your kitchen. “I’ll never forget it,” says Sherry Goffin Kondor, 39, the second of King’s two daughters with first husband Gerry Goffin. “My legs were watery. I told all my friends the next day, and the house became a shrine.”

Among pop songwriters it already was. King and Goffin, who met as freshmen at New York City’s Queens College in 1959, were a formidable duo, with a string of hits including the Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman.” That was before King hit the jackpot as a solo artist: Her 1971 album Tapestry sold 20 million-plus copies and remained the bestselling solo album by a female artist for more than 25 years. Now the 59-year-old grandmother of three has released her 24th album, love Makes the World, while daughters Sherry and Louise Goffin, 41, forge their own careers in the family business: Sherry has launched A Sugar Beats Christmas, the seventh in her series of children’s CDs, and Louise is about to release her fourth album, Sometimes a Circle, a collection of pop songs she cowrote.

It’s no surprise the sisters turned to music. King jokes that as a baby, Louise—currently seen in a Gap television commercial with Mom—”learned osrnotically about music,” gurgling away as her parents tinkered in recording studios. “I didn’t let the fact that I had a child slow me down,” says King. “I just brought her with me.” As the girls got older, they would pop into their parents’ writing room in the family’s “West Orange, N.J., home and “put our 2 cents into the process,” says Sherry. “I do remember saying, ‘I like that’ or ‘I don’t like that,’ and nobody saying, ‘Shut up.’ ”

In 1968 King and Goffin split. “It was amicable,” says Goffin, 62, who writes and produces music in L.A. “We had different career goals. She had to go out on her own.” King and the girls moved to L.A., and over the next decade she married three more times (King has two children with second husband Charles Larkey: Molly, 29, an artist in New York, and Levi, 27, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin). “Carole has gone through a lot of changes, a lot of it depending on who the man in her life was,” says Lou Adler, who produced her solo albums until 1978. “But her children were a constant. She was always consistent in the way she raised them.”

Louise and Sherry agree. “I never thought she wasn’t around,” says Sherry. “She was very there.” But the trio did have their differences. Louise, who began singing and writing her own songs at age 12, resented comparisons to her mother. “I was in denial,” she says. “I’d say, ‘No, I’m nothing like my mother.’ ” In 1984, after releasing two albums to lukewarm reviews, she moved to London and didn’t return for 10 years. “Every girl goes through a period when she pushes her mother away until she finds but who she is and then comes around to embrace her,” says Louise, who now lives in L.A. with husband Greg Wells, a songwriter, and their 2-year-old son.

Sherry’s musical ambitions were inspired by her own family—daughter Sophie, 11, and son Dillon, 14, her children with musician husband Robbie Kondor. It was during her pregnancy with Sophie that she got the idea for her Sugar Beats CD series, which features kids singing hits from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. “The fact that I could raise children and work was following in my mother’s footsteps,” she says. “She set an example of putting family first.”

And still does, they say. As the matriarch, King “really will drop everything and fly to you to make chicken soup,” says Louise. King, who is involved with a man she will not name, divides her time between an Idaho ranch and homes in Los Angeles and Manhattan. She says she takes pride in knowing her children have. found careers “where they excel, where they’re comfortable.” With her own new album, King has nothing to prove. “If it sells three copies or 3 million billion,” she says, “I will be happy.”

Susan Horsburgh

Maria Eftimiades in New York City