Meet the Writers Behind the ‘Gilmore Girls’ Theme Song

Gilmore Girls was one of the most popular teen shows of the early 2000s, and the theme song, “Where You Lead,” was written by one of the best songwriters in modern history, Carole King.

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As one of the most successful female songwriters of the 20th century, King’s name is behind more than 100 hit songs. She first rose to fame in the 1960s when she and her then-husband Gerry Goffin were a powerhouse songwriting duo, penning notable hits such as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Into Something Good,” the Chiffons’ “One Fine Day” and countless others. King’s musical prowess has earned her a series of distinguished honors, including induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, as both a songwriter and performer, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She’s also the first woman to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

King proved she had stamina on her own, particularly with the release of her sophomore album, Tapestry in 1971, which features the No. 1 hits “I Feel the Earth Move” and “It’s Too Late.” It’s since been certified 14 times platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA and is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having won Album of the Year at the 1972 Grammy Awards.

“Where You Lead” first appears on this universally acclaimed project, co-written by King and Toni Stern. The two became frequent collaborators, as Stern helped write “It’s Too Late,” in addition to “It’s Going to Take Some Time,” which was recorded for King’s 1971 album, Music. The song was later covered by The Carpenters on their 1972 album, A Song For You, which reached the top five on the Billboard 200. Australian artist Helen Reddy and 1970s psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock are among the other acts who have recorded Stern’s songs.

King got a call from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino nearly 30 years after the song’s original release, asking to use “Where You Lead” as the show’s theme. That’s when King contacted Stern to re-write some of the lyrics to capture the mother-daughter nature of the show. Stern made such changes as adapting the first few lines of the first verse, Wanting you the way I do / I only want to be with you, to instead say Loving you the way I do / I know we’re gonna make it through.

To further honor the show’s mother-daughter premise, King asked her daughter Louise Goffin to sing it with her. Following in her parents’ footsteps, Goffin is a singer/songwriter in her own right, releasing her debut album, Kid Blue, in 1979. Over the past two decades, she’s released a series of albums and EPs, most recently Two Different Movies in 2020. She’s also worked with her mother on numerous occasions, including singing background vocals on “Nightingale” on King’s 1974 album, Wrap Around Joy, and her 1977 album, Simple Things.

The mother and daughter recorded the new version in 2000 before the show debuted that same year. Goffin explained in a personal essay for Talkhouse how the opportunity came about. “But soon she came to the part where she told me that a couple she was friendly with, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, were creating a pilot about a mother and a daughter and thought it would be fitting to have my mother sing one of her songs from Tapestry with her own daughter for the theme,” Goffin describes of the phone call she got from her mother about singing “Where You Lead” together.

Goffin also recalled how her mother was hesitant to let them use the song for the show, as the original lyrics were more about a woman following a man. “My mom later confessed she had taken a break from singing ‘Where You Lead’ live because the meaning of the song may have, in the past, been interpreted as a woman singing to a man, and it didn’t have a message in that context that she felt she could get behind as an empowered woman,” Goffin explains. “With the song in the context of Gilmore Girls, it took a positive turn, and now with my mother and I singing to one another, it had a deeper meaning of love between a mother and her child.”

King also appears on Gilmore Girls as the character of Sophie, a music store owner in the fictional town of Stars Hollow. Both King and her daughter made special appearances in the four-part revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which premiered on Netflix in 2016.

Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

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