Swift reassured the audience with a rendition of King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” wearing a blonde, black body that matches the night’s formal tone.
After the first few bars, the “Cardigan” singer looked out into the crowd with a cunning smile and briefly stuck her tongue out between her teeth to shut them in for a surprise.
The best part was when the camera panned to King among the audience, showing her dry tears and silently channeling her gratitude to the songwriting superstar on stage.
“I want to thank Taylor – thank you for the amazing achievement. And also thank you for carrying the torch,” King said during his introductory speech.
“I can not believe it was Carole King who gave me this award,” Swift said at his acceptance. “My parents are here tonight and they would listen to all your records in high school.”
Jennifer Hudson also honored King with her own rendition of “Natural Woman” at the induction ceremony, which King wrote but was made famous by Aretha Franklin.