U.S. President Barack Obama saluted Carole King's five decades as an award-winning singer-songwriter, calling her a "living legend."

Obama presented King with this year's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, an award given by the Library of Congress. She is the first woman so honoured and joins a list of recipients that includes Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

"I can't say it enough. I am so excited," the 71-year-old King said.

She accepted the honour on behalf of the co-writers who worked on some of her songs, a massive portfolio that includes such hits as (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and You've Got a Friend.

Several friends from King's decades in the music business performed in her honour, including Gloria Estefan, Billy Joel, Jesse McCartney, Emeli Sande, James Taylor and Trisha Yearwood.

King's breakout 1971 album Tapestry remains one of the bestselling records of all time. It is the first female solo album to reach Diamond status, surpassing 10 million copies sold. The album included No. 1s It's Too Late and I Feel the Earth Move, as well as You've Got a Friend recorded by Taylor.

It was the first album by a female artist to win all the top Grammy awards — for record, song and album of the year, along with the Grammy for best pop vocal performance.

"And as one of the bestselling albums of all-time, it cemented Carole's status as one of the most influential singer-songwriters that America has ever seen," Obama said.

More than 1,000 artists have recorded hundreds of King's songs, including The Beatles, Mary J. Blige, Cher, Phil Collins, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand and many others.

In 1990, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.