King became the first woman to win the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The prize was created by the Library of Congress in 2007 to honor George and Ira Gershwin.
The president compared King to the brothers.
"Like the Gershwins, it's not just that Carole lives the music," Obama said. "It's that music lives in her."
"I want to start by thanking all the incredible artists who have joined us to pay tribute to the one and only Carole King," Obama said as he welcomed performers and guests.