President Barack Obama presented King with the honour, which celebrates a lifetime achievement in popular music, at the White House in Washington.
King, 71, who is best known for penning hit songs such as Aretha Franklin's (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, was called a "living legend" by Mr Obama.
Several stars performed in her honour, including British singer Emeli Sande.
Grammy-award winner Gloria Estefan, American singer Billy Joel, and James Taylor, who had his first number one single with a recording of King's You've Got a Friend, also attended the event.
"I can't say it enough. I am so excited," King said.
The four-time Grammy winner co-wrote her first number one hit in 1960 aged 17 with Will You Love Me Tomorrow, recorded by The Shirelles.
Written with her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, the pair went on to pen hits including Take Good Care of My Baby, The Loco-Motion and Pleasant Valley Sunday.
As a solo artist, King became the first female solo artist to sell more than 10 million copies of a single album with her 1971 release, Tapestry.
It topped the chart for 15 weeks and spawned hits I Feel The Earth Move, It's Too Late and So Far Away.
Past recipients of the award include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul McCartney.
The ongoing media saga surrounding Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip to Cuba continued this morning on Today, with President Barack Obama finally weighing in on whether he or the White House gave the couple clearance to travel to the island nation.
Never one to take criticism lying down, Jay-Z released a track called “Open Letter,” rhyming that “Obama said, ‘Chill you’re going to get me impeached’ / You don’t need this s**t anyway, chill with me on the beach.”
This seemed like news to the president.
“I wasn’t familiar that they were taking the trip,” the president said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie that aired Wednesday. “My understanding is I think they went through a group that organizes these educational trips down to Cuba. You know, this is not something the White House was involved with. We’ve got better things to do.”
Indeed, it was revealed that the Treasury Department and not the White House authorized the excursion as an educational and cultural exchange. Prior to the reveal of that fact, a variety of Republican legislators, including Sen. Marco Rubio, threatened to open investigations into the couple’s trip. 21 Jump Street director Phil Lord was also, um, not especially pleased with the rapper’s jaunt.
The president shared his Barack-etology picks for this year’s Final Four with ESPN’s Andy Katz, and he went against top-seeded Louisville, who famed numbers-cruncher Silver considers the favorite to win the tournament. To be fair, Obama didn’t exactly go out on a limb, picking Silver’s second choice, Indiana, to beat Louisville in the finals in Atlanta. In fact, the president seems to have a keen appreciation for the numbers that Silver tabulates, since they each selected three of the same four teams to reach the Final Four.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he was "angry" at IRS officials who inappropriately targeted conservative groups for scrutiny, announcing that his administration had sought and accepted Steven Miller's resignation as interim commissioner of the IRS.
"I've reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog's report, and the misconduct that it uncovered was inexcusable," Obama said in a statement at the White House. "It's inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I'm angry about it."