The 1980 Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll described "Up on the Roof" as "in every way a remarkable pop song for 1962," and in particular said of the above lyric, "From the internal rhyme of 'stairs' and 'cares' to the image of ascending from the street to the stars by way on an apartment staircase, it's first-rate, sophisticated writing."
In 2004, The Drifters' "Up on the Roof" was named number 113 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. It is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The Drifters' version was not a hit in the United Kingdom, however a recording by English variety show entertainer Kenny Lynch, released at almost the same time, was, hitting number 10 on the UK Singles Chart. Leeds singer Julie Grant followed it with another rendition, posting modestly on the UK Singles Chart at number 33 in 1963.
Goffin-King babysitter and song recipient Little Eva included it as a track on her only LP offering, LLLLLoco-Motion, in late 1962. The song has been recorded by other artists numerous times since, including by The Cryan' Shames (1968, a very minor hit at number 85 on the U.S. pop singles chart), Laura Nyro on Christmas and the Beads of Sweat (1970, an even more minor hit at number 92 on the U.S. pop singles chart, but nonetheless Nyro's only appearance there), Carole King herself on the 1970 album Writer, Tony Orlando and Dawn (on several 1970s albums), James Taylor on Flag (1979), Neil Diamond on the appropriately titled Up On The Roof: Songs From The Brill Building (1993), Kenny Rankin on his early "Family" album, Billy Joe Royal, Peter Cincotti and Robson and Jerome.
Of these, the best known in the U.S. is Taylor's; it was released as a single, charting modestly into the Top 30 of the U.S. pop singles chart in 1979. Rearranged around Taylor's trademark acoustic guitar playing and vocal accents and interjections, it became a concert staple of his, often with a star-lit urban dreamscape presented behind the stage halfway through the number as his band played unison ascending notes to echo the song's theme. It was included on his 1993 live album (LIVE) and his 2000 Greatest Hits Volume 2 compilation, and was played at The Concert For New York City following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, where he introduced it as representing his and the writers' positive feelings for the city.
The best known of these in the UK is that of Robson and Jerome; recorded in 1995 and released as a double A side along with their version of "I Believe", it reached number one on the UK Singles Chart. Its arrangement hewed close to The Drifters' original; the accompanying music video showed the duo cavorting atop a midtown Manhattan skyscraper.