Oh dear. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll know Gerry Goffin as one of the famous “Brill Building” songwriters in New York, who, with Carole King, penned many of the pop hits of the early Sixties. This was the music I grew up with, and now I’m told by the New York Times that Goffin passed away yesterday at age 75. He not only wrote with Carole King, but married her:
Mr. Goffin and Ms. King were students at Queens College when they met in 1958. Over the next decade they fell in love, married, had two children, divorced and moved their writing sessions into and out of 1650 Broadway, across the street from the Brill Building. (The Brill Building pop music of the late 1950s and ’60s was mostly written in both buildings.)
Together they composed a catalog of pop standards so diverse and irresistible that they were recorded by performers as unalike as the Drifters, Steve Lawrence, Aretha Franklin and the Beatles. They were inducted together into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2004 the Recording Academy presented them jointly with a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement.
The couple’s writing duties were clearly delineated: Ms. King composed the music, Mr. Goffin wrote the lyrics — among them some of the most memorable words in the history of popular music.
“His words expressed what so many people were feeling but didn’t know how to say,” Ms. King said in a statement on Thursday.
Here are some of the songs Goffin wrote with Carole King, taken from the catalog on Wikipedia:
“Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (1960, the Shirelles)
“Take Good Care of My Baby” (1961, Bobby Vee)
“Chains” (1962, The Cookies)
“Go Away Little Girl” (1962, Steve Lawrence)
“One Fine Day” (1963,The Chiffons)
“Up on the Roof” (1963, The Drifters)
“You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (1967; Aretha Franklin)
Here’s two he wrote with others:
“Run to Him” (1961, Bobby Vee)
“Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)” (1961) Barry Mann
My favorite of all his (and King’s) songs is “Will you love me tomorrow?”, released in 1960 by the Shirelles, and the very first “girl group” song to hit #1 on the American pop charts. It’s a beautiful tune, exceptional for its time, and even more exceptional for its theme: a woman about to have sex with a man seeks reassurance that he really loves her and that she isn’t just a sex object. Now that was racy for 1960! But people barely noticed the message, so lovely was the song.
And so, as my tribute to Goffin, I’ll put up two versions of that song. The first is by the Shirelles themselves, a rare live performance from that era:
The song became a hit the second time when Carole King performed it solo with piano on her “Tapestry” album (1971), one of the best-selling albums of all time. (You remember, don’t you, that there’s a cat on the cover of that album?) Here she performs it live with James Taylor at the Troubador in 2010:
Goffin and King (so young!):
Finally, for grins, here’s the cover of Tapestry, an album everyone had in the Seventies. Can you spot the cat?