Just before I retired to bed last night, I read on Twitter that Gerry Goffin had died aged 75. As one half of one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of all time, working with Carole King, Goffin penned a huge amount of hit records that I adore.
I woke up today with “Will you still love me tomorrow?” by The Shirelles in my head. I first heard it in the film Dirty Dancing in 1987, and it’s been a favourite ever since. The Amy Winehouse version put a plaintive new twist on the 1960s girl group classic and perfectly captures the vulnerability and trepidation of a teenage girl about to hand her virginity to some chancer she isn’t sure deserves it.
If I were a songwriter and I’d been responsible for that song, I’d be quite happy with that.
But, tucked away in NYC’s Brill Building as a teenager (he was 17 when he married King. Consider that for a second. SEVENTEEN) he co-wrote so many more hits with enduring appeal.
“Pleasant Valley Sunday” (The Monkees), “Locomotion” (Little Eva), “Take good care of my baby” (Bobby Vee), “(You make me feel like) a natural woman” (Aretha Franklin), “Some kind of wonderful” (The Drifters)…the list goes on and on.
Gerry was the dark, acerbic foil to King’s cheery pop sensibilities. This is probably best demonstrated by “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, a scathing social commentary on suburban life, set to a cheery pop ditty.
A few weeks ago I spent a lovely Friday evening curled up on the sofa watching a BBC Four documentary about King, which featured Goffin heavily. Although they later divorced, they shared children and a deep respect for each other.
There’s a picture of them working in the Brill Building that I love. It captures so much; artists at work, the unshackled optimism of two teenagers who believe in their own talent, a pair of young upstarts from Brooklyn who can’t quite believe their luck.
Today I’ll be listening to some of the work they produced during that era, and saying thanks for the music. There sure is a lot of it to be thankful for…