Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Late Great Gerry Goffin

Carole King and Gerry Goffin
Legendary songwriter Gerry Goffin died on 19 June 2014 at the age of 75. With Carole King he co-wrote such songs as "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles, "Take Good Care of My Baby" by Bobby Vee, "Up on the Roof" by The Drifters, and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees. With others he wrote such songs as "Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" by Barry Mann and "Run to Him" by Bobby Vee.

Gerry Goffin was born on 11 February 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Jamaica, Queens, New York. He started writing lyrics even when he was a boy. After graduating  Brooklyn Technical High School he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and attended the U.S. Naval Academy for one year. He left the Navy to attend Queens College where he studied chemistry. It was there that he met future collaborator and wife Carole King. Miss King had already written songs and had even recorded a promotional single ("The Right Girl") for ABC-Paramount. Miss King and Mr. Goffin soon started collaborating in song writing, with Miss King writing the music and Mr Goffin writing the lyrics. The two were married in 1959.

It was not long before Gerry Goffin and Carole King were churning out hit after hit. Their first major song was "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles, which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. That same year Goffin & King would have more hits, including "Take Good Care of My Baby" by Bobby Vee (which went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100), "Her Royal Majesty" by Bobby Darrin, and "Chains" by The Cookies. In 1961 Gerry Goffin would also have hits with other collaborators, including "Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" by Barry Mann (co-written with Barry Mann) and "Run to Him" by Bobby Vee (with Jack Keller).

Throughout the Sixties Gerry Goffin and Carole King would have a large number of hit records including "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva (which went to #1 in 1962), "Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence (which went to #1 in 1962), "Up on the Roof" by The Drifters (which went to #5 in 1962), "One Fine Day" by The Chiffons (which went to #5 in 1963), "Don't Bring Me Down" by The Animals (which went to #12 in 1964), "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees (which went to #3 in 1966), and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin (which went to #8 in 1967).

Gerry Goffin and Carole King divorced in 1969 but continued to collaborate on songs until around 1971. In 1973 he released a solo album, It Ain't Exactly Entertainment. He also continued to write hit songs, including "I'll Meet You Halfway" by The Partridge Family (co-written with Wes Farrell),  "I've Got to Use My Imagination" by Gladys Knight and The Pops (co-written with Barry Goldberg), "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" by Diana Ross (co-written with Michael Masser), and "Miss You Like Crazy" by Natalie Cole (co-written with Michael Masser and Preston Glass).

In 1996 he recorded another solo album, Back Room Blood.

There can be no doubt hat Gerry Goffin was one of the greatest lyricists of all time. For Mr. Goffin it was not simply a case of stringing beautiful words together. His songs were essentially stories, often describing situations with which the average person could identify. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" is essentially the tale of a young woman questioning the intentions of the man she is with. "Pleasant Valley Sunday" describes a typical Sunday in suburbia. What is more, he had an uncanny knack of being able to place himself in others' shoes. His lyrics for "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" sound like the genuine, heartfelt words of a real life woman, even though Mr. Goffin had obviously never been a woman.

It must also be pointed out that Gerry Goffin was not afraid to push the envelope with regards to his lyrical content. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" was somewhat controversial in its day, with some radio stations banning the song because they thought its lyrics were too provocative. "Star Collector" by The Monkees addressed the phenomenon of groupies and even took disparaging attitude towards them. Gerry Goffin's lyrics might not have been edgy in the way that some of his contemporaries were in the Sixties, but he did write songs that could be provocative for the era.

Of course, if there is any doubt that Gerry Goffin was one of the greatest lyricists of all time, such doubt is easily dismissed by the fact that so many of his songs remain  popular to this day. Such songs as "Take Good Care of My Baby", "The Loco-Motion", "One Fine Day", "Up on the Roof", and many others co-written by Gerry Goffin are still played on radio stations. And one can only suspect they will continue to be played well after today's hits are long forgotten.

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