Sunday, December 14, 2008

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Shirelles (1961)

no he will not still love you tomorrow
but wonderful song.

- youtube commenter

It's a topic we can all go on and on about, but in little more than two minutes, Carole King and Gerry Goffin nailed in a song the emotional tightrope a girl (or woman) walks when she gives herself to a boy (or man) sans commitment with Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.

Fellow blogger and friend Cornbread Hell (thanks, Rick!) sent me something yesterday that told the story of how this song got written. King dashed off the melody and left it for her then-husband and fellow songwriter Goffin before going out to play mah-jongg! The song had to be ready to present to the Shirelles the next day, according to Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller.

This was pre-fulltime-Brill Building employment; he was working at a chemical company, she was home with their baby and they squeezed in the writing in off-hours. Arriving home, Goffin was inspired to give voice to the insecurities of a girl in love to put the finishing touches on a song that, for the times, was pretty out there in its direct allusion to sex outside of marriage and the risks thereof. (King's own version on the Tapestry LP is worth a listen.)

The Shirelles were the first American girl group to have a #1 hit; this was that hit. They'd been performing since 1958 out of New Jersey, appearing at the Apollo Theater that year and eventually becoming a sensation that influenced musicians who came after them, male and female alike, for years. It's a classic case of the magic that can ignite when people are fortunate enough to work well together and are blessed with the perfect material to showcase their talents. Soldier Boy, Dedicated to the One I Love, Baby It's You - all great songs that the Shirelles just knew instinctively what to do with. (Their first song to chart, I Met Him on a Sunday, they wrote themselves.)

Ten years after they were honored as pioneers by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1994, David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer wrote a tribute in Rolling Stone in which he describes seeing three of the original four members - Shirley Alston Reeves, Beverly Lee and Doris Kenner - perform together at that event after a long hiatus. (Micki Harris was already deceased by then.) Describing how the years just seemed to slip away, it's clear the Shirelles lived the dream that many girls of my generation could only imagine - raising your voice in song and having others appreciate it.

1 comment:

KarmaSartre said...

What a great story. I wonder how the melody was left for Goffin..wirtten like sheet music?

Was there a note? "Ger -- There's a Swanson's TV dinner in the freezer, and our next number 1 hit on the piano. Oh, it needs lyrics. Luv, Carole".

So hard for me to imagine devising that melody without those words (Will you still....) in one's head. After Mah Jongg, did she come home and hear him sing it to her? Did he first write it from a male perspective, only to have her set him straight?

And rhyming "your love" with "sure of" was pure genius.