Gerry Gofffin was born February 11, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Queens, not unlike myself. After graduating from Brooklyn Tech High School, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve at the US Naval Academy. After a year he left the Navy to study chemistry at Queens College. It was there that he met Carole King and they began writing songs together. Within a couple of years, when Carole was 19 and Gerry was 22, they had written the #1 song in America in January 1961, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by The Shirelles. This began an unrivaled chain of successes that continued for decades. They married in 1959 and divorced in 1968, but still wrote together occasionally.
Gerry was a major influence on me as I was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and we both worked as songwriters at 1650 Broadway in New York from 1959 to 1963. We never met until much later in life and instantly bonded; we wrote two songs together, one of which is included below along with some of my very favorite Gerry songs. Since there are only nine, I couldn’t play the other dozens of ones that made my younger years so wonderful.
Editor's note: Track #10 of this week's playlist is an interview that Al did with Gerry several years ago. It has its own player; you'll find it when you get to the appropriate place in the text.
1. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" — The Shirelles (2:37)
Anyone who is 60 or 70 now will always smile when this song comes on. The men all know, but the little girls don’t understand now — they’re too busy taking Extasy and going to watch DJs.
2. "Hey Girl" — Freddie Scott (3:02)
This got me instantly. I still am not done with it. The right singer at the right time, although Michael McDonald’s version is pretty damn good as well. But it’s not this — with Gary Sherman's great string arrangement, it made top ten on the Billboard pop charts in the summer of 1962.
3. "The Loco-Motion" — Little Eva (2:30)
Best known for this track, she was also well-known for originally being Carole and Gerry’s nanny. This track was originally cut as a demo for Dee Dee Sharp, but when Gerry’s boss Donny Kirshner heard it, he decided to put it out just as it was. It features studio aces Buddy Saltzman on drums, Charlie Macy on guitar and bass, Carole on piano, Artie Kaplan on all saxes, and The Cookies on background vocals. Ron Johnson was the engineer at Dick Charles Recording Studio.
4. "Don't Bring Me Down" — The Animals (2:45)
The best thing to do is listen to Gerry’s interview, track 10. He tells this story better than I can.
5. "Up On the Roof" (Live) — Dusty Springfield (3:59)
I like the gentler approach Dusty gives this perennial summer/fall/spring song — not that The Drifters version isn’t the sh*t, but this is less choppy.
6. "Halfway to Paradise" — Tony Orlando (2:34)
Hands down, ears up, this is the best sounding of these nine. Excellent mix, great sound, great singing and of course, the songwriting is ALL the way to Paradise.
7. "A Natural Woman" — Aretha Franklin (2:42)
So Gerry’s had a few in the Oyster Bar on Seventh Ave and approximately 54th Street and he’s takin’ a stroll and Jerry Wexler spots him and pulls over in his limo. "Gerry? I’m cuttin’ Aretha in a coupla days. I got a great title, 'A Natural Woman'. If you and Carole can write it in time for the session and it’s GOOD I’ll cut it with Aretha. Okay?" Who WOULDN’T say okay?? But who else could’ve written this masterpiece?
8. "You Make Me Feel So Good All Over" — Al Kooper (4:11)
To make a long story short, Gerry and I met and we wrote two songs together about 2007. They are both on my final album White Chocolate from 2008. It was an indescribable thrill to set this amazing lyric to music. I did my best to do it justice and I hope you like it if you’ve never heard it (which is a strong possibility!).
9. "Creepin' Midnight" — Seatrain (5:09)
I think this is in my top three of Goffin-King songs and it didn’t hurt that George Martin produced it over in London. This was one of the spin-off bands from The Blues Project — it was bassist-flautist Andy Kulberg’s band and Richard Green plays fiddle, Lloyd Baskin plays keyboards and sings lead on this one, and Peter Rowan played guitar and also sang. I think this is an overlooked treasure and I am happy to include it here. It’s one of my favorite Goffin lyrics and a great musical closer for this list. Thank you so much, Gerry and Carole, for writing all those amazing songs that will surely live forever.
10. Al Interviews Gerry — Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica, CA, June 16, 2007 (20:12)
This was just after we had written our two songs together. ACE Records in London was thinking of doing an album of songs I had written, produced or played on and their A&R guy Mick Patrick visited me in Boston for a few days to hear the stuff in my collection for consideration. He told me they were doing a Goffin-King collection of the more obscure songs they had written that were recorded. I told Mick we were friends and offered to interview Gerry if Mick wanted. He did want and I did that a few weeks later when I was working on something in LA. Gerry came over to the hotel I was staying at and I flipped the tape recorder on and an hour later we had everything they needed. However it was one of those tape jobbies that interviewers use that aren’t known for audio quality particularly and I never expected it to be heard by anyone else. So I spent a week (!) editing it and trying to make it sound close to reality so you readers could understand what we were saying. So it sounds a bit strange but trust me — this is the best I could get it so you could understand what Gerry was saying.
There are also a few things you need to know. The “Donnie” who is constantly referred to is the late Donnie Kirshner, who at the time (1960) had started a publishing company and began signing writers of his choice. He signed Carole and Gerry in 1961 and continually looked after them and the other amazing writers he signed like Neil Sedaka, Howie Greenfield, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Helen Miller, Russ Titelman, and a few more great ones. His company was Aldon Music, named after Donnie and his partner, old-time musician and songwriter Al Nevins, who wrote the hit "Twilight Time" for The Platters in the late '50s. Al was also in the '40s-'50s band The Three Suns. So the “Donnie” and “Al” we refer to are them.
Aldon Music was situated on 51st Street in a music building called 1650 Broadway. In the late '50s it became the successor to The Brill Building which was on 47th Street and Broadway. It makes me sick historically when they call the songs Carole and Gerry wrote “the Brill Building sound” as none of them were composed in that building. But journalists have consistently f*cked up music history by not knowing things like that, and it’s one of the rigors of having lived in that era for me. Donnie sold Aldon Music to the much larger Screen Gems publishing company in 1963. Gerry says 1966 on the tape but I researched it afterwards. That should help you understand the story a little better as you wade through. I hope you enjoy this interview; it's a rare look into the man himself who sadly left us a few weeks ago.
Here is a partial list I compiled of Gerry and Carole songs by year:
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" — The Shirelles
"Take Good Care of My Baby" — Bobby Vee
"Some Kinda Wonderful" — The Drifters
"Halfway to Paradise" — Tony Orlando
"Every Breath I Take" — Gene Pitney
"What a Sweet Thing That Was" — The Shirelles
"When My Little Girl Is Smilin' — The Drifters
"I Can't Say Goodbye" — Bobby Vee
"Chains" — The Cookies
"Sharing You" — Bobby Vee
"Keep Your Hands Off My Baby" — Little Eva
"The Loco-Motion" — Little Eva
"Go Away Little Girl" — Steve Lawrence
"Point of No Return" — Gene McDaniels
"Up On the Roof" — The Drifters
"Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby)" — The Cookies
"Will Power" — The Cookies
"Hey Girl" — Freddie Scott
"One Fine Day" — The Chiffons
"I'm Into Something Good" — Herman's Hermits
"He's in Town" — The Tokens
"Oh No, Not My Baby" — Maxine Brown
"Just Once In My Life" — The Righteous Brothers
"Hung on You" — The Righteous Brothers
"Is This What I Get for Loving You" — The Ronettes
"Don't Bring Me Down" — The Animals
"So Much Love" — Ben E. King/Percy Sledge
"Take a Giant Step" — The Monkees
"Goin' Back" — Dusty Springfield/The Byrds
"Pleasant Valley Sunday" — The Monkees
"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" — Aretha Franklin
"Porpoise Song" — The Monkees
"Wasn't Born to Follow" — The Byrds
"Hi-De-Ho" — Blood Sweat and Tears
Other co-writers besides Carole King
"Who Put the Bomp" w/Barry Mann (1960) — Barry Mann
"Run to Him" w/Jack Keller (1961) — Bobby Vee
"How Can I Meet Her" w/Jack Keller (1961) — The Everly Brothers
"Yes I Will" w/Russ Titelman (1965) — The Hollies
"Got to Use My Imagination" w/Barry Goldberg (1973) — Gladys Knight
"Theme from Mahogany" w/Michael Masser (1975) — Lionel Richie
"It's Not the Spotlight" w/Barry Goldberg (1975) — Rod Stewart
"Saving All My Love for You" w/Michael Masser (1985) — Whitney Houston
"You Make Me Feel So Good All Over" w/Al Kooper (2007)
“No 1 2 Call Me Baby” w/ Al Kooper (2007)
Carole King (at piano), l-r Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin
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