Gerry Goffin: An Obituary


By Harry Bedford

Today we have lost not only one of the greatest pop songwriters, but also one of the most important. Gerry Goffin was the man who put the words to the music of two of the finest melody writers in pop history, his then wife Carole King and Michael Masser. His career began with his teenage wife in the early sixties. Their first stroke of genius came in the form of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, performed by The Shirelles, which set the standard for 1960s girl groups. In this Goffin was able to portray the everyday reality of young romance within the simplicity of a pop song.

This led to a string of hits including One Fine Day, Up On The Roof, Take Good Care of My Baby and The Loco Motion, for artists such as The Chiffons, Bobby Vee and The Drifters. And it was at this time that The Beatles recorded the Goffin and King song, Chains, on their first album. Lennon and McCartney went on to confess that they wanted to be the British Goffin and King. During their early career Goffin and King spent their days writing songs at New York’s Art Deco Brill Building on Broadway, where the floors were filled with the sound of pianos.  They worked here with the likes of Paul Simon, Neil Sedaka, Ellie Greenwich, Barry Mann and Burt Bacharach.

Later on in the sixties, the Goffin and King partnership carried on producing classics such as Pleasant Valley Sunday by The Monkees and the ballad (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman by the immortal Aretha Franklin. Gerry Goffin’s lyrics painted a picture, he had a unique ability to be able to mix the romance of a pop song with the reality of everyday life. Allowing listeners to simultaneously escape in the song and relate to the situation. This was never more true than with a song he wrote with Michael Masser, Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love For You. The story of a young woman so besotted with her man that she is willing to overlook his marriage and children and declare her love for him.

Goffin and King divorced in the late sixties and Carole King became a major figure in the singer-songwriter movement in California in the early seventies. Their young marriage is now the subject of a hit Broadway Show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which is glittered with Goffin and King songs.

Gerry Goffin appeared when pop music as we know it today was very much in its infancy, before The Beatles and the musical revolution of the sixties. However his lyric writing was very influential and the way in which he dug a little deeper than most songwriters of that time was hugely important in directing the major songwriters of the sixties. It is very sad that he has passed away, however, I have no doubt that we will be singing the lyrics of Gerry Goffin for generations to come.

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