I was reading the New York Times Book Review, which, as you probably know, is not for blockheads (a little inside joke for my friend Philip Kunhardt) and I found a review of Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller about Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King.
I probably won’t read the book, but I learned something interesting from the review about one of my favorite songs, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
I always thought it was written by Carole King, and I was half right. She wrote the music. But the words were written by her then husband, Gerry Goffin, which is kind of surprising since guys, at least young guys, don’t particularly care whether they will be loved in the morning, if you know what I mean.
Turns out King and Goffin were writing songs part time while he worked at a chemical company and she took care of their infant daughter. This is all according to the review by Stephanie Zacharek and presumably it comes from the book.
King wrote and recorded the music one afternoon and then went to play mah-jonng with friends, leaving Goffin a note that said, “Write.” He did. And how!
“I thought: What would a girl sing to a guy if they made love that night?” he told Weller.
Zacharek writes,”And so this glorious song, as astonishing a summation of women’s insecurities as has ever been written, and one that shocked listeners with its frankness, came to be. The melody, at once pleading and confident, had come first: it was so powerful that it inspired a man to slip into the skin, and the heart, of a woman.”
According to Wikipedia, Shirley Owens of the Shirelles didn’t want to record the song because she thought it was “too country.” Then it skyrocketed to the top of the pop charts, although, as she recalls, some radio stations refused to play it because the lyrics were too sexually charged.
But nobody worries about that kind of thing anymore, and since then it has been recorded by hundreds and hundreds of artists. I love listening to it and playing it. It isn’t smarmy (although I like a lot of smarmy songs) because it’s so honest and there really is something transcendent about the melody.