Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Shirelles hit #1 with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” 50 years ago (1/30/1961)

First posted 4/16/2020.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow

The Shirelles

Writer(s): Gerry Goffin/Carole King (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 21, 1960

Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 2 HR, 2 RB, 4 UK, 2 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 55.0 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

Carole King started as a performer, turned to songwriting, and then returned to performing. Her songwriting success was marked by her pairing with Gerry Goffin, who aspired to Broadway while she was more interested in rock music. As she said, “I wrote music for his play, which never went anywhere, and he wrote lyrics for my rock & roll songs, which did go somewhere!” CR

The two married and both worked day jobs while writing on the side for Don Kirshner’s Aldon music. She had worked up a melody one day and when he came home from work, he added lyrics. As King said, “It was as if he’d been thinking of the lyric all day at work.” CR When Kirshner heard “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” he gave them a $10,000 advance and their career took off. Goffin and King secured an office in the famous Brill Building and “became the most popular songwriting team of the decade.” CR

The song focused on “female teenage sexuality, a subject difficult to put into song without pandering and almost impossible to render with this much pathos.” MA A song about virginity was risqué in 1960. Not only is it implied that the man might not have feelings for her, but that by the end of the song the girl is going to say yes. HL

However, the song was the first #1 for a girl group RS500 in the hands of the Shirelles, thanks to “the catchiest of melodies, a sympathetic arrangement and a sensitive lead vocal” HL from lead singer Shirley Owens, who brings a “full, woman-like sensuality” CR to the song. She initially considered the song “too countryish” RS500 but the song’s production and “gospel-based call-and-response harmonies gave the sound an exciting quality.” HL The record is “a masterpiece of early sixties New York studio craft” MA and “perhaps the most lush of all the girl group classics.” MA

Resources and Related Links:

  • The Shirelles’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 582-3.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 14.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 76-7.
  • RS500 (2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

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