Long before Carole King launched her solo career in 1970, she was part of one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in pop music history with lyricist Gerry Goffin. The two met in New York’s Queens College in 1959 where Carole Klein (her birth name) had begun writing songs as Carole King. They started collaborating soon thereafter, with Carole composing music and Gerry writing lyrics.
The songwriting partnership quickly led to romance, pregnancy and marriage in August 1959. King was 17 years old while Goffin was 20. That same year, she composed Oh Neil for her high school friend Neil Sedaka who recorded the tune as a single. He co-wrote the lyrics with Howard Greenfield and Goffin. The B-side A Very Special Boy was a Goffin-King composition.
The single flopped. But it resulted in professional contracts for King and Goffin with Aldon Music, a Manhattan-based music publishing company founded by Don Kirshner and a significant force in what became known as the Brill Building sound.
Goffin-King’s breakthrough occurred in 1960 with Will You Love Me Tomorrow, which was recorded by The Shirelles and came out in November that year. The tune climbed all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first no. 1 in the U.S. by an African American all-girl group. King would later record a version of the song for her iconic Tapestry album.
The next big Goffin-King hit is another ’60s classic: Take Good Care of My Baby, recorded by Bobby Vee and released in July 1961. It became the second no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for the young songwriting couple.
Another great ’60s tune written by Goffin-King is The Loco-Motion, which was first recorded with Little Eva (born Eva Narcissus Boyd) and came out in June 1962. Boyd was Goffin’s and King’s babysitter. Originally, the song had been written for R&B singer Dee Dee Sharp who turned it down. The tune has been covered by many other artists, including Grand Funk Railroad (1974), who like Little Eva took it to no. 1, as well as King herself on her 1980 album Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King.
And the hits kept coming for Goffin-King. In May 1963, it was One Fine Day by the The Chiffons. The tune peaked at no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. And it’s yet another song King recorded herself many years later, in 1980, giving her a no. 12 on the U.S. mainstream chart.
I’m Into Somethin’ Good is another of my favorite ’60s pop tunes. The best known version is by Herman’s Hermits, who released the song as their debut single I’m Into Something Good in August 1964. It topped the UK Singles Chart and reached no. 13 in the U.S. The tune was first recorded earlier that year by Earl-Jean. Her original climbed to no. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100, not too shabby either.
Let’s do three more Goffin-King compositions. First up: Don’t Bring Me Down released by The Animals in May 1966. While it gave the British band a hit in the UK and the U.S. where it reached no. 6 and no. 16, respectively, they preferred a more straightforward R&B sound and as such were lukewarm about it.
No Goffin-King post would be complete without Pleasant Valley Sunday, which became an international hit for The Monkees in 1967, reaching no. 1, no. 2, no. 3 and no. 10 in Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. and Australia, respectively.
The last tune I’d like to highlight is (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Aretha Franklin first recorded and released this gem in September 1967. The song was inspired by Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler who received a co-credit. It’s yet another tune King also recorded herself for the Tapestry album.
While the Goffin-King songwriting partnership lasted for 10 years and yielded remarkable success throughout that period, their personal relationship hit the rocks in 1964 when Goffin fathered a daughter with above singer Earl-Jean (full name: Earl-Jean Reavis, née McCrea). King and Goffin remained together until their divorce in 1969.
King went on to launch a successful solo career and released her debut album Writer in May 1970, followed by the career-defining Tapestry in February 1971. Goffin began working with other composers and also had a solo album in 1973, though it did not become successful. In 1987, Goffin and King were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll of Fame in 1990. Goffin passed away in June 2014 in Los Angeles at the age of 75.
Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube