Goffin penned more than 50 top 40 hits, including (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Savin' All My Love for You
The Oscar-nominated songwriter Gerry Goffin, whose hits included Will You Love Me Tomorrow and (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman, has died aged 75, his wife Michelle said. Goffin, who was previously married to his writing partner Carole King, was also behind Up on the Roof and Savin' All My Love for You.
In all, Goffin was responsible for more than 50 top 40 songs in the US. He and King married in 1959 when they were teenagers. They divorced in 1968, but their productive partnership led them to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three years later.
In a statement, King said he was her "first love" and had a "profound impact" on her life. "Gerry was a good man with a dynamic force, whose words and creative influence will resonate for generations to come," King said. "His legacy to me is our two daughters, four grandchildren, and our songs that have touched millions and millions of people, as well as a lifelong friendship."
Among Goffin's other compositions were Pleasant Valley Sunday, recorded by the Monkees, and Some Kind of Wonderful by the Drifters. He was also behind Take Good Care of My Baby, which was recorded by Bobby Vee, and The Locomotion for Little Eva, which was also a hit for Kylie Minogue.
The love affair between Goffin and King became the subject of the Tony Award-nominated musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, on Broadway. King, while backing the project, avoided seeing it for months because it dredged up such sad memories. She finally sat through it in April this year, the Associated Press reported.
The musical shows the two composing their songs at Aldon Music, the Brill Building publishing company in Manhattan that also employed Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield and Carole Bayer Sager. The show ends just as King is enjoying fame for her groundbreaking solo album, Tapestry. Though it also alleges that Goffin's womanising and mental instability were causes of the breakup, he happily attended the opening of the musical.
After their divorce, Goffin garnered an Academy Award nomination with Michael Masser for the theme to the 1975 film Mahogany for Diana Ross. He also earned a Golden Globe nomination for So Sad the Song in 1977 from the film Pipe Dreams.
Goffin was born in Brooklyn in 1939 and was working as a chemist when he met King at Queens College.
"She was interested in writing rock'n'roll, and I was interested in writing this Broadway play," Goffin told Vanity Fair in 2001. "So we had an agreement where she would write [music] to the play if I would write [lyrics] to some of her rock'n'roll melodies. And eventually it came to be a boy-and-girl relationship. Eventually I began to lose heart in my play, and we stuck to writing rock'n'roll."
He is survived by his five children and his wife.
• This article was amended on 20 June 2014 because an earlier version said Gerry Goffin wrote Crying in the Rain. The lyrics for that song were written by Howard Greenfield.
A vivid lyricist and masterful songwriter, the composer of sublime girl group hits made listeners feel as if they were not alone with their emotions
Gerry Goffin, a trainee chemist who became the poet laureate of teenage pop, specialised in coming up with a great opening line to grab the audience’s attention. Plenty of people will remember the first time they heard “Tonight you’re mine completely/ You give your love so sweetly,” from Will You Love Me Tomorrow, or “Looking out on the morning rain/ I used to feel so uninspired," from (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. But he didn’t stop there.
Buried a little deeper in those wonderful songs are the lines that really touched his young listeners’ hearts. The words to the bridge, or middle section, of that first Shirelles hit from 1960 were almost like poetry: “Tonight with words unspoken/ You say that I’m the only one/ But will my heart be broken/ When the night meets the morning sun?” And when Goffin presented Aretha Franklin with the second verse of A Natural Woman – “When my soul was in the Lost and Found, you came along to claim it” – he gave countless ordinary lovers a way to express their deepest feelings.
Misleadingly, they are often called “Carole King songs”. She wrote the tunes, and later on she would sing them when, after Goffin and King divorced, she embarked on a hugely successful solo career. But whenever King sang her own, gentler versions of the Chiffons’ One Fine Day or the Drifters’ Up on the Roof, she was still singing Goffin’s words. They were written by the man she had met when she was 17 and he was 20, and with whom she had two daughters while they lived in an apartment in the Queens housing project LeFrak City – and with whom she travelled to work in Manhattan every day at their cubicle in the offices of Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway, where they pumped out hit after hit after hit.
Goffin’s lyrics were so vivid and their potency so enduring that they were sometimes even borrowed for the titles of films: Some Kind of Wonderful for Howard Deutch’s 1987 high-school romance, for example, or One Fine Day for the Michael Hoffman's 1995 adult romcom, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney.
Other phrases remain lodged in the collective memory: “It might as well rain until September”; “You leave me crying in the rain”; “Everybody’s doing a brand-new dance now”; “Girls grow up faster than boys do”; and “I think I’m goin’ back/ to the things I learned so well in my youth.” The title of his most controversial song, the Crystals’ He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss), appears, without attribution, in a lyric on Lana Del Rey’snew album.
Goffin’s talent was not just confined to his partnership with King. Even in the mid-60s, when they were at their most successful and prolific, he could work with other composers to come up with jewels that glitter more brightly with the passing years. With his friend Russ Titelman he wrote I Never Dreamed, recorded by the Cookies, and What Am I Gonna Do With You (Hey Baby), best known in its versions by the Chiffons and Lesley Gore but most perfectly (if obscurely) realised in 1967 by the Inspirations. Sublime examples of New York girl-group music, both of them are much cherished by collectors.
He was a useful producer, too. Freddie Scott’s version of Hey Girl, which he supervised in 1963, remains a classic of uptown soul, with the kind of sound that eluded the many British groups who covered the songs of Goffin and King. The originals – whether Chains by the Cookies, Earl-Jean’s I’m Into Somethin’ Good or Maxine Brown’s Oh No Not My Baby – invariably stand the test of time better than versions by the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits and Manfred Mann.
Those who accept the conventional wisdom that nothing happened in pop music between Elvis and the Beatles should listen to these marvellous records – and to the outpouring of memories of a man who did the best thing a pop songwriter can do: made listeners feel they are not alone with their emotions.