Sunday, 13 July 2014
ELDER MUSIC: The Songs of Gerry Goffin and Carole King
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
The recent death of Gerry Goffin has brought to the fore all those great songs he wrote in the sixties with his then wife Carole King. He also wrote with others later and he won Oscars, Tonys and pretty much every other award around for music. Today, though, we're using those first songs.
Gerry and Carole met at Queens College and they started writing songs together in the evenings. After they graduated, they got married and continued their song-writing together at the famous Brill Building, a mecca for such activity at the time.
Mostly, Gerry wrote the words and Carole the music, at least until she became a solo artist in her own right when she performed both functions (as well as singing and playing the piano, of course).
I'll start with one of their earliest songs, a mini teenage opera performed by THE SHIRELLES.
The song is Will You Love Me Tomorrow? and it has been covered by many over the years but none perform it as well as they do. The Shirelles' singing, and especially lead vocalist Shirley Owens (later Aston), captured the angst of teenager love (and to put no fine point on it, sex) better than anyone.
GENE MCDANIELS started out as a gospel singer and then switched to jazz. Not just singing, but he was a fine sax and trumpet player as well.
In the early sixties, he had a string of hits that were the equal or better than anything else around at the time. He later produced records and became an acclaimed songwriter.
His song today is one of those aforementioned hits, Point Of No Return.
One of the songs that I was surprised to learn was written by our duo, especially as Gerry wrote the words, is one of ARETHA FRANKLIN's biggest hits: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
The song came into being when Jerry Wexler, honcho for Atlantic Records where Aretha recorded, encountered Carole on the streets of New York and said he wanted a song about a natural woman for Aretha. This is the result.
The song has been covered by many artists including, rather surprisingly, Rod Stewart (who does a rather good job of it). Carole's own version on the "Tapestry" album is interesting too, and quite different from Aretha's with just piano and bass accompaniment.
I was playing this next track and Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, said, "You'd better include that one." I was going to in any case but there's no way I could omit it now. It's from BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS.
The track is Hi-De-Ho, sometimes prefixed or suffixed by That Old Sweet Roll.
By the time they recorded the album "The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” THE BYRDS had been reduced to a duo, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman.
Of the other original members, Gene Clark left because he didn't like touring, especially flying, David Crosby was kicked out because of "artistic differences" and Michael Clarke was kicked out just before he decided to leave.
In spite of all that, the remaining pair produced a fine album that contained two Goffin/King songs, Goin' Back and Wasn't Born to Follow, both worthy of inclusion.
I've decided on Wasn't Born to Follow.
THE DRIFTERS recorded several songs by our pair. Not just them, but Ben E. King, the lead singer of their best songs, did so as well as a solo artist.
They were all so good it was pretty much a roll of the die as to which I should include. As it came up 6 (okay, I didn't do that), Up on the Roof is the one I'm using.
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD recorded several Goffin/King songs, including the two mentioned above recorded by The Byrds as well as the Blood Sweat and Tears track. It was a matter of juggling all three and seeing who I'd like doing which.
The answer is obvious by now as I've decided on the other two, so that leaves Dusty performing Goin' Back.
BOBBY VEE's start in show biz wasn't under the most salubrious circumstances – he took over from Buddy Holly on the Winter Tour after Buddy and the others were killed in the plane crash.
He's generally not thought of too highly and I don't understand that. His songs still hold up today and I like them a lot (okay, I liked them at the time as well).
It's time for his reputation to be rehabilitated. I'll start that by playing Take Good Care of My Baby, one of a couple of Goffin/King compositions he recorded at the time.
Now one that even The Beatles covered, Chains. However, going with my (almost general) policy of playing the original, I give you THE COOKIES.
The Cookies were Little Eva's backing singers. Eva was initially Gerry and Carole's baby sitter and for whom they wrote The Locomotion. She also sang backing vocals of this song. However, this isn't Eva's turn, it's time for The Cookies.
Although GENE PITNEY was a songwriter who wrote for himself and others, he wasn't averse to recording other people's material as well.
That's handy for us today as we can include him singing Every Breath I Take (no relation to the later Sting song with a similar name).