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Gerry Goffin, Songwriter With Carole King, Dies at 75 – NYTimes.com

Gerry Goffin, Songwriter With Carole King, Dies at 75 – NYTimes.com


Gerry Goffin, Songwriter With Carole King, Dies at 75


Gerry Goffin and Carole King at the RCA recording studio in New York around 1959.Credit Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty Images
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Gerry Goffin, who collaborated with Carole King to write some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, songs that endured through generations and became classics, including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” “Up on the Roof,” “One Fine Day” and “The Loco-Motion,” died on Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 75.

His death was announced by his wife, Michele. No cause was specified.

Mr. Goffin and Ms. King were students at Queens College when they met in 1958. Over the next decade they fell in love, married, had two children, divorced and moved their writing sessions into and out of 1650 Broadway, across the street from the Brill Building. (The Brill Building pop music of the late 1950s and ’60s was mostly written in both buildings.)

Together they composed a catalog of pop standards so diverse and irresistible that they were recorded by performers as unalike as the Drifters, Steve Lawrence, Aretha Franklin and the Beatles. They were inducted together into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2004 the Recording Academy presented them jointly with a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement.


Gerry Goffin in 2004. CreditGeorge Pimentel/WireImage, via Getty Images

The couple’s writing duties were clearly delineated: Ms. King composed the music, Mr. Goffin wrote the lyrics — among them some of the most memorable words in the history of popular music.

“His words expressed what so many people were feeling but didn’t know how to say,” Ms. King said in a statement on Thursday.

This was the first verse of the first No. 1 hit they wrote, which the Shirelles recorded in 1960:

Tonight you’re mine completely,

You give your love so sweetly.

Tonight the light of love is in your eyes.

But will you love me tomorrow?

In 1962 the couple had another No. 1 hit, one with a very different feel. It was sung by their babysitter, performing under the name Little Eva:

Everybody’s doing a brand new dance now.

Come on baby, do the loco-motion.

I know you’ll get to like it if you give it a chance now.

Come on baby, do the loco-motion.

In 1963 they reached No. 1 again with “Go Away Little Girl,” sung by Steve Lawrence and dripping with sentiment and strings:

Go away little girl,

Go away little girl.

I’m not supposed to be alone with you.

I know that your lips are sweet


Mr. Goffin, far right, with, clockwise from top, Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann and Ms. King in 1961. CreditWilliam "PoPsie" Randolph

But our lips must never meet.

I belong to someone else, and I must be true.

And so it went for much of the decade. They had a remarkable run of Top 40 hits.

The Animals had a hit with “Don’t Bring Me Down.” The Drifters made “Up on the Roof” a beach music standard. The Chiffons recorded “One Fine Day.” The Monkees recorded “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” Aretha Franklin reached the Top 10 with “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Even after they divorced in 1968, the duo continued writing together for a time, although they both wrote for others — and Ms. King, notably, began writing for herself.

She achieved superstardom as a solo artist with the release of her album “Tapestry” in 1971. Three songs on that album, which went on to sell more than 20 million copies, were Goffin-King collaborations, including Ms. King’s updated interpretation of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”

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Gerald Goffin was born on Feb. 11, 1939, in Brooklyn and grew up in Jamaica, Queens. He began writing lyrics as a boy — “like some kind of game in my head,” he recalled once — but found he was unable to come up with satisfying music to accompany them.

He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School before enrolling at Queens College. He was three years older than Ms. King, studying chemistry, when they met in the spring of her freshman year.

He asked her to help him write a musical. She was interested in rock ’n’ roll. They hit it off anyway, and she was pregnant with their first child when they married on Aug. 30, 1959.

“I never knew what I wanted to do,” Mr. Goffin was quoted as saying in “Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era” (2005), Ken Emerson’s book about Goffin-King and other New York songwriting teams of the 1960s. “Neither did Carole, really. She never assumed she would make it. That’s the furthest thing from your mind when you’re a wannabe: actually becoming.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Goffin’s survivors include four daughters, Louise Goffin, Sherry Goffin Kondor, Dawn Reavis and Lauren Goffin; a son, Jesse Goffin; six grandchildren; and a brother, Al.

Mr. Goffin never achieved the level of success on his own that he did with Ms. King. He released solo albums in 1973 and 1996, but they did not sell well. He did, however, show that he could still write a No. 1 song. Diana Ross’s recording of “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To),” which he wrote with Michael Masser, reached No. 1 in 1975. Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You,” another collaboration with Mr. Masser, did the same nine years later. Mr. Goffin also wrote “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” and other songs with Barry Goldberg.

This year the songs of Goffin and King, and the story of their marriage, became the subject of a hit Broadway show, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which opened in January. The show depicts not only the years when Ms. King and Mr. Goffin were churning out hits but also the breakup of their marriage, after Mr. Goffin’s infidelity and emotional problems.

Mr. Goffin and his wife were in the audience on opening night, but although Ms. King had attended an early reading, she did not see the show herself until April.

That night she described her reaction as “joyous” and explained why she had not shown up earlier: “I had been too afraid to come and how it would make me feel.”

That was also, she said, why she had left before the end of the reading she attended. “I didn’t get past the first act, when Gerry tells Carole that he wants to sleep with somebody else,” she said. “I was like: ‘O.K., I’ve lived this. I don’t need to see it.’ ”

The show was nominated for a Tony but did not win, although Jessie Mueller, who played Ms. King, did.

The cast of “Beautiful” dedicated Thursday night’s performance to Mr. Goffin.

Correction: June 19, 2014 

An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of Mr. Goffin’s wife. It is Michele, not Michelle. In addition, Whitney Houston’s recording of  the Goffin-Masser song “Saving All My Love for You” reached No. 1 nine years, not 10, after their “Theme From Mahogany,” recorded by Diana Ross, did. And a line from the song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” should be “But will you love me tomorrow?,” not “Will you still love me tomorrow?”


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