Brill Building dynamo wed Carole King
114 Billboard Hot 100 hits
Lyricist Gerry Goffin, who penned some of the most popular hits of the 20th century, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1939. Following graduation from the prestigious Brooklyn Technical High School, Goffin enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, which later led to his admission to the Annapolis Naval Academy. After his first year in Annapolis, Goffin resigned and enrolled in Queens College with a chemistry major.
There he met Carole King, a fellow student and education major. A lifetime musical collaboration began almost immediately. Goffin had been writing lyrics since age eight, but had never been able to find a collaborator with whom he could feel comfortable. As he and King began writing, they seemed to click immediately and music became their shared destiny.
Goffin and King married in 1959 and took daytime jobs, he as an assistant chemist and she as a secretary, to support their music endeavors. At night and on weekends, they pursued their songwriting career, and were signed to Don Kirshner and Al Nevins’ Aldon Music in 1960. Their first big break came that same year with a recording by The Shirrelles of their song, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?"
During the next eight years, the team of Goffin and King enjoyed more than 50 top 40 hits, among them "Take Good Care of My Baby," recorded by Bobby Vee; "Go Away Little Girl," recorded by Steve Lawrence; “Up on the Roof," recorded by The Drifters; and many others including "The Loco-Motion," "Halfway to Paradise," "Hey Girl," "Natural Woman," "Just Once in My Life," and "Don't Say Nothin' Bad About My Baby.” Goffin also collaborated with another Aldon Music composer, Barry Mann, on the top ten hit "Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)."
Although their marriage ended in divorce in 1968, the couple continued to work together, writing "Hi-De-Ho" for Blood, Sweat and Tears, and "Smackwater Jack," which appeared on King’s multi-platinum album Tapestry.
During the 1970s, Goffin collaborated with other songwriters such as Russ Titelman, Barry Goldberg ("I've Got to Use My Imagination," recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and "It's Not the Spotlight," recorded by Rod Stewart) and Michael Masser. Goffin and Masser earned an Oscar nomination for "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)," recorded by Diana Ross, and a Golden Globe nomination for “So Sad the Song," sung by Gladys Knight in the movie Pipe Dreams.
Goffin continued producing hits in the 1980’s and 90’s with "Tonight I Celebrate My Love," "Time, Don't Run Out on Me," "A Long and Lasting Love," and "Savin' All My Love for You," the latter the GRAMMY-winning song that catapulted Whitney Houston to stardom. Goffin is also credited with recognizing Kelly Clarkson's talent before her American Idol debut, hiring her to sing demos for him in 1995. And in 1996, Goffin released his second album Back Room Blood, with Bob Dylan and Barry Goldberg both appearing as co-writers, producers and performers.
Goffin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2004, he and King were honored with The Recording Academy's Trustees Award. In 2014, Goffin and King's life in music became the subject of the hit Broadway show, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which went on to earn seven Tony nominations. Goffin died in Los Angeles in June 2014, at the age of 75.