Monday, February 6, 2012

Song #112 of 9999 - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? by The Shirelles

Song #112 of 9999

Title: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
Artist: The Shirelles
Year: 1961
Album: Tonight's The Night

After short-changing 2000 by a song (sorry Eminem, I'll make it up to you in a few months), we time-travel back to 1961. You may recall from my 1960 blog posts that this was a time when many people were proclaiming "rock and roll is dead." But it's a fascinating time, heralding the rise of the girl groups and dramatic teenage ballads.

I thought I'd start with the song that was actually number one on this date in 1961, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King in a Brill Building cubicle, this song is a testament to how something beautiful and amazing can be forged from very little inspiration and a lot of songwriting craft. I've talked often about how much I love the concept of an office building filled with pop music composers working day after day in (mostly) friendly competition with one another and coming up with these gems and this is the prototypical example.

This song is also timely because we were just talking about the 32-bar AABA form that emerged from Tin Pan Alley as the principal form for pop song writing in our Pop Music class today and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" is an excellent example. But more significantly, this song (and many others like it) established the idea of teenage drama and angst (albeit, low-level by today's standards) in pop songs. By ending with the titular question, a lot of drama is created with this lyric:

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?

The idea of teenagers as complex and emotional beings was relatively new at this point (the term "teenager" had itself only been around for about a decade) and this song captures the sentiment perfectly. To really understand just how different the times were, consider that some radio stations even banned this song for having lyrics that were too "sexually charged"!

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