This is, in my opinion, one of the most perfect love songs ever written. The lyric was written by Gerry Goffin, early in his marriage to Carole King, who wrote the music, as the songwriters at their studio were tasked by their label to pen the next hit for the girl group The Shirelles. They had had a first hit with ‘Tonight’s The Night’ written by lead singer Shirley Owens and Luther Dixon, and needed another in a similar style quickly. The race to write the next hit began amongst the songwriters at the studio and Carole and Gerry’s song was chosen ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’
This was released by The Shirelles in 1961, and an instant hit. The royalties from this allowed both Gerry and Carole to write full time, as they had enough income from that one song, that neither of them needed to go out to a job to support their young family. They were living in a basement apartment in Brooklyn to be close to the studio and had two young girls.
The Shirelles’ arrangement was upbeat and positive sounding, despite the desperation of the lyric. It’s faster, bouncy tempo gives the lyric ‘But will you love me tomorrow?’ more of a feeling of general, cheeky, curiosity, like an idle wondering, the answer to which doesn’t really matter, in my opinion. ‘I’d like to know I your love is a love I can be sure of’…
Carole released this song on the B-Side of Tapestry, ten years later, as a tear-jerking ballad, with backing vocals from James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, to me, the definitive version of this song, which so astutely captures the desperate vulnerability and fear in the question ‘Will you still love me tomorrow?’
This time it’s like an internal monologue, with a question the answer to which most certainly does matter. ‘I’d like to know if your love is a love I can be sure of’… In my view this optimises the insecurity we all feel, taking a risk when we fall in love. Exquisite.
Here’s a rendition of The Tapestry Band performing it at The Ashcroft Arts Centre