Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Sonic Sorcery: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"

This beautiful song was written by the always stellar Carole King and her then songwriting partner & husband Gerry Goffin (for context, if my history is correct, King wrote the music while Goffin & King shared lyric duties for this song).

It was first recorded & released by The Shirelles in 1960 and went to #1 on the charts (despite being banned from many radio stations for being too sexually suggestive), and was subsequently recorded by Brenda Lee, Ben E, King, Dusty Springfield, Cher, The Four Seasons, & more through the 60s (and many more in later decades, from Roberta Flack to Amy Winehouse), and Carole King included a slower version on her ground-breaking album "Tapestry" in 1971 with backup vocals supplied by none other than James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.

The song has since landed on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" as well as taking the #3 slot on their "100 Greatest Girl Songs" list.

Let's dive into this classic.

Chord Progression:

Like many songs, it begins with a I - IV - V as its initial framework (C - F - G) but almost immediately weaves in surprises. Let's look at the chart:

C - - - /C - - - /F - - - /G - - - /
C - - - /C - - - /F - - - /G - - - /
E - - - /E7 - - - /Am - - - /Am7 - - - /
F - - - /G7 - - - /C - - - /C - - - /

F - - - /F - - - /Em - - - /Em7 - - - /
F - - - /G - - - /C - - - /C7 - - - /
F - - - /Dm - - - /Em - - - /Em7 - - - /
Am - - - /D7 - - - /G - - - /G - - - /

With this is a basic model, you can listen to various versions (like King's aforementioned 1971 release) for all manner of embellishments on the theme. 


The prime factor to note is the change from the first line to the second line: The first half is identical, but the second line shoots up a 4th (from E - D to A - G). She returns to this A to G theme in the bridge, which is a device to pause and seriously ponder.

Also worthy of note is that Carole keeps the melody in the first 2 lines strictly pentatonic, but switches to a diatonic approach after that.


The lyrics were co-written by King, but if my understanding is correct, the bulk of the heavy lifting was done by Goffin, who, by all accounts, had a profound ability to voice the angst of the 50s teen & young adult generation. In Carole King's own words: "His words expressed what so many people were feeling but didn't know how to say...."

An examination of Goffin's work with King (including songs like "Go Away Little Girl", "Take Good Care of My Baby", "One Fine Day", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "Pleasant Valley Sunday", and many more) sees Goffin's lyrics leaning heavily on the same simplicity we discussed with Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" in our last installment of the series.

The take-away, of course, is (at least when all else fails) to begin with simplicity and work up from there. Note this is also exactly what King does with the melody of this song (discussed above).

Now...go give this song a listen while pondering these compositional ideas and see how it might impact your music!


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