And the beat goes on

Behind every great song there is a story: how it came to be written, who inspired it, what folly or flight of fancy? Today is day two of a ten-part series on some of the classic pop singles of all time.

Today: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, by the Shirelles

First released: 1960

Highest UK chart position: 4

Highest US chart position 1

Few, if any, would dispute the inclusion of the Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" in Behind the Song. The record is a classic, easily the best record made by any of the famed New York girl groups. It has the catchiest of melodies, a sympathetic arrangement and a sensitive lead vocal from Shirley Alston Reeves, known at the time as Shirley Owens. It was a brill song from the Brill Building where young composers in tiny cubicles wrote hits for the new teen market. One husband-and-wife team was Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and their first song of real significance was "Will You Love Me Tomorrow".

A song about virginity was daring in 1960, even more so when the girl is going to say "yes" as soon as the record ends. Hundreds of performers have recorded the song, although it is strange that so many men have done so - if ever there was a woman's song, this is it. Outside of the Shirelles (pictured right), the most poignant interpretation comes from its composer, Carole King, who, when including it on her 1971 Tapestry album, slowed the tempo and turned it into a plea to save a broken marriage. Dionne Warwick, in a later version produced by Luther Vandross, used the Shirelles as backing singers.

The Shirelles had already had US hits with "Tonight's The Night" and "Dedicated To The One I Love" and, as Shirley Alston Reeves remembers, "When I first heard the song, I didn't think it was right for the Shirelles. Carole King did it more on the country side as it was very laid-back on the piano. There was nothing wrong with the way she was singing it but we were more into R&B than pop. Our producer, Luther Dixon, said, `Just do it as a favour to me'. As soon as I went to the session and heard the music, the song came to life for me. It was a beautiful song and the record company knew it was risque. It was all about, `Will you respect me in the morning?"'

Charlie Gillett notes in his book The Sound Of The City, "Occasionally, Shirley's voice sounded off-key when she went up for a note she could not reach, but at its most effective (all the way through `Will You Love Me Tomorrow') the failure enhanced her plaintive appeal. Gospel-based call-and-response harmonies gave the sound an exciting quality which was novel to those who had never been in a black church." "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" was the first record by a girl group to top the US charts, and its combination of R&B harmonies and strings brought to mind the Drifters' "There Goes My Baby".

In terms of chart positions, the Shirelles were a moment's pleasure in the UK but a lasting treasure in the States. They had chart-toppers with "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Soldier Boy" and cut several other hits, which were often revived by British beat groups.

And "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" lost Shirley her credibility. "Every time we didn't want to do a song, they said, `What about "Will You Love Me Tomorrow"?', and we had to do it."

`Behind the Song' by Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh is published by Blandford at pounds 14.99. Readers of `The Independent' can buy the book for pounds 12.99 (inc p&p). To order: 01624 675137.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

    £40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

    Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

    Design Technology Teacher

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

    Foundation Teacher

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

    Day In a Page

    Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

    Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

    Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities