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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

    £32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot