Is This A Lasting Treasure

In 1958, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ became the first #1 hit by a black female group The Shirelles, topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  It is a pop masterpiece that was ranked at #126 among Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Billboard named the song #3 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.  The Shirelles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.  This song was written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Gerry Goffin lyrics and Carole King music and it became their first #1 hit.  At first this song met with some resistance from radio stations, but not enough to stop it from becoming a huge hit, selling over a million copies.  From the moment Shirley Owens sings her first line the listener is captured.  The melodious backing vocals, swirling violin break and poetic lyrics made the song a real lasting treasure.

Goffin’s lyrics deftly touch on the doubt that lurks behind all new romances and this is a benignly sexual song with the singer wondering what will happen the day after an encounter with her man, praying that the heat of the moment won’t leave her embarrassed in the morning.  She is nervous and insecure and she feels vulnerable, which are normal reactions to being with someone for the first time, especially for a girl that has decided that she will make love not because she is caught up in a moonlit evening.  The woman is amenable to having sex and she seems to know what she is doing, but she could also be a young girl on the brink of surrendering her virginity.  This song was an anthem of female adolescence, a manifesto to women’s liberation that gave a voice to the challenges of being a girl who longed for both love and sex at a time when only bad girls would admit such a thing.  This song features lyrics that were ahead of their time in subject matter and it captures the bitter sweetness of being a sexually liberated woman, as she is going to give it up to this man tonight and coincidentally it was released in the same year as the first oral contraceptive pill.

In 1957, Kirshner who was from East Orange, New Jersey met Robert Casotto better known as Bobby Darin, and together they went door to door, offering to write commercials for shops and businesses.  On one of their trips, they encountered Concetta Franconero better known as Connie Francis, a New Jersey friend of Kirshner’s who also helped Kirshner.  In 1958, at the age of twenty-one, Kirshner formed Aldon music.  Kirshner an American music publisher, rock music producer, talent manager, and songwriter known as the ‘Man with the Golden Ear’ assigned King and Goffin to write a song for the Shirelles as a follow-up to their previous song ‘Tonight’s The Night’.  King and Goffin had hastily married in 1958 after King became pregnant at the age of 17, while Goffin was still working at a chemical company and they worked at night for Don Kirshner’s Aldon music, in the Brill building, which was the center of the songwriting universe in the early ‘60s.

The song was originally written with the title ‘Tomorrow’ which was lengthened later.  It remained on the charts for 15 weeks and it was revolutionary in a way, as most popular songs of the time defined women as conquests or aspirations, mere objects of male desire.  There had been very little music made for girls, by girls and about girls.  When the Shirelles were first presented with the song, lead singer Shirley Owens did not want to record it, because she thought it was ‘too country’ sounding for their blend of pop/rock and R&B.  She asked if King and Goffin if they could add strings and turn it into a more up-tempo song, which they did and it went on to become an immense hit.  King’s devotion to the song was so strong that she replaced a subpar percussionist and played kettledrum herself on this song.

Around 1957, 4 girls from Passaic, New Jersey, Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston), Doris Coley (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie ‘Micki’ Harris and Beverly Lee met at their high school talent show calling themselves The Poquellos (meaning birds) and they did their song ‘I Met Him on a Sunday’.  Classmate Mary Jane Greenberg convinced them to sign with her mother’s Florence Greenberg’s small record label Tiara Records, which was quickly sold to Decca.  Florence Greenberg became the group’s manager, and changed their name to the Shirelles by combining frequent lead singer Owens’ first name with doo woppers the Chantels.  Greenberg started her own Scepter label, where she drafted Luther Dixon, who had previously worked with Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and Pat Boone to work with her Shirelles.

In 1958, the Shirelles’ recording of ‘I Met Him on a Sunday’ climbed into the national Top 50.  Two of their singles ‘My Love Is A Charm’ and ‘Lonely Nights’ both failed to chart and the Shirelles were dropped by Decca by the end of 1958.  Follow up songs, ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’ (1959) and ‘Tonight’s the Night’ (1960) with Doris Coley on lead, reached #83 not making much of an impact on the pop charts, however ‘Tonight’s the Night’ was re-released after ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ became a hit and it went into the Top Five on both the pop and R&B charts in 1961.  ‘Dedicated To the One I Love’ ‎is a cover song written by Lowman Pauling‎ and ‎Ralph Bass and ‘Tonight’s the Night’ was written by Luther Dixon and Shirley Owens and both songs certified gold in 1961.

The Shirelles were the first major female vocal group of the rock era, defining the so-called girl group sound with their soft, sweet harmonies and yearning innocence.  Their music appealed to listeners across the board, before Motown ever became a crossover phenomenon with white audiences.  Even if the Shirelles were not technically the first of their kind, their success was unprecedented, paving the way for legions of imitators, establishing a musical blueprint that has had an enduring influence not just on their immediate followers, but on future generations of female pop singers, who often updated the style with a more modern sensibility.

In their most exceptional moments, this girl group made words of young love feel like pure transcendent joy and supplementing their matching dresses, stylized hairdos, and lyrics about teenage romance their voices were enough to make listeners shiver and quiver.  A constraint that the Shirelles had to deal with was their songs were all about a girl who meets her dreamboat who has the power to make her life a heaven on Earth.  The Shirelles became the first musical effort to capture the real experience and dreams of teenage girls.  They broke through a barrier that some rock critics put forth about girl groups having to rely on romantic delusion, because of their brave rugged individualism.

In 1963, ‘Foolish Little Girl’, which went to # 4, but it was to be the group’s last Top 10 hit and they have remained largely silent since.  They still had nine more (modest) chart entries in 1963-1964, but the end of their hit-making days was written on the wall, due to the British Invasion and the heavy competition from other girl groups like the Supremes, the Crystals and the Dixie Cups.  The Shirelles broke up in the late 1960s but re-formed later for ‘oldies’ shows and different Shirelles lineups toured the oldies circuit in the ‘90s, though Beverly Lee eventually secured the official trademark.  Micki Harris died of a heart attack during a performance in Atlanta on June 10, 1982 and Doris Kenner-Jackson passed away after a bout with breast cancer in Sacramento on February 4, 2000.

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

Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment’s pleasure
Can I believe the magic in your sighs
Will you still love me tomorrow

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I’m the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun

I’d like to know that your love
Is a love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow

So tell me now and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow
Will you still love me tomorrow
Will you still love me tomorrow

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Immense, for FOWC with Fandango – Silent, for October Writing Prompts – Shiver and Quiver, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Moonlit, for Ragtag Community – Rugged, for Scotts Daily Prompt – Constraint and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Manifesto.

8 thoughts on “Is This A Lasting Treasure

      1. Sorry for the annoying little mistake. When I did the second post, I had to go over it like five or more times. The spell-checker kept changing gave to have. (I had to carefully go back and return words to what I had in fact typed in for this post too.)

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