The late 1950s and early 60s was the heyday of teenage pop.
The quality of the songs was highly variable but by common consent many of the best, and often the best-selling, were written by Carole King with Gerry Goffin, who has died aged 75. Goffin provided lyrics to King's melodies on such classics as Will You Love Me Tomorrow, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Up on the Roof and Goin' Back.
Goffin was born in Brooklyn, New York, moving to the Jamaica district of Queens with his mother after his parents divorced. As a teenager, he earned pocket money working for his grandfather, a Russian-Jewish immigrant and furrier, and listened to Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Eddie Fisher on the radio.
After graduating from Brooklyn Tech, he studied chemistry at Queens College. In his spare time, Goffin wrote lyrics for a planned musical. In his third year, he was introduced to Carole King, a 17-year-old fresher trained in classical piano and a rock'n'roll fan. Soon Carole was writing tunes for his never-to-be-produced musical and Gerry was creating lyrics for her pop melodies.
Their first efforts were not encouraging, and in 1959 they married after Carole became pregnant with their first child, Louise. Gerry took a job in the lab of a chemicals factory, writing songs with his wife in the evenings.
The first bestseller for Goffin and King came in 1960 and is regarded by many as their finest achievement. The duo's publisher, Don Kirshner, had been asked to come up with a song for the Shirelles, one of New York's top African American vocal groups. King created the melody and, after an evening bowling with his friends, Goffin returned home to compose the lyrics of Will You Love Me Tomorrow?. It was the first of many songs to showcase his talent for "the happy chore of writing female lyrics", as he put it.
The Shirelles' record topped the American chart and sold a million. In Britain, it reached No 3. On the day it reached No 1, King and Kirshner drove in a limousine to the chemical plant to tell Gerry he could quit his job. "We got a nice advance, we got credit cards and I never had to do an honest day's work again," he told an interviewer.
There was a lot of other work to do, however. Goffin and King were now full-time songwriters, sometimes working from home and sometimes from the Brill building "song factory" on Broadway, alongside such contemporaries as Ellie Greenwich, Jack Keller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Before their personal and professional partnership ended in 1968, Goffin wrote the lyrics of more than 50 American hit songs, more than 30 of which reached the British Top 20. Most were composed with King, though he also collaborated with Keller and others. Among his most famous songs were Up on the Roof (the Drifters, 1963), Take Good Care of My Baby (Bobby Vee, 1961), The Locomotion (Little Eva, 1962), One Fine Day (the Chiffons, 1963) and Natural Woman (Aretha Franklin, 1967).
In a mostly segregated society, Goffin and King were equally adept at writing for black and for white artists, and their songs were frequently recorded by British singers and groups. The Beatles put Chains on their first album, Billy Fury had hits with Halfway to Paradise and I'll Never Find Another You, Manfred Mann recorded Oh No Not My Baby and Dusty Springfield made the definitive version of Goin' Back.
With its reflective lyrics, Goin' Back was a positive product of Goffin's psychedelic phase, when he ingested large amounts of the drug LSD. This led to a mental breakdown, which, with his penchant for extramarital affairs, contributed to his divorce from King.
He next tried to compose more politicised music with the guitarist Barry Goldberg, even recording his own solo album, It Ain't Exactly Entertainment, in 1973 (a second album, Backroom Blood, appeared in 1996). But he found this style to be uncongenial, despite his liberal political views. He confessed that "I would have loved to have written 20 anti-Reagan songs after he became president, but I couldn't. I'm almost doomed to write these cliched, soap-opera type of lyrics."
Cliched or not, his later successes included the theme from the film Mahogany (1975), also known as Do You Know Where You're Going To?, sung by Diana Ross, and Saving All My Love for You, a Grammy award-winner for Whitney Houston in 1986. Both had music by Michael Masser.
In 1987, Goffin and King were inaugurated into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and three years later they were admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, portraying their early years, opened on Broadway in January.
Goffin is survived by his second wife, Michele, four daughters and a son.
• Gerald Goffin, songwriter, born 11 February 1939; died 19 June 2014
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