Carole King Remembers ‘Violent’ Songwriting Contest with Cynthia Weil


Grammy-winning Songwriters Hall of Fame member Cynthia Weil — “You’ve Lost the Sense of Love”, “On Broadway”, “Make Your Own Music”, “Walking in the Rain”, “You’re My Soul and Inspiration”, “Overtown”, “She’s So Shy”, “Kicks”, “You’re Coming Again”, “Through the Fire”, “Somewhere Out there” and many more hits, mostly with her husband and Brill Building colleague Barry Mann — died earlier this month 82 years old

He was one of the best “Brill Building” songwriters to come out of the Midtown Manhattan building of the same name (though most of the work was actually done a few blocks from the city, at 1650 Broadway), and produced literally hundreds of hits throughout the 1960s. For the Righteous Brothers, the Ronettes, the Drifters, the Monkees, the Animals, many Phil Spector productions and more. Besides Mann, whom Weil had been married to for nearly 62 years, there was another young married couple in the coterie. Carol King and the late Gerry Goffin.

Below are the promises King (pictured above, right, with Mann and Weil, circa 1961) made at Weil’s June 11 celebration of life in Los Angeles, where he remembers decades of friendship and early years. and the friendly but fierce rivalry they felt in those days.

Gerry Goffin and I were signed to Aldon Music when we first met Barry and Cynthia in New York in the early ’60s. Their romance was head-scratching, and we knew right away that Cynthia’s talent for words was the perfect match for Barry’s soaring tunes.

The four of us became close friends; We went to dinner, to the movies, to the theater or just hang out. We would laugh at the silliest things and call each other on our first syllable. I was Ca, my husband was Ger, and they were Cyn and Ba.

At the same time, we were fierce competitors to be the team to follow an artist with a #1 hit.

That’s how it worked. Donnie Kirshner had these compartments, each with a piano and a desk, a chair for the songwriter, a few pens, a notepad, and an ashtray. So, while Mann, Weil, Goffin, and King were typing in adjacent pods, when I stopped playing, Gerry and I could hear what they were typing. We’d look at each other and say, “Oh my God, we have to do better.”

We later learned that Barry and Cynthia did the same. And that’s how the competition went.

Gerry and I had our first hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”. [the Shirelles, Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, 1961 — this and the following songs have been covered thousands of times, and many charted multiple times as well]

Barry and Cynthia wrote “Beyond the City.” [the Crystals, No. 13, 1962]

“Ok. ‘On the roof.'” [the Drifters, No. 5, 1962]

“Oh, is it?” they said. ‘On Broadway.'” [the Drifters, No. 9, 1963]

We’re back with “Oh No, Not My Baby”. [Maxine Brown, No. 24, 1964]

And they said, “You’ve Lost That Sense of Loving.” [the Righteous Brothers, No. 1, 1964 — and later ranked as the most-played song on American radio and TV in the 20th century]

Game over!

As you know, all four of us went on to write many hit songs. In fact, one of the phrases each of us often hears is, “I didn’t know you wrote this!”

Shall I tell you a little secret? I had one of those moments last week when I read an article listing ten songs with the words of Cynthia Weil. One of them was “Through the Fire,” which he co-wrote with David Foster and Tom Keane. Besides being mesmerized by Chaka Khan’s performance, every time I hear the song I say “What a great lyric!” I thought. Of course it was.

That’s why I refer to Cynthia as my songwriter friend, but we all knew her as a friend, including her family.

My friend Cynthia loved me so much that she came to visit me in a wooden cottage in upstate Idaho, with no running water, no electricity, and no dust in the bed.

He was stylish, strong, and intelligent, and he struggled to be recognized as an equal to any man in the music business, not just as a songwriter. And he fought to the end to stay with us.

Rest in peace dear warrior.

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