The Brill Building and the Girl Group Era

The Girl Groups chapter and its related lessons, most coming in phase two of this project, investigate both the groups of the era, including the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes, and others, and the institutions behind those acts. In particular, the legendary Brill Building, located in New York City, is an object of exploration. The Brill Building, home in the 1960s to much of New York's publishing and songwriting community, was where the artists, the producers, and the publishers of many Girl Group hits did their work. Writers like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, among others, created the songs that gave rise to a new, particularly female, voice in Pop music. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," written by Goffin and King and record by the Shirelles, exemplifies the Girl Group tradition. Emotional, direct, intimate, establishing an unambiguously female perspective, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" is the sound of young women, teenagers from New York City. As the first lesson in the chapter establishes, the song arrives at radio in the very moment that issues around women's rights are beginning to hit a new high point.

In future lessons, groups like the Shangri-Las, and with them producer "Shadow" Morton, will offer case studies of Girl Group music. With its melodramatic storyline and elaborate production, the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" offers a remarkable example of an emerging female perspective that is very much contingent on male power. If the Girl Group era signaled growing changes in the realm of gender and sexuality, it was only in measures. But those measures were crucial to the shifts happening in American life.