Behind the Songs

by Mary Donofrio

While many artists during the 1950s and ‘60s wrote their own songs, professional songwriters also played a large role in creating iconic chart toppers that we still enjoy today. Here are a few of the composers and lyricists behind the music in :

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller: The undeniable kings of rock n’ roll songwriting, Leiber and Stoller met in 1950, and wrote countless hit songs for many artists. From Elvis Presley to The Drifters and The Coasters, a tune penned by this dynamic duo was sure to top the charts. Leiber and Stoller’s success helped establish rock n’ roll in its early years as a genre with staying power.

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Gerry Goffin and Carole King: Before Carole King became a pop music icon in her own right, she was writing hits with her then-husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin. They were hired to write songs for Aldon Music, a publishing firm in the Brill Building. From their cubicle, the pair helped create the sound of the decade, even incorporating elements of the British Invasion and R & B along with their own pop and rock flair.

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Holland, Dozier, and Holland: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland were three of the songwriters, producers, and arrangers who defined what is known today as the Motown Sound. The Holland-Dozier-Holland team was created in 1962, with their first hits following in 1963. The next year, the trio had their first of six consecutive number-one hits for The Supremes with their album Where Did Our Love Go. After their success with The Supremes, they went on to produce songs for almost every act in the business.

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Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman: Another famous Brill Building songwriting team, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s output included hundreds of songs. In 1959, they had two songs reach #3 on the charts, including “Teenager in Love,” which was recorded by Dion and the Belmonts, followed by The Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for Me” reaching #1 the following year. They also wrote extensively for Elvis Presley, including the title song for his 1964 film, Viva Las Vegas.

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