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by Rachel Devitt

May 10, 2013

Brill Building Classics

by Rachel Devitt  |  May 10, 2013

Forget Elvis' Tupelo birthplace or some dingy Liverpudlian club that hosted the young Beatles. The real birthplace of rock 'n' roll was a Manhattan office building. OK, that's a bit of a stretch. But the famed Brill Building comes close to giving that crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul a run for its near-mythical, undeniably significant role in pop music history. In the early 1960s, hip young singer-songwriter and production teams (including Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Berry, and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) churned out hit after gold-nugget hit for major pop players (including The Shirelles, The Drifters, Bobby Darin, Dusty Springfield, The Animals, Aretha Franklin and, yes, even the King of Rock 'n' Roll himself). Their influence on pop music became so pronounced that the term "Brill Building Sound" became shorthand for the sound of the day: chunky rhythm and blues grooves; smooth, sweet, often melancholy vocals; percussion and rhythms heavily influenced by Latin music; massive, shimmering, echoing oceans of production; and smart, catchy, seriously youth-oriented lyrics that tapped into the interests of pop music's growing primary audience (and sometimes even into the politics of the day).

This is music that's earned a life far beyond its time at the top of the charts -- classic songs like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?", "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" and "Be My Baby," performed by girl groups and garage bands that still influence artists today. As the Brill's resident madman Phil Spector once put it, what he and his colleagues were doing was making "little symphonies for the kids." This is music history right here, folks.

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