Romance and love songs go together like Valentine’s Day and roses. So, Cupid’s favorite day is a perfect time to celebrate love songs–the songs that become the soundtrack for some of our sweetest memories.
Countless couples have a song they’ve designated as “our song”–the song that somehow manages to perfectly capture their feelings for each other. Some songs are cherished because they were playing during a first kiss or a first dance, a walk down the aisle, or the first dance shared as a married couple. These songs remain forever etched in our memories and hearing them can take us back in time, as Hugh Prestwood expressed so beautifully in his Trisha Yearwood hit, “The Song Remembers When.”
The best love songs speak to our hearts. They convey what our listeners long to hear–or what they wish they could find the words to say. But it is not the lyrics alone that stir up such powerful emotions. Something magical happens when heartfelt words marry music that sounds as if it were born to accompany those words. When the right singer, arrangement and production are added to the mix, the resulting recordings conjure emotions that transcend anything words or music alone could accomplish on their own. It’s no wonder that in almost every genre, love is by far the most popular topic in songs.
One can only imagine how many candlelit kisses were accompanied by timeless songs such as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (written by Ewan MacColl; recorded by Roberta Flack), “You Are So Beautiful” (written by William Preston and Bruce Carleton Fisher; recorded by Joe Cocker), and “Sometimes When We Touch” (written by Barry Mann and Dan Hill; recorded by Dan Hill), and how many couples slow danced to “Wind Beneath My Wings” (written by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar; recorded by artists including Bette Midler and Gary Morris), “I Can Love You Like That” (written by Jennifer Kimball, Steve Diamond and Maribeth Derry; recorded by John Michael Montgomery and All-4-One), and “Through the Years” (written by Steve Dorff and Marty Panzer; recorded by Kenny Rogers).
But love songs can be any tempo and almost any genre, as evidenced by “Crazy in Love” (written by Richard Harrison, Eugene Booker, Shawn Carter and Beyoncé Knowles, and recorded by Beyoncé), “I Was Made for Loving You” (written by Vini Poncia, John Charles Barrett, Paul Stanley; recorded by KISS) and almost any song by Barry White.
When I asked my songwriter and musician friends on social media to share their favorite love songs the answers included “Thinking Out Loud” (written by Ed Sheeran and Amy Victoria Wadge; recorded by Ed Sheeran), “First Day of My Life,” (written and recorded by Bright Eyes, aka Conor Oberst), “All of Me” (written by Toby Gad and John Roger Stephens/recorded by John Legend), and Taylor Swift’s “Love Song.” Others went back further, responding with “Amazed” (written by Marv Green, Aimee Mayo, and Chris Lindsay; recorded by Lonestar), “When a Man Loves a Woman” (Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright; recorded by Percy Sledge and Michael Bolton), “Always On My Mind” (written by Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson; recorded by dozens of artists, but most famously, by Willie Nelson), “Crazy Love” (written and recorded by Van Morrison), “God Only Knows” (written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher; recorded by the Beach Boys), and “Love Me Tender” (written by Elvis Presley and Vera Matson; recorded by Elvis).
When I asked what it was about those songs that touched them, the most common answers were “a heartfelt lyric that seems real,” “beautiful, memorable melodies,” and “a lyric that feels like it could have been written about me.”
No celebration of love songs could be complete without including Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which undoubtedly incorporates all of the aspects mentioned above. Parton’s classic achieved the remarkable feat of topping the Billboard charts three times, as well as charting in the top fifteen two additional times.
As long as people fall in love there will be love songs to accompany them. So why not celebrate Valentine’s Day by writing the next enduring love song?
Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies.