The month-of-love is officially past but I was having so much searching out information on my favorite love songs and finding the best YouTube recordings that I could not stop! After today, the series highlights 48 love songs from an assortment of genres and styles and decades. Still a mere drop in the bucket so maybe I’ll revisit the topic in the future. For now, this should be enough to please your romantic fancies. Be sure to check out the previous blogs where I explain what constitutes a “love song” and briefly outline the rating systems.
“Annie’s Song” by John Denver (1974)
Famed folk rock artist John Denver wrote this beautiful song as an ode to wife Annie. According to Denver, he was in Aspen, Colorado and after successfully skiing down a very difficult run “the feeling of total immersion in the beauty of the colors and sounds that filled all senses” inspired him to think about his wife. Released as a single, it was Denver’s second #1 hit in the US and the only major hit for him in the UK.
Come let me love you, let me give my life to you,
let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms,
let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you.
Come let me love you, come love me again.
“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson (1967)
This uplifting R&B love song was written for The Dells, but not released. Instead, the Motown Records house band known as The Funk Brothers recorded the backing vocals and music, with popular soul artist Jackie Wilson singing lead vocals. According to Columbia Records producer Carl Davis, Wilson sang the song “like a soul ballad” which he felt was wrong. A second recording by Wilson, completed in a single take, heeded Davis’ advice to “jump and go with the percussion.” Good advice! The song hit #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and #6 on the Hot 100. It is ranked No. 246 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
I’m so glad, I’ve finally found you
Yes that one, in a million girls
And I whip, my loving arms around you
I can stand up, and face the world
“You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker (1974)
Written by American soul/R&B artist Billy Preston (with composing input from Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys), the song was released in 1974 on Preston’s ninth album. Later that same year, English singer Joe Cocker recorded a slower, bluesy soul version defined as “both gentle and gloriously stirring.” The single topped at #5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Can’t you see
You’re everything I hoped for
You’re everything I need
You are so beautiful
“You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain (1997)
The song was a collaboration of country/pop star Shania Twain and husband John Lange as a rebuttal to critics who claimed the relationship would never last. Sadly, the critics were proved true when the couple divorced in 2010 after 17 years of marriage. The song, however, was a huge hit topping at #2 on Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks. It was nominated for four Grammy Awards, winning Best Country Song and Best Female Country Performance, as well as numerous other music award nominations and wins.
You’re still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You’re still the one I want for life
You’re still the one that I love
The only one I dream of
You’re still the one I kiss goodnight
“Best of My Love” by The Emotions (1977)
Composed by Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire, this peppy love song was recorded by Chicago soul, all-girl band The Emotions for their fourth album. Released as a single, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, and is ranked at No. 87 on “The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs”. In 1977 it won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group and has been certified Platinum.
Goin’ in and out of changes
The kind that come around each day
My life has a better meaning
Love has kissed me in a beautiful way
“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992)
Country music legend Dolly Parton wrote this song in 1973, but not as a “love song” per se. She wrote it while splitting professionally from her seven-year partnership with Porter Wagoner, so yes a break-up song but not romantically or with disrespect. Parton recorded three versions: the 1974 original, 1982 for the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and in 1995 as a duet with Vince Gill. Listen to Dolly Parton on YouTube from 1974.
In 1995, Whitney Houston recorded Parton’s song with a new arrangement for the movie The Bodyguard. The single was a massive hit, selling over 20 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling single by a female artist of all time. It spent 14 weeks at #1 on Billboard Hot 100, a record at the time, was also #1 on Adult Contemporary and R&B charts. The song is ranked #6 on Billboard‘s list of the “Top 50 Love Songs of All Time”
That is all I’m taking with me
So goodbye, please don’t cry
We both know I’m not what you, you need
And I will always love you
I will always love you
“For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder (1968)
Written in 1965 for Motown Records as a slow ballad, there were several early recordings, including Diana Ross, The Temptations, and Tony Bennett. In 1967, while the various ballad versions were being recorded at Motown, Stevie Wonder altered the arrangement into an uptempo rendition that Motown executive Berry Gordy did not like, forcing it to be shelved. A year later, after pointed coercion, Gordy relented and the song was released. It immediately shot to #2 on the Billboard Pop Singles and R&B charts, missing the #1 spot to Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” which Gordy had also originally vetoed!
For once in my life, I won’t let sorrow hurt me
Not like it’s hurt me before (Not like it’s hurt me before)
For once, I have something I know won’t desert me
I’m not alone anymore (I’m not alone anymore)
For once I can say, “This is mine, you can’t take it”
As long as I know I have love, I can make it
For once in my life, I have someone who needs me
“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion (1997)
Written by composer James Horner and lyricist Will Jennings for the movie Titanic, specific as a ballad “from the point of view of a person of a great age looking back so many years.” Interestingly, neither director James Cameron or singer Celine Dion wanted the song. Cameron was not keen on a love song for the movie, but eventually realized a theme song was good for promotion. Dion hesitated since she had sang so many other movie theme songs, but her manager convinced her to do it. Smart move as the song has become Dion’s signature song, the album selling over 18 million copies making it the second best-selling single by a female. It sat at #1 on multiple charts and RIAA includes it in the list of “Songs of the Century”. It won the 1998 Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Golden Globe, and four Grammy awards, among many other awards. It is ranked at #14 on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Songs”.
Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go ’til we’re gone
Love was when I loved you
One true time I’d hold to
In my life, we’ll always go on
“Crazy” by Patsy Cline (1961)
This memorable, heartbreaking love ballad was written in less than an hour by a then-unknown Willie Nelson in 1958. Attempts to sell the song amongst the Nashville crowd was difficult due to the complex composition completely unlike the typical country songs at that time. Through connections in the Nashville music scene, Nelson brought the song to the attention of Patsy Cline, who was reluctant initially but clearly born to sing such a song. Released in 1961, “Crazy” became Cline’s most successful single and her signature song. It is ranked #85 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
And I’m crazy for loving you
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you
“Lady” by Styx (1972)
Back to a happy song in the rock genre with “Lady” written by Styx lead singer and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung for his wife Suzanne. The song only reached #6 on Billboard Hot 100 but is a fan favorite. After a series of band disputes and recording company changes, “Lady” was re-released in 1995 with a new arrangement by the re-formed Styx.
Lady, when you’re with me I’m smiling
Give me all your love
Your hands build me up when I’m sinking
Just touch me and my troubles all fade
Lady, from the moment I saw you
Standing all alone
You gave all the love that I needed
So shy, like a child who has grown
“Babe” by Styx (1979)
Another great love song by the rock group Styx, this one also written by Dennis DeYoung as a birthday gift for wife Suzanne. It was the first and only #1 Billboard hit single for Styx, which I was shocked to learn.
You know it’s you babe
Whenever I get weary
And I’ve had enough
Feel like giving up
You know it’s you babe
Giving me the courage
And the strength I need
Please believe that it’s true
Babe, I love you
“Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton (1977)
Written by Eric Clapton for model Pattie Boyd –the inspiration for George Harrison’s “Something” written in 1969– who was by 1977 divorcing Harrison and romantically involved with Clapton. Ironically, Clapton wrote the song while waiting for Boyd to finish dressing for a party at Paul and Linda McCartney’s house. The single topped at #16 on Billboard Hot 100 and was described by Billboard as “perhaps Clapton’s prettiest and mellowest love ballad in some time.”
I feel wonderful
Because I see the love light in your eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you
I hope this series of blogs has been as fun for y’all to read
and listen to as it was for me to compile.
So many great love songs!
Which of these 12 are your favorites?