We are smack in the middle of the “Month of Love” and what better way to immerse oneself wholly into sappy sentimentality than with old-fashioned, silly love songs! I was going to attempt to come up with my favorite 20 or so, and maybe even rank them, but quickly realized that is impossible. After nearly 100 years of recorded music, there are thousands of great love songs crossing all musical genres. I looked at easily two-dozen lists and not a single one was remotely similar. Even amongst those songs I am familiar with — which tend to be pre-1990 and in the general “rock” category — there are just too many to compile a reasonable list.
I know I am leaving a ton of songs off this blog and the ones to follow, but did try to provide selections from various decades and artistic styles. Along with a wee paragraph of facts for each song, I’ve added a sampling of the lyrics and a video from YouTube.
NOTE: Amid the facts, if applicable, I include rankings on the Billboard charts (US unless otherwise noted), Grammy award wins and nominations, and notable listings/rankings within or by reputable music-related organizations such as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone magazine, etc. Also, again if applicable, I note if the single (not the whole album) attained certified Gold, Platinum, or Multi-Platinum status with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In regards to this, it first must be clarified that while based on sales, certification is not automatic but must be formally requested by the record label and verified. Secondly, while the certification levels are unchanged since RIAA began in 1958, there have been drastic changes in the industry, especially with digital sales. In other words, it is easier for newer artists to attain high level certification, so much so that RIAA created the Diamond award in 1999 for unit sales over ten-million.
- 500,000 units: Gold
- 1,000,000 units: Platinum
- 2,000,000+ units: Multi-Platinum (2X to 9X for each additional million sold)
- 10,000,000 units: Diamond
Now, enjoy the music … and maybe have tissues handy for a few!
“Open Arms” by Journey (1981)
Written by Journey members Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain, the lyrics beautifully describe the renewal of a relationship that drifted for a period of time. It is largely considered one of the greatest love songs ever written, aided I am sure by Steve Perry’s operatic vocals. The song stayed at #2 on Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks.
It is difficult for me to rank favorite songs, even within a particular genre, but “Open Arms” is firmly in my Top Ten of BEST love songs in every possible way. I lost count of the times I saw Journey in concert and I never tire of hearing this song or any of their music.
So now I come to you with open arms
Nothing to hide, believe what I say
So here I am, with open arms
Hoping you’ll see what your love means to me
“Faithfully” by Journey (1983)
Written by Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain, this beautiful love song has a theme similar to Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses” (scroll down) in that it recounts the difficulties of a life spent largely on the road and away from one’s love. Cain wrote the lyrics while on a tour bus, completing in only a half-hour and connecting the song’s quick genesis to his Christian faith: “I’d never had a song come to me so quickly . . . it was anointed, supernatural.” A fabulously written song brought to life by an amazing band with one of the best lead singers of all time.
And being apart ain’t easy on this love affair
Two strangers learn to fall in love again
I get the joy of rediscovering you
Oh girl, you stand by me
I’m forever yours, faithfully
“When You Say Nothing at All” by Alison Krauss and Union Station (1995)
A country song written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, it was first a hit for Keith Whitley in 1988. For Krauss, the song hit the #2 spot on the Billboard Country chart and won the 1995 Country Music Award for “Single of the Year.” I consider myself blessed to have seen Alison Krauss four times in concert, hearing this song among her many other fabulous Bluegrass/Country songs.
The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley (1961)
Written for Elvis Presley for the album Blue Hawaii, the single sat at #1 on the British charts for four weeks and on the US Billboard chart for six weeks. The song has since been recorded and performed by uncounted artists, although it remained a standard for Elvis Presley. Traditionally sung as the finale at all his live and televised performances, it was the last song Elvis performed in concert prior to his death on August 16, 1977.
Like a river flows
Surely to the sea
Darling, so it goes
Some things, you know, are meant to be.
Take my hand
Take my whole life too
For I can’t help falling in love with you
“Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers (1965)
Written in 1955 for the movie Unchained (hence the song’s title), it became a standard when recorded by the Righteous Brothers in 1965. The duo consisted of Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley, and per an agreement when they teamed up, each singer would record one solo on each album. In the case of “Unchained Melody” they each wanted to sing the song so it was decided by a coin toss. Hatfield won the toss, and while there can be no doubt Medley would have been phenomenal —as so many other artist who’ve covered the song have been— Bobby Hatfield’s rendition is incomparable. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Woah, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me
“You’re My Best Friend” by Queen (1975)
One of the few Queen songs written by bass player John Deacon, who wrote it about his wife. Released on the 1975 album A Night at the Opera and sung, of course, by Freddie Mercury. Deacon and wife Veronica have been married since 1975. A true love song for a true love story!
Oh, you’re the best friend that I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine and I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
Oh, you’re my best friend
“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge (1966)
Written by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright for Percy Sledge, the song swiftly shot to #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts. It holds the distinction as the first #1 hit recorded at the Sheffield, Alabama studio which became Muscle Shoals. Read that fascinating history HERE.
When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else
He’d trade the world
For the good thing he’s found
If she is bad, he can’t see it
She can do no wrong
And turn his back on his best friend
If he puts her down
“Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce (1973)
Croce wrote this song in 1970, shortly after his wife Ingrid became pregnant. It appeared on his 1972 debut album You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, but was not released as a single until after Croce’s tragic death in a plane crash on September 20, 1973. The beautifully haunting lyrics wishing for more time to spend with those whom one loves resonated with the public, especially after his untimely death, and the song quickly becoming his last #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts. Unfortunately, it is a song Croce never performed live, but the video below was created with home video footage of the singer and his family.
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure, and then
Again, I would spend them with you
“Evergreen” by Barbra Streisand (1976)
Written by Barbra Streisand as the love theme for the 1976 remake of A Star is Born, which is my personal favorite version. Streisand’s composition was co-written with Paul Williams. Released as a single, it spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Contemporary charts. The song won a Best Original Song Academy Award, making Streisand the first woman to be so honored as a composer, and earned her a Grammy for Song of the Year. In this clip from the movie, Kris Kristofferson adds his husky vocals. It is SO romantic and I simply love it!
You and I will make each night a first
Every day a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
“Crazy for You” by Madonna (1985)
Written for the 1985 movie Vision Quest, the song was almost scrapped from the movie when initial recordings with dance-pop artist Madonna did not feel right. A new arrangement of the composition was done to create a warm, adult love ballad perfectly performed by Madonna, who had at that time not sang outside the pop genre. Released as a single, it became Madonna’s second #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earned Madonna her first Grammy nomination. To this day, the song still makes just about every “best romantic song” list.
Trying hard to control my heart
I walk over to where you are
Eye to eye we need no words at all
Slowly now we begin to move
Every breath I’m deeper into you
Soon we two are standing still in time
If you read my mind, you’ll see
I’m crazy for you
“Bed of Roses” by Bon Jovi (1992)
Written by Jon Bon Jovi while on tour and away from his wife and family. It is a bittersweet, autobiographical song revealing the hardships of the rocker lifestyle and mistakes that can be made even if deeply in love. The passion expressed when Bon Jovi sings this song is mind-blowing. Jon and high school sweetheart wife Dorothea have been married since 1989.
Tonight I won’t be alone
But you know that don’t mean I’m not lonely
I’ve got nothing to prove
For it’s you that I’d die to defend
“At Last” by Etta James (1960)
Written for the 1941 musical Sun Valley Serenade and also featuring in the 1942 Orchestra Wives, “At Last” reached #2 on the US pop charts. The 1960 release by rhythm and blues singer Etta James was a modest success as a single, also reaching #2 on the Billboard R&B chart and increasing her fame. What is truly remarkable is the endurance of the song’s popularity down through the decades. Many other artists have recorded the song, including Celine Dion and Beyoncé, yet the version by Etta James remains the standard and is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up in clover
The night I looked at you
I had so much fun with this blog that I plan to continue the theme next Friday.
In fact, it may well become a continuing series!
Be sure to return, but for now, which are your favorites from the list above?
What love songs top your personal favorite list?