Top Ten (Plus One) Favorite Romantic Love Songs of the Twentieth Century
Romance Is Not Dead
Don't let anyone tell you romance is dead. The airwaves are full of romantic songs. These tales of requited and unrequited love, cautionary tales of love, and humorous songs about love, come in all flavors from spicy salsa to romantic strings and techno-metallic-new-age-euro-pop.
Every age and genre has its favored spokesperson - post-war American teenage girls screamed and swooned for Frank Sinatra, their daughters screamed and swooned for The Beatles, and their daughters memorized every song by the BeeGees. One generation hears its voice in the sounds of a Barbra Streisand ballad, the next finds its expression in the pop-mantra of Madonna, or the Latin rhythms of Selena.
From the Basin Street to Beethoven, Muddy Waters to Pink, music makers have always had something to say to us about love, and we have always discovered our hearts in their music.
Love Me Tender
The movie in which this song is featured is an early Elvis film, and not terribly memorable, except for this one tune. The song, though became a standard.
Based on an old Civil War ballad, but with updated lyrics, it has become the epitome of the modern, rock 'n' roll love song. The teenage girls who screamed and swooned when young Elvis first performed this sentimental ditty, screamed and swooned all over again when, years later, the much older bit still potent "King of Rock & Roll" sang it again, just for his special fans.
When I Fall In Love
This sing has been covered by almost every artist whose ever crooned a love ballad. This version by Nat King Cole from 1957 is perhaps my favorite version.
This song doesn't talk about what constitutes love, nor ask if the love in question is real or returned. It merely describes what will occur when love comes to the singer, and leaves us all wishing we could be the one who will win that love.
Dream - The Everly Brothers
My sisters and I cut our musical teeth on The Everly Brothers. We played their 45s over and over, analyzing their harmonies and learning the songs.
Their music was considered radical and cutting edge - the term "rock-a-billy" was tossed into the mix. Along with performers like Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper, they introduced a new kind of music to a new generation of music lovers, and kids everywhere ate it up with big spoons. A lot of their hits were covers of songs released by black artists that we would never have heard otherwise.
This anthem of love-finally-come-true was recorded in 1961, by Etta James. Sung with the full-bodied passion of a mature woman, this song says it all - the yearning is over, the loneliness will never be felt again, because the long wait is over - love has finally arrived.
Some Enchanted Evening - Roger's and Hammerstein's South Pacific
One of the more interesting musicals of that era because of the themes it explored, South Pacific also contains some of the best-loved songs of all time. Starring the inimitable Mary Martin, the story follows an All-American girl who falls in love while serving her country overseas.
The exuberant opening number sets the stage for a fun-filled romp in an idyllic, enchanted, and exotic setting. But South Pacific has a much deeper heart than mere romance. Though set in the era of WWII, it speaks to a modern-day America - the America of the 60s, where racial discrimination was finally being legislated back into the dark ages.
As America was finally coming of age on this issue, so does our heroine, Nellie Forbush. She must confront her beliefs about race and culture to find true love, the kind of love that Ezio Pinza sings of in this lovely, romantic song.
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Roberta Flack's performance of this amazing song is so pure and effortless. The lyric seems to look right into the very soul of anyone who has ever been in love.
The song recalls the thrill of a first meeting, and goes on to describe a love that will "last 'til the end of time..", a love most of us can only dream about.
I Will Always Love You
Sometimes a song is so great the first time around, we just have to find a way to make it go round again. Penned by country music icon Dolly Parton, "I Will Always Love You" was certainly a high point of the film in which it first appeared.
The Greatest Little Whorehouse in Texas , despite its name and our modern view of this so-called "victimless crime", was a vastly amusing romantic comedy. The film, starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, pops up every once in a while on late night TV, but the song has gone on to grace another film.
Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner star in The Bodyguard , a mystery/romance about a super-star whose life has been threatened. Certainly this song - the movie's montage finale - is one of the best parts of the entire film.
I Will Always Love You
A Time For Us
Mancini's magical theme captures the sweeping romance and drama of this timeless tale Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers.
Performed by such greats as Andre Rieu, Kenny G., and the great composer himself, Henry Mancini, this piece has become a classic repertoire standard for instrumentalists and vocalists alike.
This version of "The Rose" is performed by Bette Middler and Wynona Judd. It is, arguably, one of the most beautiful love songs in the English language, and these two amazing ladies certainly do it justice.
This is one of my favorite melodies - it is as lovely to sing as it is to listen to. Not every song "sings" well, but this particular one has a set of lyrics that fits the melody so perfectly - as if each syllable had been perfectly chosen for each specific note - that it is as much a pleasure for the performer as it is for the listener. Every once in a while - actually quite often, in the case of love songs - a melody will be written, and a set of lyrics penned that just beg to be performed. This is one such song.
Can You Feel The Love Tonight?
Leave it to Disney and the great Sir Elton John to have the last word on love, at least in this article. We have all come to know that every Disney film will have, among all the fun, sing-able, whistle-worthy tunes, at least one awesome love song that will stay with us long after the film has faded from memory.
This beautiful ode to the power of love - Oh, no! I can't believe I missed that one! - sums up all that is best and brightest in what we believe love to be.
Perhaps the greatest of all gifts we can give to another is the gift of the very best part of ourselves - the gift of love.
My Heart Will Go On
And who could forget this memorable song sung here by Celine Dion. And such a charming couple, the beautiful but doomed, star-crossed lovers. No one who's seen Titanic will ever forget some of the tenderest, sweetest moments between the movies two. romantic leads.
The ending is one of the saddest and wonderful in cinema history - right up there with Dr. Zhivago's "Somewhere My Love," or the love theme from The God Father - "Speak Softly Love."
And the List Could Go On and On, Too
I could keep adding wonderful songs to this list, but then I'd have to change the name of this to the Top Hundred All-Time Best Love Songs. There are so many great songs out there. Songs that tug at our heart strings. Songs that seep us into another world - a world where everything will be alright, a world where a great song can help make a great love story come true.
Which is Your Fav?
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