So many songs have been written about love that the love song itself has become a central part of the experience of being in – and out – of love. That in turn makes it fertile ground for songwriters, as last week’s topic of songs about love songs proved.
Sing Me A Love Song demand The Glories in a glorious Northern Soul stomper: “One I can remember you by / One that's sure to make me cry.” I’ll Sing A Love Song To You replies Candi Staton: one that will “take away the sadness / And put a smile on your face.” Well, we can offer both.
Eddy Duchin thought a thousand love songs would be too few while Gary Barlow was still trying to get the point across after a million; The Stylistics, however, say in all in Sixteen Bars (although they do repeat them a few times). A House’s Dave Couse is also going for quality over quantity, promising to sing 13 Wonderful Love Songs – or at least he would, if he had 13 wonderful songs.
His sincerity could teach Of Montreal’s protagonist a thing or two: he says he’s not yet ready to Sing You A Love You Song for fear that her love will one day fade. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy … Margo Guryan would understand though. Once upon a time her man sang her all those pretty Love Songs; now they make her cry.
But after two decades, you can Reminisce more fondly. Kevin Rowland remembers a teenage romance in the summer of 1969, and the songs of that year: “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “The Wedding Bell Blues”, “Lola” and – especially – Jimmy Ruffin’s I’ll Say Forever My Love.
Camera Obscura’s Traceyanne Campbell, meanwhile, is laughing at the irony of hearing a Paul Simon song on the bus radio: hopping on the bus (Gus) is the first of his 50 recommended ways to leave your lover, but she’s not ready to move on. The man she’s still in love with challenged her to write a love song; she knows she’s getting it all wrong as she focuses on the negative. The ex-lover in question? Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian, who sings the line “I’m only lucid when I’m writing songs” in a song of his own about writing songs (yes, this topic got quite meta). “When you’re lucid you’re The Sweetest Thing,” sighs Tracyanne.
If you can’t write your own love songs, you can always turn to the greats instead. After a break-up, Cat Power (covering George Jackson) is hoping Aretha Franklin will take requests. “Think”, “Respect”, “Call Me”, “I Never Loved a Man Like I Love You”, “I Can't See Myself Leaving You”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”: Aretha, Sing One For Me, she pleads.
The feelings expressed in love songs keep crying out through the ages, as Johnny Cash realises: “There were songs before there was radio / Of love that stays and love that goes / They were writing melancholy tunes / And tearful words that rhyme / Before My Time.”
But do we really need to keep writing them? Paul McCartney’s critics dismiss him for wanting to fill the world with Silly Love Songs. “Well, what’s wrong with that?” he asks. Nothing at all, when they have a funky bass line, surging strings and horns, and an exquisite coda in three-part counterpoint.
Fact is, while the rest of the world falls in and out of love, we’ll always need people like the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon (or Ben Folds, whose version I prefer), shutting themselves away in their bedrooms to compose Songs Of Love: “So let's sing while we still can / While the song hangs high up above / Wonderful songs of love.”
The A-List Playlist:
The Glories – Sing Me A Love Song
Candi Staton – I’ll Sing You A Love Song
The Stylistics – Sixteen Bars
A House – 13 Wonderful Love Songs
Of Montreal – Sing You A Love You Song
Margo Guryan – Love Songs
Dexys Midnight Runners – Reminisce (Part II)
Camera Obscura – The Sweetest Thing
Cat Power – Aretha, Sing One For Me
Johnny Cash – Before My Time
Wings – Silly Love Songs
Ben Folds – Songs Of Love
The B-list Playlist:
The Cherry Smash – Sing Songs Of Love
Art & Dottie Todd – Chanson d’Amour
Billie Holiday – Prelude To A Kiss
Toni Braxton – Another Sad Love Song
The Carpenters – All You Get From Love Is A Love Song
Tullycraft - The Punks Are Writing Love Songs
The Statler Brothers – Do You Know You Are My Sunshine
Tim Minchin – If I Didn’t Have You
Jillian Edwards – Nonfiction Love Song
Paul Simon - Everything About It Is A Love Song
The Stone Roses – Ten Storey Love Song
The Beautiful South – One Last Love Song
Guru’s Wildcard Pick:
Hello Saferide – I Wonder Who Is Like This One.
Annika Norlin thinks people are like songs. Herself, she’s like “Can't Get You Out Of My Head”: “Annoying at times, but I make you wanna dance”. But “you are the only one I know who’s ‘God Only Knows’.” Can there be a greater compliment than that?
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Reflect on this: songs about love songs. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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