You’ve danced with your spouse to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “I Will Be Here.” You’ve sniffled and reached for the tissues at “Bless the Broken Road.” You’ve sworn to throw random objects at the radio if they spin “I Will Always Love You” one more time. Now Valentine’s Day has rolled around once more, and you’re in the perfect mood to enjoy a romantic musical something. Or maybe not. Either way, I would like to shine a spotlight on five songs that you won’t see on most any Top 100 lists when people rank their favorite ditties about “luuuv.” In fact, I guarantee that half if not all of them will be new to you. Further, I guarantee that they are much deeper and more thought-provoking than what often passes for a love song in today’s cultural milieu. Think of it as my heart-shaped candy gift box to you, dear readers. Go on. Open it up and savor my Top Five Underrated Love Songs.
5. “1000 Miles,” by Mark Schultz
Mark has written a couple love songs, but I have no idea why this one never became a classic. All I know is that it should have.
I would walk one thousand miles
A thousand miles, it’s true
I would walk one thousand miles
Just to be with you…
4. “Sanity’s Side,” by Little River Band
Little River Band is famous for their upbeat romantic hit “Reminiscing,” which is also a wonderful tune. But this slow-burning deep cut from the same album blew me away the first time I heard it. It’s about a man who’s driven himself so far in prideful ambition that he’s forgotten where he came from. He can’t remember the last time he spent any quality time with his children or shared an intimate conversation with his wife. But now, he’s beginning to turn his heart toward home, and toward a lasting love.
You suddenly find you’re standing
Looking over the edge of time
You can’t remember handling
Situations and nursery rhymes
Carry me gently across the water
Find me a place where I can hide…
[Update, February 14, 2017: I’m adding a music video I’ve made in the interim that combines this song with Regarding Henry, a film for which I’ve always had quite a bit of affection.]
3. “Maybe if I Try,” by Ken Medema
Continuing the theme of love that can weather life’s storms, this old Ken Medema tune is very simple but surprisingly powerful. It doesn’t shy from the fact that marriage is hard, and that when the one we love best lets us down, we need more than mere infatuation to save the relationship. We need strength of will and strength of character. As long as two people continue to shift blame without moving towards reconciliation, grace can’t do its work. While this may not be your typical “flowers and candy” love song, it tackles what it means to love someone when it is difficult. And that is love’s true testing ground.
In a recent burst of creativity, I decided to make a music video for this song with a period film about a couple who gradually rebuilds their marriage after the woman is unfaithful to her husband. The husband is a doctor who fell in love with his wife at first sight, then realized he’d put her on a pedestal. So he plunges himself into doing aid work in China, and through that process, he and his wife start to see each other in a new light. In making this video, I loved exploring all the different meanings that the phrase “Maybe if I try” takes on as the relationship unfolds. Note: Video includes mature references to adultery (including a reveal at the end that the wife may be pregnant with another man’s child), and a passionate kiss between husband and wife.
Maybe if I try, I can say “I love you”
Maybe if I try, I can say “I care”
Maybe if I try…
2. “Thank You,” by Keith Urban
This song is based on the real life experiences of country star Keith Urban, who famously kicked a near-fatal addiction to cocaine some years back. It is dedicated to his wife, who stuck it out and staged the intervention that saved him instead of filing for divorce. In a culture where looking at our celebrities to model faithful marital commitment is a joke, Urban’s story is a powerfully moving exception.
I thank you for my heart, I thank you for my life
I thank God for grace and mercy, and that you became my wife
I’m seeing for the first time, the stars, the sun and moon
They got nothing on the power of this love I have for you
And I thank you, I thank you…
1. “True Companion,” by Marc Cohn
This is simply one of the most potent, well-crafted love songs I’ve ever heard. The first verse may raise a bit of skepticism, but when you realize where it’s going, it’s a beautiful thing and a poetic master-class. (Just this line: “I’ve got this vision of a girl in white, made my decision and it’s you all right.”) And what an ending verse.
When the years have done irreparable harm
I can see us walking slowly, arm in arm
Just like that couple on the corner do
‘Cause girl, I will always be in love with you…
(Note: Song contains one non-explicit reference to making love after marriage.)