My Top 5 Love Songs

The death of Justice Scalia sadly over-shadowed Valentine’s Day for me and for this blog. But a slightly belated Valentine’s Day top five list of love songs is better than none at all, right? I said, right? Okay, we’ll assume I’m right and carry on.

So last year, I came up with this list of my top five underrated love songs. But it wasn’t a top five list period. This year, I’m unveiling my top five. Favorite love songs will vary widely depending on each person’s individual tastes. These happen to be the ones I personally return to most often, that come closest to perfection as far as I’m concerned. There may be greater, more stirring, more heartfelt love songs out there that I have forgotten or never even heard. There are also a ton of honorable mentions that I’ll have to give a nod to at the end of the list. To some extent, this is all a matter of taste. Still, I would like to think that while the exact ordering of some of my choices may be disputable, the fact that they belong somewhere among the ranks of great love songs is not. So, without further ado…

5. Reminiscing, by the Little River Band

Hurry, don’t be late

I can hardly wait

I said to myself “When we’re old

We’ll go dancing in the dark

Walking in the park and reminiscing.”

Of all the songs on this list, this one certainly has the lightest touch. A smash 70s radio hit, it still strikes me today with its freshness, both lyrically and musically. The melody is catchy, yet full of pleasing harmonic twists and turns. And the lyrics offer a window into a more innocent time, when young men thought beyond their next date to the life of memories they might share with that one girl.  It’s also a loving homage to the big bands of yore. Naming specific artists like Glenn Miller and Cole Porter grounds the song in a sense of time and place, making the listener wonder what it might have been like for his own grandparents to fall in love for the first time.

4. You Are So Beautiful, by Joe Cocker

You are so beautiful to me

Can’t you see?

You’re everything I hope for

You’re everything I need

You are so beautiful to me

It’s been said that Beach Boy Dennis Wilson had an uncredited hand in writing this song but generously gave it away to his co-writers. Regardless, it’s a good one. Although it has hardly any lyrics, the gorgeous piano setting juxtaposed with Joe Cocker’s gritty delivery makes for an unforgettable listening experience. I suppose you could argue that the arrangement and the performance are such a large part of what makes this song work that its inclusion on a top five songs list is questionable. But whatever. As long as I can play the piano, my fingers will not be able to resist going to those chords.

3. She’s Always a Woman, by Billy Joel

She’ll promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then she’ll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you’re bleedin’
But she’ll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me

Billy Joel fans will forgive me if I neglect the overplayed “Just the Way You Are” in favor of this sharper-edged, yet (in my opinion) deeper offering. At first glance, it seems like a series of back-handed compliments. We don’t necessarily like the woman being described in this song. She sounds stubborn, fickle, sometimes callous or even cruel. But look again at the verse quoted above. That line “But she’ll bring out the best and the worst you can be” is especially telling, and absolutely true to human nature. People can be both “frequently kind and suddenly cruel,” and women in particular seem able to shift emotions at the drop of a hat. And there is no husband who can’t relate to the line “She never gives out, and she never gives in. She just changes her mind.” But of course! “Yes,” she will say, “Just as I thought all along.” The man sighs and doesn’t even try arguing the point. She’s always a woman to him: his woman.

2. In My Life, by the Beatles

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

This is one of those songs where the more you think about it, the better it gets. And the older you grow, the truer it rings. It’s arranged so crisply and sung so freely that you almost forget how deep the lyrics really are. Certainly, it is a love song, but it is also more than a love song. The listener is moved to reflect on those people, places and things that have touched him, that he has touched. But in the end, as all other memories, all other loves fade away, there is one that stays ever new.

1. I Will Be Here, by Steven Curtis Chapman

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we’re older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

This is not just a great Christian love song, or a great song sung by a Christian singer. It’s a great song, period. But it has a bittersweet provenance. Chapman was inspired to write the lyrics when his parents went through a bitter divorce. It shook him and forced him to reexamine his own commitment to his wife. Although he was not even 30 yet at the time he wrote the song, it remains far and away his best work, and in my opinion, far and away the best love song of all time. Of course, you are free to disagree. You’ll be wrong, but you’re free to disagree.

Honorable Mentions

Faithfully, by Journey

God Only Knows, by the Beach Boys

True Companion, by Marc Cohn

Dancing in the Minefields, by Andrew Peterson

Kathy’s Song and For Emily, by Simon & Garfunkel

My Love, by River

She’s Everything, by Brad Paisley

Longer, by Dan Fogelberg

In This Life, by Collin Raye

… and many more.

Christmas Top Fives: “Angels We Have Heard On High”

Christmas Top Fives is a series where I take one beloved carol and run down my personal top five versions of it. Read earlier installments here. Today, I’m covering one of my all-time favorites! I will provide links to four favorite renditions, then embed my absolute favorite here (for ease of loading on slow browsers).

VeggieTales (featuring Palmy): What’s that you say? I already reviewed the album this song comes from last week, even spotlighting this particular track on it? Well, obviously it’s time to spotlight it again! “Gloooo…. woah-oh-oh-oh-oh….woah-oh-oh-oh-ohria” to you too!

Michael W. Smith: Remember when Michael W. Smith was still making exciting, inventive pop music? No, think further back. Think way back to his first Christmas album, released in 1989. Okay, so maybe the vocals could be more polished, but as a producer… I mean this is back when the guy was throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. And it’s totally epic.

The Piano Guys: When the Piano Guys cover something, you know it’s going to be unique, and it’s going to be awesome. This one is no exception. Even though you know the video is just them demonstrating how it was made and not a real live performance, it’s still mesmerizing.

Gabe Scott (instrumental): This gorgeous hammered dulcimer rendition (with a string quartet in the background), is an instrumental interlude on Bebo Norman’s Christmas album From the Realms of Glory. Gabe Scott does the honors, and his lush, lovely take on the carol would put a tear in Rich Mullins’s eye. I just wish it were three times longer.

Billy Gilman: I’m not here to discuss the rest of Billy’s career, but can we agree that this is possibly the best, purest version of “Angels We Have Heard On High” out there?

 

Christmas Top Fives: “The Little Drummer Boy”

Some people seem to dislike this particular carol with the passion of a thousand Christmas light bulbs, but I’ve always loved it. (No comment on how much of that attachment is due to sentimental childhood memories of that Rankin Bass special!) No matter how many times I hear it, somehow it always strikes me fresh. Of course, it helps if it’s performed well. Read on to find out who we are featuring today… Continue reading “Christmas Top Fives: “The Little Drummer Boy””

Christmas Top Fives: “Go Tell It On the Mountain”

This will kick off a new Christmas series here at the blog. I choose a Christmas carol and share my personal top five renditions of it. The fun part is where you come in and tell me why your favorite version is better than all of them! I’d love to hear a version of a carol I’ve never heard before. Hopefully I’ll introduce someone else to a new version of one of their favorites as well.

So, let’s start with one of my all-time faves, “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” of which there really aren’t any BAD versions out there, but some do stand taller than the rest. Today’s featured artists are… Continue reading “Christmas Top Fives: “Go Tell It On the Mountain””

My Top Five… Daddy-Daughter Songs

In a break from Monday Morning Humor (it shall return!) I’m offering up another top 5 post in honor of Father’s Day. Daddy-daughter songs hold a special place in my heart. There are definitely some great ones out there, although many fail to strike the right balance between sentimentality and substance. (No honorable mentions for you, “Butterfly Kisses.”) Enjoy…

The List Continue reading “My Top Five… Daddy-Daughter Songs”