I have spent many Valentine’s Days away from my wife Judy over the course of my military career. I am spending another Valentine’s Day again tonight as she is in Virginia and I hold the duty pager for the Naval Hospital here in Camp LeJeune NC in order to give my staff time with their wives. I will, Lord willing see her tomorrow when I head home for the President’s Day weekend.
In all of these times I have loved music. I remember dating Judy and every week bring in new LP albums or pop 45 singles on vinyl back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the songs were popular on the radio and I would hear them on American Top 40.
I find that music expresses love in ways that I find difficult to do on my own. Perhaps this is because of the fact that I am a historian and not a poet or artist. Here are 25 of my favorites of all time. They are songs that express the emotions of love, love embraced and love requited the joy of love and the agony of losing it.
These are songs that men and women express the feelings of those who have loved, lost and longed for love. They are songs of men and women who sometimes are geographically far away but still close and others that can be sitting next to each other but be as far from each other emotionally and even spiritually as Earth is from the furthest star system in the galaxy.
I think that in my life that many speak to the relationship that I have with the woman that I have loved since the day that I met her back in the late summer of 1978.
I think any compilation of love songs has to begin with Barry Manilow’s“Weekend in New England” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOoHuibwHGI I think for me, as a career military man who has spent many years away from my wife, sometimes in harm’s way the questions asked in the song resonate. “When will our eyes meet?” “When can I touch you?” “When will this long journey end and when will I hold you again?” have particular meaning and they are part of the longing that I have.
The Carpenter’s breakthrough hit “Close to You” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6inwzOooXRU written by Burt Bacharach is a song that is fitting for the love that many young lovers feel when they first meet. I remember when we first started dating I could hardly stand to be away from Judy. The song is more one of infatuation than actual love, but I think unless we first have that infatuation that love often remains dormant.
Bread’s classic mellow ballad “If” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzgBULcFaLw is a song that expresses an almost eternal nature to love.
Jim Croce’s hit “I’ll Just Have to Say I Love You in a Song” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN1nMpmC0n4 is one that expresses how badly the words often come out when we try to communicate with the one that we love. There are so many times the words that I have said have not come across how I meant them. So much of a relationship that is based on how we communicate that care and love for each other, the lament that “every time I’d try to tell you, the words just came out wrong” can be true for many of us.
England Dan (Dan Seals and John Ford Coley) “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxdsk-cFX-k Sometimes when we love someone we somehow lose contact, or maybe have grown apart emotionally. The song begins with small talk on a phone call and is the words of someone who wants very badly to be together again with the one that he misses.
In a similar vein to “I’d really love to See You Tonight” but perhaps even more heart wrenching is Paul Davis’ “I’Go Crazy” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L886mjb0O8 because the woman that he loves is now with someone else and he sings “when I look in your eyes I still go crazy. That old flame comes alive, it starts burning inside…”
All couples sometimes have arguments and sometimes those arguments lead to complete silence and even the break up of a relationship. Sir Cliff Richard’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htZir_Taizg is one of those songs where one partner blames the other for the breakup and boldly states that he isn’t losing sleep over the end of the relationship. Not a very good way to go, but a very real feeling for many people in the Lonely Heart’s Club.
Olivia Newton John and Cliff Richard’s duet“Suddenly” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkNDPQ4UfeU is a song that is a 180 out from We Don’t Talk Anymore. This song is one that speaks of a deep love and admiration for each of the two people in the relationship that they are willing to do anything and go anywhere to be with one another.
The Dr Hook hit“Years from Now” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfsPeVVL8zE is one that always manages to bring a tear to my eye. It came out about a year after Judy and I started dating and even though it is now well over 30 years since I first heard it I imagined the future, now we are deep into it and I feel the same way. One verse says “I know this world that we live in can be hard, Now and then and it will be again, Many times we’ve been down,Still love has kept us together the flame never dies, When I look in your eyes the future I see.” Since we have gone through many difficult times it is a song that is intensely personal and one that I almost feel that I could have written the lyrics.
David Soul riding high on his success in Starsky and Hutch released “Don’t Give up on Us Baby” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY8APrYU2Gs in 1977. It hit number one in both the US and UK and was his one big hit. It is a song of a man trying to convince a woman that they have a relationship that is more than just one night. “Don’t give up on us, baby, We’re still worth one more try, I know we put a last one by, Just for a rainy evening, When maybe stars are few, Don’t give up on us, I know, We can still come through.”
Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xnyHG96vY8 is a song that means a great deal to both Judy and I. The words are somehow haunting and healing. One verse and the chorus really get to me. “Romance and all its strategy leaves me battlin’ with my pride, But through the insecurity some tenderness survives, I’m just another writer, still trapped within my truth, A hesitant prize fighter, still trapped within my youth. And sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much, And I have to close my eyes and hide, I wanna hold you till I die, till we both break down and cry, I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.”
Van Morrison wrote “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ4NAZPi2js in 1989. Recorded and released by Rod Stewart in 1993 it is a song that originally was written as a prayer by Morrison. It is sung at many weddings and it a song that I will stop and listen to whenever I hear it.
The Australian duo Air Supply is known for their mellow love songs and one of them“Two Less Lonely People in the World” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RidVsFXE2Y0 is one that I like. Sometimes I think that had I not met Judy that I never would have married. I am quite the introvert and often a loner that prefers the adventure of being independent and adventurous and does not like to be tied down. When my father retired from the Navy in 1974 I thought that my life was over, because we were going to remain in one place. Judy had spent most of her life in one city but I took her away from that because throughout my life I have been afflicted with this wanderlust and spirit of adventure. That being said the fact that we are together means that even though we are often apart that there are still “two less lonely people in the world tonight.”
Meat Loaf’s “I Would do Anything for Love” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GNhdQRbXhc from his 1993 Bat Out of Hell Album is one of the big world wide rock power ballads of the past two decades. The focus is probably more on the physical relationship that some of the other songs in this list but it has a resonance because the physical is also a big part of why we fall in love with each other. “As long as the planets are turning, As long as the stars are burning, As long dreams are coming true, You’d better believe it, that I would do, Anything for love, And I’l be there until the final act, I would do anything for love, and I’ll take a vow and seal a pact…”
Elton John’s “Your Song” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTa8U0Wa0q8 is a tender ballad of a musician who has little to give his love except a song.
Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEwNcnklcsk is a song that hits hard at a situation that many couples that love each other find themselves. That is when for whatever reason they find that they need to be away from each other, but the key is that they find their way back.
REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight this Feeling” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqJK29zsO44 is actually quite good because it is a song that sees a relationship go from a friendship to something more, something that sometimes scares the people involved because somehow we often think that we don’t want to “ruin the friendship.” I really think that any relationship that is meant to be has to begin with friendship and the words in the song “What started out as friendship, Has grown stronger. I only wish I had the strength to let it show” is a reality for so many people.
Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s a Heartache” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8VGQTtENSs has been recorded and been a hit for Juice Newton and Rod Stewart as well as Tyler. It is a song that speaks of the pain of a broken relationship when one of the people involved is more dependent on the other person than that person is committed to them.
Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xGkscrvMjE is a song that describes the breakup of what may be an illicit love affair. Since a lot of people become involved in such relationships it is a powerful reminder of the pain associated with the end of those relationships.
A similar theme is part of Laura Branigan’s “How am I Supposed to Live Without You” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN6JBTGcr68 though it seems that this song is not about an illicit relationship but the betrayal felt by a person who finds that the one that they love is leaving them.
I find a lot of commonality with Journey’s power ballad “Faithfully” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMD8hBsA-RI. Written about the love of a couple, one of whom spends his life on the road as a musician and rediscovers his love for his bride. I think that it is a song that any man or woman in the military, or for that matter any other profession that spends much time away from home can relate.
The tender ballad by Kiss“Beth” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbtO_Ayjw0M is a song that I think expresses how many people deal with the tension between what they love and who they love. The song is about a man who promises to come home as soon as he is done playing music with his band and keeps calling back until finally he admits that he will not be coming home that night.
Blondie’s Heart of Glass http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGU_4-5RaxU is another song that talks about misplaced love and how many relationships appear to be real but then end with at least one partner hurting and wondering what happened.
Abba“One of Us” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIKAe8Wi0S0 is another song about a relationship where one partner thinks that they can do better only to find out that they were wrong. The chorus “One of us is crying, One of us is lying, In her lonely bed, Staring at the ceiling, Wishing she was somewhere else instead, One of us is lonely, One of us is only, Waiting for a call, Sorry for herself, feeling stupid feeling small, Wishing she had never left at all….” finds an echo in many of the people that I meet.
Finally there is a song that from the first time I heard it has been a song that speaks to me about my love for Judy. It is a song that like Dr Hook’s Years from Now, is a reminder of how far we have come and how much we have been through. That song is Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzEwadgcZnQ which was released in 1982, a year before we were married.
Tonight I was with my friends but away from Judy and home. My friends can related to many of the stories having been through broken relationships, divorce and even the death of their spouses. They are a special group of friends and I am glad to call them friends. They are a Lonely Heart’s club in a way.
Have a happy Valentine’s Day evening and may your love grow strong.