Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Since today is an odd confluence of Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, and the opening of Spring Training I am going to hopefully avoid any controversy by sharing some of my favorite love songs for Valentine’s Day.
I have spent many Valentine’s Days away from my wife Judy over the course of my military career. Tonight we’ll be together she has a class that I don’t want to take her away from and on her way there she’ll drop me off at Gordon Biersch and then when she is done comes back and meet me for dinner there.
We have spent a lot of time away from each other during the course of my military career. I added up the time between when I was mobilized from the Army Reserve in 1996 to support the Bosnia Operation until when I returned from Camp LeJeune in August of 2013 and I figured at we had been apart 10 of 17 years between 1996 and 2013 due to military assignments. I am glad I am hopefully won’t have to spend months or years away from her again as I enter the twilight years of my career.
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 at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton California.
It is interested because a number of years later Barry Manilow wrote a song called The Summer of 78 which expresses much of what I felt and still feel about her.
It was one of those summer’s
making the winter wait
a summer of music and passion
the summer of ’78
you appeared like the summer
sudden and perfect
and not a day too late
I swear there was music when I found you
that summer of ’78
it seem we floated through the days
and nights were always filled with stars
and it seemed every song they played on the radio
it was one of those summer’s
only for lovers
touched by the hand of faith
and now when the winter’s are long
I remember the summer of ’78
I think any compilation of love songs has to begin with Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England” 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” 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” 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” 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” 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” 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” 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” 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.
But we really do, at least most of us hope that we will find that person who will take a chance on us like in the Abba song, or in some cases if we have been hurt someone who will take a chance again as Barry Manilow sang about.
But “It’s so Easy to Fall in Love” as Linda Ronstadt lets us know, but holding on to that love can be a different matter.
When we do fall in love we hope that they will be our First, my Last, My Everything.
But holding on to love can be difficult and can end up on the rocks when our love stops bringing flowers or singing love songs.
The Dr. Hook hit “Years from Now” 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” 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.” I find the Chicago ballad If You Leave Me Now evokes similar feelings.
Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” 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” 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” 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” 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” is a tender ballad of a musician who has little to give his love except a song.
One of the tenderest duets for Valentine’s Day comes from Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, the hit Endless Love was written for the movie of the same name. The Bee Gee’s Disco era smash How Deep is Your Love is another tender song of devotion to a love as is Al Green’s classic Let’s Stay Together.
Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” 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” 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” 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, and sometimes when we fall for someone we are in over our heads, as Fleetwood Mac’s Over My Head so bluntly states.
Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” 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” 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. Her song Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? tells the story of a woman wondering if her love will still love her, but there is always the Power of Love. However when all else fails it is helpful to know that Storms Never Last.
I find a lot of commonality with Journey’s power ballad “Faithfully.” 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 as is Elton John’s I Guess that’s Why they Call it the Blues.
The tender ballad by Kiss “Beth” 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 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. The Tide is High is Judy’s ringtone on my iPhone, it is about a girl who won’t give up on her love and Dreaming is another song of dreams of love as is Fleetwood Mac’s Say You Love Me.
The Swedish super group Abba had numerous songs dealing love, hope, love lost and love found. “One of Us” is 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. Their lesser known song, Our Last Summer tells the story of a woman remembering her last summer in Paris with a former lover. Knowing Me Knowing You tells the story of a breakup as does The Winner Takes it All.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Kenny Rogers released a number of songs suitable for the Valentine’s Day. She Believes in Me is wonderful because it talks of an experience that many young lovers know that of having someone who believes in them and their dreams, even when they wonder. You Decorated My Life talks about the difference a love makes in life, while Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer a duet he sang with singer songwriter Kim Carnes talks about the hazards of falling in love with a dreamer, or a person like me, and love can be difficult even when we give the best that we have, as the Eagles noted in The Best of My Love.
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” which was released in 1982, a year before we were married.
Of course there is one that is Judy’s ringtone for me, The Partridge Family and I Think I Love You. I do think I love you too Judy, “So what am I so afraid of? I’m afraid that I’m not sure of, A love there is no cure for…”
But then I am in love with a beautiful woman…
And I Will Always Love You.
So to all of my readers, enjoy the music and have a happy Valentine’s Day.