My funny valentine, sweet comic valentine

Rock ‘n roll lyrics, by and large, tend to be about subjects like rebellion, sex, protest, fantasy, breakups, drugs and drinking, and sometimes just sheer nonsense.  But they’re also about friendship, peace, encouragement, hope and, yes, true love.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have selected 15 songs that might make a good soundtrack to the time you spend with the one who makes your heart skip a beat…

“Oh My Love,” John Lennon (1971)

There are legions of Beatles fans who have never warmed to Yoko Ono bimages-24ecause of the part they believe she played in breaking up the world’s best band.  Lennon himself would tell them to get over it, that the band was starting to grow apart before she entered his life, and that he had found his true soul mate and was very very happy.  Witness “Oh My Love,” Lennon’s touching tribute to Ono from his landmark “Imagine” album.  Theirs is clearly one of the great celebrity love stories of our time.  Sample lyrics:  “I see the wind, oh I see the trees, everything is clear in my heart, I see the clouds, oh I see the sky, everything is clear in our world, oh my love, for the first time in my life, my mind is wide open, oh my lover, for the first time in my life, my mind can feel…”

984522-199x300“Cupid,” Sam Cooke (1961)

The gifted crooner was also a fine songwriter, and his producers asked him to write a tune for a female singer they’d seen on a TV variety show, but once they heard Cooke sing it, they decided he should release it himself, and it reached #17 here and #7 in the UK in 1961.  Critics called it “the perfect pop song,” combining Latin, R&B, jazz and mainstream pop elements.  Sample lyrics:  “Cupid, draw back your bow, and let your arrow go straight to my lover’s heart for me, cupid, please hear my cry, and let your arrow fly straight to my lover’s heart for me…”

727886“You’re My Best Friend,” Queen (1975)

Most Queen tracks were written by either vocalist Freddie Mercury or guitarist Brian May, but this love song is one of only a handful composed by bass player John Deacon.  It was written about his wife Veronica Tetzlaff, and it ended up reaching #16 as the follow-up single to the worldwide smash “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  Sample lyrics:  “I’ve been with you such a long time, you’re my sunshine, and I want you to know that my feelings are true, I really love you, oh, you’re my best friend…”

hl_dds_0000000000129060“How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved By You),” Marvin Gaye (1964), Junior Walker (1966), James Taylor (1975)

Written by the prolific Motown songwriting team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, this love song was first recorded by Marvin Gaye, whose version reached #6.  Junior Walker & the All Stars managed to reach #18 with their cover in 1966, and then James Taylor bested them both with a #5 hit in 1975.  Sample lyrics:  “I needed the shelter of someone’s arms, and there you were, I needed someone to understand my ups and downs, and there you were, you brighten up for me all of my days, your love’s so sweet in so many ways…”

61t6ljivpwl-_sy300_ql70_“I Wanna Marry You,” Bruce Springsteen (1980)

This poignant tune from “The River” LP tells the tale of a young man who is attracted to a single mother pushing a stroller, and has the romantic notion that it might be mutually beneficial if he starts becoming more responsible, while helping move her dreams along, by getting married.  Sample lyrics:  “Oh darlin’, there’s something happy and there’s something sad ’bout wanting somebody oh so bad, I wear my love, darlin’, without shame, I’d be proud if you would wear my name, little girl, I wanna marry you…”

sb-127“Here There and Everywhere,” The Beatles (1966)

Universally acclaimed (even by John Lennon) as one of Paul McCartney’s prettiest melodies and lyrics, this track from the wide-ranging “Revolver” album is one of the best love songs in The Beatles catalog, and more mature than the early moon-June-spoon stuff of their Beatlemania period.  Sample lyrics:  “I want her everywhere, and if she’s beside me, I know I need never care, but to love her is to meet her everywhere, knowing that love is to share, each one believe that love never dies, watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there…”  

the_stylistics-im_stone_in_love_with_you_s“I’m Stone in Love With You,” The Stylistics (1972)

Thom Bell was one of the most successful songwriters for, and producers of, the “Philadephia Sound” artists in the Seventies (O’Jays, Spinners, Delfonics, Stylistics).  He specialized in love songs, and this beauty, sung in falsetto by lead vocalist Russell Thompkins, reached #10, one of five Bell-Stylistics collaborations to go Top Ten during their 1971-1974 heyday.  Sample lyric: “I’m just a man, an average man, doing everything the best I can, but if I could, I’d give the world to you, I would hold a meeting for the press to let them know, I did it all ’cause I’m stone in love with you…”

elviswantyou“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” Elvis Presley (1956)

Following the huge success of Elvis’s breakthrough hit “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956, the need was great for a follow-up single.  He and his band were on a punishing tour schedule, but RCA paid to fly him to Nashville on a small prop plane, which developed engine trouble and scared the wits out of everyone on board.  Elvis was shaken enough that he couldn’t record a decent take of the love song he was given, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” so the engineer did something very rare for the time — he spliced parts of two takes together to create one decent take for release.  Sample lyric:  “Won’t you please be my own?, never leave me alone, ’cause I die every time we’re apart, I want you, I need you, I love you, with all my heart…”

the_police_ghost_in_the_machine_album_cover_hidden_message_meaning_666“Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” The Police (1981)

Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting, wrote nearly all of The Police’s songs, and this one had actually been written in 1976 before the band was formed.  Guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland didn’t think the band should do a love song and wanted to veto it, but Sting prevailed, and it ended up #3 in the US and #1 in the UK.  Sample lyric:  “Every little thing she does is magic, everything she do just turns me on, even though my life before was tragic, now I know my love for her goes on, I resolve to call her up a thousand times a day, and ask her if she’ll marry me in some old-fashioned way…”

maxresdefault-5“Never My Love,” The Association (1967), 5th Dimension (1971), Blue Swede (1974)

This love song by composer brothers Donald and Richard Addrisi made three appearances in the Top 10 by three different artists between 1967 and 1974.  The Association’s version, an enormous #1 hit, came first, followed by The 5th Dimension’s #12 live rendition in 1971, and lastly, a #7 disco-ish version in 1974 by the European band Blue Swede.  Due in large part to three separate successful recordings, “Never My Love” was named in 1999 by BMI as the second most played song on radio and TV in the 20th Century, behind The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” but ahead of The Beatles’ “Yesterday”!  Sample lyrics:  “You ask me if there’ll come a time when I grow tired of you, never my love, never my love, you wonder if this heart of mine will lose its desire for you, never my love, never my love…”

fleetwood-mac-tumblr_l4ggb3gmpp1qcqlrao1_500“You Make Loving Fun,” Fleetwood Mac (1977)

“Rumours,” one of the ten best-selling albums of the rock era, was full of tunes with lyrics about breakups, since two of Fleetwood Mac’s three songwriters (Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks) were in the midst of a stormy split during recording sessions. But Christine McVie, who had just divorced her husband John McVie, was having an affair with paramour Curry Grant and wrote about it in this effervescent love song, which reached #9 as the album’s fourth single.  Sample lyrics:  “Sweet wonderful you, you make me happy with the things you do, oh, can it be so, this feeling follows me wherever I go, you, you make loving fun, it’s all I want to do…” 

youve_made_me_so_very_happy_bst“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” Blood Sweat and Tears (1969)

This love song was written in 1967 by Motown singer Brenda Holloway and her sister Patrice, along with Motown songwriter-producer Frank Wilson and label mogul Berry Gordy.  Holloway managed to reach only #39 with her recording, but in 1969, the jazz-rock band Blood Sweat & Tears had an enormous #2 hit with it.  Sample lyrics:  “‘Cause you came and you took control, you touched my very soul, you always showed me that loving you is where it’s at, you’ve made me so very happy, I’m so glad you came into my life…”

xwild“Underneath the Streetlight,” Joni Mitchell (1982)  

One of the most incisive and poetic lyricists of the past half-century, Mitchell rarely wrote conventional love songs, leaning more toward songs that explored the difficulties, challenges and breakups of relationships.  While working on her “Wild Things Run Fast” LP in 1982, though, she fell head over heels for bass player Larry Klein, who she married later that year.  This song describes her unabashed joy at being in love again:  “Yes I do, I love you!, I swear on the stars above I do!, I swear on the streetlight on the corner, shoving back the shadows…”  

e52ffef763324943a8aa392de3e1f168“Happy Together,” The Turtles (1967)

Two guys named Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon, formerly in an obscure band called The Magicians, wrote “Happy Together” in 1966 and pitched it to more than a dozen artists before it was finally accepted and recorded by The Turtles, an LA-based band that had nine Top 20 hits between 1965 and 1969.  Their recording was #1 for three weeks in 1967. Sample lyrics:  “The only one for me is you, and you for me, so happy together, I can’t see me loving nobody but you for all my life, when you’re with me, baby, the skies will be blue for all my life…”

07e95a45“Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green (1972)

Written and sung by Green, “Let’s Stay Together” emerged as one of the great R&B love songs of all time, holding on to the #1 spot for three weeks in late 1971/early 1972.  It also served as a comeback single for Tina Turner in 1983, reaching #26.  Sample lyrics:  “I, I’m so in love with you, whatever you want to do is all right with me, ’cause you make me feel so brand new, and I want to spend my life with you…”


Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lovebirds!



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