I’m so glad you came into my life

What comes to mind when you think of rock music lyrics?

songwritingGetting high?  “We’re gonna lay around the shanty, mama, and put a good buzz on…”

Cars?  “I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel…”

The weekend?  “Monday I got Friday on my mind…”

Rebellion?  “It’s my life, and I’ll do what I want!…”

Basic philosophy?  “You can’t always get what you want…”

Mindless words thrown together?  “Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower…”

love-songs-cassette-mixtape-billboard-650What about love and romance?  Well, of course.  But far too often, the songs seem to center on heartbreak and unrequited love.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’ve collected a baker’s dozen of great love songs from years gone by that you and your loved one can sing to each other.  A Spotify playlist below will help you recall the words and melody in case you’ve forgotten them.  Enjoy!

 

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turtles_happy_together“Happy Together,” The Turtles, 1967

One of the most joyous, infectious tunes of the 1960s, in my opinion, is this irresistible song by The Turtles, the L.A.-based group fronted by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (later known as Flo & Eddie).  The team of Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner wrote “Happy Together” expressly for The Turtles, who took it to #1 in the spring of 1967.  It’s one of the Top Ten most-played songs on the radio in the past 50 years:  “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, me and you, and you and me, no matter how they toss the dice, it had to be, the only one for me is you, and you for me, so happy together…”

Joni_Mitchell-Both_Sides_Now“You’re My Thrill,” Joni Mitchell, 2000

Joni’s songwriting skills are widely known, but in her later years, she has shown a fine ability to interpret the works of others.  On “Both Sides Now,” a collection of standards that follow a romantic relationship from early infatuation to painful denouement, her time-worn voice poignantly covers such classics as the 1933 chestnut “You’re My Thrill,” first popularized by Billie Holiday.   Remember the exhilaration of new love?  “You’re my thrill, you do something to me, you send chills right through me when I look at you, ’cause you’re my thrill…”

1200x630bb-8“At Last,” Etta James, 1960

Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote this classic in 1941 for the Glenn Miller film “Orchestral Wives,” which flopped at the box office.  It languished for nearly 20 years before blues singer Etta James cut her smoldering rendition and made it the signature song of her impressive career.  I still hear “At Last” at weddings when the happy couple takes their “first dance” as husband and wife:   “I found a thrill to press my cheek to, a thrill that I had never known, you smiled, and then the spell was cast, and here we are in Heaven, for you are mine at last…”

MI0000082694“Grow Old With Me,” Mary Chapin-Carpenter, 1995

The late great John Lennon was known mostly as an iconoclastic rocker, from his lusty rendition of “Twist and Shout” to the strident “Revolution” and much of his solo catalog, but wow, he could sure write some beautiful ballads as well — “In My Life,” “Imagine,” “Beautiful Boy,” to name just a few.  In the months before he was killed, he wrote several dozen songs, many of which, sadly, were recorded only in demo form.  The best of these is “Grow Old With Me,” which he intended to be, in his words, “a new standard to be played at 50th anniversaries.”  Mary Chapin Carpenter, among others, resurrected the song and offered beautiful treatment of a real gem:  “Grow old along with me, two branches of one tree, face the setting sun, when the day is done, God bless our love, God bless our love, spending our lives together, man and wife together, world without end, world without end…”

51fWG8ix9fL._SS500“Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Elvis Presley, 1962

Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, seasoned New York songwriters on their own, were commissioned to team up to create a song for Elvis in 1961.  Little did they know it would be not only the best-selling song of 1962, but it also reached the top of the charts a second time three decades later in a rendition by reggae group UB40:  “Like a river flows surely to the sea, darling, so it goes, some things were meant to be, take my hand, take my whole life too, for I can’t help falling in love with you…”

R-3020804-1422913032-9574-jpeg“For Once in My Life,” Stevie Wonder, 1968

Although this upbeat track became one of Stevie Wonder’s best loved among his early works, it was actually recorded first by The Temptation and The Four Tops, but their versions went nowhere.  Wonder’s televised performance of the song on “Ed Sullivan” included an electrifying harmonica solo that took it to another level:  “For once in my life, I have someone who needs me, someone I’ve needed so long, for once unafraid, I can go where life leads me, somehow I know I’ll be strong…”

2030166-38646“How Deep is Your Love,” The Bee Gees, 1977

The Brothers Gibb were writing and recording songs for their next album when producer Robert Stigwood asked them to contribute songs for the soundtrack of a movie he was producing about the disco dance culture.  They offered three dance tracks — “More Than a Woman,” Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive” — and this shimmering ballad, and they ended up as the anchor songs on the most successful movie soundtrack of all time, “Saturday Night Fever.”  Barry Gibb had emerged as the primary lead singer of the trio by then, much to the disgruntlement of Maurice and Robin.  But all three have said this was their favorite from the LP:  “I believe in you, you know the door to my very soul, you’re the light in my deepest, darkest hour, you’re my savior when I fall, and you may not think I care for you, when you know down inside that I really do, and it’s me you need to show, how deep is your love…”

VanMorrisonMoondance“Crazy Love,” Van Morrison, 1970

“Van the Man” is still touring and just released his 51st (!) album, still chock full of jump blues and Irish soul.  In his early years, he was infatuated with poetic imagery (his “Astral Week” LP) and jazzy ballads like “Moondance” and “Tupelo Honey.”  On the “Moondance” LP, he offered a couple of timeless love songs, the best of which is “Crazy Love”:   “And when I’m returning from so far away, she gives me some sweet lovin’ to brighten up my day, yes it makes me righteous, yes it makes me feel whole, yes it makes me mellow down into my soul, she give me love, love, love, love, crazy love…”

51tGMRJ8HIL-1“Only One,” James Taylor, 1985

Taylor has written plenty about love, though mostly wistful tunes about heartbreak.  Every so often, he finds himself in a good enough mood to write a happy love song like “Your Smiling Face,” or cover a familiar one like “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).”  Also worthy of your attention is a little-known track from his 1985 LP “That’s Why I’m Here” called “Only One,” which features harmonies by Joni Mitchell:  “You are my only one, you are my only one, don’t be leaving me now, believe in me now, well, I’m telling you now, now you’re my only one…”

whitealbum-500x500“I Will,” The Beatles, 1968

The celebrated White Album showed that The Beatles embraced, and could convincingly perform, a wide variety of musical genres:  blues, country-western, folk, dance-hall, avant-garde, you name it.  Their repertoire also had plenty of love songs, and although both Lennon and Harrison each wrote a few, it was usually McCartney who handled this assignment:  “P.S. I Love You,” “And I Love Her,” “Here, There and Everywhere”… and from The White Album, there’s the short-and-sweet “I Will”:   “Love you forever and forever, love you with all my heart, love you whenever we’re together, love you when we’re apart…”

mzi.klirqvpz.600x600-75“Sweethearts Together,” The Rolling Stones, 1994

There are precious few songs in the voluminous catalog written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that would qualify as romantic, but there are exceptions (“As Tears Go By,” “Wild Horses,” “Angie”).  Much later in their career arc, The Glimmer Twins surprised us by offering their prettiest ballad yet, “Sweethearts Together,” a tender ode to eternal love.  This one is a delightful break from their usual badass rock stance:  “Sweethearts together, we’ve only just begun, sweethearts together, so glad I found someone, sweethearts forever, two hearts together as one…”

MI0003210767“The Best is Yet to Come,” Frank Sinatra, 1964

Ol’ Blue Eyes was known for many great romantic songs in the American songbook, and one of the better ones was this beauty, written in 1959 by Cy Coleman and lyricist Carolyn Leigh.  The songwriters first gave it to the young Tony Bennett, who recorded a decent version, but Sinatra’s 1964 recording backed by the Count Basie Orchestra remains the definitive rendition.  The lyrics celebrate newfound love while positively looking forward to even greater things:  “Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum, you came along and everything’s starting to hum, still, it’s a real good bet, the best is yet to come…”

R-2386642-1400924329-2574.jpeg“Valentine,”  Nils Lofgren, 1991

Ever since he first showed up on our radar in 1970 as the talented backup guitarist on Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” album, Nils Lofgren has quietly established himself as a force to be reckoned with.  He emerged as a remarkable songwriter and vocalist, although it was his guitar skills that took him to loftier heights as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.  On his 1991 LP “Silver Lining,” Lofgren showed his sweet side with the romantic “Valentine”:  “Our differences are part of life, still, love will pass the test of time, I want you every day and night, girl, won’t you be my valentine?…”

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Closing time

As the final days and hours of 2017 tick away, we should take time to pause, reflect and ruminate on our assets and defects, our accomplishments and shortcomings, what went well and what needs improvement.  There’s always a certain sadness and angst during such times, a feeling of time slipping away, frustrations, setbacks, paths not taken.

New-Years-EveWe can, as always, use music to help us sort through all these feelings.  The popular music of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and beyond offer various viewpoints on “the end” and what that may mean in diverse situations and circumstances.

The best part of tallying up our wins and losses of the year just completed is in polishing our dreams and plans for the year to come.  So much promise and potential!  Staying positive, surrounding yourself with true friends and family, and taking each day one at a time is a great prescription for life.

I wish all my readers a healthy and happy New Year!

Here are ten songs about “the end”, with a Spotify playlist at the end to provide audio accompaniment.  Cheers!

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TravWilb1CoverEnd of the Line,” The Traveling Wilburys, 1988

In 1987, ELO’s Jeff Lynne was producing George Harrison’s latest LP (“Cloud Nine”), and they each dreamed of making music with their idols (Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan, respectively).  Tom Petty had been touring with Dylan, and in short order, the fivesome came together in a Malibu studio, each bringing a few songs to the party, and the result was “The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1.”  It was a tongue-in-cheek “supergroup” LP that sold three million copies and spawned two minor hit singles, “Handle With Care,” carried largely by Harrison, and the happy-go-lucky “End of the Line,” which featured primarily Petty.  Orbison died only weeks after the album’s release in late 1988, and the remaining four released a less successful second effort (whimsically entitled “Volume 3”) in 1990, but they never toured, and soon reverted to their solo careers.

51uINqr1iZL“Stoney End,” Barbra Streisand, 1970

Streisand’s forte has always been Broadway show tunes and diva-worthy standards like her award-winning signature song “People.”  But she has dabble successfully in other genres, including disco (“Guilty,” a duet with Barry Gibb) and pop ballads (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” a duet with Neil Diamond) in the late ’70s and early ’80s.  Back in 1970, she collaborated with pop-rock producer Richard Perry on a surprising smorgasbord of songs by contemporary writers like Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Gordon Lightfoot and Randy Newman.  She scored a smash #6 hit with Laura Nyro’s effervescent “Stoney End,” with its enigmatic lyrics of endings and beginnings:  “Going down the Stoney End, I never wanted to go, down the Stoney End, Mama, let me start all over, cradle me, Mama, cradle me again…”  

ELO_Time_expanded_album_cover“From the End of the World,” Electric Light Orchestra, 1981

ELO was known for its use of cellos and other orchrestral instruments in its elaborate arrangements of rock songs, so the concept LP “Time” was a bit of a departure with its techno-electronic leanings.  Jeff Lynne’s song cycle centered on a man from 1981 who traveled through time (or did he just dream it?) to 2095, where he was faced with the dichotomy of technological advancement amid longings for the nostalgia of simpler times.  The lyrics to this track were a letter he sent “from the end of the world” back to his 1981 girlfriend:  “You’re so hard to get to, you don’t want to play, I sent a dream to you last night from the end of the world…”

Achtung_Baby“Until the End of the World,” U2, 1991

Regarded by some as the best track on U2’s popular “Achtung Baby” album, this amazing song features some of The Edge’s most ferocious guitar riffing.  Bono conjured up some of the most searing lyrics in his whole catalog,  three thought-provoking verses about Judas Iscariot and Jesus’s final days, with references to The Last Supper, Judas’s betrayal and subsequent suicide. “We ate the food, we drank the wine, everybody was having a good time except you, you were talking about the end of the world…I reached out for the one I tried to destroy, you said you’d wait,’til the end of the world…”  

maxresdefault-5“The End of the World,” Skeeter Davis, 1962

An archetypal song of sadness and loss, this country tune was an enormous #2 hit on the pop charts in 1962 for Nashville artist Skeeter Davis, and produced by the legendary Chet Atkins.  It typified the early-’60s wholesome music that dominated the airwaves between the early rock ‘n roll pioneers (Elvis) and the arrival of The Beatles.  “The End of the World” — which was re-recorded by many artists over the years, including pop acts like Herman’s Hermits and The Carpenters — wonders why the world goes on after the loss of the singer’s true love:  “Why does my heart go on beating? Why do theses eyes of mine cry?  Don’t they know it’s the end of the world, it ended when you said goodbye…”

maxresdefault-6“End of the Season,” The Kinks, 1968

On the list of most underrated bands that should have been far more successful, The Kinks stand at the top of the heap.  They exploded out of the gates in America with fellow British bands The Beatles and The Stones, but then fell back into a more cult-like minor success, with fiercely loyal followers but rarely at the top of the charts again, even though they endured into the 1990s.  In the 1967 “Summer of Love” period, they released an unheralded masterpiece, “Something Else,” a consistently strong LP that included their classic “Waterloo Sunset” and the charming “End of the Season,” with poetic imagery of endings and death with hope of rebirth:  “Since you’ve been gone, end of the season, winter is here, close of play… I will keep waiting until your return, now you are gone, end of the season…”    

TheDoorsTheDoorsalbumcover“The End,” The Doors, 1967

This 12-minute opus from The Doors’ outstanding debut LP became their signature climax number in nearly every live concert they did.  Spooky, otherworldly, incendiary and nightmarish, “The End” gave Jim Morrison an opportunity to provide a little Greek theater into a rock song, with Oedipal themes of murder and forbidden sex.  It became widely used in films, TV programs and documentaries, most notably at the beginning and end of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 unhinged Vietnam odyssey, “Apocalypse Now.” Morrison was saying that people should embrace death because it brings the end of pain:   “This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end…” 

Don_Henley_-_The_End_of_the_Innocence“The End of the Innocence,” Don Henley, 1989

This brilliant piece, with music written by Bruce Hornsby and incisive lyrics by Henley, does an extraordinary job of evoking a powerful sense of nostalgia for the lost innocence of childhood and perhaps an easier time in our lives.  Henley had been co-founder and co-leader of The Eagles throughout the Seventies, but by this point, he was nearly a decade into his solo career and might have been pining a bit for the heady days of filling arenas and topping the charts.  The group would reunite four years later, but this song captures the uneasiness of uncertainty as to what the future may hold:  “Offer up your best defense, but this is the end, this is the end of the innocence…”

220px-Beatles_-_Abbey_Road“The End,” The Beatles, 1969

How fitting that the final track on the final album The Beatles recorded was called “The End.”  It concludes not only the astonishing eight-song medley that comprises much of Side Two (remember album sides?) of the “Abbey Road” LP, but also caps their unparalleled eight-year career as recording artists — 14 albums, 22 singles, 216 songs in total,  between June 1962 and August 1969.  “The End” is brief (2:05) but hugely memorable:  It includes Ringo’s one and only drum solo; it features a remarkable 18-bar guitar “solo” that is actually an interchange between McCartney, Harrison and Lennon trading licks, in that order, each three times; and it ends with the vintage line summing up their life philosophy:  “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Tom_Waits_-_Closing_Time-2“Closing Time,” Tom Waits, 1973

There are no words to this hauntingly lovely jazz piano piece that concludes Tom Waits’ remarkable debut LP of the same name from 1973.  And none are needed. The music evokes a feeling of a quiet tavern at 2:00 a.m., maybe in New York City or really anywhere at all.  The bartender has announced “last call” and is wiping down the bar and sweeping the floor, and it’s time for you to head on home.  A great way to conclude this poignant playlist…

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