The two most universal languages in the world are love and music. A mix of the two has long been used to express the joy and longing for love. Love songs resonate with lovers of every age and across borders.
Love has been a central theme in the history of music and some of the most perennially loved songs, by some of the greatest artists in popular music have been about love.
While there have been countless artists who have sung paeans to love over the years, there are a few who stand out from the rest.
During the 50s and 60s one of the first names to come to mind is the leader of the ‘Rat Pack’, Frank Sinatra. Though his career spanned several decades, many of his romantic ballads remain timeless. Songs like ‘Fly Me to the Moon’, ‘Strangers In The Night’, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, make it to most of the greatest love song’s playlists.
Alongside Sinatra, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin captivated the hearts of millions of lovers. The singer with her four-octave vocal range gave us such memorable songs as ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’, ‘I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)’, ‘Dr.Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)’.
Then came Elvis Presley, who could have sung about something as mundane as the weather and still had the ladies swooning and crying their hearts out! Songs like ‘Love Me Tender’, ‘Love Me’ and of course ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, still sends romantics into raptures 44 years after his death.
“You’re the best I ever had
You’re so bad baby
But I must like you like that”
Sang the R&B and Soul music legend Marvin Gaye, making women drool and go weak in the knees. The Motown Records superstar continued to churn out several chart topping hits in the 70s too including ‘I Want You’, ‘Mercy Mercy Me’, ‘Let’s Get It On’ among others.
But love songs are not restricted to any one era.
Permed hair, ripped tights, biker jackets, and oversized blazers defined the 80s. It also witnessed the debut of Whitney Houston. She is the only artist to chart seven consecutive number-one Billboard Hot 100 hits. The momentous ‘I Will Always Love You’ is the best-selling single by a woman in music history. Songs like ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’, ‘Saving All My Love for You’, ‘Greatest Love of All’ and ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’ make Whitney the most awarded female artist of all time.
After breaking up Wham!, and shedding his pretty boy image, George Michael went on to achieve iconic status in the 80s. The outspoken pop star belted out some of the biggest hits of the 80s such as ‘Father Figure’, ‘Faith’, the risqué ‘I Want Your Sex’ and the brilliant duet with Aretha Franklin ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’.
In the 90s the boy band brigade hit the scene like a runaway train. Bands like Backstreet Boys, Take That, Boyz II Men, All-4-One and many others were on top of the charts. But they had some illustrious company at the top. Canadian superstar Celine Dion made her English singing debut during this period and took the world by storm. ‘Because You Loved Me’, the duet with Clive Griffin ‘When I Fall In Love’ and the poignant ‘My Heart Will Go On’ made her the preeminent queen of love songs.
Music changes and evolves with each generation, but there’s one topic that has proven to be a constant, love. The new millennium saw music undergo a sea of change with technology playing a major role. Songs like ‘Fallin’ by Alicia Keys, Michael Buble’s ‘Everything‘, ‘Love Story’ by Taylor Swift, ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt, Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’, ‘Love On Top’ by Beyoncé kept the genre alive.
The permanent playlist fixtures
Along with these contemporary hits, a treasure trove of evergreen yesteryear’s love ballads, have become a permanent feature of every love songs playlist. ‘Stupid Cupid’ by Connie Francis, Frank & Nancy Sinatra’s 1967 hit ‘Something Stupid’, Percy Sledge’s ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’, were among the chart toppers in the 60s. The 1972 Billy Paul hit ‘Me and Mrs Jones’, Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, ‘How Deep is Your Love’ by Bee Gees, Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ a live duet with George Michael and Elton John are all unforgettable melodies that continue to be covered by generations of new artists.
Some other great songs to make it to the all-time greatest love songs would be Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’, Jennifer Rush’s ‘The Power of Love’, ‘Endless Love’ by Lionel Richie & Diana Ross, Bryan Adams’ ‘Heaven’, Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, Toni Braxton’s ‘Un-Break My Heart’, and Bon Jovi’s ‘Always’.
And none of the playlists would be complete without these classics, ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E King, John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’, Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You’ by George Benson, Chris de Burgh’s ‘Lady In Red’, ‘Unchained Melody’ by The Righteous Brothers.
From swinging 60s ballads to contemporary club bangers, tons of songs have been penned about the rollercoaster called love. To rank them in any particular order would not serve any great purpose nor do the artists and the songs the deserved justice. The list can be endless according to each one’s preferences.
Thankfully, there’s a love song for every occasion. Whether it’s your first dance together, first date, a Valentines Day Ball or if you are getting married, these evergreen classics will help you draw up a playlist for all your special moments.