I’m kicking off a series called “What’s Your Favorite Song?” where we all get to share our favorite song of a particular topical genre.
As a songwriter, there are certain songs people expect you to write. For example: sooner or later someone is going to ask to hear a love song. But my feeling was why add another love song to the pain of the world :-). Maybe I’m jaded, but I mean it’s been done so many times – how could you ever hope to offer anything original that didn’t feel derivative? And with so many songs distorted by maudlin sentimentality at best or narcissistic self-centeredness at worst, it can leave me feeling like the last thing I want to hear is another love song, let alone try to write one. And yet… and yet…
There comes along once in a while a love song that awakens deep longings, and makes your heart ache with the beauty of it, and you believe again (cue the love theme from Titanic here). You know, the kind of song that might make you want to stand outside the window of that special someone, raise your boombox up over your head like John Cusack in Say Anything, and hit play. But what song would you play?
All kidding aside, I’m talking about the kind of song makes you ache with something like joy and want to love better. So I wanted to start my own “On The Table” thread and asked some rabbit roomers what their top three favorite loves songs are and why.
I also hope to hear from other posters as well! Please tell us about three (or more, or less) of your favorite love songs and why we should love them as much as you do.
(There are subcategories of love songs like heartbreak songs, break up songs, love lost, etc. So with this one I’m specifically thinking of love songs that speak to the beauty and longing of it, even the wishing for or gratitude of it.)
Alright, I’ll start!
The line-up is ever changing, but right now I think my top three are as follows:
3. “I Want You To Be My Love” – Over The Rhine
I just like the way it feels and the beautiful simplicity of it.
(Listen to this song and watch a really cool fan video by clicking here)
2. “Take It With Me When I Go” – Tom Waits
“…in a land there’s a town, in that town there’s a house and in that house there’s a woman.
And in that woman there’s a heart I love
I’m going to take it with me when I go…”
(Listen to “Take It With Me” by clicking here)
1. “The Luckiest” – Ben Folds
I think a part of why I fell in love with this song is because it came from such an unexpected source. It is perhaps one of the most tender love songs I’ve ever heard and it comes from one of the most crass and smart alecky artists I know. Because of this, I think it comes as a gift – unexpected and therefore able to get past my heart’s best defenses. I love, too, that the lyric could sound creepy coming from anybody else (verse 2). The song is so unguardedly sincere, original, and startlingly tender. Folds knows that the usual well where love songs come from has been nearly exhausted and that if it’s to mean anything, he has to come up with another way of saying “I Love You”. I think he pulls it off:
(verse 2)…What if I’d been born fifty years before you
In a house on a street where you lived?
Maybe I’d be outside as you passed on your bike
Would I know?
And in a white sea of eyes
I see one pair that I recognize
And I know
That I am… the luckiest
I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you
Next door there’s an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know
That I am… the luckiest
(Listen to “The Luckiest” by clicking here)
1. “Sky Blue and Black” – Jackson Browne
This song strikes me as a beautifully sad love song.
2. “Rock of Your Love” – John Hiatt
One of my favorite choruses in all of musicdom.
3. “Let My Love Open the Door” – Pete Townshend
God bless the 80’s with its seemingly-lost art of hook writing and the 2-1/2 minute pop song. This song still feels so very good to me, even 20-something years after its initial release. I recommend the “E. Cola mix” version on his “Best Of” album.
I know it would sound cooler if I name-dropped living legends, classic rock or cult status artists, but I’m not really cool at all. So I have to go back to the time when I did believe I was cool and pay tribute to the greatest love songs circa ’80s hair metal.
1. Winger – “Seventeen”
Key Lyric: She’s only seventeen/ Daddy says she’s too young/ But she’s old enough for me
2. Bon Jovi – “I’ll be There For You”
Key Lyric: I’ll be the water when you get thirsty, baby/ When you get drunk, I’ll be the wine
3. Sheriff – “When I’m With You”
Key Lyric: Baby ooh I get chills when I’m with you oh
Boy, lemme see here…
First let me say that I’m not a big fan of favorites lists simply because mine are always changing depending on what’s going on in my life and what I’m listening to. With that in mind though, here’s what I narrowed it down to (oh boy, this is gonna be harder than I thought):
3. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel
Although it’s old and everyone’s heard it a million times, it’s just so heartbreakingly beautiful and ageless that I just couldn’t pass it by. My favorite part of the song is the verse that generally gets skipped over, the third.
Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
I love that verse not only because it’s the climax of the song, but because it’s an acknowledgment of the fact that loving a person means that sometimes you have to let them go on without you while assuring them that you still love and support them.
2. “Song of Songs” by Pierce Pettis
This song is steamy. No really. Don’t let the kids read this:
When your garden is wet with the morning dew
I will lie in the naked grass with you
I’ll fill my head with nature’s thick perfume
As the blushing sun throws its scarlet hues
Across the sky
And all creation groans
See what I mean? My favorite is the last verse though:
So who is this like rosy dawn
Moving softly like a rising fawn
Trailing starlight as she runs
Fair as the moon bright as the sun
She is my bride
I’ve come to take her home
And I will sing to her my song of songs.
If I had a wife, I’d sing that to her…actually, nevermind…I can’t sing and it’d just come out creepy.
After much deliberation I’m giving my number one spot to…
1. “In the Garden” by Van Morrison – This song just pulls it all together. It’s sensual, it’s spiritual, it’s intimate. It’s an amazing picture of two people in love and allowing the Lord to be a part of their union.
And as I touched your cheek so lightly
Born again you were, and blushed
And we touched each other lightly
And we felt the presence of the Christ within our hearts
In the garden
And I turned to you and I said
No guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost
In the garden
Wet with rain
Awesome sauce. And because I’m a horrid list-maker, here’s a few runner’s-up: Springsteen’s Secret Garden (perfectly captures that mysterious thing about women that perfectly baffles me), Falling Slowly from the Once Soundtrack, North Dakota by Lyle Lovett, and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (the long, dramatic, Diana Ross version…and that version only).
Being a huge fan of these two artists for at least the past 25 years, here are two of my favorite love songs:
“Something in the Way She Moves” – James Taylor.
A song that centers on the almost metaphysical nature and subtleties of human love.
And the for longing side of love:
“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell.
That’s James Taylor on acoustic guitar, by the way.
“Home Within Your Heart”- David Wilcox, from Underneath.
I love it because it is a love song about fighting. And it’s beautifully composed. It opens with this:
“Too tired to sleep, too angry to pray,
too far down to get back up,
too lost to find my way.
Who knows what happened, I’m too confused to say,
and too far gone to turn back now;
it’s too late anyway.
I don’t need a clever confidant to try
to soothe with hollow words,
I’ve heard them all.
What I need is just to know
I have a home within your heart.”
“Hold Up My Arms”- Andrew Peterson, from Clear to Venus
I love the side-by-side image of marriage captured in this one. “Hold up my arms like Moses in the desert when the battle went long. Hold up my arms. We can go at this together when my arms aren’t strong.” The reason this is on my list is because I recently heard Andrew sing it to a room full of grade-school kids. He was there for a reading of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and they asked him to play some songs. This one was a special request, and the teacher had taught the kids the chorus. So when he got to the chorus, every kid in the room started belting out the chorus along with him, and I have to tell you, it was quite powerful hearing just Andrew with his guitar and the voices of those children. I heard it in a new way and it made my list in a big way that day.
“No Place Closer to Heaven” – Charlie Peacock, from West Coast Diaries, Volume 2
Always has been ever since I first heard it.
Thanks for a great topic, Jason. It should be noted of course, the futility of this kind of project, distilling utmost pinnacle in a veritable forest of pinnacles. As a life-long lover of music which has consumed my personal and professional life for over forty years, this is a daunting task, for sure. The only hope I have of completing such an assignment is to shift my mind into random mode, with a little help from my iPod, to cherry pick the ripest musical fruit, which just happens to fall from the tree.
1. “Beauty” – David Mead
It’s haunting, lovely in an aching, melancholy way. Like most favorite songs, it’s personal. It illustrates my life long quest for beauty in all forms–music, movies, books, nature, even marital bliss–all of which, in the end, leave me to one extent or another (sorry to say) longing:
“Beauty, where to find it,
Can’t be far
Beauty, where you’re hiding,
Tell me, I’ll go where you are
I’ll go where you are.”
The bridge is the pivot point:
‘Cause every tear your silly eye bleeds
Well never fear, you may never see worse than this
I want to find a beautiful place
But maybe I forgot about today, now, here
It’s a reminder to graciously embrace beauty, with the realization that each beauty–each life, each love, each moment, however wonderful–is a mere reflection of that which is to come. To me, that’s concurrently very happy and very sad.
2. “Woman” – John Lennon
At once–lyrically and musically–harvests gratitude and unspeakable love through the vehicle of regret. It’s too trite to call this song an apology, though ostensibly, that’s what it is. I distinctly remember typing the lyrics out, as a prelude to my handwritten apology to my wife, after one of my early, long forgotten marital offences, from the early days.
3. “True” – Glen Phillips
On the surface, a prosaic ballad, but every line just so happens to characterize the primary relationship in my life. The double-entendre of the phrase, “I’ll be true,” with meaning that encompasses the respective meanings of honesty and faithfulness elevates the song into something more. My soul shreds into a million pieces when I remember those times when I haven’t been true, a million more pieces when my wife tells me that it’s okay anyway.
Jason Gray is a recording artist with Centricity Records. His latest single, out now, is "When I Say Yes".