Standards to Love: The Food Of Love
With Valentine’s Day only a few days away, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Of course, as I’m working on my novel, which is a love story, I’ve been writing about love, too. And to fuel my food for thought, I’ve been listening to songs- you guessed it- about love.
No one writes love songs like the composers who wrote their way into the Great American Songbook. I still believe that Cole Porter penned some of the greatest poetic lyrics ever.
Just look at the intro to Porter’s classic Night and Day:
There’s a lot of poetic devices going on in that stanza from consonance to onomatopoeia. It’s got rhythm and rhyme. Not to mention the wealth of understanding Porter displays of the foundations of poetic love. The tom-tom, the clock, the raindrops; the sounds derived from each of them are certain and expected. They are so constant you could set your watch by them. So, when Porter wrote that a voice within him keeps repeating you, you, you, it’s not just identifying the person to whom the song is written, it’s saying, the beat of my heart only says you because it is the way that it is. It’s expected. And it’s certain.
When you hear a love song, you want the love expressed in it to be that sort of love. The all or nothing at all. The I-can’t-imagine-my-life-without- you. The Catherine-Heathcliff sort of love:
That’s the sort of soul-rending love that I like to hear about, especially around Valentine’s Day. Without further ado, here are a few songs that unapologetically trumpet that sort of love.
The question of whether the person loves the other is answered with a mathematical certainty. One and one will always be two. It’s an eternal principle. An absolute. Just like his love. The version I believe conveys the magnificence of this tune is sung by Jane Monheit.
When it comes to eternal principles, constants that are everlasting, then Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kerns love song All The Things You Are must be talked about. The lyrics, penned by Hammerstein, are superb. The singer lists all the ethereal, rapturous elements found in the universe and then equates his love to them. This song reaches beyond the constants we see in the world around us to the divine.
Originally, I was going to include Jo Stafford’s recording of this number. However, while searching for it on YouTube, I was reminded of Dick Haymes’ heavenly rendition. And, since we’re tapping into divine allusions with this lyrics, his seemed the more appropriate.
The songwriting partnership between Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart produced some of the most lasting and impactful love songs of all time. Isn’t It Romantic? is still a popular tune heard today. Thanks to such talents as Janis Joplin with her cut of Little Girl Blue and Lady Gaga with her The Lady is a Tramp, Rodgers and Hart’s songbook has transcending genres, too. And, speaking of The Lady is a Tramp, Rodgers and Hart’s smash hit Babe in Arms had several great love songs, chief amongst them My Funny Valentine. The magic of this song is that the person singing it sees the person they love fully, as they really are, yet all their little imperfections such as their figure being less than that of a Greco-Roman statue comprise all the things that make their lover’s heart sing.
This song needs to be sung from the rooftops because it highlights one of the most important things about falling in love. It’s not with the outward shows a person puts on. It’s with the caliber of who that person is, their heart, their soul, the innermost being. That’s a message we need to hear more and more in today’s culture where too much weight is place on the outward. I was going to use lounge singer Jacqui Naylor’s rendition as it has a unique arrangement, but I’m going with my favorite recording. Here’s Carly Simon.
If you’ve seen the romance Forever Young starring Mel Gibson and Jamie Lee Curtis, then you’ll be familiar with this song. The English composer Ray Noble wrote and recorded this song to critical acclaim in 1934. One of the most famous recordings, however, was done by Lady Day- Billie Holiday. The Very Thought of You has a similar lyrical form to All the Things You Are. Here’s a woman singing about how just the thought of her lover makes her forget all the trivial things she needs to be doing. She can’t even take a walk without having his visage conjured before her.
I almost chose Ann Hampton Callaway’s cut of this song as it was my father’s favorite recording of it. However, it’s impossible not to select Billie Holiday’s rendition.
Arthur Schwartz and E.Y. Harburg composed this song in 1934. Fats Waller was the first to record it. He’s part of the songwriting duo that gave us the fun Honeysuckle Rose (see Standards to Love post here). It seemed best to end with this song. The intro speaks of the world’s uncertainties. No one can be sure if the sun will shine, or if they will see a new dawn, but this person is absolutely certain that her love will last on and on. More so, not only is her love a constant by which the days and nights can be charted, but she also knows that she will never be tired of her lover.
I love John Coltrane’s instrumental of this song, but I really want you to hear the lyrics. So, I turned to Dinah Shore, whose voice belongs with those flights of angels that sing thee to thy rest. Accompanying her on the piano is André Previn.
All the songs I’ve reference in today’s post can be found on Whiskers On Kittens’ Valentine’s Day Playlist over on YouTube. I’ve done my best to compile a list of songs that not only are beautiful love songs, but ones that flow into one another so that you can just hit the shuffle button and let it play. It will fill your atmosphere with romance.
Happy Valentine’s Day- albeit it early- dear readers. May you know that you are loved and cherished.
And, if there’s a love song that’s one of your favorites- regardless of genre- please share it with us.