Alternative – The Cure – “Lovesong”
Of all the bands that emerged in the immediate aftermath of punk rock in the late '70s, few were as enduring and popular as The Cure. Led through numerous incarnations by guitarist/vocalist Robert Smith, the band became notorious for its slow, gloomy dirges and Smith's ghoulish appearance, a public image that often hid the diversity of their music. Originally written by Smith for his long-time girlfriend and
then-fiancé Mary as a wedding gift, “Lovesong” (sometimes listed as “Love Song”) was released as the third single from The Cure’s eighth studio album Disintegration in 1989. The song’s dream-fueled sounds and plaintive lyrics made the song an instant hit, despite the music video’s cheesy spelunking-meets-sanitarium visuals. Already a romance masterpiece covered by many different artists, the song gained new popularity in
recent years when neo-soul vocalist Adele recorded it for her
sophomore release “21”.
Americana/Folk – Jim Croce – “Time in a Bottle”
Perhaps one of the most recognizable hits of the last 40 years, Jim Croce’s “Time In a Bottle” has not only endured but has gone on to become a popular romance tune completely accidentally. Never intended to be a single, the song was included on Croce’s 1972 major label debut You Don’t Mess Around with Jim. Written as an homage to his infant son Aiden (who would grow up to be a singer/songwriter as A.J. Croce), “Time In a Bottle” didn’t become a hit until a year after its release, 14 weeks after Croce’s death in a plane crash when it was used in the ABC made-for-TV movie She Lives, about a woman dying of cancer. Okay, perhaps not the most romantic of back stories. Regardless, the song has the distinction of being one of the most played songs at wedding receptions in history and is usually interpreted as a love song from one partner to the other.
Blues – Etta James – “At Last”
In 1960, “At Last” was covered by blues singer Etta James in an arrangement that improvised on the original melody. Recorded at the height of her well-known drug problems, the song wasn't as successful as expected, but has since become the definitive version of the song. Beyoncé Knowles was asked to sing the song at Barack Obama's first dance with his wife Michelle during the Neighborhood Ball on the night of his inauguration. All was well in Beyoncé's world until Etta James spoke out at a concert in Seattle. Apparently miffed at not being asked to perform her signature song for Obama, James said: "I can't stand Beyoncé. On a big old president day, don't be up there singing my song that I've been singing forever."
Classical - Ludwig van Beethoven – “Für Elise”
“Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor for solo piano”, commonly known as "Für
Elise" (translated "For Elise"), is arguably Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular composition. The score was not published until 1867, 40 years after the composer's death and it is not certain who the elusive "Elise" was. Experts suggest that the discoverer of the manuscript Ludwig Nohl may have transcribed the title incorrectly and the original work may have been named "Für Therese", a reference to Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza, a friend and student of Beethoven's to whom he proposed in 1810 though she turned him down to marry an Austrian nobleman. According to a recent study, there is flimsy evidence that the piece was written for the German soprano singer Elisabeth Röckel. "Elise", as she was called by a parish priest (she called herself "Betty" too), had been a friend of Beethoven's since 1808. Whoever the mysterious Elise may have been, her memory has been immortalized in one of the most romantic songs of all time.
Rap – Jay Z feat. Beyoncé – “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde”
The first ever collaboration between Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles, "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" incorporates elements from the songs "Me and My Girlfriend" by Tupac Shakur, and "If I Was Your Girlfriend" by Prince and uses the theme from "Pasttime Paradise" by Stevie Wonder for the refrain. The song's release also indicated the first public acknowledgment of Jay-Z's and Knowles' status, beginning rumors about a burgeoning romantic relationship. It was later revealed that both artists had been dating since recording the song; however, the relationship was only made public after both artists collaborated on songs such as "Crazy In Love" in 2003 and "Déjà Vu" in 2006. And, of course, Beyoncé and Jay-Z just recently welcomed bouncing baby girl Blue Ivy Carter into the world.
Country – Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”
Although "Ring of Fire" sounds ominous, the term refers to
falling in love. Some sources claim that the future June Carter Cash had seen the phrase, "Love is like a burning ring of fire," underlined in one of her uncle A. P. Carter's Elizabethan books of poetry. She worked with songwriter Merle Kilgore on writing a song inspired by this phrase as she had seen her uncle do in the past. In the 2005 film Walk the Line, June is depicted as writing the song while agonizing over her feelings for Cash despite his drug addiction and alcoholism as she was driving home one evening. She had written: "There is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns". The song was originally recorded by June's sister, Anita Carter, but when the song failed to become a major hit for Anita, Cash recorded it his own way, adding the mariachi-style horns which he claimed were inspired by a dream with the song playing in it. Four years later, they married. "The song is about the transformative power of love and that's what it has always meant to me and that's what it will always mean to the Cash children,” said their daughter Rosanne.
Pop - Righteous Brothers - “Unchained Melody”
In 1955, Alex North and lyricist Hy Zaret were contracted to write a song as a theme for the obscure prison film Unchained, and their song eventually became known as the "Unchained Melody". The song does not actually include the word "unchained", and songwriter Zaret chose instead to focus his lyrics on someone who pines for a lover he has not seen in a "long, lonely time". The 1955 film centers around a man who contemplates either escaping from prison to live life on the run, or completing his sentence and returning to his wife and family. With Todd Duncan on the vocals, the song was nominated for an Oscar in 1955, but it was the July 1965 version credited to The Righteous Brothers (but sung as a solo by Bobby Hatfield that) became a jukebox standard for the late 20th century. Modern audiences know it best for accompanying the sexy pottery scene in 1990’s blockbuster film Ghost.
R&B – Roberta Flack - “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is a 1957 folk song written by British political singer/songwriter Ewan MacColl for Peggy Seeger, whom he would later marry. At the time, the couple were lovers, although MacColl was married to someone else. MacColl and Seeger included the song in their repertoire when performing in folk clubs around Britain. During the 1960s, it was recorded by various folk singers and became a major international hit for Roberta Flack in 1972. The song first appeared on Flack's 1969 album First Take. Flack's rendition was much slower and sensual than the original and considered by many to be a definitive Roberta Flack hit.
Rock – Janis Joplin – “Me & Bobby McGee”
"Me and Bobby McGee" was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred
Foster, originally performed by Roger Miller. Others performed the song later, including Kristofferson himself, and Janis Joplin who topped the U.S. singles chart with the song in 1971 after her death, making the song the second posthumous number-one single in U.S. chart history after "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding. Kristofferson had sung the song for Joplin, and singer Bob Neuwirth taught it to her. Kristofferson, however, did not know she had covered it until after her death (the first time he heard it was the day after she died).In the original version of the song, Bobby is a woman; Janis Joplin, who was a lover and a friend of Kristofferson's from the beginning of her career to her death, changed the sex and a few of the lyrics in her cover. Kristofferson states he did not write this song for her, but the song is associated with her. Especially, he has said, in the line, "Somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away."
Showtunes/Vocal - Bette Midler - “The Rose”
One of the saddest love songs of all time originally written by
songwriter Amanda McBroom, "The Rose" is featured in the 1979 film of the same name, in which it was performed by Bette Midler depicting the story of the tragic life of a self-destructive female rock star, modeled after Janis Joplin. Midler’s strong but vulnerable vocals are perfect for the song’s bittersweet take on the pleasure and pain of love.