Listeners Pick Love Songs for Valentine's Day
When words alone fail to illuminate the confounding mysteries of the heart, music lends a hand. Whether it's unrequited love, a fleeting affair or love that lasts a lifetime, there's a song for it. NPR listeners share "their" songs — along with the stories of bliss, bitterness and bygone times that make the music meaningful.
"Fooled Around and Fell in Love" from Elvin Bishop's Best of Elvin Bishop
"When my now husband and I were first dating in college, he would take me out to this little breakfast restaurant on Saturday mornings. There was an old jukebox in the restaurant and one day after a couple of months of dating he said, 'I have a song to play for you,' and he played, 'Fooled Around and Fell in Love' and then told me that he loved me. That was 33 years ago."
Oh, You Sweet Thing
"Sweet Thing" from Van Morrison's Astral Weeks
"In 1987, when I was 17 years old, I fell in love with the deep and soulful voice of Van Morrison, a sound dug right out of the soil. I knew once I heard the man that I had to listen to everything he'd ever recorded, and like with a true first love, I lost many afternoons lying and daydreaming on the living room floor with his voice in my ears. I started off with Beautiful Vision and worked my way all the way back to Astral Weeks, and there I found 'Sweet Thing,' a song to rival the longing and searching inside my heart. When I fell in love for the first time in my life soon after with a man six years my senior — a tumultuous, passionate love affair, like all first ones — we couldn't detach our relationship from that eight-song cycle of Astral Weeks. 'Sweet Thing' rode an urgency that matched every pace of our affair. We were young and felt we could never live life without each other and that we never, ever would. 'We shall walk and talk in gardens all misty wet, a misty wet with rain,' Morrison sang, 'And I will never, never, never grow so old again. Oh, you sweet thing.'"
Life and Love Awakened
"First Day of My Life" from Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
"My boyfriend and I had traveled through Ireland during the summer of 2005. After spending every moment together for the month of July, he stayed on to work there another two and a half months. He was remodeling a house in the country and it was a solitary time for him. For his sanity and entertainment, I sent him a few CDs I had made, one of which included 'First Day of My Life.' He later told me that he had played this song repeatedly. Back home I was doing the same. While not a conventional love song, it sparked something in both of us: 'Yours is the first face that I saw/ I think I was blind before I met you.' It summed up the fact that life and love are awakened when you find the right person. Wow, that sounds so cheesy, but that's what love is sometimes, isn't it?"
Also picked by Ryan in Georgia, who says, "To me this song encompasses the emotional plateau that one feels when they know they are in love for the first time. It captures the precise moment when you realize that the times before when you thought you were in love, were never 'truly' love. Let's face it: we all know when we are 'happy,' 'sad,' 'frightened,' we experience these emotions on a regular basis, but 'true love' is something that is hard to obtain; it's raw and enduring. In the past there were many times that I really thought I was in love, but then you meet that one person, and you experience an inner passion that makes you realize for the first time in your life, you are truly in love. This song pinpoints that precise moment, and for me this song represents a true love song."
Cue the "Rock and Roll"
"Rock & Roll" from Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV
"Early on when I was dating my wife, we would sometimes get too busy with college homework or work-work. That meant we wouldn't spend enough time with each other. One of us, usually me, would play this song in the car to give the hint: 'It's been a long time since we Rock and Rolled [insert power chord here]/ It's been a long time since we did the stroll." And now 25 years later, anytime one of us in the mood we just play that song or say those lines and it's like going back to late teenhood with wild hormones and all. It works 99 percent of time. God Bless Led Zeppelin."
Lucky, New Waves
"Theme for 'A Summer Place'" from Percy Faith & His Orchestra's Greatest Hits
"Reminds me of a place near the Carmel, California beach where I use to go with an old high school boyfriend and just watch the waves rolling in and we would talk of plans that never came to pass. The song brings back those memories of that place and I would like to visit it again with the wonderful husband I now have and watch the waves roll in with the greatest guy I know. My dreams did come true but not with that old high school boyfriend. Aren't I lucky? Yes, I am very lucky."
Longing and Missed Opportunity
"Streets of Your Town" from The Go-Betweens' 16 Lovers Lane
"In particular, this song reflects the breezy feeling of new love, of optimism and of discovery especially while driving. I discovered it in the spring of 1989 while visiting a record store in Minneapolis. I had just met a wonderful girl who I would date for six years before moving to Texas in 1996. This song reminds me of our first months together, and when I visit her small town near the Wisconsin border, this song evokes a feeling of longing and missed opportunity, and also reminds me of the days spent exploring that new world, both geographically and emotionally."
A Cup of Tea, And Then Some
"Mellow Yellow" from Donovan's Mellow Yellow
"One late night in the mid '60s I had just gotten off work as a part-time go-go dancer. I was an art student and Falken was an architecture student. His part-time job was delivering pizzas in a checkered chicken wagon. I had fallen in love with him four years before, but he had dumped me. Now it was 2 a.m. and I was looking for a bite to eat. He pulled up beside my car in the pizza wagon and said, 'May I be so presumptuous as to invite myself up to your flat for a cup of tea?' I said yes. 'Mellow Yellow' was playing. We enjoyed more than a cup of tea that night. We will celebrate our 40th anniversary in September."
"I Found a Reason" from Cat Power's The Covers Record
"It is hard to explain. There is this woman I fell in love with and she was traveling a lot. She went to her sister in Poland for a while and then she seemed to be all over Germany to find a theater where she wanted to be taught how to act. Now she is in Berlin and I am happy for her that she found a theater there where she can act. She was far away very often. But we always stayed in touch and we still meet as often as possible. And these are very precious moments. It's love and friendship and deep respect. Distance is a very difficult thing for lovers, but it also reminds you of the very special people that are spread all over the world. So this song goes out to all the hopes of all the lovers, no matter near or far. This is what the song means to me."
Dysfunctional, Homicidal Love
"Yeah! Oh, Yeah!" from The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, Pt. 3
"If ever there was an anti-Valentine's day song about a dysfunctional, borderline homicidal relationship that just isn't working out, this is it. The tongue-in-cheek delivery and ultra catchy tune make me smile every time."
Pushing That Emotion
"Over the Rainbow" from Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's Alone in Iz World
"I took the pregnancy test that told me and my husband that we'd be having a baby while watching the movie 50 First Dates. This song appears in it and is just lovely. So now, this song is my love song for my husband and my daughter. I cry and laugh at how easily it turns me into a puddle. Before I was pregnant, I wasn't much of a weeper. After I became pregnant and ever since, I am usually halfway to some powerful emotion. This song can often take credit for pushing me the rest of the way. I love it and my family."
Striving For a Certain Love
"I Will Follow You into the Dark" from Death Cab for Cutie's Plans
"Anyone who has listened to the lyrics of this love ballad should understand why it is my favorite love song. It stands for the epitome of love. The gripping words letting a loved one know that no matter what happens in life your significant other will always be there for you are so moving. The first time I heard this song it brought tears to my eyes and made me realize that was the kind of love that I want to have and that this kind of love does exist. Cheers to Death Cab for creating a moving love song that changed my life."
"My Love for You (Has Turned to Hate)" from Hank Williams' Turn Back the Years
"At the conclusion of a rather bitter and messy divorce proceeding, this song spoke to my heart. Just knowing that another person shared my deeply felt emotions about an ex-lover cheered me up immensely and helped to validate my revenge fantasies."
He Was Singing It to Me
"Thinking About You" from Radiohead's Pablo Honey
"In high school, my best guy friend who had a huge crush on me sang this song in the talent show. I found out later that day that he was singing it directly to me.
"I actually proposed marriage to him. It was my turn to publicly express my love to him this time, but minus the guitar accompaniment and senior class president's introduction.
"A little more than ten years later, we were married. We just bought a house together and we actually work at the same company, too."
Love in a Winter Wonderland
"I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" from Billie Holiday's Gold
"My girlfriend and I walked in a winter wonderland in rural Homewood, Illinois. We made angels in the snow. That song was perfect for us. We went to my home and had dinner in front of a log-burning fireplace. We had a winter wedding in January 1957. Fifty years ago. Still love that song. Many artists have recorded it on 45 RPM and LP. 'The snow is snowing, the wind is blowing but I have my love to keep me warm.'"
It Became Our Song, Too
"You Belong to Me" from Patsy Cline's True Love: A Standards Collection
"This is the quintessential love song about longing, separation and comfort. It was my parents' 'song' — they had lived in different states prior to their marriage in 1953, the year Jo Stafford made it a No. 1 hit. I always loved it as a kid and often thought about how their courtship weathered the miles and time between them. Fast forward 45 years, and my beau and I found ourselves living in different states for five months each year. We missed each other madly, and during a rare visit to me in Cape May, New Jersey, we heard this song performed in a cabaret by the late Jilline Ringle. She delivered it with the emotion that we had both been feeling at that moment. And there we were, holding hands and sobbing and realizing how much we missed and belonged to each other. Just like my parents, it became our song, too. I'm getting weepy just thinking about it."