Ah, Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air, and chocolates and flowers abound. But music can also play a big role when it comes to romance. Here are the stories behind ten love songs sure to set the right mood.
1. Love Me Tender
This 1956 Elvis Presley hit put new words to an adaptation of the Civil War hymn “Aura Lee,” published in 1861. The principal writer was Ken Darby, though the lyric was credited to his wife Vera Matson … and to Presley, whose manager “Colonel” Tom Parker demanded that songwriters concede 50 percent of their credit — and income — if they wanted Elvis to record their work. When later asked why he named his wife as co-writer instead of himself, Darby replied sardonically, “Because she didn’t write it either.” Listen to it here.
2. I Can’t Stop Loving You
Country singer Don Gibson wrote this one hot afternoon in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1958. Four years later, Ray Charles only needed to hear the first two lines before deciding to record it for his album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” … and the rest is history. Listen to it here.
3. And I Love Her
This classic Beatles song, featured in the 1964 movie A Hard Day’s Night, was sung and mostly written by Paul McCartney, though he had some help from John Lennon on the bridge. George Harrison contributed the signature acoustic guitar lick, underpinned by Ringo Starr’s gentle bongo drums. It’s a great example of how the individual strengths of the four members of the group meshed together so well. Listen to it here.
4. Your Song
Composed and performed by Elton John with lyrics by his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, this originally appeared on John’s self-titled second album, released in 1970. Interestingly, it was originally just the B-side to “Take Me to the Pilot,” but was preferred by the disc jockeys of the era, and so the two sides were flipped. Listen to it here.
5. Love Will Keep Us Together
First recorded by Neil Sedaka in 1973, this became a worldwide hit two years later when it was covered by The Captain & Tennille (keyboardist Daryl Dragon and his wife, singer Toni Tennille). The duo acknowledged Sedaka’s authorship—as well as his mid-1970s comeback — by working the phrase “Sedaka is back” into the song’s fadeout, accompanied by applause from the studio musicians. Listen to it here.
6. How Deep Is Your Love
This 1977 Bee Gees hit was a big part of the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever … yet the brothers Gibb hadn’t seen the script for the movie when they wrote the song — in fact, they weren’t even certain that there would be a love scene in the film! Listen to it here.
7. I Want To Know What Love Is
The members of Foreigner weren’t sure that this power ballad should even be a single when they recorded it in 1984, with singer Lou Gramm concerned that it might do irreparable damage to their rock image. Songwriter / guitarist Mick Jones later told Billboard the track was released “because it was coming out at Christmas and it had the right kind of mood.” Listen to it here.
8. I Just Called To Say I Love You
Written, produced and performed by Stevie Wonder, this remains his best-selling single to date. Used in the soundtrack to the 1984 Gene Wilder movie The Woman in Red, the song won both a Golden Globe® and an Academy Award® for Best Original Song, as well as three Grammy® nominations. Listen to it here.
9. I Will Always Love You
Whitney Houston’s signature song, released to accompany the 1992 film The Bodyguard, was originally a Number 1 hit for the woman who composed the tune, Dolly Parton … not just once, but twice, in 1974 and again in 1982. Listen to the Dolly Parton version here, and the Whitney Houston version here.
10. Love Story
Taylor Swift wrote this 2008 hit about a real guy she was dating. Her family disapproved, inspiring her to base the song on the most famous love story of all — “Romeo and Juliet” — but this time with a happy ending. Listen to it here.