Music for Valentine’s

The 10 Greatest Love Songs Ever!

By Eoin Meegan

What can be more synonymous with Valentine’s day than music? Come February 14 all the usual string-laden, cliche-ridden chart toppers will pour out of every radio station. But what really makes a great love song? It’s whatever stirs your soul and speaks to you personally; be it classical, rock, jazz, country or blues. So, let’s set aside the obvious, and set about uncovering the 10 greatest love songs ever (well, in my opinion!). Here goes:

No. 10. Ebben? Ne andrò lontana from Catalani’s La Wally. The opening strains of this beautiful aria are probably among the most haunting sounds you’re likely to hear. Real opera aficionados tell me Maria Callas holds the definitive interpretation of this song, but I prefer Wilhelmenia Fernandez’s version, as it was she who sang it in Jean-Jacques Beineix classic 1981 movie Diva. The film is about a young man who makes an illicit bootleg of a soprano who has prohibited any recording of her being made. It’s a complex and gritty thriller with the besotted man finally returning the bootleg, and playing her own music to her for the first time. Écouter!

Kate Bush

No. 9. The Weakness in Me. I’ve always loved Joan Armatrading from when she first burst on the scene in the mid-70s. This song from her Walk Under Ladders album is a bittersweet tune about breaking up with someone (which kind of bends the rules here!) because the singer has now found her true soul mate. Out of loyalty she tries to resist the attraction of the new lover but in the end can’t, and so, succumbs.

No. 8. Wicked Game, Chris Isaak. This song almost slipped under the radar until it featured in David Lynch’s 1990 film Wild at Heart. Its sad, melodic strain belies the fact that the song is about a  telephone call from a woman seeking a one-night-stand, and deals with what Isaak says “what happens when you have a strong attraction to people that aren’t necessarily good for you.” I’ve never stopped loving it.

No. 7. Endless Love, Diana Ross and Lionel Blair. The theme song from Franco Zeffirelli’s classic 1981 YA film of the same name starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. I remember my girlfriend at the time dragging me to the cinema to see it, and I grew to love the song, probably only because I associated it with her. Can’t remember anything about the film itself though!

No. 6. Joan of Arc, Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes. No list is complete without a song from the maestro, but what to choose?  While I love the original, I think this song lends itself to a duet. (Warnes collaborated with Cohen on many tracks). Like so many of his songs it’s peppered with religious iconography, the title reimagining a quasi-romantic persona from the 15th century. The song isn’t so much about the historical Joan, as the artist’s relation to his creation and the divine fire behind all great artistic work. Can never get enough of LC.

No. 5. Valentine’s Day, David Bowie. No list would be complete with a Bowie track, and what better on the day in question than this song from his 2013 album (and I think one of his best) The Next Day. Definitely not a romantic song (it’s about a psychopath and alludes to a Valentine’s day school shooting in Illinois in 2008!) The song, however, is a clever deconstruction of the U.S. gun lobby’s arguments, with the video showing Bowie holding aloft his Hohner guitar in imitation of Charlton Heston’s famous ‘over my dead body’ speech at the NRA convention. By substituting the guitar for the gun Bowie reclaims the day for love.

No. 4. The Man with the Child in his Eyes. Kate Bush has probably been responsible for some of the best music in the last 40 years. I could have picked anything by her really, but I still think this song, written when she was only 15, from her debut album The Kick Inside is a stunner. It never grows old.

Roberta Flack

No. 3. Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac (1977 Rumours album). This is from the Buckingham/Nicks phase of Fleetwood Mac (the band went through many incarnations).  Lindsey Buckingham wrote this song when the relationship with long-term partner Stevie Nicks was coming apart at the seams. Nicks was furious with him for the words “shacking up” which she said were unfair and insulting. While upbeat in tempo the song is infused with anger and the heartache of a love that just won’t work any more. If you don’t own a copy of Rumours go out and get one!

No. 2. Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), Stiff Dylans. The late, great Pete Shelly wrote this song (I’m old enough to remember the Buzzcocks original), but I really like the SDs version, and great to see today’s generation getting the chance to fall in love with it all over again.  It is the ultimate, the quintessential, song of unrequited love, but which also manages to be happy and make you feel good. A great stroke if you can pull it off.

No. 1. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack. This has to be the all-time greatest love song, written by the great Ewan MacColl.  MacColl wrote the song for his lover, later to become his wife although some 20 years his junior, Peggy Seeger, and the story goes he sang it to her down the long-distance telephone line when she was on a tour in the US. Now, if only everyone could have a Valentine like that. Beautiful.

So there you have it. Whoever said romance was dead in NewsFour?

Happy Valentine’s Day.