Segarini: 30 Great Well Crafted Love Songs for Valentine’s Day

I’ll admit it. I am a big softy. In my idea of a perfect world, we would all be with our soul mates, life would be good, the air would be clean, and the ills we currently suffer through would all be cured and part of the past. Valentine’s Day may be a Hallmark Holiday, but it reminds us of the importance of being connected to someone special, and gives us a chance to show our appreciation if we are.

Following Jaimie’s lead (20 Great Canadian Love Songs) I hereby offer up some of my favourites from the Lower 48 and abroad. There are so many, I don’t think we could get to all of them if we did dozens of columns focused on love songs. I’ve left out the Doo-Wop era for the most part (ALL the songs were about young love) and the well known rock songs which I’m sure will be posted all over Facebook on Tuesday. So this is an incomplete list. Feel free to add in your favourites if you respond.

This is a bonus blog. We have been dark on Sundays, but will be adding a seventh weekly column some time in the near future. My regular column will appear here on Monday.

Okay…here we go.

30 Great Well Crafted Love Songs

Frank Sinatra – All the Way: Every once in a while I’ll get just blasted enough to get up if there’s karaoke going on and sing a tune or two. My go-to list consists of three songs, I Don’t Want to be Lonely Tonight, Georgia on my Mind, and this wonderful song written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn for the motion picture The Joker is Wild. There was a time when songs this good were all over the radio and danced to cheek to cheek in living rooms, rumpus rooms, and toney, smoke filled nightclubs. 50 years later, and people are still falling in love to this Sinatra classic.

Sam Cook – You Send Me: I was in Junior High when this record was released, and every time I saw Donna Hall in Home Room or Susan Berry from across the street, it would play, uninvited, in my head. Sam Cook’s lilting, effortless voice lifted the simple lyric well past teen hormonal confusion and placed this track firmly in the heart. It said what we couldn’t, and for that, boys everywhere were grateful. Many sweaty-palmed dances with the girls of our dreams followed.

The Four Freshmen – Their Hearts Were Full of Spring: This song defines love between two people who never fall out of it. From first glance to last breath, a life lived together that we all aspired to. A rare case of love actually being forever, captured in the most beautiful melody and harmonies imaginable. Just ask Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys – And Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Like Doo-Wop before them, Motown’s music focused on love more than any other subject. The difference was in the attitude. Where Doo-Wop tackled love for teenagers who longed to get married right out of high school or as soon as Johnny did his 2 years peeling potatoes in the Army, Motown addressed love as a visceral rite of passage bordering on a Baptist Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ jump-up celebration, longing and awkwardness be damned. Where most teen love songs had been about the hand holding and wedding bells, Motiwn gave their protagonists confidence and a backbeat that pretty much promised 2nd base on the 1st date or the 3rd dance. Love, said Motown, was undeniable. Here are three more example from a group whose energy brought so much joy to some of the best written pop songs of all time.

Four Tops – Sugar Pie Honey Bunch

Four Tops – Baby I Need Your Lovin’

Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There)

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes – If You Don’t Know Me by Now: As much as we would all love to have relationships that didn’t involve control issues or thrown ashtrays, love usually has a rough patch every now and again. The beauty of this incredible song, written by Philadelphia’s Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, is the way it tries to reassure the singer’s significant other that he is not up to no good. It is an adult take on the problems inherent in long term relationships, and the depth of its lyrical core is matched by its perfectly fluid melody. Add Teddy Pendergrass’s emotionally charged reading of this classic and you get a realistic plea from one loving adult to an insecure partner who is afraid she’s lost his love. Originally written for Patty LaBelle and the Blue Bells, it ended up in the right hands due to a scheduling conflict. Simply Red’s cover version, as slick and as lush as it is, pales in comparison. Like most of today’s current entertainment, it was pretty, but lacking in experience.

Flying Machine – Smile a Little Smile for Me: At the other end of the spectrum we have this sincere and slightly awkward attempt at reassurance of another kind. Young girl suffers a dumping at the hands of her jerk/jock/asshat boyfriend, and a guy who is probably her best male friend tries to comfort her. What we know and she doesn’t is that the singer is hopelessly in love with her and she doesn’t see it, or want it. Every guy has been through this. It stinks, and it hurts, and this song captures the moment perfectly…either that, or the singer is her Dad and she’s his daughter and there is no greater love than that. Maybe after the song is over Dad goes out and kicks the ex-boyfriend’s ass for hurting his little girl.

Mel and Tim – Starting All Over Again: Sometimes reassurance doesn’t work and people in love split up. Sometimes true love prevails, and they find one another later, even years after the split, and discover the magic is still there. Maybe maturity saves these relationships, maybe realizing you made a mistake not trusting one another, maybe absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. These are two beautifully performed songs about the phenomenon that have probably had more to do with reconciliation than any amount of marriage counseling or vodka. Peaches and Herb – Reunited

Bread – If: Written by David Gates, If is an almost perfect song, both musically and lyrically. I believe it is a love song to be sung about the man or woman who completes you intellectually, emotionally, and physically. That said, it could also be interpreted not as a secular piece of music, but as a religious tribute to the Deity of your choice…or to your brand new 80 inch 3D Flatscreen TV…or your puppy or kitty. In today’s world, I could see it used in a commercial about your massage therapist. The song has already been a massive hit (in 1975) in the U.K, where this next version hit Number One. Move over, Shatner and Stewie, here’s Savalas with his Number One rendition. Telly Savalas – If

Billy Vera – At This Moment: Middle class white blues for the masses, but well written and heartfelt enough to give it the kind of credibility it deserves. I would have loved to have heard this song in the hands of an Otis Redding or a Wilson Pickett. Billy Vera is an interesting guy. Before this number one hit he had written a number one for Dolly Parton and he penned At this Moment while writing for Warner Brothers. The song (recorded live at the Roxy in Hollywood) stiffed when it was first released in 1981, but after Rhino Records bought and re-released it 1985 on the heels of its appearance on Family Ties (used during the Alex/Michael J. Fox, Ellen/Tracey Pollan storyline), it went to Number One and sat there for 15 weeks. Fox and Pollan falling in love and getting married in real life (which they still are) didn’t hurt its cachet either. Read more about Billy here. Fascinating stuff, and not the story of your typical ‘one hit wonder’.

James Taylor – You Can Close Your Eyes: This song has a very special meaning for me, and I’m sure there are a lot of Taylor’s fans who have a similar attachment to this melancholy declaration of love. So wonderfully simple and spoken so sincerely, it describes a love that will always be there even if the relationship isn’t. I’ve written about this song before concerning the slow and painful end of my marriage, brought on by my erratic behavior, drug use, and stupidity; “The best moment of the time spent in Stockton came at Cal Expo one perfect summer night listening to James Taylor at the outdoor theatre there. Cheryl and I stood up and danced to You can Close Your Eyes. We were both crying, and deep down, we both knew why. She deserved so much more than what I had become, and I was helpless to turn myself around at that time. She stood by me as long as she could, and that was a long, long time.” Whether he knows it or not, James Taylor speaks of the human condition in a personal way that is untouched by most. Sometimes, we are lucky to survive love.

The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brand New: There is no better love than the one that offers encouragement, support, and faith. When your partner is there for you through the worst times you experience personally, it can get you through even the worst self-doubt, anxiety, and failures that life throws your way. This song is the thank you note so few of us can write, and once again, a great song says what we ourselves cannot. In case you feel that I am getting a bit maudlin talking about all these love songs, I will tell you I was in an elevator with these guys at the Philadelphia downtown Holiday Inn and they asked me what sign I was and then tried to sell me a necklace with a Virgo sign pendant on it. It was a really nice necklace, but really…in an elevator? On their way to a gig? In matching suits?

The Carpenters – Close to You: I had never heard anything like the vocal ‘wahs’ that sound like they dropped out of Heaven at the end of this song. And not to besmirch the long running joke, Karen was a damn fine drummer. If this song doesn’t touch you in all the right places, you are either a Hipster, a Hater, or had the band at your wedding play Kashmir for your first dance as a married couple.

Al Green – Let’s Stay Together: Mmmm, Mmmm! Who says love has to be a slow dance. This tune just crackles with sexual energy and still manages to say all the right words to reassure your girl that’s not all you’re looking for. Al Green has a voice that just puts this song straight through your heart, and shakes your junk at the same time.

Bee Gees – Too Much Heaven: Between these guys and the next duo, great songwriting survived not only The Great Disco Insurgence of the ‘70’s, but The First Wave of Fluff of the early ‘80s. Sure, the mirror balls still spun, and the synth bands with coiffed hair that defied gravity still sold a load of records, but lovers had the Brothers Gibb to lead them from the dance floor to the aisle with class and lyrics that spoke of love and not The Hustle. How many women closed their eyes and saw Barry Gibb instead of you when the more intimate moments first arrived on the doorstep of your new found love affair. Barry was one of the few guys who knew how to comb his hair in the mid-seventies. Like it or not, this song, and Barry’s image closed a lot of deals for those of us who couldn’t speak as eloquently, or look like we were about to ride down the beach on a big white horse.

Hall and Oates – One on One: Pretty much the same paragraph as the Bee Gees one above. Just replace ‘Bee Gees’ with ‘Hall and Oates’, and Barry’s name with Darryl’s. Thanks. This is exhausting.

Huey Lewis and the News – If This is It: I have no idea why so many people look down their noses at Huey and his merry band of…well…musicians, and fine ones at that. The one-two punch of Fore and Sports were full of great songs, not the least of which is this tongue-in-cheek slightly cynical take on a breakup. Can a breakup be humourous? Sure it can; look at all the date night RomComs playing your local cineplex every week. The song paints a picture of how desperate and helpless we feel when the wheels come off of a relationship, but because of the MTV-ization of music in the ‘80s, we get a happy ending thanks to the video, which unlike so many videos today, actually has a plotline and story we can follow and make sense of. So the song paints a light but sad picture of a man in love shunned, but the video gives him a new love interest before the final wipe. Ah, if life were only written as well.

Restless Heart – When She Cries: Musically, this track proves that the harmonies and guitar driven cool of pop-rock moved from the mainstream to country sometime in the ‘80s. Restless Heart is a kind of Eagles-Light. They possess solid songs and outstanding harmonies, but no real identity, which is too bad, considering how many good qualities they exhibit in this recording. I have been in this relationship. The helpless feeling you have let the woman you love down time and time again, yet she sticks by you, suffering quietly as to not make you feel worse. This is the kind of love that we all want, that partnership that is willing to stay the course through even the worst of times, but when the toll begins to hurt the one you love, an ache develops that can be fatal to a relationship even this strong. A highly underrated band and a song that tackles a tough subject in the easiest to understand terms. God Bless the women who are strong enough to love the dreamers.

Richard Marx – Right Here Waiting: Not only have I loved this song since the first time I heard it, it still captures the frustration of a long distance relationship better than other attempts at conveying the loneliness and ache that comes with the situation. Being in a touring band, there have been a lot of songs written about the subject. I even wrote one called Coming Apart, which is on The Wackers’ Shredder album. This young man (who was 25 when he wrote this) managed to record this gem using a sparse, but emotionally filled arrangement that succeeds in making the listener share his isolation and sadness, hoping against hope that the relationship will survive the distance between him and his love. Thank God Eric Carmen didn’t get a hold of this. It probably would have sunk under the weight of an orchestra, choir, and those ‘80s drums that sounded like gunshots. More tympani, Mr. Carmen?

Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing: Okay, if Marvin is in love with anyone here, it is whoever will give him a happy ending before his head explodes or he Hulks out and throws a school bus through a liquor store window. He is looking for love of the physical variety and let’s face it, we are all guilty of feeling like this on occasion, women too.  The thing that makes this song so outstanding is where most of us will just whine to get what we want, Marvin takes the time to explain why he’s ready to consider pulling a Portney’s Complaint and diving head first into a nice fresh piece of liver. More to the point, whether this is a girlfriend, friend with benefits, or a hooker, he’s being honest about his needs, and that would probably be refreshing to a lot of women. Even in a long standing relationship, women need to feel sexually attractive, and nothing says that louder than a man who can offer her the carnal equivalent of a roller coaster ride without any promises, bribes, or begging. Any honest woman will tell you that sometimes, she needs the man she loves (or at least likes and trusts) to take her up against the refrigerator without so much as a ‘do you mind?’’ Women…love men. The groove and the lyrics of this song just drip with sexual power, and sometimes, you need lust to feed the love.

Human League – (I’m Only) Human: Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam take a Brit-Pop Synth band of pretty boys and make an iconic R&B record unlike any other before or since. This is an apology for screwing around on your girlfriend. The singer apologizes, admits his guilt and shame, explains why he did it (loneliness) and tries his best to patch things up. She eventually admits to the same misstep. Can they ever trust one another again? True love has survived this situation more than once, but ego and humiliation are hard to overcome. Love, as they say, hurts. Don’t learn that the hard way.

Extreme – More Than Words: A near perfect song from a band that should have been huge. The harmonies here rival the Everly Brothers at their best, and the lyric is a heart melter. 2 voices, a guitar and a song this good are all it takes. Basically, it just says that actions speak louder than words. Affection tells some people more about how they feel than just saying they’re in love.

Gregory Abbott – Shake You Down: An infectious feel, a voice from the Marvin Gaye school of smooth, and a message that works as both a proclamation of your love for someone, and as a promise of your desire to literally make this woman shake with pleasure. A heady combination when spoken with sincerity. You can take this as either a plea to rekindle an old relationship, or an offer for sex in the bathroom of your favourite dance club. Damn! Love is complicated….

Steven Bishop – It Might Be You: Now here is a love song that is as sweet as they come. No sexual innuendo, no mixed messages, this is just so organic, it makes feeling like this is worth waiting for. From the film Tootsie, a movie that uses a desperate out of work actor, cross dressing, a hilarious un-credited Bill Murray, and the rather mad skills of Dustin Hoffman to tell a sweet story about love and finding it where you least expect it.

Anita Baker – Sweet Love: A diminutive singer with a big voice, Ms. Baker never fails to move me. She sticks with the melody and sings every word like she believes them. With an insanely smart bed track, the lyrics make you want to find a woman like this and hold on to her for dear life. There is nothing like the love of a good woman. Nothing.

Bobby Brown – Rock Wit’cha: Say what you will about Bobby Brown, the man can write and sing with the best of them. This is as slick as a slow jam can get, but Brown’s street cred gives it a feel most of his peers would gloss over. Here’s hoping the tragedy that felled Whitney Houston yesterday doesn’t repeat itself here. This is a great track to put on when the candles are lit, the wine is poured, and the object of your affection is curled up next to you in front of the fireplace.

Bonnie Raitt – I Can’t Make You Love Me: When my marriage broke up I played this song over and over for months. So heart-achingly perfect in its depiction of the end of love. Try as we might, we cannot make anyone love us the way we love them unless they do on their own. Falling in love is scary. There is no net to save you, there are no guarantees, and there is no way to know for sure where your feelings will lead you. For all the drawbacks, for all the risks, love is still what we search for, need, desire, and crave. To love and be loved, that is the human condition, and the most worthy goal we share. May we all be so blessed to find what we’re looking for.

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody.


Segarini’s column appears every Monday

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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, andnominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

5 Responses to “Segarini: 30 Great Well Crafted Love Songs for Valentine’s Day”

  1. David Wiffen – Drivin’ Wheel; Joni Mitchell – Case Of You; Ian Tyson-Four Strong Winds; Sylvia Tyson – You Were On My Mind; Bruce Cockburn – Coldest Night Of The Year – Lovers In A Dangerous Time; Michael Smith – The Dutchman; The Beatles – ‘Til There Was You; Leonard Cohen – Bird On The Wire…

  2. YES!
    Reach Out, You Send Me,
    You Can Close Your Eyes, If,
    Sexual Healing, Let’s Stay Together,
    Close To You, All The Way,
    Right Here Waiting, & I Can’t Make You Love Me!

    In the spirit of the last one I’ll add:
    Last Thing On My Mind – Tom Paxton; Heart Of The Matter – Don Henley, Hold On To the Night – Richard Marx, I’ll Be Back – The Beatles (Lennon); Last Day Of Our Acquaintance – Sinead O’Connor, After The Love Was Gone by Earth Wind & Fire, and Leonard Cohen’s That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

    While I’m at it, I just gotta chime in with the overall LOVE on this list! Here we go:
    Chicago’s Only The Beginning;
    Kenny Rankin’s Haven’t We Met;
    Night And Day from Sinatra’s crooning days;
    Stevie Wonder’s Creepin’; Gershwin’s Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off;
    Toronto’s own Brian MacMillan’s Blessed Love ;

    David Celia’s Crush; George Harrison’s What is Life; John Hyatt’s
    ( served up SMOKIN’ HOT by Bonnie Raitt !) Thing Called Love; C.C. Penniston’s Finally; Dylan’s If Not For You;
    Do You Want To Know a Secret by George Harrison/The Beatles, and
    Got To Get You Into My Life by Paul McCartney/The Beatles ( also splendidly covered by Earth Wind & Fire).

    I agree that dozens of these lists could be offered up without coming close to exhausting the seemingly endless supply!!!

    But I’ll leave you with Chris Trapper’s award-winning ( Oscar nominated & I believe Grammy Winning ) This Time, which was featured in the film August Rush.
    Another gem of a song of his, Away We Go, gorgeously re-presented Sam Cooke’s sensibilities to me as I heard it. And I’d never say such a thing lightly; I mean…no one can TOUCH Sam Cooke !
    Turns out I was on the mark and that CT’s favorite is Sam Cooke!

    Whiie Trapper’s Voice and songs are without question his OWN, his modern rocker-meets-classic-crooner timelessness is a wonder, and a lot of fun, to behold. I love his mix of honest, utter vulnerability with street smart, suffers-no-fools demeanor. He obviously takes his well honed craft seriously – without taking himself too much so. Catch him next time he’s in town – usually at Hugh’s Room – for an UNFORGETTABLE show! Chris Trapper has that ability to deliver emotions and make them accessible in ways that guys wish they could, and that the girls swoon over.

  3. hmmm…. let’s try that vid again, shall we??? Enjoy! 🙂

  4. Oh and how could I forget Leon Russell’s oft-covered Song For You, as per the late, great, the One, the Only Whitney Houston’s exquisite interpretation?? The piano player here BLEW ME AWAY, too!

    “Now we’re alone and I’m singing this song for you.”

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