This is the first of a two-part series. Part 2 on love songs will appear on Feb. 12.
Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a time when lovers exchange greeting cards, flowers, chocolate and simple, old-fashion pleasantries.
It’s also a time when love songs leap to the forefront. Here’s a list of some of our favorite love songs. To make our list, a song must be romantic, have strong emotions and be a ballad. It can’t just be words that make it a love song.
As an example, here are the words from Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1958 Top 10 hit “Breathless.”
“Now, if you love me
Let’s please don’t tease
If I can hold you then
Let me squeeze
My heart goes ‘round and ‘round
My love comes tumbling down
You leave me breathless”
Lewis’ song possesses the words to be a love song, but nobody would consider it a love song. It’s a great song, but hardly a love song.
Here’s an alphabetical list of some of our favorite love songs from 1955 to 1965. Hope one of yours is on the list.
“All I Have to Do is Dream” by the Everly Brothers, 1958. This was the duo’s second No. 1 hit and their first ballad to climb to the top of the charts.
“And I Love Her” by the Beatles, 1965. Primarily written by Paul McCartney, it was among the Beatles best love songs.
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Elvis Presley, 1960. Originally written in 1926 and first recorded by Al Jolson, it became Presley’s 14th No. 1 hit in the U.S. It entered the charts at No. 35 – the highest of any Elvis’ song to that point – and, two weeks later, it was No. 1. It remained there for six weeks.
“Fever” by Peggy Lee, 1958. The jazz songstress struck gold with “Fever,” her biggest hit and a song that has become a standard.
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles, 1962. Written by country singer Don Gibson in 1958, Albany’s Hall of Fame singer recorded the song four years later and it was one of his most successful hits, staying at No. 1 for five weeks.
“Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” by the Four Aces, 1955. This was the first song in the modern rock era to be written for a motion picture and to be a No. 1 song. William Holden and Jennifer Jones starred in the 1955 movie “Love is a Many Splendid Thing.”
“Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley, 1956. The song was featured in the movie by the same name in which Presley made his big screen debut. Presley’s most memorable love song is based on the Civil War era folk tune “Aura Lee.”
“Moments to Remember,” by the Four Lads, 1955. The Canadian quartet rode this song to No. 2 on the charts. It was originally written for Perry Como, but his management team rejected it. “Moments to Remember” became the Four Lads first gold recording.
“My Special Angel,” By Bobby Helms, 1957. The country singer from Indiana hit the Top 10 with this special song. Helms’ most lasting hit is “Jingle Bell Rock” which has become a Christmas classic.
“Roses are Red” by Bobby Vinton. 1962. Vinton uncovered this song in a “reject” pile. In his second session recording it, Vinton had a new arrangement with strings and a choir and the result was a hit that remained at No. 1 for four weeks.
“Since I Fell for You,” by Lenny Welch, 1963. The rhythm and blues singer powered this jazz and pop standard that was written in 1945 by Bobby Johnson in the Top 10 to make it his biggest hit.
“Tell Laura I Love Her,” by Ray Peterson, 1960. One of the best love-tragedy songs of all-time, this was Peterson’s biggest hit. I still can hear Peterson singing the chorus, “Tell Laura I love her, Tell Laura I need her, Tell Laura I may be late, I’ve something to do, that cannot wait.” The song was recorded by multiple artists and has sold more than 7 million copies.
“The Twelfth of Never” by Johnny Mathis, 1957. The great crooner had 21 Top 40 hits during his glittering career. “The Twelfth of Never” might not be his most famous hit, but it certainly was one of his best.
“The Way You Look Tonight,” by The Letterman, 1960. A top hit for Fred Astaire in 1936 from the movie “Swing time,” the Academy Award winning song was covered multiple times by some of the biggest music stars including Tony Bennett, Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra. The Letterman, a trio from Los Angeles, recorded it in 1960 and made it into a Top 15 hit.
“To Know Him is to Love Him,” by the Teddy Bears, 1958. The Los Angeles trio of Phil Spector, Carol Connors and Marshall Leib has their only hit with “To Know Him is to Love Him,” which was No. 1 for three weeks. A well-known writer and producer, Spector penned the song after seeing a photo of his father’s tombstone which read, ”To Know Him was to Love Him.”
“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, 1965. The song originally was heard in the 1955 prison movie “Unchained” and has been covered more than 500 times. Al Hibbler’s vocal of the song in 1955 reached No. 3 and Leesburg’s Roy Hamilton version reached No. 6. The Righteous Brothers’ version is by far the best.
“Wonderful, Wonderful” by Johnny Mathis, 1957. This was the balladeer’s first major hit, landing in the Top 15. Mathis was, perhaps, the best love-song artist of the past 60 years.
To one and all: Have a happy Valentine’s Day.
Barry Levine writes entertainment stories for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.