In honor of Valentine's Day, I've compiled a list of my favorite love songs, in a broad definition of "love." While some of us may dislike February 14, I always look forward to Valentine's Day as an invitation to give thanks for the relationships and friendships and bonds that reveal love in all its forms. I also like to think of the day as a time to pause and ask how we are expressing love to ourselves through self care and awareness. Accompanying each song below are links to recordings and brief explanations of why I chose them. After all, there is no good love song without a good love story.
What are your top ten "love songs"? Where do you find love, and where does love find you? Let's listen together.
A good love song sometimes is simply a song that you love. For me, one such song is "Tupelo Honey." Last fall, I heard a local musician named Bill Cooke cover the song with his band at Dave's Dark Horse Tavern in Starkville. As I watched them perform it effortlessly, I realized that this was a song I never tire of hearing, either by a live band or on Van Morrison's studio recording.
The film, Moulin Rouge, is more than the story of Satine and Christian falling in love. As Christian narrates, "It's a story about a time, a story about a place, a story about the people. But above all things, a story about love. A love that will live forever." The love that Satine and Christian experience in this song grows not only out of their passion for each other but also from the time, the place, and the people. The link is to a studio recording, but I encourage you to watch the film's gorgeous finale and listen to this "secret song" of the two lovers.
I could easily have chosen my whole "top 10 list" from the musical, Rent, because it is a marvelous story of friendship. If I had to choose one though, the reprise of "I'll Cover You" in the film version is hard to beat. Sometimes it is in the midst of death that we experience love most powerfully. As Collins sings to Angel in mourning, his friends surprise him by joining in the song--a promise that they will cover each other in all life's "seasons of love."
As a new seminary student, I visited a church in Atlanta because it was near a movie theater. I wanted to see the film, Garden State, as soon as the early service ended. Iron & Wine's cover of "Such Great Heights" plays in the movie, and I thought it was one of the most romantic songs I'd heard. Now, when I hear the song, I associate it not only with the film but also with the church I visited that morning. The pastor became a mentor and dear friend, and I found in the congregation supportive friends who helped me through the "heights" and lows of my journey towards ordained ministry.
As seniors in college, my roommate, Jenn, and I thought Josh Kelley was the cutest dude ever. When we took a road trip to her home one weekend, we listened to his album on repeat. I have vivid memories of 'jamming' to "Amazing" in the car with her. Josh may have been displaced as cutest dude ever in our eyes (Jenn has two sons who now share that title). I don't listen to "Amazing" much anymore, but the memory of joyful friendship is what I love.
On the flight to meet my newborn niece, I listened to The Swell Season's album, Strict Joy, on repeat. The chorus of "In These Arms" echoed in my head as I held my niece for the first time: "Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms." The verses may reveal a song about love between two adults, but for me it was all about that little girl who now wiggles and giggles much more when I try to hold her in these arms. And she's making up her own songs.
Hold Me Jesus: Rich Mullins (and Tricia Walker)
After preaching my last sermon at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Cleveland, MS, Tricia Walker sang and played, "Hold Me Jesus," originally recorded by Rich Mullins. I was reminded of how we in the body of Christ hold one another, even amid goodbyes and when "surrender don't come natural" to us. A song that I'd always thought of as a personal plea to God had become the love story of a congregation that continues to hold each other as the arms of Christ.
In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus while Martha is distracted by her duties. Jesus declares at the end of the passage that Mary has chosen "the better part." Worship music brings me back to that "better part" when I feel distracted, and my current favorite is "Find Me At the Feet of Jesus." Not only does the song express love to God, but it also offers a glimpse of God's heavenly love for us.
Of course I found a way to work Paul Thorn into this list! He brings us a good dose of realistic humor. No matter how much we love one another, sometimes we don't like one another. And that's okay. We're going to let one another down no matter how strong our love. So let's love through laughing and move forward.
After choosing nine songs for the list, I asked my musically-inclined boyfriend to suggest the tenth. One of the first songs he named was "Gravity," by Sara Bareilles--a song that I had considered including here. Bareilles' album, Little Voice, is well worth a listen--and then another listen--and then another listen as she reflects on life and love through song. The lyrics to "Gravity" are brilliant and beautiful and do exactly what the title suggest: draw you in like gravity.
On this Valentine's Day, may you be drawn to the Love that will never let you go.
May you know this day and always how loved you are.
And may your favorite love songs find you.
all good things to each of you,