Boy serenading a girl from below her balcony

Silly love songs - all you need

Have you ever heard a love song that felt as though it had been written especially for you?

Maybe it's recalled a specific moment or circumstance in your life. Or perhaps the language of the song just moved you, because it was written so beautifully - almost like a line of poetry.

That feeling when a song's lyrics seem to be about you, is beautifully expressed in the song Killing me softly, written by Norman Gimbel and Lori Lieberman, and sung by Roberta Flack among others. The song is about a woman going into a bar and listening to a young musician - said to be inspired by Don McLean. "He was strumming my pain with his fingers... telling my whole life with his words... he sang as if he knew me... I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud."

Music is such a gift in our lives, don't you think? It helps us express ourselves in so many ways - joy, surprise, pain, confusion, despair. And so many of those songs are about love. We've put together our own playlist of such songs, which also feature in the 'Reflections on love' series of quotes from our social media channels. The playlist is called 'All about love' and can be found on our YouTube channel.

A brief history of love songs

The history of love songs can be traced back as far as ancient civilizations, where poetry and ballads were used to express love and devotion. In Greece, for example, the epic poetry of Homer often dealt with themes of love and desire. In ancient China, the "Ch'ang-ch'eng" (long song) was a popular form of love song that was often accompanied by a lute or zither. 

In medieval Europe, troubadours would compose and perform songs for their noble patrons, often expressing their admiration for the patron's spouse. These songs were often accompanied by instruments such as lutes and harps, and were passed down through generations via oral tradition.

As music evolved, so did the themes and styles of love songs. During the Renaissance, madrigals were popular, which were a form of polyphonic vocal music that often dealt with love and courtship. 

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of the romantic ballad, which was characterized by its emotional and sentimental lyrics. Composers such as Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms wrote some of the most famous romantic ballads of this era. These songs were often accompanied by piano and were performed in concert halls and salons.

The 20th century

In the 20th century, love songs became a staple of popular music. With the rise of the recording industry, love songs were able to reach a wider audience, and they became an integral part of the music charts. The 1950s and 60s saw the emergence of rock and roll and the Beatles, which brought a new energy and passion to love songs.

The 1960s also saw the rise of hippie culture, with its 'peace and love' anthems forming an opposition to the Vietnam war. The movement generated some memorable pop and rock music that reflected those values. Who could forget Scott McKenzie's San Francisco, which - in my opinion - epitomizes the sound of that era. 

The 1970s and 80s brought a new wave of romantic ballads along with dance crazes. One of the most stand-out writers of the time is a name that has been largely forgotten. That man is David Gates, who led a band called Bread. He wrote some exquisite lyrics, in love songs such as If - and songs about bereavement and loss, such as Everything I own which is about his late father.

Counter cultures

That period also brought counter-cultures, such as heavy metal music and punk rock. Much of the latter was political, but when love was the subject it tended to have more of an emphasis on the sensual and sexual aspects of relationships.

'Soppy love songs' seemed to be going out of fashion. Paul McCartney, criticized for writing said songs, came up with a great answer. He wrote Silly love songs, released by his band Wings in 1976. The lines of the song say:

"You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs,
Well, I look around me, and I see it isn't so;
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs,
And what's wrong with that - I'd like to know?"

You tell 'em, Paul.


In the post-punk era, some of the leading punk and hard rock artists began to soften and mature into thoughtful writers, penning some amazing love songs. Paul Weller, previously lead singer of The Jam, wrote You do something to me - surely one of the most sensual love songs of the modern era.

Sting, former lead singer of rock band The Police, wrote the amazingly beautiful love song Fields of goldwhich has since been covered by many top artists. He says the song is about the journey of commitment - from falling in love, to marriage. It was inspired by his relationship with his wife, and the countryside views from his home in England.

The Millennium

Here we are, in the 23rd year of our 'new' millennium, and we're still enjoying love songs - silly and otherwise! There's no shortage of new artists, writers and wonderful new love songs to enjoy. But what I also notice - with pleasure - is how many young artists of the day still cover the old songs. For example, we have Adele singing her amazing version of Bob Dylan's Make you feel my loveand introducing it to a whole new audience. Of course, she has also written some incredible love songs of her own.

Do you have your own favorite love song? Perhaps with associations that you treasure, such as a special moment or occasion - or a particularly joyful time in your life? We'd love to hear about it, so do share your stories in the comments.

The last word has to go to Paul McCartney again. And John Lennon.

All you need is love, love,
Love is all you need.


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