Greatest Lovesong Writers

I think it’s really hard to find good love songs, especially those written and performed by an artist with serious talent. So, I propose a discussion of the best love song writers of all time. Here are my caveats:

  1. The writer has to perform their own songs. So, Neil Diamond would qualify for performing the songs he wrote, but the Monkees wouldn’t qualify because they performed his songs. No expounders of another’s Brill Building Pop.
  2. This is more subjective, but the music has to be listenable. I won’t disqualify music that doesn’t get significant radio play (Sarah McLaughlin, for example, is exceptional but doesn’t get much airplay 'round these parts), but if only a few people find it pleasurable to hear it shouldn’t be considered great.

Therefore, I submit my vote: Sting. Examples include “Fields of Gold,” “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” “Every Breath You Take,” and “Roxanne.” Personally, I would nominate Sting as one of the greatest songwriters of the post-disco/motown era (and quite possibly of all time), so it’s a bit like swatting a fly with a Buick. But he writes excellent songs that you can remember and to which you can hum to tune. What do you say?

I’d like to nominate Billy Joel, who’s written such love songs as “Shameless,” “Just the Way You Are,” “A Matter of Trust,” “An Innocent Man,” “And So It Goes,” Honesty," Leave A Tender Moment Alone," “She’s Got A Way,” “Through the Long Night,” and “You’re My Home.”

I will also add one last caveat: It needs to be popular music. So if your Uncle Ted wrote the greatest love song you’ve ever heard, it doesn’t count if no one else has heard it. No local bands, please (or else I’d nominate a couple of guys I know who deserve recognition too).

Any “Greatest Lovesong Writers” thread that excludes the possibility of mentioning Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, George & Ira Gershwin, or Jerome Kern needs to be renamed.

Fair enough…I can’t think of a better name. What do you suggest?

The correct answer is Paul Kelly but only we Aussies know that.

Most of so-called “love” songs are really sex songs. They’re not talking about relationships, caring, sharing, and togetherness. They’re about seduction, romance, and bed time. And this is just as true for the writers of standards as for the rock generation. Romance is a wonderful thing, make no mistake, but it’s a different category.

So my nominees are John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful and Terry Kirkwood of The Association.

Sebastian’s “Darling, Be Home Soon” is the best description of how I still feel after 32 years of marriage, which is far many more years than he had lived when he wrote that song. I don’t know how he understood that in his early twenties. And anyone who could write of women:

in “She Is Still a Mystery to Me,” had a perspective different than almost every other rock and toller who ever lived.

Kirkwood wrote the gorgeous “Everything That Touches You,” one of the ten prettiest songs in all of rock. Like “Darling, Be Home Soon” it’s about being with someone you love, the wonderful feeling of being in their presence.

Of course, both wrote other famous and more conventional love songs so they would qualify anyway. But those songs are special, to me at least, and rare.

**Tom Waits **has written and performed some damn fine love songs.

Even though he is more than likely not the best of all time, I shall still nominate Sam Beam since I love his form of the love song. Disagree all you want, I just find his representation of love without much sexing it up to be rather refreshing and lovely.

Lion’s Mane:
“And love is a tired symphony
you hum when you’re awake
and love is a crying baby
mama warned you not to shake
and love’s the best sensation
hiding in the lion’s mane”

Naked as We Came:
“She says if I leave before you darling
Don’t you waste me in the ground
I lay smiling like our sleeping children
One of us will die inside these arms”

Swans and the Swimming:
“‘take me again,’ she said, thinking of him
‘i don’t care for this careful behavior’
a brush through her hair, children kissing upstairs
keeps her up with her want for her savior
the sun on the sand, on her knees and her hands
as she begs for her fish from the water
but turn them away, she’s a whip and a slave
given time she may find something better
oh how the rain sounds as loud as a lover’s words
and now and again she’s afraid when the sun returns”

Someday the Waves:
“Walking before you
I’ve got a fever and a childish wish for snow
Seems like a long, long time
Since I spun you to this borrowed radio
You pick a place that’s where I’ll be
Time like your cheek has turned for me”

Full lyrics and others here.

For country singers/songwriters:

Alan Jackson
Dolly Parton
Willie Nelson
Rodney Crowell
Vince Gill

I gotta disagree with Exapno Mapcase. Now, he’s right that songs that dwell on seduction, sneaking around and bedtime being sex songs, but romance, being the wonderful thing that it is, is intricately part of eros, which is the most celebrated kind of love.

Best singer/songwriters:

Paul McCartney.
John Lennon.
Lionel Richie.
Nat King Cole.
Smokey Robinson.

Leonard Cohen

Adam Duritz from Counting Crows.

The conflation of all love songs into one giant category is one of my pet peeves, and I know nobody else is concerned about it. But hey, I had a rare chance to sound off on the subject so who am I to turn that down? :slight_smile:

You have to remember that at one time the term “making love” was synonymous with “romancing” or even “pitching woo” rather than with actual intercourse. In those days a romance song could talk about making love and still be on target.

I recognize that love songs are and have always been about the here and now. I just want to give a special shout out to those few that transcend that.

Although perhaps best known for songs about werewolves and the different ways people find to mistreat other people, Warren Zevon wrote love songs of incredible beauty and poignancy. As evidence I offer “Hasten Down the Wind” from his first album, “Accidentally Like a Martyr” from the Excitable Boy album and
“Searching for a Heart” and “Suzy Starlight” from the Mr. Bad Example album. He often mocked these songs but they are an important part of his legacy.

Good mention. And I’d like to include Ben Folds, too.

Stephin Merritt. As proof, I offer The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. Or really, any Magnetic Fields album.

ArchiveGuy, damn. You took every single one I was going to say. Just thinking about Ira Gershwin’s lyrics or Cole Porter’s rhythms drives me crazy. I was born in 1943. It’s a good thing that I didn’t reach adulthood in the 1930’s or 40’s. I would have been an absolute slut with that music playing.

I’ll nominate Nick Cave for both great love songs and great love-gone-bad songs.

What ArchiveGuy said – Cole Porter is the soundtrack to my love life, no question. “In the Still of the Night” is, IMO, the most perfect love song ever written – and those Gershwin boys ain’t bad, either! :wink:

For artists encompassed by the OP’s specifications, my nominee is Brian Wilson. Even if he hadn’t written anything else in his life, “God Only Knows” would get him up there for me.