As this day dedicated to love winds down, I was thinking about love songs that make my heart skip a beat. As a DJ who has been collecting music for over 40 years and who probably owns 10,000+ slow songs these are my favorite top five:
#5 “Love’s Holiday” by Earth, Wind & Fire
This album was the first I ever purchased with my own money back in ’77. As a middle-schooler the musical intricacies were immediately apparent, but it took a few years for experience and true love to fill in the blanks of the lyrics. Maurice White’s voice is at its finest and his brother Verdine drives it all with a fantastic bassline. Add Phillip Bailey’s background punctuations and an almost deliberate spacing that mimics a sweet natural… ahem… rhythm, and it is a song that evokes intimacy at its finest level.
#4 “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton.
I have versions by George Jones and by David Allan Coe, but they both are eclipsed by countless other love songs, but then Chris Stapleton put out his cover and I was immediately enthralled. It’s the perfect late-night, headed-home-shortly-to-make-love song and it always packs my dance floors and cuts through genres and people’s predispositions. Stapleton slows the song down by at least half, making it easy to dance to, giving it time to develop, and giving the dancers time to ignite or reignite. It’s the best newer slow song in a long time in my humble opinion…
#3 “South City Midnight Lady” by the Doobie Brothers.
This was a minor hit in the early ‘70s but it appeals to me on a deeply spiritual and cerebral level that is completely different but just as satisfying as the previous two songs. While Stapleton evokes the anticipation of making love, and EW&F the act itself, this song is a celebration of that feeling of being happy to be alive and in love. It’s a summation of an entire relationship and fulfillment that only comes with maturity and life experience. The lyrics are simple and heartfelt and the dreamy music complements it perfectly. I love to play this song late at night, thankful for my wife and the life we have made together.
#2 “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton.
This is by far the most popular and commercially successful of my picks. Written by Clapton about Pattie Boyd while she was getting ready for a party, it strikes chords on so many levels. Pattie Boyd must be a special woman, as she is also the inspiration for Harrison’s “Something”, in my opinion the best slow song the Beatles ever made. Not to mention, she was also the inspiration for Clapton’s “Layla”. But this song is nothing like the raw longing on “Layla” or the grasping for the reasons of love in “Something”. No, this song is about the little things that really make up the biggest part of love. The way a woman that you love looks when doing the smallest things. The deep communication that goes beyond a just a few spoken words. The satisfaction of being in the moment, of loving someone for whom they are, and they loving you for whom you are. Still fills the dancefloor.
#1 “Sea of Love” by the Honeydrippers.
This comes from an EP that Robert Plant, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Nile Rodgers, and lots of great session musicians like Paul Shaffer made in the ‘80s as a tribute to their boss Ahmet Ertegun. It is a cover of a 1959 hit by Phil Phillips and it has been covered many times since, most notably by Cat Power, whose version I have played several times as a First Dance in the past few years. But more importantly to me, the Honeydrippers cover was our own First Dance back in 1987 J.
Why did we pick the Honeydrippers? It seemed to perfectly encapsulate our relationship at that moment and our hopes for the future. In the years since, it has taken us right back to that rainy March evening when, despite 150 people watching us, we were completely alone up there on the dance floor. Time stopped for three minutes. Time still stops when we dance to it now. That’s the epitome of a First Dance. Time stops. A moment is etched indelibly on your mind. And just by simply playing or hearing it again, you are right back in that moment.