In this month dedicated to celebrating love, especially romantic love, I’d like to discuss the influence of much of the music written for lovers and for broken-hearted people.
A preponderance of love songs over the decades have included flagrant codependent messages reflecting obsession, desperation, and excessive reliance on a partner for stability, strength, or validation of one’s self-worth. Some songs speak of giving one’s entire self to the other, supposedly as a noble expression of devotion, while others refer to continually matched emotions--enmeshment. I will offer numerous examples of these romantic songs, many of which have been top hits, and I’ll also provide several examples of songs with healthy relationship motifs. Unfortunately, the latter are less common.
Over a hundred years ago (1913) Al Jolson sang You Made Me Love You that included these lyrics: “You made me love you; I didn’t want to do it...You made me happy sometimes...but there were times you made me feel so bad...You know you’ve got the brand of kisses that I’d die for.”
Tears on My Pillow, The Imperials, 1958: “(I have) pain in my heart caused by you.”
I Will Follow Him, Connie Francis, 1958: “I must follow him, wherever he may go.”
Can’t Help Falling in Love, Elvis Presley, 1961: “Take my hand, take my whole life, too...for I can’t help falling in love with you.”
Hurt So Bad, Little Anthony and the Imperials, 1964: “Please don’t go, please don’t go...come back it hurts so bad, don’t make it hurt so bad, I’m begging you, please!”
Wives and Lovers, Jack Jones, 1964: “Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up, soon he will open the door...Hey, little girl, better wear something pretty...Wives should always be lovers, too; run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.” (Notice the diminutive, little girl, while later in the song, the lyrics read, “Men will always be men.”)
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, Righteous Brothers, 1965: “Baby, baby, I'd get down on my knees for you, if you would only love me like you used to do...Baby, baby, baby, baby, I beg you please, please, please, please, I need your love, need your love, I need your love, I need your love.”
My World is Empty Without You, The Supremes, 1966: “My world is empty without you, babe...I find it hard for me to carry on...I need your strength, I need your tender touch...I need your love more than before; I can hardly carry on anymore.”
Can’t Smile Without You, Barry Manilow, 1977: “I can’t smile without you...I feel sad when you’re sad; I feel glad when you’re glad.”
It’s Been Awhile, Staind, 2001: “It’s been awhile since I can say I was not addicted and it’s been awhile since I can say I love myself as well.”
Breakeven, The Script: 2008: “What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you and what am I supposed to say when I’m all choked up and you’re OK?...I’m falling to pieces.”
Waiting for Love, Avicii, 2015: “Monday left me broken; Tuesday I was through with hoping;
Wednesday my empty arms were open; Thursday waiting for love, waiting for love; Thank the stars it's Friday; I'm burning like a fire gone wild on Saturday; Guess I won't be coming to church on Sunday. I'll be waiting for love, waiting for love to come around.”
Here are several songs that have messages consistent with healthy relationships:
For All We Know, The Carpenters, 1971: “Let’s take a lot of time to say, I knew you well, but only time will tell us so, and love may grow, for all we know.”
The Rose, Bette Midler, 1979: a potent, poetic song of encouragement (one of my favorites): “I say love it is a flower and you its only seed...It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It's the one who won't be taken who cannot seem to give...You think that love is only for the lucky and the strong. Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows lies the seed that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose.”
I’ll Stand by You, The Pretenders, 1994: promotes honest, vulnerable conversation. The singer professes loyalty and commitment to a man in pain during his darkest hour. “Nothing you confess can make me love you less...I’ll never desert you; I’ll stand by you.”
Love and Some Verses, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, 2004: a whimsical and compassionate song that depicts a committed deep and meaningful romance.
You Raise Me Up, Josh Groban, 2009: an upbeat song expressing strong gratitude: “You raise me up to more than I can be.”
See You Again, Carrie Underwood, 2013: “I won’t cry cause I know I’ll never be lonely...I’ll see you again...Sometimes I feel my heart is breaking, but I’ll stay strong.”
Unconditionally, Katy Perry, 2013: a beautiful ballad professing to love her partner without fear or reservations and inviting him to, “Let go and just be free.”
I would welcome your comments and additional contributions to these contrasting lists.
Toward positive influences,
Your Relationship Coach,
Jim Sharon, EdD is a licensed psychologist and couples' coach who has over four decades of professional experience serving thousands as a counselor, as a life and relationship coach, and as a seminar and retreat facilitator. Dr. Sharon has authored two books and many professional publications, most recently, Secrets of a Soulful Marriage: Creating and Sustaining a Loving, Sacred Relationship (with Ruth Sharon, MS), published by SkyLight Paths, 2014. Jim and Ruth have been married since 1970, have raised three adult children, and have two young granddaughters.