"If music be the food of love, play on" says Duke Orsino in the famous opening lines of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. What the melancholic Duke expressed so eloquently was that music is perhaps the best tool that we have for communicating love, that most ineffable of emotions. Love in all of its infinite permutations still flows through much of the music we consume today.
Of course, Duke Orsino continued with "Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting / The appetite may sicken, and so die." 400 years after The Bard's immortal words were written, it would seem that our appetite is still pretty healthy - or in other words, to quote modern-day bard Paul McCartney, "You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs / But I look around me and I see it isn't so."
In honor of Valentine's Day, we asked the ASCAP writers behind a few evergreen love songs to tell us why they think listeners are still singing these songs for their sweethearts, dedicating them on late-night all-request radio, playing them to set the mood.
Chris DuBois on "We Danced" (original recording by Brad Paisley)
Brad and I wrote "We Danced" back in 1996 before he had a record deal. It was one of the first songs that the two of us wrote together. That was an interesting time for us creatively, because it was back before either of us had a clue what we were doing as writers. We wrote with reckless abandon and consequently ended up with some incredibly bad songs. Every now and then, though, that reckless abandon would lead us to a magical creative moment that couldn't have been found any other way. "We Danced" was one of those moments.
We started that song (as we frequently did in the early days) without any lyrical idea at all. We literally wrote the first verse line by line without any idea where it was going. We made up a story about a guy working in a bar after closing time that meets a girl who came back to get the purse she left. The problem was that we didn't know what was supposed to happen next. After sitting there for a few hours and running through a hundred possible scenarios, we decided that they should dance in the empty bar. Something about that felt incredibly romantic. Once they danced in the first chorus, we knew that they were going to dance again in the second chorus, so the song flowed pretty quickly from there.
I think people loved "We Danced" for the same reason that they love movies like Sleepless in Seattle. It's a great love story with a happy ending. It's a little unrealistic, but that's okay...it's fun to imagine it happening. One of my favorite things about being a songwriter is that it allows me the freedom to create characters and situations that are so much more interesting than the sometimes boring reality in which we live.
More about Chris DuBois: wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_DuBois
Crystal Nicole on "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" (original recording by Mariah Carey)
I wrote “Lovin’ U Long Time” in Miami with Mariah. It was the last song we did on her E=MC2 album. DJ Toomp produced the track and when I first heard it, I thought it felt happy, like a love song – but not corny. I felt like the song represented an “a-ha” moment or announcement. I felt like it deserved a big statement.
My favorite lyrics from the song are: “As long as I know u got me / I'll be loving u long as I can breathe / I'll be loving u for eternity” and “Don't want another / Ain’t gonna ever be another / Can't nobody do what u do to me.” This part repeats because I felt like it needed to be reiterated. At the time, I was engaged to my now husband, so of course I pulled from that. I pull from a lot of places, believe it or not. I can pull from even a mother/daughter relationship, just love at all angles, and I dissect it.
When I hear that people enjoy the love songs that I write, I am honored and flattered because I feel that's my duty as a narrator, a songwriter. I want to be able to put people’s feelings into words, so when they hear it, they are able to say “That's exactly what I was feeling!”
People spend alot of time talking about love, this month, but every day should be Valentine's Day.
More about Crystal Nicole: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristyle
Marilyn & Alan Bergman on "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (original recording by Michael Dees)
With composer Michel Legrand, we were given the assignment to write a song for The Happy Ending, a film written and directed by the late, great Richard Brooks. The song was to appear twice in the movie. The first time it is heard, it is sung behind a love montage – two young people (Jean Simmons and John Forsythe) romantically, optimistically in love and about to be married.
It is 16 years later. The marriage has broken apart. The wife is now an alcoholic, an “appendage” of her workaholic husband. She leaves him and her 15 year old daughter, never to return. She is seated at a table in a bar, gets up and goes to the jukebox and makes a selection. We hear the same song, the same voice…not a word or a note changed from the earlier scene, as per our assignment. This time, of course, it has a very different meaning, as in a martini-induced haze she listens and reflects on her past as well as her future.
Though the first and second times are identical, clearly it is the first impression of the song which so many couples have chosen as the love song for the rest of their lives.
Alan and Marilyn Bergman on the web: www.alanandmarilynbergman.com
Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at ASCAP!