MUSIC IS LOVE, THEY SAY, which means that, theoretically, Valentine’s Day is for everyone who loves music — even lonely-hearts and celibates. To celebrate the music-love fulcrum, we asked some writers to tell us about their all-time favorite love songs. Read ’em and weep.
Queen: “You’re My Best Friend”
I’ve broken up with my now-husband maybe six to eight times over the course of our 16-year relationship. The on-again/off-again thing was exasperating and exhausting, but somehow we always maintained a solid, if ever-evolving, friendship when we weren’t a couple. Being platonic comrades, buds with “benefits” and even long-distance pen pals over the years wasn’t easy, but for us, it was worth it.
Oooh, you make me live/You’re the best friend that I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time/You’re my sunshine
And I want you to know/That my feelings are true
I really love you/You’re my best friend
Our last breakup five years ago concerned marriage. I was ready; he wasn’t. I moved out of the apartment we had been living in and decided this would either be the end for good or the separation that proved we belonged together once and for all. We dated others but still kept in touch, until we realized that it really was just too painful to maintain the friendship this time around.
I lost my lover and my closest friend. The one I complained to, laughed and shared day-to-day drudgery with was out of my life, maybe forever. I was sad and pathetic and partying way too much. During this dismal period nearly every tune I heard on the radio, in clubs or bars and at supermarkets made me cry. We’ve all gone through this, I know, but I’m talkin’ every song: boy-band pop hits, gangsta rap, techno . . . didn’t matter, my heart would find a connection and the floodgates would burst open.
Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” was the one song that still made me smile through my tears. I mean, it’s pretty hard to feel somber bathing in Freddie Mercury’s creamy croon — not to mention John Deacon’s pizzazzy noodlin’ on the electric piano. Despite the tune’s presence on the concept album Night at the Opera, it’s not deep or metaphoric or even operatic. It’s a simple melody with simple lyrics that conjures a mood that, like much of Queen’s early material, is potent yet playful. And no, it wasn’t written about one of Mercury’s gay lovers; Deacon wrote it for his wife.
I’ve been wandering ’round/But I still come back to you
In rain or shine/You’ve stood by me girl
I’m happy at home
However bittersweet a reminder it was (and despite the fact that it was used inappropriately in a TV ad right around the same time), I chose the Queen classic for the first dance at my wedding reception. Yes, my saga finally ended with a real commitment, and after so many years of drama and uncertainty, I wanted to begin the next phase of our relationship with a blissful and joyous musical declaration. No other tune would do, really. Plus, no dance lessons were necessary. This bubbly lil’ ditty is super easy and fun to boogie to — dips, spins and all. Just ask my BFF. (Lina Lecaro)
Simon and Garfunkel:“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
My parents were engaged within weeks of their first conversation, and they’ve been in love for 40 years. I know, it’s gross.
My sisters and I endured their undying crushes on each other: stolen kisses in the laundry room, flirtatious looks over Hamburger Helper. I remember their jukebox whirring and clicking, switching out 45s, and upon the first crackly notes of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” one of them would always turn it up. I knew it was their song but secretly disparaged the choice. It’s not really a love song.
It wasn’t until my 20s that I learned the truth behind their swift nuptials. Yes, some chaste Catholic lust was involved, but I never knew that my grandfather had thrown my mother against a wall that summer, tearing her dress. When my father saw the bruises, they climbed in his VW Bug and headed to Nevada to marry. She didn’t even have her toothbrush.
I’d heard “Bridge Over Troubled Water” thousands of times, sheltered from its context and unaffected by its lyrics. Knowing now that my parents were allies as much as lovers renders the choice achingly romantic. It’s track No. 9 on the Greatest Hits album, and I have to skip it every time. It’s still too beautiful to bear. (Alie Ward)
K-Ci & Jojo:“All My Life”
After my fiancé broke off our engagement — several times, the last by e-mail — I was a big mess, and some girlfriends took me on a “restorative” trip to Las Vegas. It should have been my bachelorette party, really.