Where have all the love songs gone?

I got to thinking, where are the real love songs? 

Blaise Pascal said, “It’s not those who write the laws that have the greatest impact on society. It’s those who write the songs.”

Where are the love songs in today’s culture?

The most beautiful love songs were written in the '40s and '50s and none of such beauty have been written since.

In the '40s we listened to the haunting lyrics of “All the Things You Are” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II (see below for lyrics), “Long Ago and Far Away” by Kern and Gershwin and many truly beautiful love songs.

In the '50s we had “Unchained Melody,” “In the Still of the Night,” “Mona Lisa,” “Since I Don’t Have You,” “You Belong To Me,” and others too numerous to mention.

But love songs that soothe, make you weep and create longing seem few. Today’s lyrics sound stultified and hip, often sexualized instead of captivating and haunting.

True romance is missing in the lyrics of today. Percussion punctuates the heavy music rather than the soft cymbal brushings of the lush, stringed, full-orchestra treatment of the '40s love songs. Those songs were often punctuated by the bluesy sensuality of the occasional muted trumpet or silky trombone.

Modern songs reflect our culture and there is a harshness to many of the love songs of the 2020s that is absent in the older romantic songs. The more modern songs often exhibit coarse, angry, divisive and hateful lyrics. People are having a hard time talking to each other and this is reflected in some modern lyrics. The debased culture is reflected in the songs being written. Some songs are cruel and profane. Many are violent, advocating murder, torture and rape.

I want to kiss everynight
To squeeze and to hold you tight, tight, tight!
I want to make violent love to you
(I want to make violent love)
I wanna'!

Such songs are a far cry from 


Time and again I've longed for adventure

Something to make my heart beat the faster

What did I long for? I never really knew

Finding your love I've found my adventure

Touching your hand, my heart beats the faster

All that I want in all of this world is you


You are the promised kiss of springtime

That makes the lonely winter seem long

You are the breathless hush of evening

That trembles on the brink of a lovely song


You are the angel glow that lights the star

The dearest things that I know are what you are

Someday my happy arms will hold you

And someday I'll know that moment divine

When all the things you are, are mine

The melody that was composed back then fits the words perfectly. It was lush, haunting, lovely in the truest sense of the word. Maybe the songs were really kitsch that just coincidentally happened to raise the hairs on one’s arms, but it didn’t seem so. It felt elevated and almost sacred. Such loveliness seems absent today. In its place is a matter-of-fact recitation of the age-old desires of people in love such as, “I want you baby,” but there seems to be a lack of depth to modern songs. No doubt people are just as in love as they were back in the day and still dance close together to modern songs at weddings, but are writers as driven to write true beauty as they were back then?

Genuine beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but genuine genius in song-writing is usually obvious and currently absent. Perhaps many of us are who are longing for the musical Good Old Days should resign ourselves to the fact that poignancy is a thing of the past. Perhaps we graybeards are too far removed from modern culture. Maybe we should accept that our youth has fled and they just don’t write songs like they used to. 

But perhaps it is right to lament the loss of lushness, loveliness and genius in song-writing and composing of the kind that brought tears to the eyes and a transcendent lift to the soul. As a reflection of the American culture, it is hard to see the beauty and soul-inspiring pathos of today’s music. I mourn that loss and know that with the exception of some hymns, I will only ever hear such beauty in music on the other side of this life.

Image: Picryl / public domain

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