Songs of love

RING OF FIRE (JOHNNY CASH): Has there ever been a greater metaphor for the pleasure and pain of true love? Written by the Man in Black's future bride, it's a powerful paean to loving so hard it hurts.


IN MY LIFE (THE BEATLES): There's a level of lyrical abstraction at work here that makes it impossible to determine whether the love extolled in this Lennon/McCartney classic is romantic or all-encompassing. Either way, it must be powerful, because this is a song of the very rarest beauty.

LET'S STAY TOGETHER (AL GREEN): Smooth, sexy and unapologetically earnest, this is super '70s soul of the highest order. I mean, Mr. Green sets it all right out there in the very first line: I am so in love with you. How can you argue with that?

UNCHAINED MELODY (THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS): True poetry, Unchained doesn't depend on a chorus, verse or catchy hook. It just lets two talented singers emote about the wonders of love for a blissful 3:39.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE (JAMES BROWN): While many artists paint a pastel portrait of love, The Godfather of Soul burst onto the music scene with this pleading soul classic that made it clear: Love isn't just an emotion, it's an urge as well.

LOVE OF MY LIFE (QUEEN): One of rock's great power ballads, this heartbreaker displays the full musical muscle of Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury's innate understanding of how to dramatically serve a song.

WALL OF SLEEP (THE SMITHEREENS): Something of a sleeper (sorry), this song about a love so obsessive that it creeps into the unconscious might be borderline creepy, but it's also powerful and has a killer hook to boot.

EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC (THE POLICE): The theme song for every young man who falls for a girl he believes is out of his league, this midcareer hit from the recently resurrected trio is a fine example of its singular songwriting style.

CRAZY (PATSY CLINE): Although Willie Nelson wrote this song, Patsy owned it. Perhaps the greatest I-hate-to-love-you-but-can't-help-myself tune ever, it is sung by one of country music's most timeless voices.

WILD HORSES (THE ROLLING STONES): Featuring a stripped-down Stones sound, this great tune isn't so much about searching for love as it is refusing to budge after you've found it.

HARVEST MOON (NEIL YOUNG): When Mr. Young returned to his country-tinged roots in the early 1990s, he did so with this beautiful, simple and sweet song about the wonders of a love that lasts.

SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE (STEVIE WONDER): So powerful in its simplicity that it has become an American standard, Sunshine doesn't pull any punches or bury its emotion under abstraction. It's a song about the person you love being everything.

THERE IS NO GREATER LOVE (BILLIE HOLIDAY): This is a jazzy, slow blues number delivered in the singular Lady Day way. If this song doesn't melt your heart and leave you longing for a slow dance, there's probably nothing that will.

FALL AT YOUR FEET (CROWDED HOUSE): Sometimes true love makes you feel a little subservient. This pop gem might be the best musical description of that feeling. A powerful song by a band that, fortunately for us, has also announced a reformation.

IN YOUR EYES (PETER GABRIEL): Though not a bad song, this probably isn't the greatest Peter Gabriel tune. Still, thanks to John Cusack and a boom box, it's become the most effective way ever to musically woo a woman.

MISTY (JOHNNY MATHIS): Blessed with a voice that could make a grocery list sound sexy, Johnny Mathis is lethal when given the right song to sing. This is the right song. Soft, easy and still full of real yearning, it's the romantic equivalent of TNT.

TRUE LOVE WAYS (BUDDY HOLLY): Recorded shortly before his death, this isn't one of the propulsive hits normally associated with the Texas troubadour. Still, it's an unbelievable song that blends Holly's love of pop and country with underpinnings of jazz, leaving the listener to wonder where he might have headed had he taken the bus.

PURPLE RAIN (PRINCE): Too soulful to be a rock song and too rocking to be considered soul, Purple Rain is also too infectious not to have been a hit. Considering the sort of emotional musical storytelling that Prince is the master of, it doesn't matter at all that the image of purple rain makes no sense. Turn this up and turn down the lights.

SHE (Gram Parsons): Rich, romantic, understated country rock from the musical form's greatest adherent and pioneer, this song would convey the longing of love without a single lyric. Parsons was a master of the sweet song sung, however, and She is one of his finest moments.

ALL DAY AND ALL OF THE NIGHT (THE KINKS): Not every love song has to be soft and syrupy. This garage stomp from this British band's early catalogue is just as meaningful as any ballad and it rocks. Hard.

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