It’s almost summer, the time for love and fun. With this, there’s a new opportunity to find the person of our dreams. Cue the sweet love song. Love songs have wooed ladies (and men too) for centuries.
Spanning all genres of music, love songs have some of the most incredible, emotive and romantic lyrics ever written.
Even The Economist says that around 40 percent of all popular song lyrics are about sexual relationships and love.
Read on to find the Best Love Song Lyrics of all time! But first, let’s have a look back at the history of the humble love song.
17 Best of Love Songs of All Time
It really was difficult narrowing it down – there were so many that we wanted to make the cut that we ended up including them anyway!
- Cheek to Cheek, Irving Berlin
- Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Frankie Valli
- When A Man Loves A Woman, Percy Sledge
- The Way You Look Tonight, Frank Sinatra
- At Last, Etta James
- Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers
- Can’t Help Falling In Love, Elvis Presley
- Your Song, Elton John
- How Deep is Your Love, The Bee Gees
- You Look Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton
- Eternal Flame, The Bangles
- Careless Whisper, George Michael
- Endless Love, Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross
- Everything I do, I do it For You, Bryan Adams
- I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston
- Just The Way You Are, Bruno Mars
- All of Me, John Legend
These songs remind us of the times that we’ve fallen in love and just how wonderful that feels.
What makes a good love song?
Any song is successful when it strikes a chord with a listener. Good love songs touch people because they share a common reality, good or bad.
A great love song tells a story that is believable.
It reminds the listener about something great in their life or something tragic that they’ve lost. Bottom line, the best love songs stir up deep emotions.
“Send In The Clowns”
One of the most touching and sad love songs is “Send In The Clowns”. It’s a rather doleful song that isn’t actually about the circus at all.
The clowns refer to the fact that when something bad happens at the circus (an accident, for example), clowns are sent in to lighten the mood and entertain the audience.
The song “Send in the Clowns” refers to the fact that something bad has happened in a relationship and it is time for the clowns to enter to improve the situation.
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In reference to the clowns, the lyrics say “don’t worry, they’re here”, which is a figurative way of saying “fools”.
It’s ultimately a song about unrequited love.
The Ancient Songs of Love
Of course, it’s often tricky to know what the earliest love songs sounded like. There wasn’t much in the way of writing down music and especially not of recording it.
However, there were references to it in poetry and lyrics. There was an early songwriter, a woman from Mesopotamia in 2250BC, called Enheduanna. She is allegedly the first love songwriter in history.
Classical Love Songs
Later, the first popular songs about love appeared. Sappho, a poet from ancient Greece, was known for her liberal attitudes towards relationships and was one of the first singer-songwriters as she would perform her poetry and accompany herself on an instrument rather like a guitar.
Unfortunately, there are no ways of knowing just what the melodies of such music sounded like!
Renaissance and Medieval Love Songs
The times of gallant knights and chivalry arrived, along with minstrels wandering, singing their bawdy songs. This was really the time of love songs, where they blossomed into what we start to recognize as today’s style.
Usually, during this period they were simple and accompanied by one instrument and so would sound a bit bland and very much monophonic to us today. The Renaissance allowed these songs to become polyphonic.
Modern Love Songs
Finally, we are at modern times. But the variety just gets bigger. We now have love songs in every kind of style and genre, from Frank Sinatra’s ballads, the lyrical country love songs to the sexiness and soulfulness of R&B music.
There has been an explosion of love songs the whole world over. What this shows is that, no matter what, humans need to have love songs in their lives.
Let’s have a look at some of the best love songs through the decades and the best love song lyrics that really ‘get’ you in your heart.
Love Songs through the Decades
Before the Roaring Twenties, love songs would have had to be heard in a concert form. The Twenties brought radio to the masses, allowing homes all over the world unprecedented access to a wide range of music, and thus, a wide range of love songs.
Hmmm-nothing seems to matter
Hmmm-here’s my heart on a silver platter
Where’s my will
Why this strange desire
That keeps morning higher
When I look at you
I can’t keep still
You’re my thrill
Love Songs in the 1930s
The 30s produced a whole host of unforgettable and popular love songs, spinning from America’s Great Depression.
Irving Berlin was a very prominent songwriter during this time. One of his most well-known hits from this period, which can still be heard today, is his 1935 song “Cheek to Cheek”. The lyrics are still as poignant and beautiful today.
Heaven, I’m in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek
Heaven, I’m in heaven
And the cares that hung around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak
When we’re out together dancing (swinging) cheek to cheek
Oh I love to climb a mountain
And reach the highest peak
But it doesn’t thrill (boot) me half as much
As dancing cheek to cheek
Aren’t those lyrics timeless? Despite being almost 90 years ago, they are still relevant in today’s society.
Love Songs in the 1940s
The 1940s saw many worldwide events that often caused a somber note to the music of the decade. However, love songs were still produced in their hundreds.
Irving Berlin was still a prominent songwriter, with his songs appearing in musicals and Broadway shows.
In 1942, the song “Be Careful It’s My Heart” featured in Holiday Inn, the musical starring Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, and the legendary Bing Crosby. Here’s a snapshot of the lyrics:
Sweetheart of mine, I’ve sent you a valentine.
Sweetheart of mine, it’s more than a valentine.
Be careful, it’s my heart.
In 1945, Lulu Belle Wiseman and Scotty wrote the country song “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”.
It has since been recorded by many artists in many genres, from Eddie Cochran, Gene Autry to Elvis Presley himself. Let’s have a look at its lyrics:
Have I told you lately that I love you?
Could I tell you once again somehow?
Have I told with all my heart and soul how I adore you? Well, darling, I’m telling you now
Love Songs in the 1950s
This century half-way point saw many firsts: NASA was created, Disneyland opened, and seatbelts became commonplace.
In music, Rock and Roll was born. “Since I Don’t Have You” was written in 1958 describing how the writer has lost his true love. It proved so popular that even Guns N’ Roses did a cover in the 1990s!
I don’t have plans and schemes
And I don’t have hopes and dreams
I don’t have anything
Since I don’t have you
I don’t have fond desires
And I don’t have happy hours
I don’t have anything
Since I don’t have you
Other Top Hits in the 50’s
Another 1950s classic was “You Send Me”. If you’re wondering why this one is so familiar, it’s because it has featured on adverts recently, showing that it is still relevant today.
Written by Sam Cooke, it is the epitome of how one should convey one’s love to a woman. It tells of how the singer that holding and kissing his lover thrills him and it is more than infatuation as it has lasted.
This song was revolutionary in that it was at the top of the charts in both the R&B and Pop charts, something that not many songs achieved as not many black tunes crossed over into the mainstream pop chart.
Rolling Stone Magazine also named it as one their “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
Darling, you send me
I know you send me
Darling, you send me
Honest you do, honest you do
Honest you do, whoa
You thrill me
I know you, you, you thrill me
Darling, you, you, you, you thrill me
Honest you do
At first, I thought it was infatuation
But, woo, it’s lasted so long
Now I find myself wanting
To marry you and take you home, whoa
Love Songs in the 1960s
The 1960s saw yet another musical explosion. There are so many beautiful love songs from this decade that it’s impossible to choose them all.
You’re just too good to be true
I can’t take my eyes off you
You’d be like heaven to touch
I wanna hold you so much
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I’m alive
You’re just too good to be true
Can’t take my eyes off you
And we also have Percy Sledge’s classic “When A Man Loves A Woman”. Another true 60s classic love song.
More Top Hits
Something in the way she moves,
Attracts me like no other lover.
Something in the way she woos me.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a 60’s Love Song List without mentioning Etta James and “At Last”.
At last, my love has come along
My lonely days are over, and life is like a song, oh yeah
At last the skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up clover the night I looked at you
Just beautiful, isn’t it?
The Best Love Songs of the 1970s
The 1970’s really brought out the best in love songs so far. There were a whole host of romantic ballads that came out in this decade.
They really knew just how to write a truly great love song. Let’s have a look at some favorites.
“Always on My Mind” was made most famous by Elvis Presley even though it was originally written by Gwen McCrae.
Another great ballad was “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees. It had somewhat of a revival in the 1990s thanks to Take That’s rendition of the long, their last for ten years.
Perhaps one of my own personal favorites from this decade was The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun”. Apparently, it started out as a bank advert’s theme tune!
We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
(We’ve only begun)
Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day
Perhaps it’s a favorite of so many, because it reminds us of our parents and their love for each other. The “white lace and promises” is very much reminiscent of some of our parents’ wedding in the 70s (flares and handlebar mustache too!).
And, what would the 1970s be without Elton John’s “Your Song“. I can’t mention this one! My husband sang it to me once as he played the piano.
Trust me, these are some of the best love song lyrics that really get you in your heart!
My gift is my song and this one’s for you
And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world
(Excuse me while I wipe my eyes…)
Other Top Hits
There are so many more to choose from this decade. Eric Clapton’s “You Look Wonderful Tonight” needs a mention for its beautiful lyrics alone:
I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you
The Best Love Songs of the 1980s
Now, for the 1980s! Again, there’s another explosion of love songs from this decade with some of the most beautiful lyrics ever written.
What would this decade be without Whitney Houston? Her track “Saving All My Love” is one of the best power ballads ever written. It’s definitely worth a sing-a-long in the car at full volume!
What about “Endless Love”?
This surely has to be one of the best duets of all time, by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross.
It even has substantial mention in the sitcom Friends when two characters try to sing it, struggling over the last harmony!
Two hearts that beat as one
Our lives have just begun
I’ll hold you close in my arms
I can’t resist your charms
Other Tops Hits
Ah, next, there’s “Careless Whisper”. Who could forget the soulful sax?
George Michael shot into the limelight with this classic, paving the way for him as an artist in his own right, outside of Wham! The song tells of his relationships with two girls in his first foray into love.
I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool
Should’ve known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you
The Bangles classic “Eternal Flame”
It wouldn’t be the 1980s without The Bangles classic “Eternal Flame”.
I believe it’s meant to be, darling
I watch you when you are sleeping
You belong with me
Do you feel the same?
Am I only dreaming
Or is this burning an eternal flame?
Don’t those lyrics just take you right back?
The Best Love Songs of the 1990s
And so, into the 1990s. I still can’t believe that this decade was almost 30 years ago! Top love songs from this period included Mariah Carey’s“Emotions” and Oasis’s “Wonderwall” (yes, Britpop does romance well!).
Whitney also features with her staggering “I Will Always Love You”, which was originally written by Dolly Parton.
This is another one to pelt out in the car for sure! There’s also Bryan Adams “Everything I do, I do it For You” which was number one in the UK pop chart for a staggering 16 consecutive weeks.
Look into my eyes
You will see
What you mean to me
Search your heart
Search your soul
And when you find me there, you’ll search no more
Want More Tunes?
There’s also Aerosmith’s first number one single: “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”:
I don’t want to close my eyes
Don’t want to fall asleep ‘cause I’ll miss you, babe
and I don’t wanna miss a thing”.
Perhaps it’s because it marked some of my more formative years, but the 1990s really did know how to write love songs well, producing some of the best love song lyrics of all time.
The Best Love Songs of the 2000s
The noughties brought Coldplay into the music scene. It might have only been their second release, but “Yellow” is the song that is perhaps their most popular, despite being almost 20 years old.
Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And all the things that you do
Yeah, they were all yellow.
Taylor Swift’s country-pop song “Love Story” has also proven to be a record that has stood the test of time. It’s hard to believe it’s over 10 years old already!
And I said,
“Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone
I’ll be waiting, all that’s left to do is run
You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess
It’s a love story, baby just say yes
The Best Love Songs of the 2010s (so far)
It would be wrong to think that the best has already been in terms of song lyrics.
This decade so far has produced some spectacularly beautiful song lyrics that would rival the greats (and could possibly become the greats themselves!).
Just take Ed Sheeran’s hit “Perfect”:
Your heart is all I own.
And in your eyes, you’re holding mine.
Stunning, isn’t it?
Bruno Mars’s “Just The Way You Are” can also be a bit of tearjerker in terms of love song lyrics:
And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for a while
‘Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are
Other Top Hits
And then there’s the legend that is John Legend with “All of Me”:
Cause all of me loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections.
Even the ever-popular reggaeton “Despacito” has some adorable lyrics (if you look at the version with the added English parts of Justin Bieber – the Spanish lyrics in both are somewhat sexual!).
You are my sunrise on the darkest day
Got me feeling some kind of way
Make me wanna savor every moment slowly, slowly
Summing It Up
We’re sure that in listening to these songs, you will realize that actually, no matter the age of the person or the age of the song, we experience the same feelings of love that our ancestors did right back when they were first starting to put poetry to music!
I wonder what they ancients like Enheduanna would have made of Bruno Mars?