Music and romance are forever intertwined.
How many of us remember what we were doing and who we were with when we hear a certain song come on the radio or play on the cable music channel? Love songs can bring back the best and worst of memories, depending on whether you were in a good relationship or lousy one at the time.
R&B artists have always seemed to have a little something extra when it comes to conveying the deepest feelings and passions connected with love and all of its ups and downs. R&B ballads are especially lethal when it comes to helping you and your significant other get in the mood for a romantic time together
Since I am writing from the vantage point of someone in the “boomer” generation, a lot of the songs of this ilk that most affected my life were from the 1970’s and 1980’s, because I attach specific past occasions with and I still know all of the words to them. These are the songs that are the most effective in creating just the right setting for romance.
Some of the best of them, at least in my estimation, are:
Baby, Come to Me by Patti Austin and James Ingram
This song was a huge hit back in 1982, largely because it was made popular by its inclusion on the soap opera General Hospital, back in the day when that particular soap was at the top of its game. The Laura and Luke storyline was the big thing then and Baby Come to Me was their love theme.
Austin and Ingram have sung other duets, but this is the one that curls your toes the most. I listen to a lot of smooth jazz radio, plus I have the original LP with the Baby, Come to Me on it, so whenever I get an opportunity to hear this one, some pretty stirring memories come back.
For the Love of You (Parts 1 &2) The Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers have been on the musical scene since the 1950’s, but I became familiar with them back in the latter part of the 1970’s, when they recorded a slew of memorable ballads. Among the favorites of those ballads among the coeds of my college campus was For the Love of You (Parts 1 &2).
This is what we slow danced to with our boyfriends and what they put on in the hopes of lessening the inhibitions of naive girls.
Even after 30 years, this song, written by the Isley Brothers themselves, has still not lost its bite.
My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is and always will be one of the geniuses of American R&B music. He is one of the most prolific songwriters of all time, penning and singing popular music classics over the span of several decades, including the inimitable love song My Cherie Amour, which he co-wrote with Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby.
This song came out in 1969 and was first supposed to be called Oh My Marcia, but was changed to MyCherie Amour instead, something we will be forever grateful for.
Dreamin’ by Vanessa Williams
Dreamin’ was on Vanessa Williams’s 1988 debut album The Right Stuff.
The reason I get rather sentimental over this song is that I used to listen to it when my husband and I were still in the “wonder-if-this-relationship-will-work?” stage. I’d had the album it was on for a few years, but, quite honestly, hadn’t really bothered to listen to it. However, when I finally did hear it, Dreamin’ was quickly crowned as “our” song and I knew that I was in love with that song and that man!
Any Love by Luther Vandross
The challenge is having to pick just one Luther Vandross song for this list, because he was the “king” of R&B ballads.
I’ll have to be content with listing Any Love, which Vandross co-wrote with Marcus Miller for his 1988 album of the same title. There has never been a singer who could put over a love song like Luther and this selection is ample proof of that.
Any Love remains a timeless example of what romance-setting music ought to be. Guys, when your woman puts on this song or any other Luther Vandross song, catch the hint.
The Closer I Get to You by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
It’s a shame that the newer generation of music listeners has probably never even heard of the great Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Artists in their own right, they came together to record a number of hit ballads, but the one that I consider to be a bona fide love song classic is The Closer I Get to You.
Some may only know this song from Beyonce’s version, and it’s somewhat irritating to only see it referred to, when you type the title into a search engine, primarily with her. Hey, I give Beyonce her props, but the “old school” version, released in 1978 by Flack and Hathaway, remains the best, because they put it across like they meant it.
Written by James Mtume and Reggie Lucas, The Closer I Get to You was a big crossover song and I can remember hearing it played at wedding receptions.
Put a recording of it on today and you will still get all mushy inside.