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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

February 14, 2011

Song of the Week: L-O-V-E

Since today is St. Valentine's Day, I couldn't think of a more appropriate song of the week than Nat "King" Cole's L-O-V-E.

L-O-V-E was recorded on a sunny Wednesday afternoon on June 3, 1964 in Hollywood, CA. Having listened to the song in numerous movies, and in my own music collection, whenever I hear L-O-V-E I can't help but think of a ride I once took down Hollywood Boulevard en route to the Capitol Records building, palm trees swaying against sun-drenched skies.

Isn't this basically how love feels? Every cloud has beauty. Every kiss is an exciting mystery. It's as if the skies were painted blue by God Himself, just for you. This feeling of wonderment associated with 'love' is what Cole's song captures so well.

Oddly, what makes the piece work is the almost imperceptible crescendo of the music. As Cole begins his etymology of love, the initial lines are soft, if not sultry. As Cole delivers line after classic line, the music builds, interspersed by trombone vignettes, and trumpet solos. By the time Cole bellows that 'love is made for me and you' the music is enthralling enough to actually believe him.

The song itself is performed in a masterful legato style that is every bit as smooth as Cole's baritone voice. The sound is one unique to the artist combining elements of Jazz with Cole's provenance as a big band singer. At the end, the music almost has a dixieland band feel, concluding the song splendidly.

And what to say about the lyrics? The lyrics have really almost become their own definition of love. At the very least, it seems fair to say that Cole's lyrics are the most famous acrostic in history. But perhaps the more intriguing part of the song is the way Cole's simple melody has come to inform our consciousness of what love is and means.

Cole's song reminds us that two people in love can 'make it', damn the odds and divorce rates. It reminds us that love is really all we can give to someone else. And it reinforces what is most important about our relationships. Sure, we can buy presents. We can devise exotic vacations. We can even share a delicious meal, or a fine wine. But all of these things involve something external to the self. Love, on the other hand, is all we can actually give of ourselves to another.

With that thought in mind, just because I 'love' my readers, please enjoy this very special Valentine's Day song of the week, L-O-V-E as performed by Nat "King" Cole.

L-O-V-E
By Nat King Cole

L is for the way you look at me 
O is for the only one I see 
V is very, very extraordinary 
E is even more than anyone that you adore can...

Love is all that I can give to you 
Love is more than just a game for two 
Two in love can make it 
Take my heart and please don't break it 
Love was made for me and you

L is for the way you look at me 
O is for the only one I see 
V is very, very extraordinary 
E is even more than anyone that you adore can...

Love is all that I can give to you 
Love is more than just a game for two 
Two in love can make it 
Take my heart and please don't break it 
Love was made for me and you 
Love was made for me and you 
Love was made for me and you

 

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