Performing with my band last year in Santa Cruz, California, at the cool Kuumbwa Jazz Club, I mentioned to the audience that I didn’t think we’ve been romantic since the 60’s, and I got a big warm laugh in response. What I really meant was that I don’t think music has been very romantic for decades.
Consider this: the 1963 hit by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Close To You, as well as the John Lennon & Paul McCartney tune I Want To Hold Your Hand… also written in 1963, are maybe the last tunes of the romantic song era that began about 1930. What happened? No more Dancing Cheek to Cheek (Irving Berlin/1935), Misty (Errol Garner/1955), or Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love (1961). Romantic songs began to fade when folk music brought social issues into lyrics like Bob Dylan’s 1962 Blowin’ In The Wind. Dylan, along with artists like Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, began writing lyrics with a completely different tone – no more Three Coins in a Fountain (Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn/1955). Times changed, and music changed as well. Today’s love songs should, and do sound different.
Now when we listen to jazz standards from the 30’s to the early 60’s they do sound almost overly romantic in a warm nostalgic way – they are of another era and time.
In 2005 I was talking with actor Tony Danza at our local gym and he suggested that I should “play standards.” This was a smart idea, but being a composer, I really prefer to write my own, so instead I decided to compose a tune in the general form of a romantic standard, which I called, So This Is Love. For years we’ve enjoyed playing it as a band, so last February when I got the urge to write another romantic song for Valentine’s Day, I figured it would be pretty simple, right? I loved delving into a bunch of romantic tunes – especially Cole (I’ve Got You Under My Skin) Porter, and Antonio Carlos (Girl From Ipanema) Jobim as well as the intimate playing style of composer/pianist Bill (Waltz for Debby) Evans. Well, I was wrong!
Romantic songs may sound very simple, but they proved to be trickier than I thought. I consider the tunes I hoped would be romantic – No Sleep Until… and Today I Looked At Love off our latest album, to be more in the ballad range, just a bit short of romantic. So what makes the perfect love song? After a couple months I just gave up on romance, and recorded a new version of So This Is Love!
Whatever you play or do this week, wishing you a sense of joy and hopefully romance too!