(Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart. Despite the fact that you normally try to avoid putting yourself in the spotlight, I hope you like this gift more than that blouse I gave you in our first year of marriage — which demonstrated why color-blind men should not buy clothing for their wives.)
When I started this project back in June, I had a partial list of the songs that would appear on the blog, but no particular order for most of them. I knew that “Coal Miner’s Daughter” would be first, and that Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” would be last (for reasons explained below). Both are country songs, though the list of songs on the blog includes more old standards and 1970s rock songs than country music.
I originally intended to produce a blog with 100 songs, and I figured that I’d release a post every two or three days to meet that. But the list of songs I wanted to include kept growing, so I expanded the planned total to 125; that seemed like a nice, round number. Yet even that wasn’t quite enough. So with this final post, the blog features 132 songs — four for each of the 33 years we have been married. I could have included even more, of course. A lot of great songs shared by readers didn’t make my personal list. Nor did a lot of other wonderful love songs, including many on this “top 100” list.
I had no idea who might see the blog, let alone contribute to it. (Several dozen friends, family and complete strangers have shared their songs.) I didn’t know what readers’ motivations might be, and having some experience with the lunacy of some folks who read blogs, I blocked comments for the individual posts. My own motivations (and a bit about how I chose the songs shared on the blog) are explained here.
The final song here is the fourth one (others at #42, #59 and #83) from the first tape Joanna ever gave me. She snuck it into my suitcase before I went to a conference, and then told me to listen to it while I was on the road. She had forwarded the tape to this then-new song — what we have since considered to be “our song.” More than a decade later, we’re “still together, still going strong.”
I’ve noted previously that Joanna and I weren’t guaranteed to make it — but then, who is? As I noted on a former student’s blog a while back, we have had several friends and some family members who married their high school or college sweethearts; some of those later divorced. My parents celebrated their 56th anniversary the day before my first post on this blog. Several of our best friends are in happy long-term same-sex relationships (we’ve each attended same-sex weddings during the past year), and at least two friends over the age of 45 have never married (and seem happy and fulfilled). We’ve seen some folks try repeatedly without success, while others have apparently given up.
There may be good predictors of whether a marriage will succeed, but I certainly have no particular wisdom to offer other than these two things: Marriage, like almost anything else — your car, your house, your familial relationships, your career, etc. — should bring much more happiness than pain. And, again like almost anything else, a marriage needs regular attention and care.
To anyone else who happens to read this blog, I wish you luck and much love. To my wife, I simply say this: Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart. Thank you for sharing the past 33 years with me. You are still the one I want for life. I love you.
“You’re Still the One” lyrics here, with video below.
OK, so I’ve mentioned that my wife is my best friend once or twice previously. But Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” belongs on the blog for reasons beyond that (and beyond the fact that we’ve sung along with it innumerable times).
For one thing, the song was a #1 hit for James Taylor, one of Joanna’s favorite performers (his version here). Also, we’re big fans of King’s singing, and we once lived not far from her in Idaho (keeping in mind that “not far” in the West means something entirely different than it does “back East”). You can see some photos of her in Idaho on her website.
Finally, King is an amazing songwriter, producing a range of songs that most people have no idea were hers. Besides Taylor, others who had hits with King songs included the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, the Shirelles, the Everly Brothers, Dusty Springfield, the Chiffons, Bobby Vee, Little Eva, Steve Lawrence, the Drifters, Herman’s Hermits, the Byrds, the Monkees and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Her songs have been part of two great movies: “Wasn’t Born to Follow” in “Easy Rider” (1969) and “Now and Forever” in “A League of Their Own,” 23 years later. No wonder she’s in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
There are some nice versions of “You’ve Got a Friend” in which King is joined by others. She and Taylor have performed it together many times. And years ago, a televised version featured King with Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain.
Lyrics here, with nice live Carole King video below.
I grew up listening to Country & Western music, and may have introduced Joanna to the genre. We don’t listen to it regularly, but sometimes do when we’re on a long drive, especially in those parts of the country where the choices are often limited. And the first cassette tape (you young people may need to do a web search) that my wife ever gave me is still one of our favorites, which is why Shania Twain is the most frequently appearing artist on this blog.
I’ve previously shared “Love Gets Me Every Time” and “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” from the same album, “Come On Over.” We had already been married for 16 years when the album was released, but if we were to get married again, and to do it in a traditional wedding, “From this Moment On” would be the song for our first dance. The song, a duet with Bryan White, still can make both of us tear up if it comes on while we’re driving. (A reader of this blog as also listed it as a favorite for her and her husband.)
Joanna had been single for years when we met, and has often told me (and sometimes other people) that even though she wasn’t interested in a long-term relationship, on the night we met she had prayed that somehow she would meet someone who would make her laugh and with whom she could talk intelligently, someone who would make being a single mom in a small southern Idaho town less lonely. And though it’s difficult for me to believe I’d be the answer to any prayer, of course I love the story. It makes these lines even more relevant: “You’re the reason I believe in love. And you’re the answer to my prayers from up above.”
A version without White has actually been watched on YouTube by the most people (a live one with the Backstreet Boys is also popular). That is a beautiful video, but in terms of the music, I prefer the duet. Lyrics here, with video below. (This video includes a slide show with photos from around Lake Tahoe, where Joanna lived for a while as a teenager).
The second Shania Twain song on this blog, “Love Gets Me Every Time” is here because of a confession made by Joanna after we were married. Apparently after we had begun dating, her son saw her crying (perhaps before I had ever seen her shed tears, let alone been the cause, and maybe before I had met two of her three kids).
The resulting conversation went something like this:
Gary: “Mom, why are you crying?”
Joanna: “Because I’m in love.”
Gary: “So what’s wrong with that?”
Joanna: “I don’t want to be!”
I didn’t want to be in love at the time, either. But 33 years ago, “our hearts changed our minds” and we “gol’ darned gone and done it.”
Lyrics here, with video below:
(Note: Shania Twain appears on this blog more than any other artist. “Love Gets Me Every Time,” is at #59 and a third, “From this Moment On,” is at #83, and “You’re Still the One” is the final song, at #132.)
This is another tune that no one would classify as a traditional love song, nor would it seem to fit a feminist like Joanna. In fact, the “going out tonight … let it all hang out … scream and shout” message fit me far better when we met than it ever fit her.
But the video for this catchy Shania Twain song is an obvious answer to a sexist Robert Palmer video (though perhaps not his worst). The song also provided the soundtrack for a funny commercial that starred an actor we later liked in “Bones,” while the video gives me another example of intertextuality for my media criticism class.
Lyrics here, with video below: