When it comes to romance and the very best of song lyrics, country music reigns supreme. There is no genre of music that can touch the heart and soul of everyday people like the best songs that emanate from the world of country music.
When one of the giants of the music world, Leonard Cohen, confessed in an interview: “When I wrote about Hank Williams, ‘A hundred floors above me in the tower of song,’ I’m not trying to present some kind of inverse modesty. I know where Hank Williams stands in the history of popular song... I feel myself a very minor writer.”
The modesty of Leonard Cohen, a truly great songwriter, is one of the greatest endorsements of the power of real country music you will find anywhere. Leonard even wrote an additional verse to the country classic, The Tennessee Waltz, cementing his special fondness for the country genre.
There are so many classic country songs out there that it truly is hard to know where to begin. But I have decided to start with the ageless and enduring voice of the legendary Jim Reeves from Texas who recorded I Love You Because, a song composed by Leon Payne, that has the following chorus:
No matter what the world may say about me
I know your love will always see me through
I love you for the way you never doubt me
But most of all I love you ‘cause you’re you.
Hank Locklin, who had a huge following in Ireland, topped the American charts with songs like Please Help Me I’m Falling (in love with you) and Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On (so darling I can dream on it too). They don’t come much more romantic than that!
Don Williams recorded one of the most enduring sing-along choruses in country music history with You’re my Best Friend:
You’re my bread when I’m hungry
You’re my shelter from troubled winds
You’re my anchor in life’s ocean
But most of all, you’re my best friend.
Kris Kristofferson brought a new dimension to country music when he came on the scene. Love songs like Me and Bobby McGee and Help Me Make It Through The Night resonate down the years. Loving Her was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again is an absolute classic:
Coming close together with a feeling that I’d never known before in my time
She ain’t ashamed to be a woman or afraid to be a friend
I don’t know the answer to the easy way she opened every door in my mind
But dreaming was as easy as believing it was never gonna end
Loving her was easier than anything I’ll ever do again.
June Carter of the famous Carter Family from Virginia joined Merle Kilgore to write Ring of Fire, a song recorded by Johnny Cash in 1963 and one which heralded June’s strong feelings for Johnny which eventually led to their marriage in 1968:
I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.
Elvis Presley may well be the King of Rock ‘n Roll but so many of his early influences were country and gospel music. He recorded some wonderful love songs including Are You Lonesome Tonight, It’s Now Or Never and Love Me Tender:
Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go
You have made my life complete and I love you so
Love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfilled.
For my darling, I love you and I always will.
Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys recorded a timeless classic, Faded Love, back in the 1930s America and the song enjoyed a huge revival when Patsy Cline recorded her classic rendition in 1961.
I miss you darlin’ more and more everyday
As heaven would miss the stars above
With every heartbeat, I still think of you
And remember our faded love.
Monaghan poet Patrick (Paddy) Kavanagh penned one of the most beautiful and powerful love songs in the Irish tradition when he wrote the lines to Raglan Road made famous by the great Luke Kelly of The Dubliners.
On Raglan Road of an autumn day I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I passed along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
I have always loved the power and emotion behind another classic by the great Merle Haggard.
Today I started loving you again
I’m right back where I’ve really always been
I got over you just long enough to let my heartache mend
And then today I started loving you again.
Hank Williams from Alabama, who died at the age of 29, touched the heart and soul like no other. The heartache of the lyrics in I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry can tear you apart.
The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry.
I have barely scratched the surface here in relation to all the wonderful country love songs that adorn this world. One of the absolute timeless and enduring love songs in country and folk music has to be The Red River Valley which is rooted in the life of the farming community.
This song has been recorded by numerous singers from so many genres of music and it features in The Grapes of Wrath movie (based on the book by one of my favourite writers, John Steinbeck, who was born in Salinas, California) from 1940 and directed by the great John Ford, who later directed the iconic The Quiet Man movie featuring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara which was filmed mainly around Cong, Co Mayo.
Come and sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the one who has loved you so true.
Happy St Valentine’s Day, folks!