Everything blooms quickly in the springtime—including romance if you’re lucky. Romantic love is a wonderful thing; singers and songwriters know this, and that is why they have capitalized on it for decades.
Certain musical numbers speak to you, take you back in time to precious memories, and stir up every emotion. And today I would like to share with you my top 10 favorite songs about amour, all of which were written and originally recorded in the 1920s.
10. I Wanna Be Loved By You
Some of you might be thinking, “Wait, that’s not Helen Kane, who is this?” And some of you might be thinking, “This doesn’t sound like Annette Hanshaw. That couldn’t possibly be her!” And some of you might be thinking “Who the hell were Helen Kane and Annette Hanshaw? Never heard of ’em….”
Helen Kane was the inspiration for Betty Boop, and is best known for the song “I Wanna Be Loved By You”. Her friend Annette Hanshaw was a popular jazz singer throughout the 1920s and could do a pretty good imitation of Helen—so good that Helen’s record company couldn’t tell the difference when they heard this 1929 recording by Annette.
9. Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love
If you don’t know this song, you at least know the crooner crooning it, right? Everyone knows the name Bing Crosby. This was one of his early recordings of a Cole Porter composition in 1929. This song has also been sung with great success by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
There was some controversy over the lyrics that went “Chinks do it, Japs do it…” for obvious reasons, and later recordings of this song have omitted the offensive line.
8. Yes, Sir! That’s My Baby
7. Makin’ Whoopee!
Here’s another song that Eddie made famous in the 1930 motion picture Whoopee. This naughty song reportedly made Eddie Cantor a millionaire.
6. You Were Meant for Me
“You Were Meant for Me” has made it around the block a few times. It made it into three feature-length musical revues the year of its release in 1929, and was Cary Grant and Irene Dunne’s song in the excruciatingly depressing picture Penny Serenade from 1941. (If you like pictures that make you cry from beginning to end, I highly suggest this one.) The most recognizable version of this song is from Singin’ in the Rain, when Gene Kelly sings it to Debbie Reynolds.
6. My Time Is Your Time
This is another song from 1929, which I feel was an excellent year for music. “My Time Is Your Time” was crooner and heart-throb Rudy Valee’s theme song on his radio program. And even though I was somewhat familiar with Rudy’s music, I admit that I was not at all familiar with this song until the wonderful character actress Jesslyn Fax mentioned it on the Jack Benny Program.
5.) It Had to Be You
Even if you are unfamiliar with every other song on this list, you have to be familiar with this one. It is a jazz standard that is still extremely popular today. It was written by bandleader and composer Isham Jones and lyricist Gus Kahn, and was featured in Casablanca and the Woody Allen vehicle Annie Hall, among other films. It’s been recorded many times over by some of the greatest jazz singers of all time, including a version by Frank Sinatra in the late 1970s.
4.) Ain’t She Sweet?
Milton Ager wrote this song in 1927 for his then 2-year-old daughter Shana, who was probably more famous for her career as an author and commentator on 60 Minutes. This Tin Pan Alley standard has been recorded by a number of famous artists, including Eddie Cantor, Guy Lombardo, and Tommy Dorsey.
3.) Singin’ In the Rain
The image of Gene Kelly swinging around a lamppost with umbrella in hand is the first thing comes to mind when many people think of this song. It was featured prominently in the 1952 musical of the same name.
2.) My Little Bimbo Down On the Bamboo Isle
This dirty ditty about a sailor’s illicit affair with an island native was written and released in 1920, if you can believe that.
People tend to believe that so-called morals were higher and people were more puritanical before the end of the 20th century, but the 1920s were full of sex, drugs, drinking, and dancing til dawn. Remember, this was the decade that women cut their hair and hemlines. Things were changing in the United States and the world over. And “Bimbo” was a tame song in comparison to many released in this decade. You should also check out some films in pre-Code Hollywood. They could get quite vulgar.
1.) How Long Has This Been Going On?
Written by George and Ira Gershwin in 1928 for the musical Funny Face (it was quickly taken out and then put in the musical Rosalie that same year), this is a tune about a couple’s first kiss.
People are most familiar with versions sung by women, including Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Jon Bon Jovi did a Rock n’ Roll meets Jazz version of the song for a Gershwin compilation in 1994, which breathed new life into the tune.
My favorite version, however, happens to be the one by Tony Perkins (better known as Anthony Perkins, but best known as Norman Bates from Psycho.) I think I like his singing voice better than his acting, even though he plays a convincing nut job.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my top 10 list for favorite songs about being in love (or lust). If you like this post, please share it with the music lovers in your life, and please feel free to subscribe to my blog via e-mail or RSS.