Oldies radio provides us with the best love lessons life has to offer. Check out what you can learn from tunes of yore, then add your favorite one to our list.
Did you ever turn on the oldies station and feel like those classic songs were describing your current love life perfectly? That’s probably because as you were growing up, no matter what generation you grew up in, these songs taught you how to love. From early rock and roll to Motown to classic girl groups, these songs teach us so much about what love is, how much it hurts when it goes wrong, and how we can get it right.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
One of the greatest rock ballads of all time, this song (penned by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and performed by the Shirelles) captures the complex miasma of emotions that entangle yet distinguish lust and love. “Is this a lasting treasure, or just a moment’s pleasure?” the singer asks of her beau as they get misty-eyed in the moonlight. “Can I believe the magic in your sighs? Will you still love me tomorrow?” (even if I give you what you want tonight). A warning to hormonally charged teens everywhere, this song cautions that physical chemistry may or may not lead to deeper love down the road.
The Tracks of My Tears
Smokey Robinson had a way of making a sad song sound glad. But just like the gloom behind the Miracles’ shining vocals, behind the façade of the character in this song lies a sad, broken-hearted man. Anyone who’s ever been dumped by someone they really loved and tried to pretend to be fine when they saw their ex in public knows the ritual he’s going through. We laugh, we smile, we go on ridiculous rebound dates with the first eligible people we run across. Outside, we’re masquerading, but inside our hopes are fading. It’s a theme Robinson would take to No. 1 years later with “Tears of a Clown.”
Save the Last Dance for Me
Love is not about possession, and nobody understood that more than this song’s co-creator, Doc Pomus. A victim of polio who used crutches to get around, he still enjoyed going out with his wife, a Broadway performer and dancer, and it wasn’t a problem if she wanted to dance with other men—as long as she’d never “give her heart to anyone” and made sure to save her true love for him at the end of the night. This song teaches us about the tender love that happens at home that’s only enhanced by freedom outside the home. And as performed by Ben E. King and the Drifters, it actually makes for great slow dancing.
Three Times a Lady
We know, we know—Lionel Richie is a little soft and a little cheesy. (Remember “Dancin’ on the Ceiling”?) But this song, written while he was still in the Commodores, was based on a speech his father had made to his mother on their 37th wedding anniversary. It chronicles the many roles Richie’s mother played in her marriage and her family—she was a lifetime lover, a great helper as a co-parent, and a best friend. This song teaches us that our soul mates must meet our needs in a variety of areas, not just in romance or financial help or camaraderie or raising children with us, but a combination of some or all of these.
This raucous soul song about a woman who earns her fair share of the family wages and wants the respect of her man made Aretha Franklin famous. But it also taught a lot of us about how people should treat each other in a relationship. A long-lasting relationship should be a place where two equals meet, and if one person doesn’t give the proper respect to the other, degrades the other, or belittles the other’s contributions to the relationship, that person might walk in and find his partner gone! Lest we think this is only a lesson for men who don’t respect women, we must remember that the song was written and originally performed by Otis Redding.
Once again, here’s a song written by Smokey Robinson (and Berry Gordy) in which a mother teaches a young man (and us) a very valuable lesson about love. Lots of people are going to have chemistry with us, so it behooves us to take our time, learn what type of person we enjoy being around, and not settle for the first person who agrees to go on a date with us. It’s important that we “shop around” until we find someone who’s compatible with us in all the areas so important to a lifetime of happiness. Or to put it more bluntly, “Pretty girls come a dime a dozen/Try to find one who’s gonna give you true lovin’!”
You Can’t Hurry Love
This gem of a song, written by the fantastic Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland and recorded by Diana Ross and the Supremes, is another in which a mother imparts wisdom to her child. This time, the advice is for people who have already “shopped around” and have endured heartache and loneliness in their struggle to find the right person. It may seem hard for us to be alone and wait for the right person to come along while a seemingly endless sea of losers swims by. But “love don’t come easy—it’s a game of give and take.” Love can come to any of us, if we just have the patience to keep “hangin’ on” until we meet someone with the right combination of chemistry and deep compatibility. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take actions to find that special someone, but at the same time, we need to trust and give it time, and not get discouraged by the so-so dates we might have to endure along the way.
There are so many great oldies songs that teach us important lessons about love. What are your favorites? What are the songs you heard in your youth that prepared you for the trials and joys of romance?