With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought we’d provide you with a playlist of some of the city’s greatest love songs from both the past and present of Memphis music. Enjoy❤️❤️❤️
1970’s power pop icons Big Star have their fair share of songs about both love and heartbreak, but none of them resonate quite as strongly as “Thirteen,” a gorgeous ballad dedicated to the magic of adolescent love. The song was listed on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time and has been covered by everyone from Wilco and Elliot Smith to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Garbage, proving that it’s a certified classic despite never placing on the charts.
Otis Redding-“These Arms of Mine”
It would be fairly easy to write a top ten list of love songs written by Otis Redding alone, so narrowing it down to just one is a daunting task, but “These Arms of Mine” feels like an appropriate choice for several reasons. First and foremost, its simply an exceptional and timeless ballad that has been a mainstay on wedding playlists for half a century. Secondly, it’s the song that officially introduced Big O to the world, becoming Redding’s first-released Stax Records single.
KIRBY-“Loved By You”
The self-proclaimed “granddaughter of soul” certainly lives up to her moniker on this neo-retro hit from 2016. The sparse instrumentals lets the singer’s powerful vocals shine, and the sense of yearning is absolutely palpable. A wonderful addition to the long and proud canon of Memphis love songs.
Mark Edgar Stuart-“Remote Control”
While the rest of the songs on this list deal with romantic love, we just had to include this heartfelt beauty from Mark Edgar Stuart about familial love, specifically the type between a son and his father. Stuart has long been considered one of the city’s finest singer-songwriters, and this emotional ode to his late father is a great example of why.
George Jackson-“Talking About The Love I Have For You”
Although George Jackson was an accomplished songwriter best known for penning hits for other artists, his solo work is absolutely worth checking out, particularly the lively love song “Talking About The Love I Have For You.” This infectious ditty gets stuck in my head quite often, and I’m certainly no complaining. In a more just world, this would have been a major hit for the elusive singer.
Jesse Winchester – Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding
A song with a title this silly shouldn’t be so powerful, but that’s part of the reason why Jesse Winchester was considered one of the greatest singer-songwriters of his generation. Similar to “Thirteen,” the song is a wonderful ode to young love and remains one of the iconic singer’s most beloved tracks.
Cameron Bethany-“Love is a Bill”
This 2022 neo-soul banger from Cameron Bethany is a confident and slightly cocky love song that is reminiscent of Miguel (in the best way). Sure, it definitely counts as a love song, but Bethany seems to know that he is the real catch in this situation. The sleek music video fits the song’s sultry vibes perfectly.
Al Green-“Simply Beautiful”
The king of 1970s sultry soul has enough classic love ballads to fill an entire wedding reception, but we’re going just slightly deeper for this pick. A true slow-burner, Green’s “Simply Beautiful” is a masterclass in simmering sanctified soul that never fails to hit me in the feels. As this song illustrates, the good Reverend can out-sing nearly everyone without raising his voice much higher than a whisper.
Bailey Bigger-“No Falling Out of Love”
This country-tinged ballad from Bailey Bigger straddles the line between a love and heartbreak song, an impressive feat from the young singer-songwriter. Americana music is certainly having a moment, and Bailey Bigger is well-positioned to be one of the city’s next big stars, especially if she continues to churn out emotional ballads such as this one.
Elvis Presley-“Can’t Help Falling in Love”
While I will always prefer Elvis’ early rockabilly days on Sun Records to anything else he produced, it’s hard to deny that “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is one of the greatest and most iconic love songs of the past century (as the song’s nearly 1 billion Spotify steams helps to attest). Whether you loathe or love the King, this is truly a timeless classic.