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Valentine’s Day serenades

Love is in the air at Oxford University Press! As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’ve asked staff members from our offices in New York, Oxford, and Cary, NC, to share their favorite love songs. Read on for their selections, and be sure to tell us what your favorites are too. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Owen Keiter, Publicity
All-time is impossible, so…“Girlfriend” by Ty Segall is a feat of simplicity. Ty manages to stuff the headlong rush of a new, young, senseless love into about two breathless minutes. Nobody’s getting excited about the caveman-ish lyrics, which are almost incomprehensible anyway, but that’s not the point. The point is: when Ty hollers “I’ve got a girlfriend/She says she loves me,” you can tell it’s got him feeling like nothing can touch him.

For those having less pleasant Valentine’s Days: “Lipstick Vogue” by Elvis Costello. This Year’s Model is the Bible of those who are mistrustful of sex and love; “Lipstick Vogue” contains gems like “Maybe they told you were only one girl in a million/You say I’ve got no feelings; this is a good way to kill them.”

Lana Goldsmith, Publisher Services
My actual favorite love song right now is “Crazy Girl” by Eli Young Band. I love this song because I feel like I live it all the time. It’s easy to feel insecure or unappreciated, but this song shakes you by the shoulders and reminds you that you’re the greatest thing that ever happened to somebody.

Purdy, Director of Publicity
When you are single and in your 40s love has come and gone enough that I find it hard to narrow my choice down to just one favorite love song. I have three that make me wistful for another lover, and maudlin for love and lovers long lost:

Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You” is a bluesy jazz plea for recognition from some indifferent lover that is at times sultry, needful, demanding and lustful.

Another classic by Ms. Simone, “Turn Me On,” is a simile-saturated reminiscence of a lover gone too long and the heightened anticipation of his/her return.

Finally, there is Miss Etta James’s version of “Deep in the Night.” Etta’s mournful moan reminds me how love can come to plagues one’s every thought and action:

Read a book and I think about you
Put it down and I think about you
I make some coffee and I think about you
Wash up the cup and I think about you
Wind the clock I think about you
Turn on the light and I think about you
Then I punch the pillow and think about you

Anwen Greenaway, Promotion Manager, Sheet Music
“True Love” by Cole Porter is one of the most memorable songs in the 1956 film High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra. When I was a child my Dad had an old vinyl record of the film soundtrack. I remember being mesmerized by the film stills on the LP cover and listening to the record over and over at Christmas. It’s the soundtrack of all my childhood Christmases, a beautiful song, and unashamedly sentimental — what’s not to love about that?!

Flora Death, Editorial Admin Assistant, Sheet Music
“So In love” by Cole Porter, from Kiss Me Kate, because it’s gloriously melodramatic and haunting, and has wonderful lyrics like all Cole Porter’s music.

Emma Shires, Editorial Assistant, Sheet Music
Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet it is to be Loved by You” is so fun and upbeat. I love putting it on when I’m cooking, really turning up the volume, and dancing round the kitchen like a mad thing.

Ruth Fielder, Sales Administrator, Sheet Music
Biffy Clyro’s “Mountains” is my all-time favorite love song because it represents the ugly and beautiful sides to being in love, and therefore, for me, this song paints a more realistic picture: This being that most of the time love is a selfish act, but on occasion love itself as a thing of togetherness and intimacy; that ultimately nothing can tear you apart.

Jeremy Wang-Iverson, Publicity
“Laid” is a very sly love song by the British band James. The best line is the women’s clothes/gender roles couplet (if not the kitchen knives and skeeeeeewers) rather than the famous opening verse unfit for the OUPBlog. I sang this song, including the falsetto ending, COUNTLESS times with my friend Clara, who is now the history editor at NYU Press, when we were both assistants, as there wasn’t much to do in Princeton except go to the Ivy on Thursdays for karaoke and $1 beers. I hadn’t heard the song in ages until this past December at The Archive, a bar around the corner from our offices on Madison Avenue, and the television jukebox was playing, improbably, “The Best of James.” My friend and colleague Owen, the bassist for the great new band Journalism, said “The Best of James?? What the hell is James?” Probably for the best…

Matt Dorville, Online Editor, Reference
“The Book of Love” by The Magnetic Fields is a favorite of mine that is very apropos for a publishing house blog and one that I find myself singing all too often. It is from 69 Love Songs, an ambitious, and somewhat cheeky, look at love from The Magnetic Fields. If you haven’t listened to the album, I highly recommend it. It contains songs that are bittersweet, tender, pithy and catchy as hell. They’re not all winners, but the ones that are will make you smile all day.

Alana Podolsky, Publicity
“Tere Bina” composed by A. R. Rahman, lyrics by Gulzar is my favorite. Meaning “Without You”, “Tere Bina” is the great A.R. Rahman’s composition for the Hindi film Guru (2007) starring Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood’s Brangelina. Rahman’s score derives from Sufi devotional music and is paired with Gulzar’s simple lyrics, creating a song that will resonate with any heartsick romantic no matter your language background. The cherry on top: the film’s dance sequence.

Kimberly Taft, Journals
My favorite love song is “At Last” by Etta James. I think it’s great because of her powerful vocals and the accompanying instruments. It’s truly a classic and I’m sure will be around forever.

Jessica Barbour, Grove Music/Oxford Music Online
I’m Your Moon” was written by Jonathan Coulton in reaction to Pluto’s demotion from planet to dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union. Coulton, stating that Pluto clearly must have found this “very upsetting,” wrote a love song to the slighted celestial body from the point of view of Charon, one of Pluto’s moons. (You can watch another live video in which Coulton tells the whole backstory here.) Pluto is only twice as big as Charon, and they orbit a point between each other instead of Charon circling Pluto the way our moon orbits around the Earth. And they’re always facing each other as they orbit, like two people doing this. Coulton says on his blog that he was just thinking about Pluto when he wrote it. But the way Charon sings about how the rest of the world doesn’t really understand them, encourages Pluto to stay true to itself, and promises that they’ll always have each other no matter what—what else can you ask for in the perfect love song?

Anna-Lise Santella, Grove Music and Oxford Reference
Back when we were dating, my husband and I used to hang out at Cafe Toulouse in Chicago where the great jazz violinist Johnny Frigo used to play with Joe Vito on piano. We loved the way he played “A Fine Romance.” If we had to pick something to be “our song,” that would be it. When it came time to picking a song for the first dance at our wedding, that was the first thing that came to mind. Then we looked at the lyrics — which are the opposite of a love song:

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend, this is
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes, But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes….

Not a song with which to celebrate the start of a marriage. The song was written by Jerome Kern for the movie Swing Time, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Fortunately, the movie also includes one of the great love songs of all time, “The Way You Look Tonight.” We picked that instead. And we asked Johnny Frigo to play at our wedding. It was perfect. It’s one of the great romantic songs:

Some day, when I’m awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you And the way you look tonight….

A month after we got married, I ran into Johnny playing a Columbus Day gig in Daley Plaza in Chicago. I reminded him who I was and told him how much we’d enjoyed his playing at our wedding. “Great night, great night,” he said. “And you weren’t so bad yourself.”

Your Oxford-Approved Playlist:

Image Credit: scanned from period card from ca. 1910 with no notice of copyright via Wikimedia Commons

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