Lovelorn? Lovesick? Love-starved? Love-struck? Then you’re ready to read the complete guide to romance in entertainment. Surely, America’s most romantic couple these days must be L.A. Law‘s Grace Van Owen (Susan Dey) and Victor Sifuentes (Jimmy Smits), but they’ve had plenty of competition over the years. On the following pages, you will find ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’S choices for the most romantic movie and TV characters of all time, the pairings that were never meant to be, the most romantic singers and songs, the best make-out music, and some love-ly surprises. If your favorite stars and scenes didn’t make the cut (What?! No The Way We Were? No Peggy Lee?), we know you will come up with your own selections with someone you love, over the candlelight or under the moonlight.
Is music really the food of love? Of course. The sweet songs of romance are perhaps the purest expressions of our feelings, and we hear the music as much with our hearts as with our ears. Talk about versatility: While some tunes cry out for dancing cheek to cheek, others are for kissing and kissing. The following selections can help you find just the right song for the right moment.
The Most Romantic Singers
No modern pop singer loves language more than Sinatra. He breathes feeling into every phrase, every word, every syllable, every phoneme. At the peak of Sinatra’s powers in the mid-’50s, his wood-grained baritone took us on a guided tour of the giddy world of love and its melancholy aftermath. Whether swingin’ for young lovers or mourning for the crowd at the bar, he reaches deep into the heart of a romantic song. What Sinatra sings about the effects of the ”Old Devil Moon” applies to Frank as well: ”What a cry! What a croon!” Recommended album: Nice ‘N Easy (Capitol).
”When I get that feeling,” Marvin Gaye sang sweetly, ”I need…sexual healing.” With that couplet, the R&B legend summed up the sensual philosophy behind nearly all his music. Physical romance became highly spiritual for Gaye in the early ’70s, and he achieved a state of grace musically by pushing his voice into tender, burning ecstasy. Sweeping effortlessly from his usual high tenor into falsetto heaven or crying out in musical pain, Gaye made his sweetness our weakness. Recommended album: Let’s Get It On (Motown).
Fifty million fans weren’t wrong. Elvis revolutionized pop singing with a live-wire intensity that was largely sexual. As a purely romantic singer, however, he didn’t really develop tenderness until he began to perform songs like ”Loving You” in the late ’50s. The mature Elvis remained profoundly sensual, caressing a lyric with a dark warble that rumbled up from deep in his throat. At select moments he even seemed to sing without a sneer. That was about as vulnerable as the King ever got. Recommended album: A Valentine Gift for You (RCA).
When Anita Baker goes into overdrive, you’d better watch out. Her husky alto, which has sold millions of records in the past few years, takes passion to any extreme, erupting into guttural exhortations or lifting a heaving sob to the heavens. Baker becomes totally possessed by the deeply soulful grooves of her material, unabashedly invading the pyrotechnical world usually inhabited by instrumental soloists. She’s the most voluptuous, operatic singer in the history of rhythm & blues. Recommended album: Rapture (Elektra).
Bing Crosby once said, ”Man, woman, or child, Ella is the greatest.” Best known for her scat work, Fitzgerald is often overlooked as a romantic songwriter’s singer, more concerned with finding the truth within a tune than within herself. Her series of ”songbook” albums in the late ’50s and early ’60s, devoted to such immortal composers as George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and Harold Arlen, is considered a landmark of American popular song, because she handled the hallowed texts with such abiding respect. An exquisitely musical singer, Fitzgerald distills each tune into a pure glow of emotion. Recommended album: The Intimate Ella (Verve).
Nat ”King” Cole
How smooth can a singer be? Listen to Nat ”King” Cole for the answer. Gliding through a sentimental tune like ”Star Dust,” accompanied by a string orchestra, his lighter-than-air baritone blooms effortlessly. Cole may have started out as a charming cocktail-lounge pianist with a delicate touch, but he developed into a master balladeer. Something extraordinary happened whenever he abandoned his spry jazz for love songs. By letting his smoky voice breathe easy passion, he made us fall head over heels for the idea of love. Recommended album: Love Is the Thing (and More) (Capitol).
No singer has done so much with so little. ”Billie Holiday’s voice was the voice of living intensity,” jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote, ”of soul in the true sense of that greatly abused word.” By bending notes, twisting notes, and sending notes on melismatic roller-coaster rides, Holiday produced tremendous emotion with her tiny, brittle instrument. Despite a life plagued by despair, she created a body of work, including such songs as ”Say It With a Kiss” and ”Embraceable You,” that is as romantic as it is unsentimental. Recommended album: Billie Holiday (Commodore).
Patsy Cline took the plaintive yodel of early country music and smoothed it out in a ’60s middle-of-the-road pop way-you can hear the sentimental future of Nashville in ”Crazy” when her voice delicately breaks the word ”lone-lee-ee” into thirds. Her singing naturally conveys strength and resolve, but Cline is never more than a sob away from despair. She falls to pieces in a heartbeat, and the plunge never fails to thrill. Recommended album: 12 Greatest Hits (MCA).
Barry White became the ultimate steamy performer of the ’70s because he didn’t just sing a song, he made love to it. With a voice that wells up from the center of the earth, he purrs softly, seductively to the object of affection. Feels so good, you lying here next to me. On he goes, rumbling and rolling, oozing and oohing. I love you, baby. And still more, taking us to the limits of endurance before bursting into song. Then the climax: I’m gonna love you love you love you just a little more, babe. When it comes to soulful bedroom operetta, Barry White is the first, the last, our everything. Recommended album: Barry White’s Greatest Hits (Casablanca).
The worst romantic song? ”Indian Love Call” (a.k.a. ”When I’m Calling Yoo- ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh”), hollered by Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald in the movie Rose Marie. No wonder they were known as ”The Singing Capon and the Iron Butterfly.”
Best Make-Out Music
If loving’s on your mind, you can’t do much better than these 10.
Ravel’s Boléro (Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony) — A classic anew thanks to Dudley Moore and Bo Derek in 10.
Moonlight Serenade (Glenn Miller) — The saxes keep pulsing, pulsing, pulsing after all these years, as though there were no tomorrow.
Let’s Stay Together (Al Green) — Nothing but sweet nothings sung with delicacy and incredibly steamy grace.
Mannish Boy (Muddy Waters) — The slow, heavy grinding of this deep blues just doesn’t quit.
Light My Fire (the Doors) — Dark poetry meets a driving beat; at the end, Jim Morrison loses control.
The Avalon album (Roxy Music) — Chock-full of hypnotic mood-setters sung sexily by Bryan Ferry, notably the title cut and More Than This.
In the Still of the Nite (the Five Satins) — Deeply langorous, with a saxophone break that feels like a prolonged caress.
Lady Marmalade (LaBelle) — When the ladies ask the question, ”Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?” it’s almost a command.
Justify My Love (Madonna) — Heavy-breathing, musical pillow talk from the ultimate pop sex symbol.
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin) — A must if only for its length (7 minutes, 59 seconds), though the guitar solo climax is also tremendous.
Some Fine Romances
Trying to name every great romantic song is fun, but, in case of do or die, we’ve settled on 10 of the best.
As Time Goes By (Dooley Wilson) — Worth playing again. And again.
Hey, Good Lookin’ (Hank Williams) — A breezy, kick-up-your-heels country recipe for flirting.
Chances Are (Johnny Mathis) — Creamy and dreamy to the nth degree, and it’s amazing he gets away with it.
You Send Me (Sam Cooke) — Some sweet, sweet soul.
And I Love Her (the Beatles) — A song like this will never die.
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Roberta Flack) — There’s enough bare emotion to make you misty even when you’re alone.
My Girl (the Temptations) — Sunshine on a cloudy day, and with a quiet bounce.
Tell It Like It Is (Aaron Neville) — So slow, so achingly beautiful.
Moondance (Van Morrison) — A buoyant guide to nocturnal love.
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (the Smiths) — The power of romance after romance has lost its meaning.
AND IN A CATEGORY OF HIS OWN…JULIO IGLESIAS