After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
Songs have been written about every topic imaginable, but the best ones — from swooning ’50s ballads to contemporary club bangers — have been penned about the ups and downs of being in love. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we are counting down the top 50 Hot 100 hits with a form of the word “love” in the title. The tunes cover all seven decades of the Hot 100’s history, ranging from 1958’s “To Know Him Is to Love Him” by the Teddy Bears to 2011’s “We Found Love” by Rihanna. It’s sonic proof that while musical fads and fashions will change with every generation, love — and the songs inspired by it — will never go out of style.
50″Love Song” – Sara Bareilles
Hot 100 Peak: No. 4 (2008)
The singer from Eureka, Calif. made her chart debut with this song. Although it didn’t reach No. 1 on the Hot 100, it topped the Adult Contemporary and Adult Pop Songs charts and was the No. 1 song of the year on the annual recaps of those two lists.
“Baby Love” – The Supremes
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1964)
When this song reached the top of the Hot 100, the Supremes became the first Motown act to have two No. 1s. Just a few months earlier, they were known around Berry Gordy’s company as “the no-hit Supremes,” but that changed when their previous single, “Where Did Our Love Go,” achieved pole position.
“Love Story” – Taylor Swift
Hot 100 Peak: No. 4 (2009)
It’s not a surprise that Swift wrote this song based on a real guy she was dating. Her family disapproved, inspiring her to base the song on the most famous “Love Story” of all, “Romeo and Juliet,” but this time with a happy ending.
“Part-Time Lover” – Stevie Wonder
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 (1985)
Wonder admitted that this song was heavily inspired by two previous Motown hits – “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “My World Is Empty Without You,” both by the Supremes. It was his ninth No. 1 and the first single to top five different Billboard charts.
“Lovin’ You” – Minnie Riperton
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 (1975)
After singing with Chess Records’ the Gems and Rotary Connection, Riperton joined Stevie Wonder’s backing vocalists, Wonderlove, in 1973. A year later she signed with Epic, with Wonder producing her first album. The initial single failed to chart but the follow-up was “Lovin’ You.”
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” – The Righteous Brothers
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1965)
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote this song on a rented piano at the Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip, inspired by the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving.” Their dummy lyrics were “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’” but producer Phil Spector liked them so much he kept them. The trio completed the song by writing the bridge at Spector’s home.
“This Guy’s In Love With You” – Herb Alpert
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1968)
Alpert sang this Burt Bacharach/Hal David song to his wife on the beach in Malibu on a CBS special. The next day, the network was inundated with calls from viewers asking where they could buy the song. One day later, A&M released a single and it became the label’s first No. 1.
“Don’t Let Go (Love)” – En Vogue
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (1997)
The 12th entry on the Hot 100 for this female vocal group from Oakland, Calif., it proved to be their biggest hit, with four weeks in the runner-up spot. The song was recorded for the soundtrack to “Set It Off,” starring Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett.
“Justify My Love” – Madonna
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1991)
The video for this song was too steamy for MTV, which refused to air it. Within hours of the network’s decision, Warner/Reprise Video announced that “Justify My Love” would be the first commercially released video single. ABC’s “Nightline” then aired the entire video, uncensored.
“That’s The Way Love Goes” – Janet Jackson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for eight weeks (1993)
Jackson’s first single for Virgin was based on a sample from a James Brown No. 1 R&B hit from 1974, “Papa Don’t Take No Mess.” On first listen, Jackson wasn’t thrilled with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ track; the producers asked her to take it with her on her two-week Christmas vacation and when she returned she told them it was “the bomb.”
“The Power of Love” – Celine Dion
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1994)
Queens, N.Y. native Jennifer Rush was signed to CBS in Germany and found international success with her fourth single, written about her boyfriend Steven. The song kept failing in America, with low-charting versions by Rush herself and Air Supply and a slightly better showing for Laura Branigan. Finally it was a No. 1 smash for Dion, who told Billboard, “If you want to open up and sing strong, you could not have a better song than ‘Power of Love.’”
“I Love You Always Forever” – Donna Lewis
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (1996)
Welsh singer Donna Lewis just couldn’t eject Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” from pole position, so her only single to reach the top 40 of the Hot 100 had to settle for nine weeks at No. 2. She fared better on the Radio Songs chart, where the song was No. 1 for 12 weeks.
“I Just Called to Say I Love You” – Stevie Wonder
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (1984)
Dionne Warwick told the producers of the Gene Wilder film “The Woman in Red” they should ask Wonder to compose the soundtrack. That’s how the film became an Oscar winner; this song, written for the movie, claimed the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
“Greatest Love of All” – Whitney Houston
Hot 100 Peak: 1 for three weeks (1986)
Michael Masser and Linda Creed wrote this song for the film “The Greatest,” a Muhammad Ali biopic. George Benson’s soundtrack single peaked at No. 24 in 1977. Later, when Houston auditioned for Clive Davis, she performed the song, and then it became the B-side of her first Arista single, “You Give Good Love.” Months later, radio airplay forced it out as the fifth single from Houston’s debut album.
“The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis & the News
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1985)
Asked to contribute a song to the “Back to the Future” soundtrack, Lewis said he had the perfect tune: “In the Nick of Time.” Negotiations went on so long, Lewis gave the song to another film, “Brewster’s Millions.” The “Future” folks were upset but Lewis said he had a second perfect song, “Back in Time.” For another scene, Lewis came up with “The Power of Love,” which became the movie’s breakout hit.
“Dreamlover” – Mariah Carey
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for eight weeks (1993)
Carey and producer Dave Hall did not have the title “Dreamlover” when they started writing the song. “Usually…[I] do an untitled song,” says Hall. “We’ll grab the hook and use that as a title.” Their collaboration gave Carey her then-longest-reigning No. 1 hit.
“Love Hangover” – Diana Ross
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1976)
Other labels were heavily into disco in 1976 but not Motown. So it was an anomaly for Ross to record this Pam Sawyer/Marilyn McLeod tune. Ross had no problem with the slow, seductive first half but started laughing when the beats-per-minute increased, protesting she couldn’t sing that part. Producer Hal Davis created a club atmosphere in the studio and Ross got into it, resulting in another No. 1 hit for the former Supreme.
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” – UB40
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for seven weeks (1993)
Elvis Presley’s version peaked at No. 2 in 1962. Three decades later, UB40 was asked to remake the song for the soundtrack to “Honeymoon in Vegas.” The producers passed over their version in favor of one by Bono of U2. The UB40 recording might have gone unreleased, but the music supervisor of another film, “Sliver,” rescued the track from the Virgin vaults.
“I Knew I Loved You” – Savage Garden
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (2000)
After producer Walter Afanasieff delivered the new Savage Garden album to Columbia, he was given a message to take back to the band: “It’s an artistic masterpiece. But we want another ‘Truly Madly Deeply.’” (the duo’s first No. 1). A furious Darren Hayes went away for 10 minutes with bandmate Daniel Jones and came back with a completed song, “I Knew I Loved You” (the duo’s second No. 1).
“I Want to Know What Love Is” – Foreigner
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks
There wasn’t unanimous agreement among the members of Foreigner that this song would be a great single for the group. Lou Gramm thought it might do irreparable damage to their rock image and Rick Willis thought it was “fluffy.” Mick Jones told Billboard the track was released “because it was coming out at Christmas and it had the right kind of mood.”
“What’s Love Got to Do With It” – Tina Turner
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (1984)
Newly signed to Capitol, Turner’s first single for the EMI-owned label was a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” which peaked at a disappointing No. 26 on the Hot 100. The follow-up was an original, though U.K. pop quartet Bucks Fizz recorded it first. Their version went unreleased and Turner had her first No. 1 in the U.S.
“She Loves You” – The Beatles
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1964)
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “She Loves You” on a tour bus in Yorkshire, England. It was producer George Martin’s idea for them to start with the chorus of “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” instead of the first verse.
“(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” – Andy Gibb
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1978)
Robin Gibb was considered the “chart freak” in the family but Andy was an avid chart watcher too, and he kept track of his second single’s progress up the Hot 100. “It slowed down…we were all a little scared,” he once recalled. “It lost…its jump in sales activity. And then…it just picked up and nothing stopped it.”
“I Think I Love You” – The Partridge Family
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (1970)
David Cassidy and his stepmother Shirley Jones were the only cast members of the TV series who appeared on the group’s recordings, and Jones says, “I did very little…I literally was the backing vocals for David. I never thought I’d have a gold record…it hangs on my wall and I’m very proud of it.”
“Love Rollercoaster” – Ohio Players
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for one week (1976)
After struggling for 15 years, the group scored a No. 1 hit in 1975 with “Fire,” from their first album for Mercury. The follow-up LP, “Honey,” yielded a single, “Sweet Sticky Thing,” that stalled at No. 33. It was the second single, “Love Rollercoaster,” that returned the group to pole position.
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” – Whitney Houston
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1987)
George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam wrote “How Will I Know” for Houston. Asked to submit another song, they sent “Waiting for a Star to Fall,” and when the answer was no, they recorded it themselves as Boy Meets Girl. Encouraged to try again, it only took them two days to write “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” This time, Clive Davis said yes.
“Love Will Keep Us Together” – Captain and Tennille
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1975)
Four months after he was No. 1 on the Hot 100 with “Laughter in the Rain,” Neil Sedaka was back on top, as a songwriter, thanks to Captain and Tennille’s cover of a song A&M’s Kip Cohen heard on the “Sedaka’s Back” album.
“Roses Are Red (My Love)” – Bobby Vinton
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1962)
A hitless Vinton was about to be dropped by Epic, when he found this song in a reject pile and asked to be given one more chance. He recorded it as an R&B tune. “It was the worst sounding thing you ever heard in your life,” he admits. The label agreed to a second session with a new arrangement, added strings and a vocal choir and the result was a No. 1 on the Hot 100.
“Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for eight weeks (2003)
The first single from Beyoncé’s first post-Destiny’s Child album (“Dangerously in Love”) became the first No. 1 of her solo career. “I asked Jay to get on the song the night before I had to turn my album in,” Beyoncé told Billboard. “Thank God he did. It still never gets old, no matter how many times I sing it.”
“To Sir With Love” – Lulu
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for five weeks (1967)
Lulu hated the songs the producers of the film “To Sir With Love” were considering for the soundtrack. She asked her friend Mark London to write a title song she could sing. He composed the music in five minutes and the next day Don Black wrote the lyrics. “I was over the moon,” says Lulu.
“Vision of Love” – Mariah Carey
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1990)
Right after she was signed to Columbia, Carey wrote her debut single with Ben Margulies. She described the composition as being not so much a love song as a celebration of her life at the time.
“It Must Have Been Love” – Roxette
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (1990)
Originally recorded as a Christmas song in Sweden in 1987, this track was revised by Per Gessle when he was asked to update it for the “Pretty Woman” soundtrack. “I heard the director really loved the song,” says Gessle. “I also heard he re-edited the movie to get it in there.”
“Love Takes Time” – Mariah Carey
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (1990)
Her first album was being mastered when Carey played a demo of this song for label president Don Ienner aboard a plane. Carey was told the song was a “career-maker” and despite her protests, the presses were stopped and the song was added to her debut release.
“Woman in Love” – Barbra Streisand
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (1980)
Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song for Streisand but the former told Billboard he gives the artist most of the credit. “At least 80 per cent of the success of the record belongs to her.”
“Love Is Blue” – Paul Mauriat
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for five weeks (1968)
Five years after he co-wrote Peggy March’s No. 1 hit “I Will Follow Him,” Mauriat was back on top of the Hot 100 with an instrumental cover of “L’Amor Est Bleu,” Luxembourg’s entry in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. Vicki Leandros performed the song, which placed fourth in the annual songfest.
“To Know Him Is to Love Him” – The Teddy Bears
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (1958)
Phil Spector was inspired to write the song by a photograph of his father’s tombstone at Beth David Cemetery in New York. The inscription read: “To Know Him Was to Love Him.”
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen
Hot 100: No. 1 for four weeks (1980)
Freddie Mercury wrote the song while languishing in his bath at the Munich Hilton. He leapt from the tub and ran to his guitar and piano to lay down the melody. His label was reluctant to release the song in the U.S. but radio stations played the imported U.K. single anyway, forcing an American release.
“Because You Loved Me” – Celine Dion
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for six weeks (1996)
After viewing the film “Up Close and Personal,” Diane Warren met with director Jon Avnet to talk about her vision of the song she was to compose for his movie. The next morning in her office, she recalls, “The chorus lyrically and musically wrote itself.”
“My Love” – Paul McCartney and Wings
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1973)
McCartney wrote “My Love” about one of the members of his post-Beatles band, Wings. The inspiration for the sentimental ballad was Scarsdale, N.Y.-born Linda Louise Eastman, a professional photographer before she married McCartney on March 12, 1969.
“Bleeding Love” – Leona Lewis
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (2008)
Ryan Tedder and Jesse McCartney wrote the song, inspired by the latter’s long-distance romance with his girlfriend. McCartney wanted the song for himself but his label was unenthusiastic so it went to the winner of the third season of “The X Factor” in the U.K.
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” – Ray Charles
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for five weeks (1962)
Back in 1958, Don Gibson wrote two songs one hot afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn. – “Oh Lonesome Me” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Four years later, Charles only needed to hear the first two lines of the latter before deciding to record it for his album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.”
“Best of My Love” – The Emotions
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for five weeks (1977)
When the Stax label folded, the three Hutchinson sisters had to find a new home. They were signed to a production company run by Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire. With group member Al McKay, White wrote this song specifically for them and the lead voice of Wanda Hutchinson.
“Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” -Stevie B
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for four weeks (1990)
Songwriter Warren Allen Brooks says his No. 1 hit was a “spiritual song,” even if people think he was writing about love between a man and a woman. “It’s really about me and God having a personal relationship.”
“Let Me Love You” – Mario
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for nine weeks (2005)
Mario didn’t realize this song was going to be so huge. “I didn’t know it would touch so many people,” he says. “But it was an emotional song and those records last forever.”
“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for 14 weeks (1992)
Houston’s signature song was originally a No. 1 hit for the woman who composed the tune, Dolly Parton. Her version topped the Hot Country Songs chart in 1974 and again in 1982.
“Silly Love Songs” – Wings
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for five weeks (1976)
1976 was a very good year for love songs achieving pole position on the Hot 100. First there was “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players, followed by Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “Love Machine” by the Miracles, “Let Your Love Flow” by the Bellamy Brothers, “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross and the longest-running “love” No. 1 of the year, Wings’ “Silly Love Songs.”
“How Deep Is Your Love,” Bee Gees
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (1977)
Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb hadn’t seen the script for the movie that became “Saturday Night Fever” when they wrote “How Deep Is Your Love” for the soundtrack. They weren’t even certain that there was a love scene in the film. They intended the song for Yvonne Elliman, but their manager Robert Stigwood insisted they record it themselves.
“We Found Love” – Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for 10 weeks (2011)
What could be more romantic than finding love in a “hopeless place”? Rihanna scored the biggest hit of her career (and the top ‘love’ song of the 21st century) with only her fourth Hot 100 entry to feature “love” in the title, following “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” (2005), “Hate That I Love You” (2007) and her featured role on Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” (2010).
“I’ll Make Love to You” – Boyz II Men
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for 14 weeks (1994)
When the members of Boyz II Men first heard Babyface’s composition “I’ll Make Love to You,” they were concerned about recording a song that was too similar to their previous hit, “End of the Road.” Nathan Morris explains, “The record company talked us into doing it and thank God it worked.”
“Endless Love” Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for nine weeks (1981)
Producer Jon Peters and director Franco Zeffirelli asked Lionel Richie to compose an instrumental along the lines of the theme from “Love Story” for their movie starring Brooke Shields. When Zeffirelli changed his mind and asked Richie if he would add lyrics, the Motown star agreed to write some. Then Zeffirelli made one more request – to add a female singer, someone like Diana Ross.