Everybody loves a love song. Countless have been written, and billions of words have been expended on them: why a beautifully sung romantic ballad makes us feel all tingly inside, who sings them most persuasively and why, how come they don’t write ’em like they used to anymore. But how many of us have ever actually pondered where the impulse to vocalize one’s affection for another initially came from? Have there always been love songs or are they a relatively new development in human history? Does every culture have love songs? Are these endearing declarations of amore all basically just code for “Please have sex with me”?
Ted Gioia, jazz writer for The Daily Beast and author of previous studies on work songs, healing songs and several other large-scope jazz titles, has given all of these questions decades of consideration, and in just over 250 tautly written pages, thick with the knowledge gained from indefatigable research, he’s provided many insightful and interconnected answers. Yes, it turns out, we’ve pretty much always had love songs, and Gioia’s first several chapters literally start at the beginning, delving into the sounds accompanying the mating rituals of animals (“Birds Do It!” is chapter one) and music’s evolution in primitive societies and early civilizations.