Real Simple asked readers to name the one song that touches them most.
My husband picked “Now and Forever,” by Richard Marx, for the beginning of our wedding ceremony. I remember listening to it as I watched him wait at the front of the chapel and thinking that if we had written our own vows, that song would be what he would have said.
The first time I heard “Time to Say Goodbye,” by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, was when the love of my life played it for me when we were reunited after 20 years apart. The title implies parting, but the lyrics actually tell the story of two lovers setting off on life’s great adventure together. The song seems to follow me everywhere―I hear it at restaurants, at my hairdresser’s, even on people’s car stereos. When I do, I am stopped in my tracks and cannot keep from weeping with joy.
For 16 years, “Groovy Kind of Love,” by Phil Collins, has been “our song.” My husband always secretly requests it at wedding receptions, and within the first few notes my eyes find him in the crowd and I instantly fall in love with him again.
Yo-Yo Ma’s version of “Libertango” is full of passion, freedom, strength, and love, with a hint of playfulness. When I hear it, I close my eyes and imagine myself dancing the dance of forbidden love with my husband―every step perfect, every movement fluid. The feeling I get when he’s holding me makes my heart melt and my spirit soar.
On our honeymoon, my husband and I took a helicopter ride over the beautiful island of Maui, and the soulful version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, played as background music. If I need a moment to reconnect with my husband, I watch the video of the flight that we took home with us, and the music takes me away.
I think “When a Man Loves a Woman,” by Percy Sledge (not the Michael Bolton version), is the most deeply felt love song. Even the opening organ measures make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. When my husband is in his car on a trip, if the song comes on the radio, he will call and play it over the phone to me. That melts my heart!
Rod Stewart’s “For the First Time” is a great song for people who married their best friend. It talks about how, one day, a person you have always seen becomes something different, something beautiful.
Every time I hear Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” I think about how in love the man is with the woman and how beautiful she is in his eyes, regardless of what she may look like to everyone else or how tired and stressed she may feel. My husband always makes me feel that way.
Clyde Hill, Washington
“Shining Star,” by the Manhattans, takes me back to junior high in the ’70s and those first arms-all-over, head-on-shoulders slow dances in the school cafeteria, with the lights low and the disco ball turning. It was such a simple time, and nothing else mattered but you and your first crush.
Cape Coral, Florida
“Annie’s Song,” by John Denver, always made me cry when my husband and I first fell in love. Sixteen years and three children later, this song about how a loved one fills your senses still evokes the moment when I gave my heart to him and reminds me of the reckless abandon of new and true love.
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Grow Old With Me” makes my heart melt. The line “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be,” from the Robert Browning poem, was on a card my husband gave me for our 15th wedding anniversary―the same card I coincidentally gave him! Later, after our four children were in bed, as we listened to the song by candlelight, we reflected on the wonderful marriage we had and made plans for the exciting possibilities to come. Five years later, I am pleased to report that it gets better and better.
Blue Springs, Missouri
“God Only Knows,” by the Beach Boys, makes me think of my fiancé. It’s sappy without being too mushy, so he’s not too embarrassed about singing it to me. I really don’t know what I would do without him. It’s such a simple declaration of love.
Astoria, New York
“Unchained Melody,” by the Righteous Brothers, makes me feel weak in the knees, even after having heard it a million times. It just captures the floating, heart-wrenching feeling of absolute longing that passion for another person can induce.
Manchester, New Jersey
“Where’ve You Been,” by Kathy Mattea, makes me cry from the first note. It’s about an elderly couple and all they have been through; now, in their final days, they sing each other this beautiful song about devotion and love.
Cottage Grove, Minnesota
Listening to Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium” is like looking into the eyes of love for the first time, or seeing the night sky over a snowy field, or reaching the top of a mountain and taking your first look around. Each time I hear it, I am lifted to this beautiful, tear-filled place.
Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be” always reminds me of a past love who gave me support and made me stronger. It makes me sad, since we are not together now, but it gives me strength and the confidence to continue being who I am.
Queens, New York
“Love to Be Loved,” by Peter Gabriel, is about how hard it is to let go of someone or something we love, how we make peace with our decision, and how it shapes our life. It amazes me how poetically the song describes the emotions and explores the human spirit.
Dobbs Ferry, New York
Wherever I am when I hear “I’ll Be Seeing You (In All the Old Familiar Places),” especially Rod Stewart’s version, I stop what I’m doing and visualize the dear relatives and friends who are no longer here. For a little while it brings them back to me.
Remembering Mom and Dad
My parents have shared 35 years of marriage, two children, and one granddaughter so far. We have all seen their love grow and transform over those years, and it provides inspiration for us all. Hearing “Remember When,” by Alan Jackson, I think of them, thank them, and cherish their love for each other and our family.
My family, especially my mother and I, have listened to “We Need a Little Christmas,” from Mame, after Thanksgiving dinner ever since I can remember. Even if we’re unable to be together, we will call one another and play the song over the phone. I was deployed to Iraq this year, and that is one of the things I’m looking forward to this holiday season. Though I’ll be sad to be so far away, for those few minutes it will be like I’m laughing and dancing in my mother’s kitchen.
U.S. Army, Iraq
My dad used to play “Crazy,” by Patsy Cline, in the car when I was little, and I knew all the words early on. One of her backup singers actually sounds exactly like my father, so when I hear it, I hear him, and he is my heart.
My father is a loving husband, a wonderful father, and the most hardworking man I know. He has run a small dairy farm his entire life and raised five children. When we were young, my sisters, my brother, and I would sing “Daddy’s Hands,” by Holly Dunn, to him on Father’s Day. At my wedding, he and I danced to it, and though it’s rare to see my father cry, he cried when we danced.
Silver Spring, Maryland
My husband made a mix of music to play in my birthing suite to help me relax during labor. One of the songs, “Godspeed,” by the Dixie Chicks, was chosen because of how excited it made me to see and start caring for my little boy. Now every time I hear it, I remember the joy of welcoming my baby into this world.
“Chanson pour les petits enfants,” by Jimmy Buffett, is a sweet, lighthearted song I sing to my two-year-old niece. When I see how she reacts to its images, like astronauts flying through the stars and dolphins singing in the ocean, it reminds me of the wonder of being a kid.
Palo Alto, California
I started singing “Sweet Baby James,” by James Taylor, as a lullaby for my daughter when she was born. It always did the trick and became our song. Hearing it now brings tears to my eyes because it reminds me of the times when I rocked my little girl in my arms and felt like we were the only two people awake in the world.
Before I was born, my parents were looking for a name to go with my middle name (my mom’s) and my last name (my dad’s) when they heard “Michelle,” by the Beatles, on the radio. From then on I was forever Michelle. When I hear the song, I remember how they were thinking and planning for me even before I was here on earth.
Michelle Suzanne Guchereau
San Antonio, Texas
My six-year-old daughter was in the car with me one day and I was flipping through the radio channels. She said, “Mommy, don’t change the song.” It was Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” She said, “This song makes me smile,” then sat back and looked out the window with the sweetest smile on her face. That made me melt!
Las Vegas, Nevada
I always liked “Come What May,” from Moulin Rouge, but when I was pregnant with my first child, the lyrics took on a whole new meaning. The song puts into words the feeling I have as a mother for my child. No matter what happens in life, I will love him until my dying day.
I have three boys under the age of three and a husband I am crazy about, so though it sounds strange, “You Are My Sunshine” seems to sum up what it is to be a wife and mother. Sometimes when I am singing it to my boys, I can barely make it through without crying. My children and my husband truly are the light of my life, even when skies are gray.
Corpus Christi, Texas
“Remember When,” by Alan Jackson, brings such incredible feelings to both my husband and me. With five children and a teaching job, I thought that I would always be surrounded by kids, but now I’m retired, the last of our children is about to move on to college, and our four beautiful grandchildren live far away from us. This song reminds us of the busy times and the noise that once surrounded us. We both miss it very much.
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
“A Cradle in Bethlehem,” by Nat King Cole, touches my heart deeply. I first heard it while I was expecting my daughter, who was born right before Christmas. The song tells of Mary rocking and singing to her baby, as I was on the cold December night I brought Allison home. It always makes me feel such a strong connection with Mary and all the mothers of the world.