Love and Music

Love is so many things. It can be the feeling at the beginning of a new relationship, or the feeling when a couple has been committed to one another for decades. Love can be felt by family members, friends, adults, and children. Love can be directed at a person, a deity, a pet, an activity, a place, or sometimes even an object.

Music and love are natural allies. Love can result in joy, sorrow, serenity, or exultation, and music is a natural expression of these feelings. This spotlight explores some of the ways people have connected with love through music. 

Stories

The essays below examine the ways in which love and passion intersect with music around the Smithsonian. 

Albums of Love Songs

The albums available through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings include a large variety of love songs, primarily of traditional music from around the world and of American folk music. Browse the selection below or explore more on their website

Album art, American Folksongs For Men - To You With Love, Bob Ross, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1957 Folkways Records
Bob Ross

American Folksongs For Men - To You With Love

Singer Bob Ross served in the Naval Air Service during World War II, and he used his repertoire of ballads to entertain injured servicemen in hospitals.

Album art, Fiji: Songs of Love and Homeland: String Band Music, Various artists, 2014 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Various artists

Fiji: Songs of Love and Homeland: String Band Music

From island villages of Fiji in the Melanesian South Pacific, the songs known as sere ni cumu are music of a special time and place.
Album art, Folkways Years, 1955-1992: Songs of Love and Politics, Peggy Seeger, 1992 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Peggy Seeger

Folkways Years, 1955-1992: Songs of Love and Politics

Peggy personally selected these traditional and original songs focused primarily on the themes of love and politics. From a dominant figure in the folk song movement in the U.S.

Album art, Hawaiian Chants, Hula and Love Dance Songs, Various artists, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1972 Folkways Records
Various artists

Hawaiian Chants, Hula and Love Dance Songs

Recorded in Hawaii by Jacob Feuerring with Tom Hiona, this album presents traditional Hawaiian songs and dances. Tracks include hulas telling stories of gods and goddesses, a lotus blossom in the rain, and Tahitian fishermen.

Album art, Indian Love Rites: Durga Puja and Kali Puja in Calcutta, Various artists, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1986 Folkways Records
Various artists

Indian Love Rites: Durga Puja and Kali Puja in Calcutta

This 1983 release captures the excitement and complexity of the sounds and music during the Hindu festivals Durga Puja and Kali Puja in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India. English narrative by Bengalis explains the music heard on each of the tracks.

Album art, Letters from Iraq: Oud and String Quintet, Rahim Alhaj, 2017 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Rahim Alhaj

Letters from Iraq: Oud and String Quintet

Letters from Iraq expresses the love and pain of lives lived by the people of war-torn Iraq.

Album art, Love Songs for Friends and Foes, Pete Seeger, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1956 Folkways Records
Pete Seeger

Love Songs for Friends and Foes

Inspired by a famous poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, the title of this album organizes its material into songs that celebrate love between individuals as well as songs that express a love for humankind but hatred for intolerance and war.

Album art, Love Songs of Lebanon, Sawaya Quartet and Chorus, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1957 Folkways Records
Sawaya Quartet and Chorus

Love Songs of Lebanon

George Sawaya brings together his family members to form the Sawaya Chorus and perform traditional Arab music.

Album art, Old Love Songs & Ballads from the Big Laurel, North Carolina, Various artists, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1964 Folkways Records
Various artists

Old Love Songs & Ballads from the Big Laurel, North Carolina

Compiled from field recordings made in 1963, this album offers a view of musical life in the Laurel River region of North Carolina, where dances and "workings"—days of common labor followed by evenings of merriment—were once common.

Album art, Peter La Farge Sings Women Blues: Peter La Farge Sings Love Songs, Peter La Farge, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1964 Folkways Records
Peter La Farge

Peter La Farge Sings Women Blues: Peter La Farge Sings Love Songs

This album is Peter La Farge's tribute to women—the ones he's loved from afar and the ones he's loved from a-near, the ones who broke his heart and the ones who helped him fix it.

Album art, Phipps Family - Faith, Love and Tragedy, A.L. Phipps and the Phipps Family, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1965 Folkways Records
A.L. Phipps and the Phipps Family

Phipps Family - Faith, Love and Tragedy

Influenced by the legendary Carter Family, the Phipps Family was known for its personal yet deeply traditional style. This album includes ballads, traditional hymns, and two originals: Kathleen's "Forsaken Lover" and A.

Album art, Russian Romantic Songs, Yulya, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1992 Monitor Records
Yulya

Russian Romantic Songs

Romance as sung in this collection of songs does not refer to the passion of new love, but rather the sadness of separation from a true love.

Album art, Seeds of Love, Andrew Rowan Summers, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1951 Folkways Records
Andrew Rowan Summers

Seeds of Love

Singer and dulcimer player Andrew Rowan Summers presents a selection of English, French, and American folk songs in the semi-classical style popular before the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s.

Album art, Songs Children Love to Sing, Ella Jenkins, 1996 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Ella Jenkins

Songs Children Love to Sing

An anthology of earlier recordings celebrating Jenkins' 40 years of recording for Folkways Records and Smithsonian Folkways.

Album art, Songs from the Garden of Love, Jefferson-Jones Orchestra, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / Cook Records
Jefferson-Jones Orchestra

Songs from the Garden of Love

British composer H.

Album art, Songs of Love, Play and Protest, Frank Schildt, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1960 Folkways Records
Frank Schildt

Songs of Love, Play and Protest

Frank Schildt (1916–1988), born in the Netherlands, was a self-taught singer-musician. After the end of World War II, Schildt traveled throughout Western Europe playing guitar and singing folk songs for a livelihood.

Album art, Soraya, My Love: Songs from the Middle East, Soraya Melik, 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / Monitor Records
Soraya Melik

Soraya, My Love: Songs from the Middle East

Established in 1956, Monitor Records was one of the first American recording companies to focus on “world music” including music associated with the folk and performance dance form of belly dance.

Videos

Below, there are four videos which help convey the breadth of music programs featuring love at the Smithsonian. Two are videos from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and two are music videos.

Credits

Header image credit: Theodore Robinson, At the Piano, 1887, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.6.90.

"The shiny surface of the piano, the luminescent fabric of the woman’s dress, and the image of fingers stroking ivory keys conjures a variety of textures and sounds. Theodore Robinson painted this scene of a favorite model playing a piano in the Paris apartment of his wealthy friend “Archie” Chanler. Robinson was in love with Marie but never married her. The two spent a great deal of time together in Giverny, where their relationship sparked much gossip among American tourists staying at the elegant Hôtel Baudy."

This spotlight was created by Kate Duffus Stein on behalf of Smithsonian Music.