Shakespeare writes, “If music be the food of love, play on, play on, play on.” I’ve both puzzled and marveled at these words for many years. Does love need sustenance? Of course it does. To grow, to subsist, love must have fuel, and as Shakespeare teaches us, sublime music serves that purpose. Indeed, most of our popular music—jazz, rock, pop—is devoted to love.
When First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, sang the Rodgers and Hart 1932 tune from the Great American Songbook, “Isn’t it Romantic,” music itself becomes her lovers’ kiss, a romantic dream:
Every note that’s sung is like a lover’s kiss
Sweet symbols in the moonlight.
While these lyrics are beautiful, they don’t tell the whole story—it’s the melody, harmony, artist’s phrasing, musician’s interpretation that touch our emotions. For pure music, like love, cannot be described in words alone.
Beautiful music, like love, has no defined borders. France’s National Diva, French singer-songwriter, Edith Piaf, captured the essence of love in her 1946 love song, “La Vie en Rose,” when she sang of life as rosy hues when her lover was near:
Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose
When listening to Piaf sing this remarkable song, one need not understand French to comprehend the emotional power of the work. Like love, a beautiful melody requires no translation, but rather touches the lover’s soul—nourishes it, strengthens it. To paraphrase Elvis Presley in “Love Me Tender” (1956), love and romance fulfills all the lover’s dreams.
From the legends of yesteryear to Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift, music remains the food of love. Sweet music nurture’s the physical, emotional, and spiritual appetite of lovers, inspires the reluctant lover, comforts the scorned lover, praises the gentle lover, beckons the absent lover, chides the callous lover. And music brings lover, for what is love but a celestial dance, and what dance doesn’t require music? And so, maestro, play on, play on, play on…