first dances

Let’s Stay Together-Maroon 5

True R ‘n B devotees might have me kicked out of the “Hipness Club” for daring to play Adam Levine’s delicate version of Al Green’s 1971 “Soul” classic “Let’s Stay Together.”  Green’s original is spectacular, and well-loved, having been viewed over 72 million times on YouTube. However, for a wedding procession, a song has to be stripped down and be able to be played delicately by two musicians, while still honoring the Al Green original. Adam Levine is one of the few male vocalists with the vocal “chops’ to pull off this song without losing any of the soulful simplicity of the original.

My bride for this weekend….well, not my bride….but you get the idea, Alexandra,  and I spent countless hours on the phone and sent each other dozens of emails laughing about which 90s dance hit would/could sound appropriate for a Wedding Processional without sounding goofy.

As a pianist and arranger, I assured her that I could make any song sound melodic enough for a procession.  I’m pretty sure we spent the most time laughing, yet seriously considering TLCs “No Scrubs” the longest.  She finally landed on Levine’s arrangement for the simplicity of the instrumentation, while retaining Al Green’s iconic melody. We both think it’s a great choice. Personally, I’ll always maintain that choosing any song that actually “means” something to you as the bride or the groom, you can never go wrong.

Leave me a comment to let me know how you feel.

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

Long before “Jersey Boys” I loved this song. The lyrics are perfect for a first dance. If you have a really good horn section in your band you’re all set. What is interesting is the famously huge orchestra Frankie Valli used, but there are no background vocals, making it that much more powerful. The “chorus” to the song is one of the most memorable ever recorded. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t know when to come in and belt “I love you baby…”

Check out these lyrics. They’re flawless.

You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you
You feel like heaven to touch, I wanna hold you so much 
At long last love has arrived, and I thank God I’m alive
You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you
Pardon the way that I stare, there’s nothing else to compare
The sight of you makes me weak, there are no words left to speak
So if you feel like I feel, please let me know that it’s real
You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you
I love you, baby and if it’s quite alright I need you, baby to warm the lonely nights
I love you, baby, trust in me when I say: Oh, pretty baby, don’t bring me down I pray
Oh, pretty baby, now that I’ve found you stay. Let me love you, baby, let me love you

C’mon, it doesn’t get any better than that. Through in a killer horn section, and you are in heaven. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”  is my number one First Dance suggestion.

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Leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Inseparable-Natalie Cole

From the same debut album that brought us the powerhouse love song ,”This Will Be”, comes this extraordinary gem. In these two songs, Natalie Cole shows us the full range of her astonishing vocal technique. “This Will Be” requires a full-out belting voice, with no stops. “Inseparable” is the opposite, showing a far softer side to Natalie Cole in a far more traditional love song. “Inseparable” is a very clear statement of a woman’s love for her man. The form is very interesting in that there is no repetitive chorus to which a voice can anchor the song. No verse or chorus is ever repeated. It is a simple, elegant, poignant and incredibly touching song. And an absolutely irresistible First Dance.

Inseparable, that’s how we’ll always be
Inseparable, just you and me
It’s so wonderful to know you’ll always be around me
Incredible, what you are to me
Incredible, you bring out the woman in me
With your style of love, inseparable, yes we are
We’re like a flower to a tree, like words to a melody of love
There’s no way we could break up, no words that could make us blow our thing
We are just, inseparable
That’s how it is, inseparable
For the rest of our years, it’s so wonderful
To know you’ll always be around.

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Tragically, Ms. Cole died on New Year’s Eve, 2015 at 65 years of age.
Check it out and let me know what you think.  Leave a comment.

This Will Be-Natalie Cole

Throwback Sunday….believe it or not, in 1975 the extraordinary song “This Will Be” was  released as Natalie Cole’s first single. It was an instant hit which became a long-standing dance classic.  It still elicits great response among party guests of all ages and tastes. But would you expect anything less from the daughter of one the most beloved unique vocalists of all time, Nat ‘King’ Cole?  I love the way it starts gently with a solo piano and people clapping, then slowly bringing in the rhythm section and those incredibly horns.

“This Will Be” is the very definition of a dance-fast love song, and I think it qualifies as a perfect First Dance, especially for those who would rather move around having a great time, rather than holding on to each other and swaying back and forth. The harmonies alone would make this song spectacular. But add to that, a complete orchestra behind her and half a dozen incredibly soulful backup singers. I think the first two lines reveal the song’s  decisively romantic statement. “This will be an everlasting love. This will be the one I’ve waited for.”  For you bold intrepid souls,  this is the perfect First Dance, for you bold, intrepid souls. Plus, the band loves to play it.
Check out the lyrics:

This will be an everlasting love
This will be the one I’ve waited for
This will be the first time anyone has loved me.
I’m so glad you found me in time
And I’m so glad that you recrefied my mind
This will be an everlasting love for me
Natalie Cole

Loving you is some kind of wonderful
Because you showed me just how much you care
You’ve given me the thrill of a lifetime
And made me believe you’ve got more thrills to spare, oh!

This will be an everlasting love oh, yes it will now!
You brought a lot of a sunshine in to my life
You filled me with happiness I never knew
You gave me more joy then I ever dreamed of
And no one, no one can take the place of you

Let me know what you think of this gem as truly fun First Dance.
Leave me a comment.

 

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Through The Fire-Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan’s voice is one of the great artistic treasures in the world of pop music. Right up there in the pantheon with artists like “The Queen”,  Aretha Franklin.  She has the astonishing ability to harness her powerful voice until just the right dramatic moment, and then she lets it go. Get ready. “Through The Fire” is a truly great song. It’s on Chaka’s album“I Feel For You.” and holds its own against that iconic title track.
“Through The Fire” gives Chaka a chance to show off her softer side, and succeeds regally. This is a wonderful, and unexpected,  choice for a first dance. I only got the chance to use it once, It was for an amazing young couple whom I got to knew well.  In addition to playing for their wedding, the couple was regular annual attendees at the Fall Fresh Air Fund Gala held at the Armory on Park Avenue in Manhattan. The space held well over a thousand guests, and we would always have hundreds of people up dancing. Every year, either I’d spot them, or they would come say hello, and the band knew that we’d be playing “Through The Fire” the first time there was a chance to squeeze in a ballad. It’s really one of the “greatest” first dances.

Check out these lyrics:
I look in your eyes and I can see we’ve loved so dangerously
You’re not trusting your heart to anyone
You tell me you’re gonna play it smart
We’re through before we start
But I believe that we’ve only just begun

When it’s this good, there’s no saying no
I want you so, I’m ready to go
Through the fire, to the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you, I’d gladly risk it all
Through the fire, through whatever, come what may
For a chance at loving you I’d take it all the way
Right down to the wire, even through the fire

I know you’re afraid of what you feel, you still need time to heal
And I can help if you’ll only let me try
You touched me and something in me knew,what I could have with you
Now I’m not ready to kiss that dream goodbye
When it’s this sweet, there’s no saying no
I need you so, I’m ready to go

Through the fire, to the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you I’d gladly risk it all
Through the fire, through whatever, come what may
For a chance at loving you I’d take it all the way
Right down to the wire, even through the fire

I can’t suggest a better First Dance song than living-legend Chaka Khan’s incredible power-ballad “Through The Fire.”
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

 

 

Loving You-Minnie Riperton

Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” has always had a profound effect on me. First, there’s her astonishing voice, and her signature high notes. But what I always loved was the absolute simplicity of her performance, as well as the arrangement. Unlike almost every other song, there are no drums on the record. Just arpeggiated guitar chords, with the support of a Fender Rhodes piano tinkling in the background, a bass and occasional Chinese bells subtly ringing in the distance. I even love the slightly corny birds chirping in the background.

Ms. Riperton shows her true control of her talents by raising high notes with the same ease that she puts into the rest of the song. She didn’t feel the need to announce her extraordinary vocal talent. Her attitude seemed to be “if you appreciate it, great. It’s just part of who I am.” Which is, after all, the best way to be. The lyrics are simple, and to the point. They fit perfectly into Ms. Riperton’s soft, enticing melody. If asked to describe “Loving You” I’d say it was a lush, yet fragile love song. Ms. Riperton married music producer Richard Rudolf in 1972, staying married until her tragic death from cancer at the age of 31.
Fun Fact: Riperton and Rudolf had two daughters. One of whom is the brilliant comic actress Maya Rudolph.
Enjoy one of my all time favorite love songs. Give it serious consideration for your First Dance.

Lovin’ you is easy cause you’re beautiful
Makin’ love with you is all I wanna do
Lovin’ you is more than just a dream come true
And everything that I do is out of lovin’ you
La la la la la la la… do do do do do

No one else can make me feel the colors that you bring
Stay with me while we grow old and we will live each day in springtime

Cause lovin’ you has made my life so beautiful
And every day my life is filled with lovin’ you
Lovin’ you I see your soul come shinin’ through
And every time that we oooooh
I’m more in love with you
La la la la la la la… do do do do do

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Tell me that doesn’t send warm chills up your spine.
Leave me a comment to let me know what you think, and if you have specific ideas, suggest other possible songs to be used during the three phases of a wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feels Like Home-Chantal Kreviazuk

On a list of “Top 10” wedding first dances, Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home”  would definitely make the cut. Just read the lyrics. The most poignant line for me is “It feels like I’m all the way back where I belong.”  Here’s my personal opinion, without getting too corny about it: people should wait to get married until they truly feel that they have found the one person who makes them feel that they truly belong.  It’s definitely a good place to start, right? And this song is simply a beautiful valentine.

Somethin’ in your eyes makes me wanna lose myself
Makes me wanna lose myself in your arms
There’s somethin’ in your voice makes my heart beat fast
Hope this feeling lasts the rest of my life
If you knew how lonely my life has been
And how long I’ve been so alone
And if you knew how I wanted someone to come along
And change my life the way you’ve done
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I’m all the way back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I’m all the way back where I belong

“Feels Like Home” was written by esteemed film composer Randy Newman in 1995. It was covered by Linda Ronstadt, Sheryl Crow, Chantal Kreviazuk, as well as The Backstreet Boys. It is simply a beautiful song.

Randy Newman

Musically, I love the way the song is arranged so the repeated chorus at the end starts to feel like a gospel choir. I’ve used this song many, many times, and it brings out the tears (in the best possible way) every time. Leave a message and let me know what you think.

Over and Over Again-Nathan Sykes

I recently found this song, and think it should be on everyone’s short-list for their first dance. The song is “Over and Over Again” by Nathan Sykes. The entire musical accompaniment to his beautiful lyrics is a solo grand piano. Most of the most beloved ballads by singer/songwriter/pianists Elton John, Billy Joel, Carol King and Stevie Wonder are produced the same way.
Releasing a song with only voice and piano, exposes it to be judged solely on the merits of its melody and lyrics, without the aid of any lush orchestration, or even a rhythm section.
Choosing Ariana Grande as his duet partner was a great choice. She shows tremendous musicality and vocal restraint, by respecting the simplicity of the song, and rejecting the temptation to show off her extraordinarily facile four-octave vocal range.

From the way you smile, to the way you look
You capture me, unlike no other
From the first hello, yeah that’s all it took
And certainly we had each other
And I won’t leave you, always be true
One plus one, two for life
Over and over again
Don’t ever think I need more, I’ve got the one to live for
No one else will do and I’m telling you
Just put your heart in my hands, I promise it won’t get broken
We’ll never forget this moment
It will stay brand new, ’cause I’ll love you. Over and over again

From the heat of night to the break of day
I’ll keep you safe, and hold you forever
And the sparks will fly, they will never fade
And every day gets better and better
And I won’t leave you, always be true
One plus one, two for life. Over and over again

nathan sykes:ariana

I hope you enjoy “Over and Over Again.” over and over again.
Leave a comment to let me know what you think, and offer your suggestions.
Doug

I Love You Always Forever-Jukebox The Ghost

As is the case with so many of the posts on this blog, I was introduced to this arrangement of 1996 Donna Lewis song I Love You Always Forever by the bride and groom themselves. The band is one I had never heard of, Jukebox The Ghost. The very first time I heard this song, I just loved it. The lyrics are spectacularly perfect for a first dance. I love the way it starts with just a cappella voices, then slowly brings the other instruments in, especially the drums. If you want a first dance with a bit of a beat to it, this one deserves serious attention. Check out these lyrics:

Feels like I’m standing in a timeless dream of light mists
Of pale amber rose
Feels like I’m lost in a deep cloud of heavenly scent touching
Discovering you.

Those days of warm rains come rushing back to me
Miles of windless summer night air
Secret moments shared in the heat of the afternoon
Out of the stillness,soft spoken words
I love you always forever. Near and far closer together
Everywhere I will be with you. Everything I will do for you

You’ve got the most unbelievable blue eyes I’ve ever seen
You’ve got me almost melting away
As we lay there under blue sky with pure white stars
Exotic sweetness a magical time.
I love you always forever. Near and far closer together……

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I love the way the arrangement build until the final repeated phrase:
Say you’ll love love me forever. Never stop, never whatever
Near and far and always. And everywhere and everything

This is a terrific, totally upbeat, first dance.
Let me know what you think. Please leave a comment.

Doug