The Top 10 (Jewish) Valentine's Songs

Kosher Playlist Features Hits From Neil Diamond to Amy Winehouse

Kurt Hoffman

By Dan Epstein

Published February 12, 2014, issue of February 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Begun over 1500 years ago as a Roman liturgical commemoration of Christian martyrs, Valentine’s Day has gradually expanded in scope over time to become an all-inclusive celebration of romantic love. (Though martyrdom can of course still be involved, should you fail to live up to the expectations of your significant other on February 14.)

With millions of love songs out there vying for your attention, putting a proper Valentine’s Day playlist together can be a daunting task. So to help you out, here are 10 surefire slabs of musical romance, all of which have the added bonus of boasting notable Jewish connections.

The Turtles — “Happy Together” Led by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, two nice Jewish boys from Westchester, Calif., the Turtles were one of the best (and most underrated) American bands of the 1960s. While the myriad delights of their discography remain largely slept on to this day, this sunshine-drenched 1967 ode to romantic bliss has rightfully attained classic status.

Herb Alpert — “This Guy’s In Love With You”
Love songs rarely come with as impeccable a Jewish pedigree as this 1968 chart topper, which was penned by the brilliant songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and sung by fellow tribe member Alpert. They rarely come as superbly smooth as this baby, either.

Neil Diamond — “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”
The ongoing struggle between Diamond’s moody loner and bare-chested love man personas remains one of the most fascinating aspects of his immense song catalog, but the love man wins out big-time on this seductive 1969 album cut. Along with “Sweet Caroline,” “And the Grass…” was one of two songs by “the Jewish Elvis” to actually be covered by Elvis Presley.

Jay and the Americans — “This Magic Moment”
This Brill Building classic, penned by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, was originally a huge hit for the Drifters in 1960. But Jay and the Americans’ 1969 version adds an extra dollop of sigh-inducing sweetness to the song — and, given the Hebraic heritage of most of the group members, an extra landsman layer, as well.

The Raspberries — “Ecstasy”
Eric Carmen is his name, and priapic, nostril-flaring anthems were his game — at least back in the early ’70s, when this Jewish rocker fronted Cleveland power-pop legends the Raspberries. Though he would take a mellower and more lucrative path with subsequent hits like “All By Myself” and “Hungry Eyes,” this 1973 single demonstrated Carmen’s innate genius for combining teenage lust with Who-esque guitar chords.

KISS — “Love Gun”
Subtlety has never been Chaim Witz or Stanley Eisen’s strong suit, at least within the context of KISS, the grease-painted rock outfit they’ve been fronting for 40 years under the names Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. But hey, sometimes the direct approach pays off — as it surely will when you serenade your valentine with the title cut from KISS’s 1977 album.

Ramones — “I Want You Around” Underneath the shades, the ripped jeans and the motorcycle jacket, Joey Ramone (née Jeff Hyman) was just a nice Jewish boy from Queens who was heavily influenced by the sounds of 1960s girl groups. Featured in the band’s 1979 film “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” “I Want You Around” may be the quintessential Joey ballad, one that stays true to the Ramones’ straightforward legacy while letting him wear his vulnerable heart on his leather sleeve.

Bangles — “Eternal Flame”
Sung by Susanna Hoffs, the Bangles’ lone Jewish member, and penned by Hoffs with Billy Steinberg (and Steinberg’s non-Jewish writing partner Tom Kelly), “Eternal Flame” topped the Billboard charts in the spring of 1988. The sheer number of junior high school slow-dances launched by this song remains awesomely incalculable.

Amy Winehouse — “There Is No Greater Love”
The most famous Jewish vocalist of the early 21st century tended towards the dark and quirky in her own songwriting, but she could also nail a standard with nary a trace of archness. Composed in 1936 by Isham Jones, with lyrics by Jewish songwriter Marty Symes, “There is No Greater Love” is one of the most romantic jazz ballads ever recorded, and Winehouse’s 2003 version holds its own with previous renditions by Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Jimmy Scott.

Slim and Slam — “Matzoh Balls”
Okay, so it wasn’t written by Jews, nor is it romantic in the traditional sense, but this 1939 swinger speaks to both jazz great Slim Gaillard’s deep affection for Jewish culture (he also penned the immortal “Dunkin’ Bagel”) and the perfect pairing of matzoh balls with gefilte fish. “Now you put a little horseradish on it, and make it very mellow,” Gaillard advises, “because it really knocks you out.” Just like love, in other words.

Dan Epstein writes frequently about the arts for the Forward. His latest book, “Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76,” will be published this spring by Thomas Dunne Books.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.