Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homonyms: Power Of Love

Martha Reeves: Power Of Love


Frankie Goes To Hollywood: The Power Of Love

Huey Lewis and the News: The Power Of Love

Luther Vandross: Power Of Love (Love Power)

Give or take a definite article, singers seem to have an affinity for the power of love. In 1985, three separate songs by that title populated the UK charts. Two are featured here, but there is no good reason for anybody to own 1985’s version of waterboarding, perpetrated by Jennifer Rush (and inevitably later covered by Celine Dion).

The best of the four Powers of Love is Martha Reeves’ cover of soul singer Joe Simon’s hit. Written by Simon with the maestros of Philly Soul, Gamble and Huff, it appeared on Reeves’ eponymously titled 1974 album.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood enjoyed a third consecutive UK #1 with their “Power Of Love”. The plan was that it would be the Christmas #1, always a big deal in Britain. Carefully released in late November 1984 to accomplish that goal, it entered the top 10 on 1 December and it topped the charts the following week (succeeding the dreadful “I Should Have Known Better” by Jim Diamond, a possible candidate for the present theme). But the week after it was knocked off the top, almost from nowhere, by Band Aid’s rush-released “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. But even without that mammoth hit, FGTH wouldn’t have had the Christmas chart-topper: number two to Band Aid over the season was Wham!’s “Last Christmas”.

Huey Lewis’ “The Power Of Love”, which scored the glorious Back To The Future, came out bang in the middle of the middle year of the 1980s, and it very much sounds like it. The thing is, Huey and his pals had a reputation as a pop group that referenced the 1950s while yet sounding modern, so “The Power Of Love”, as used in a movie that timetravels from 1985 to 1955, ought to have sounded more like “If This Is It” than the synth-heavy, ’80s movie soundtrack by-the-numbers throwaway number it really is (it’s still superior to the other song Lewis did for Back To The Future).

Finally, Luther Vandross sort of spoils things for us. His 1991 hit is called “Power Of Love”, but then he dicked about with parentheses and almost had himself disqualified from this post. The song is really a stew of at least two incomplete songs. It’s all a bit formulaic, but it has a sense of joy, and it has Luther Vandross singing it.

By the time he passed away, Luther’s reputation was a bit shot by the unfair backlash to ’80s soul and his latter tendency to record pedestrian material. But we must never forget that Luther Vandross was one of the great soul singers of any age. And, as my friend Jason would point out, more people were conceived in New Jersey to records by Luther Vandross than to those of any other singer. And isn’t that really the power of love?

(Graphic borrowed from

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