In the spirit of keeping my regular readers happy, I have decided to collate a list of eleven songs about various love goddess types. The love goddess is a staple of Western mythologies, going back to Mesopotamia (Astarte et al.), Egypt (Isis, Hathor), then into Greece (Aphrodite), Rome (Venus) and even the Celts (Branwen). And, of course, various song-writers over the years have got in on the act and the concept of a love goddess looking over mere mortals to help them with their courtship rituals has persisted throughout modern pop culture.
I have a number of songs about love goddesses in my collection… but I do not like all of them. Sappy and soppy are two words that I kept coming up with. But by maybe cheating once, I have come up with a list that, while sappy/soppy in parts, is a pretty decent list of love goddess related music. Why eleven? Actually, there were originally 10, but I felt I had to throw an instrumental in there. There are probably others out there; please let me know in the comments below what I missed.
Anyway, I hope something here inspires some-one to be nice to their partner at least on February 14.
'Venus' by Frankie Avalon (1959)
Because of my upbringing in a house where the 50s and 60s were on constant rotation, this is the first Venus song I remember hearing as it was one of my mother's favourites. Verging on the saccharine with that heavenly chorus, it's a guy basically praying to Venus to send him a partner. Simple, very much of its time, but such a cool song.
'Venus In Blue Jeans' by Jimmy Clanton (1962)
Ah, that great lyrical conceit of saying your girl is Venus, and in this case, she is wearing the pants of the time. Another song verging on the overly sweet, Clanton's voice is smooth enough to carry it off. Of course, she is also a "Mona Lisa with a ponytail", "a Cinderella" and other allusions, but she is still a goddess of love. Look, I like it. It's fine. Leave my musical choices alone…
'Love Goddess Of Venus' by The Ventures (1964)
An instrumental by a band known more for surf music, this slower, dare I say ballad, is almost designed for the slow dance at a year 12 formal or high school prom (depending on your country). The guitars are as clean as ever, and the heavenly choir (what is it with choirs?) makes it even more ethereal.
'The Goddess Of Love' by The Marvelettes (1964)
The harmonies you would expect from one of the premier girl groups of the 60s, from the Motown label. One of the first girl groups to have a hit, this is actually a deep cut (originally a B-side!) that I only heard because it's on their Anthology set. But it fits the theme and those vocals are superb.
'Venus In Furs' by The Velvet Underground (1967)
Not sure if this is quite a love song or a subversion of a love song, but that musical opening with the strange violin stroke, guitar repetition and simple tambourine plus Lou Reed's voice is just mesmerising. It becomes atonal, cacophonic and yet it just holds onto you. This song is amazing.
'Venus' by Bananarama (1986)
Bananarama's cover of the Shocking Blue song is one of those few cover versions I prefer to the original, and which I have discovered many don't even realise is a cover. The song is literally about the singer being the goddess Venus to her man. Simple. But this song was everywhere for years. It was played all the time to the point of making people hate it. Time has been kinder to it, and it is a fun bit of 80s pop.
'Goddess Of Love' by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (1986)
From one of the better pop-synth groups of the 80s, this song was originally written for the film Pretty In Pink before they discarded it and replaced it with 'If You Leave'. It is interesting lyrically and the vocals of the singers in the band are, as always, well harmonised. This is a song that many do not know about and that is a shame because it's quite good.
'Venus' by Billy Idol (1993)
From the much-maligned Cyberpunk album comes this song with its guitars, effects and (at the time) futuristic music. Idol sings like he always did and it's just a good little pop-rock song. I actually like this album, which is another reason the Music Critics of the World Association won't let me join them. I'm not sure what the lyrics mean, as the album is a concept album about a cyberpunk future, but I think it's fine.
'She's So High' by Tal Bachman (1999)
Is this a cheat? It might be, but amongst the various female role models (maybe?) Tal, son of Randy from Bachman-Turner Overdrive, compares his female friend to, Aphrodite is definitely one of them, and a prominent one, too. And that's good enough for me. I actually quite like this song as a harmless bit of musical pop-rock.
'Goddess Love' by Dan Sultan (2009)
Australia's Dan Sultan has released some strong songs and this is one from his second album that has that feel of earlier love goddess songs, with that organ and simple orchestration. It is a simple song, and a surprisingly good one for a deep cut.
'Aphrodite' by The Ridleys (2019)
This pleasant song from indie-folk rockers The Ridleys is one of those songs with some amazing lyrics. The music is calm and pleasant and the Greek mythology allusions do not stop at just the titular character. This is a song that sort of fell under the radar, but when I heard it (in fact, the whole album), I was pleasantly surprised. Now, I do believe this song may have come out earlier than 2019, but that's when the album came out and that's the only official date I have. If you know more about this band, please – let me know!
And there we are – eleven songs (well, ten plus an instrumental) about love goddesses. While it is clear the love goddess trope took a holiday in the 70s, it is still a theme that has run across the decades of modern pop/rock music. And on this Valentine's Day, even in a time of isolation and lockdown, I hope the goddesses are treated well.