Classic Love Songs From 1920s to 1950s

Romantic Music from the Roaring 20s to the Rockin' 50s

If there's one type of song that humans seem to crave decade after decade it is the ever popular love song. Mellow or upbeat, mushy or filled with angst; whatever the tempo or the lyrical content; love songs remain attuned to our musical tastes.

Many of you may have grown up listening to oldies music—including songs from the Billie Holliday, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers and Hammerstein—thanks to the diverse musical tastes of your parents.

You can learn a lot by revisiting the music of the past, and this is particularly evident in love songs. The way songs were written and delivered back then is very different to the songs you hear today.

Prior to 1920, if you wanted to hear popular love songs of the time, you would have to go to a concert or hear it at a live performance. The 1920s brought with it the upcropping of radios in homes all over the world and brought music to the masses.

From the 20s to the 50s, see what songs had people talking. As you go through the list, you'll recognize a lot of them today since many have been re-recorded by contemporary artists.

Photo of Ruth Etting
Ruth Etting. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

During the 1920s (also called the "Roaring 20s") jazz became very popular. Chicago became jazz capital and vocalists like Billie Holiday soon grabbed the spotlight. Songs from Broadway musicals were also very popular, especially songs by legendary composer Irving Berlin. If you listen closely to the love songs of this period, you will notice that the lyrics are well-written and poem-like. One of the notable singers during this time was Ruth Etting, also known as "America's Sweetheart of Song." More »

George Gershwin At Work
George Gershwin (1989 - 1937) works on a score at the piano in his 72nd Street apartment, New York, New York, 1934. PhotoQuest / Getty Images

The 1930s was another decade of unforgettable love songs during a period reeling from the Great Depression. Many well-loved classics were written during this period. The 1930s to the 1940s is also known as the Golden Age of Musical Theatre in America. Many musicals were brought to the stage and several were adapted into films. Composers and lyricists continued to collaborate to create beautiful love songs, among them were Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, and Richard Rodgers. More »

Irving Berlin At The Piano
Irving Berlin plays for the United States Army Womens Army Corps at their mess hall, Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, December 24, 1944. Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images

Many important events happened during the 1940s. Mount Rushmore was completed, World War II came to a close, and George Orwell published his novel "Nineteen Eight-Four." In terms of music, musicals were still very much in demand with the likes of Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, and Irving Berlin penning well-received show tunes. More »

Photo of Five Satins
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

The 1950s was a decade of many firsts; seat belts were introduced, Disneyland opened in 1955, and NASA was founded. In the world of music, the 1950s is known as the birth of rock and roll with hits like "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets dominating the airwaves. Aside from rock and roll, country music and folk music were also popular during this period. Love songs recorded by vocal groups climbed the music charts during the 1950s. Hits like "Earth Angel" by The Penguins, "In the Still of the Night" by the Five Satins, and "The Great Pretender" by The Platters, were published in the 50s. More »