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Kristin Hohman serves as Associate Editor for DPR.
A beam, a smirk, a grin. Is there any better expression of happiness than a smile? Read on to see which songs about smiles made our list!
A beam, a smirk, a grin. Is there any better expression of happiness than a smile? Probably not.
There are many things in life that make us smile—a funny joke, enjoying the company of friends and family.
Music, too, can make us smile. Research has found that listening to music triggers the release of dopamine to the brain, the ‘happy chemical’. It’s also released in anticipation of musical occasions. So in honor of smiling, we’ve compiled 7 songs about smiles. Sit back, listen, and get ready for an ear-to-ear grin!
“Smile though your heart is aching. Smile even though it’s breaking.”
While covered by a variety of artists, including Judy Garland and Michael Jackson, Nat King Cole’s 1955 version may be the most popular. The song was actually adapted from music from the 1936 film Modern Times starring Charlie Chaplin. Actually, Chaplin is widely credited with composing the song as he wrote, directed, starred in, and composed scores for many of his own films. However, it was never meant to be a song. The melody was picked up from the film by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954, who then added lyrics that reflected the image of Chaplin’s “Little Tramp”, who always smiled in the face of sorrow.
“When I see you smile, I can face the world…”
Oh, the 1980’s. Leg warmers—shoulder pads—Members Only jackets—rubrics cubes. It was quite a decade. Hair metal and supergroups were other 80’s trends, including Bad English, a group formed in 1987 with Journey’s Jonathan Cain, Neal Schon, and Deen Castronovo; Ricky Phillips, and singer John Waite. The group’s 1989 song, “When I See You Smile” was actually written by Diane Warren, and hit No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in November 1989. It turned out to be the band’s only No. 1 hit in the US. It’s said that Waite recorded the vocals in just 2 takes.
“We go together like a wink and a smile…”
With the kind of smooth tenor voice that’s reminiscent of Frank Sinatra and the contemporary Michael Bublé, it’s easy to see why director Rob Reiner sought out Harry Connick, Jr. to contribute a song to the soundtrack of Sleepless in Seattle in 1993. This song was written specifically for the film. It was nominated for Best Original Song at that year’s Oscars. Reiner had Connick Jr. do the entire soundtrack to an earlier film When Harry Met Sally…, which gave Connick Jr. his first Grammy.
“You know I can’t smile without you, I can’t laugh and I can’t sing…”
While recorded by other artists, including The Carpenters, Barry Manilow released his take on “Can’t Smile Without You” in 1978. He is known for his sentimental, romantic style, and this song is no different. It starts with a soft whistle and builds in intensity throughout. Manilow never intended to be a pop sensation—he studied Musical Theater at the Julliard performing arts school—and was more fascinated by composers. He began writing and arranging commercial jingles, (“I’m stuck on band-aid ‘cause bandaid’s stuck on me!”), and even played piano and wrote songs for a then-unknown Bette Midler. Manilow reportedly told the LA Times that “Can’t Smile” is the least favorite of his own songs, which is why he pulls a woman up on stage when performing the song live—making it a duet is more bearable.
“It’s what you wear from ear-to-ear and not from head-to-toe…”
This song was originally written for the 1977 Broadway musical Annie by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin and was used in both the 1982 movie and 2014 remake. “You’re Never Fully Dressed” is the first song in the second act. It’s meant to reflect a Depression-era radio song that cheers up a down-and-out public. Use caution, though. Once you hear it, it will be stuck in your head.
“At worst, I feel bad for a while. But then I just smile…”
Equal parts a diss-filled break-up song and one of the most infectious and bubbly songs from the mid-2000s, Lily Allen’s debut single quickly reached No. 1 in the UK. Though Allen hasn’t quite reached star status in the US, she’s since become a pop megastar in her native England. The song is rumored to be Allen’s ex-boyfriend who is a DJ. The music video even sets the protagonist as a music DJ. Allen’s father, Keith Allen is a Welsh actor and TV presenter. Her brother Alfie Allen is also an actor and appeared on Game of Thrones.
“Whenever I see your smiling face, I have to smile myself…”
For years, it’s been rumored that this song was about James Taylor’s then-wife, Carly Simon (I bet she thought it was about her...). According to a 2009 biography by Timothy White, this song was actually about their daughter Sally. Either way, it’s upbeat and infectious, making it one of Taylor’s classics. He even went on to sing a parody version with Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street.