Sunday Feb. 14, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Valentine’s Day
On this Day:
On this day in AD 496, The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I.
Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a minor Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions of the world.
There are a number of martyrdom stories associated with various Valentines connected to February 14, including an account of the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century. According to an early tradition, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer. Numerous later additions to the legend have better related it to the theme of love: an 18th-century embellishment to the legend claims he wrote the jailer’s daughter a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution; another addition posits that Saint Valentine performed weddings for Christian soldiers who were forbidden to marry.
The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269. The day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries when notions of courtly love flourished, apparently by association with the “lovebirds” of early spring. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. In Italy, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady).
Saint Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday in any country, although it is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church. Many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day on July 6 in honor of Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and on July 30 in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What do you call a happy couple who first met via Twitter? “Tweethearts.”
Second, a Song:
There would be much fun debate over the most romantic song of all time. Our nomination for this title would be “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers.
The Righteous Brothers are an American musical duo originally formed by Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield but now comprise of Medley and Bucky Heard. Medley formed the group with Hatfield in 1963, but first performing together in 1962 in the Los Angeles area as part of a five-member group called the Paramours, and adopted the name “The Righteous Brothers” when they embarked on their recording career as a duo. Their most active recording period was in the 1960s and 70s, and although the duo was inactive for some years, Hatfield and Medley reunited in 1981 and continued to perform until Hatfield’s death in 2003. The music they performed is sometimes dubbed “blue-eyed soul”.
Hatfield and Medley had contrasting vocal ranges, which helped them to create a distinctive sound as a duet, but also strong vocal talent individually that allowed them to perform as soloists. Medley sang the low parts with his bass-baritone voice, with Hatfield taking the higher register vocals with his tenor voice.
Following a year and a half of non-Top 40 entries on Billboard’s Hot 100, the duo hit big with the late 1964 release of what would become their signature record, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” – a transatlantic number one produced by Phil Spector and often considered not only one of his finest works but also one of the landmark recordings in popular music. Other notable hits include three US 1965 Top Tens – “Just Once in My Life” and covers of “Unchained Melody” (also a huge hit in 1990) and “Ebb Tide” – and the massive US 1966 number one “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration”, plus the 1974 comeback hit “Rock and Roll Heaven”. Both Hatfield and Medley also had for a time their own solo careers. In 2016, Medley re-formed The Righteous Brothers with Bucky Heard and they continue to perform as a duo.
The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Rolling Stone ranked them no. 16 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.
“Unchained Melody” is a 1955 song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. North wrote the music as a theme for the little-known prison film Unchained (January 1955), hence the song title. Todd Duncan sang the vocals for the film soundtrack. It has since become a standard and one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, most notably by the Righteous Brothers. According to the song’s publishing administrator, over 1,500 recordings of “Unchained Melody” have been made by more than 670 artists, in multiple languages.
In 1955, three versions of the song (by Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, and Roy Hamilton) charted in the Billboard top 10 in the United States, and four versions (by Al Hibbler, Les Baxter, Jimmy Young, and Liberace) appeared in the top 20 in the United Kingdom simultaneously, a record for any song. The song continued to chart in the 21st century, and it was the only song to reach number one with four different recordings in the UK until it was joined by Band Aid 30’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 2014.
Of the hundreds of recordings made, the Righteous Brothers’ version in July 1965, with a solo by Bobby Hatfield, became the jukebox standard after its release. Hatfield changed the melody in the final verse and many subsequent covers of the song are based on his version. The Righteous Brothers recording achieved a second round of great popularity when featured in the film Ghost in 1990. In 2004, it was number 27 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema (per Wikipedia).
Thought for the Day:
“Soul meets soul on lovers’ lips.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley
Both Gerry Wahl and Rob Dickson, both of North Vancouver, BC, Canada wrote regarding the William & Mary Smile:
Gerry Wahl: “scholarships? –CLEVER — But bad —really bad!!!!”
Rob Dickson: “Such interesting history of William and Mary College.
I so enjoy your daily trips down daily history stories. I look forward to the daily email!
Your ongoing daily history of the day is quite a tribute to your research skills.
Do keep them coming!
Stay safe and stay healthy
And keep the corny ‘smiles’ coming“
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky