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They're playing our song

Couples remember the tunes they fell in love to

Thursday, February 11, 1999

By L.A. Johnson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Sentimental sweethearts will dust off the old scratched-up Elton John album or request "Spanish Eyes" in a glitzy nightclub this Valentine's Day to hear their song.

Romantic couples' favorite tunes remind them of their courtship or the first time they really connected.

  The song "Spanish Eyes" is special for Dolly and Joseph Dalessio, who go dancing at the Etna Elks every Wednesday. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette

Rhonda and Gary Kempa of Murrysville found their song at a mutual friend's wedding reception. Before they married or even dated, they had eyed each other for a while at work. Then, one Saturday evening, they found themselves on opposite sides of a crowded ballroom at a wedding reception in some airport hotel.

"He was as far away from me as he could possibly be," Rhonda recalled. "Then, I heard this song and I just made a beeline to him, grabbed his hand and said, 'Let's dance!' ... I figured it was do or die."

Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend" was the tune.

"It got kind of hip-grinding, and he was gnawing on my neck," she said. "We started dating and were engaged two months later."

  Tunes for a broken heart

Yeah, yeah, we know Valentine's Day is coming up but "What's Love Got To Do With It?" Candy makes you break out, flowers make you sneeze and love - well, love stinks. Some people may be "Addicted to Love" but you're allergic to it - at least for this week.

So for those who have gone from "Misty" to "Misty Blue" this list of heart-breaking, love-hating songs is for you.

1. "All Out of Love" - Air Supply
2. "Love Should Have Brought You Home Last Night" - Toni Braxton
3. "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" - Crystal Gayle
4. "I'm Not in Love" - 10 CC
5. "Love TKO" - Teddy Pendergrass
6. "I Keep Forgetting We're Not in Love Anymore" - Michael McDonald
7. "Separate Lives" - Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
8. "The End of the Road" - Boyz II Men
9. "Is It a Crime?" - Sade
10. "It Takes a Fool To Learn that Love Don't Love Nobody" - The Spinners
11. "Rainy Days and Mondays" - The Carpenters
12. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" - Elton John
13. "I'm Not Gonna Cry" - Mary J. Blige
14. "On My Own" - Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
15. "She's Out of My Life" - Michael Jackson
16. "I Can't Make You Love Me" - Bonnie Raitt
17. "Faded Love" - Patsy Cline
18. "Unbreak My Heart" - Toni Braxton
19. "Guess Who I Saw Today" - Nancy Wilson
20. "Superwoman" - Karyn White
21. "Since I Fell For You" - Various artists
22. "I Hate Myself For Loving You" - Joan Jett
23. "You Give Love a Bad Name" - Bon Jovi
24. "The Breakup Song" - Greg Kihn Band
25. "You Oughta Know" - Alanis Morissette
26. "Heartbreak Hotel" - Elvis Presley
27. "One More Minute" - "Weird Al" Yankovic
28. "Torn" - Natalie Imbruglia
29. "One Less Bell To Answer" - The Fifth Dimension
30. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" - Hank Williams Sr.

- Monica L. Haynes

More Valentine's Day songs:

Some other couples and their songs


Rhonda, 42, and Gary, 43, have been married three years. They realize most people wouldn't consider the instrumental an especially romantic song, but they like its soulful beat.

"Nobody quite understands, but it's our song - nobody else's," Rhonda said. "It's the first song we danced to. It got my gumption up."

Some couples love their song because it was playing at a special place or during a defining moment in their relationship. Other couples love their song because the words describe their relationship.

Songs - as well as rituals and experiences they don't share with others - help define a couple's union as special.

"The more the couple has of their own signature, the stronger the relationship," said Gilda Carle, Ph.D., an author and Mercy College psychology professor in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

"Some couples end up talking baby talk. Some couples have their own private language. When they have a song, they can look into each other's eyes and say, 'That's our song.' It's like wearing the same marriage bands. That's like saying, 'That's ours!' "

Dolly and Joseph Dalessio have been married 52 years and first heard Al Martino perform "Spanish Eyes" at Atlantic City's Steel Pier in the late '60s.

"He sang it, and we melted," said Dolly, 76. "We like to do the rumba to that and the cha-cha. It has a nice and easy tempo, not too fast, and kind of romantic."

They request it of bands when they're on vacations. When they go out dancing twice a week, folks at the Elks or Moose halls always play it saying, "This is for Dolly and Joe." A 10-piece mariachi band at Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla., played the most memorable rendition of the song for the Mount Washington couple.

"It just brought tears to my eyes," Dolly said. "The trumpets were playing, and it was just gorgeous."

The beauty of a couple's special song is that it's another little thing binding them together. It's something they share that is unique to them.

"Your special song is a love secret," said Carle, also author of "Don't Bet on the Prince!: How To Have the Man You Want by Betting on Yourself." "The more secrets they have, the stronger the relationship."

Pittsburgh natives Bill and Sue Kolechta, now of Plano, Texas, made the Ruby & The Romantics tune, "Our Day Will Come," their anthem in the '60s.

"When we started to date in high school and we were seeing a lot of each other, my recollection is her mother thought we should cool it," said Bill, 52, who married his sweetheart 28 years ago. "We thought, well one of these days, we'll be able to do what we want to do."

Most Valentine's Days, they run little love classifieds for each other and use "Our Day Will Come" as the headline. The song always makes him think of his senior year at West Mifflin High School and the fall of 1963.

David Wansitler always thinks of his wife, Tina, when he hears their special song - Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love."

"It didn't have a great meaning until we had some rough times, and after we got through that, it just meant so much more," said David, 34, of Robinson.

He's reminded of what they have together and their 11 years of marriage. They request the song when they're out dancing. They sometimes play it at home, too.

"We have three kids and if we ever get time alone, we'll flip it on when we're in the mood," he said with a chuckle.

Dan Possumato of Anchorage, Alaska, wrote an Irish-style waltz called "Sweaney's Waltz" for his girlfriend, Theresa Sweaney, 42, back when he was trying to alter her mood about him and win her heart. Now, it's their song.

"Whenever she hears it, it reminds her of what lengths I went to in order to get her attention," said Possumato, 47, who originally is from the McKeesport-White Oak area.

He currently attends the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Cumberland County, but plans to return to his Alaskan home and his sweetheart after he graduates in June. He's flying back to Anchorage for the Valentine's Day weekend, too.

People who don't have Possumato's songwriting talent, can turn to P.S. I Love You!, a Burbank, Ca.-based company that produces personalized songs for all occasions, including Valentine's Day, at or (800)725-SONG. They can deliver songs overnight, too.

"We take details from whoever is ordering the song, such as how long they've been together, their lover's eye color, and some embarrassing tidbits about them," company spokesman Mark Baker said. "For some reason, that really seems to work. We're very mushy. Mushy are us."

WPXI Channel 11 anchor David Johnson, 41, found a sweet gesture that really worked for him when he and his wife, Nancy Polinsky Johnson, 40, were just starting to date. They both worked at an Atlanta TV station that piped music from a radio station into the hallways.

By the time he came to work at 3 p.m., she already was preparing for the 6 p.m. newscast and rarely had time to talk. So, he would call her just to say "I love you."

"One day, instead of saying that, he said, 'Step out in the hall. Step out in the hall,' " said Nancy, who co-hosts "QED Cooks" on WQED Channel 13. "I did and heard in the hall for the first time ever Stevie Wonder's 'I Just Called To Say I Love You.' "

Whenever Nancy hears the song, it reminds her of the rush she and David felt when they were first falling in love.

"If it's ever played somewhere, we look at each other and smile and get up and dance," she said.

A dance was all Kate Tkach was after.

In November 1987, she saw an "extremely good-looking guy with a killer smile" walk into the Luna Bar in Oakland and start talking to her brother. Kate, who stands 6 feet tall, wanted to meet the handsome stranger. He inquired about her, too, asking, "Who's the girl with the long legs?"

"That's my baby sister!" her brother replied in an end-of-discussion tone.

Kate watched the stranger dance with several other women throughout the evening. As the last song of the night, Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," began, he was on the floor with some 5-foot-3 woman.

"I figured if I didn't pull him away from that little girl, he'd get away," Kate said. "I tapped her on the shoulder, politely turned her around and told her in no uncertain terms, this was my dance."

Kate, 39, and John, 37, of Baldwin Township, have been together ever since and married in 1989. So, whenever she hears the music, even in an elevator or a grocery store, sweet memories of that first night come flooding back.

Shelby Schneider is hoping her somewhat estranged sweetie comes back to her. She and her long-distance beau love Frank Sinatra's rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight."

"Every time we would go out in a group or whatever, he would just start humming it and singing it," said Shelby, 24, of Forest Hills.

He told her it just seemed to pop into his head whenever he was with her. Once, only seconds after they had been seated at a table in a swanky restaurant, a jazz trio just started playing the song.

"We just looked at each other and started cracking up," she said.

Things are up in the air with Shelby and her far-away sweetie of six months. They've spent more time apart than they have together and they don't have plans to visit each other right now, but a reconciliation isn't out of the question, she said.

"I'm going to keep calling it our song until he gets back here and we can see if we can stand each other," she said.

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