"Making love"

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Wed Apr 10 20:15:26 UTC 2002

I agree with Peter McGraw that song lyrics should be a useful field of
inquiry to track the semantic shift.  My own recollection is that American
"standards" (i.e., non-blues, non-rock popular songs that were/are in the
repertoire of crooners, lounge singers, etc., many from Broadway shows) have
examples of "making love" and variations in the "woo" or "behave amorously
with clothes on" senses.  But I also think such lyrics played with the
"fuck" sense, as in the 1960 movie title and Sammy Cahn title song "Let's
Make Love", sung by Marilyn Monroe.

Blues and rock lyrics, on the other hand, clearly have the "fuck" sense.
>From the blues, there is "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" (lyrics by Willie
Dixon, Muddy Waters recording released in 1954; see lyrics at
http://tracylee.com/rick/I_Just_Wanna.html), the date suggesting that the
"fuck" sense was by then well enough established to allow the lyrics to make
sense.  From rock, there is "Feel Like Makin' Love" (Bad Company, 1975).  I
expect there are many more examples, and probably many earlier than these,
but these came to mind.

Frank Abate

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