Written by William Hart and Thom Bell, produced by Thom Bell and Stan Watson, “La-La (Means I Love You)” is a classic of Philly soul, vintage 1968, and a memorable hit for the Delfonics. What a beautiful pop song. I don’t think they make ’em like this anymore. Hart sang the shimmering falsetto lead on the hit single.
Laura Nyro responded deeply to the song. As she did with so many of the “heartbeat songs” (as she called them) that she recorded over the years, she turned it into a personal statement. She teamed up with Manhattan Transfer on the song for the group’s Tonin’ album in 1994. It is, to say the least, not bad.
After working the song up with Manhattan Transfer, Laura recorded a version that she produced on August 29, 1994. The credits note that she backed herself on electric piano with Jeff Pevar and John Tropea on guitar, Will Lee on bass, Chris Parker on drums, and Carol Steele on percussion. Laura died way too young of ovarian cancer in 1997. The song appeared posthumously on Angel in the Dark in 2001; this is how she wanted the song to be heard.
There are too many great love songs to pick an official Valentine’s Day song. If I ruled the world, however, this would be it — this would be it this morning, anyway.
So why does “la-la” mean I love you? I take it that if you stutter, or if you’re a little nervous about the declaration of that important sentiment, that might be the way it would come out.