When Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were married October 19 in Italy, the former 'NSync boy bander sang his bride down the aisle, crooning an original song that he wrote for the occasion, which left nary a dry eye in the house. However, when it came time for the couple's first dance, they relied on a classic tune — "A Song for You" by Donny Hathaway.
"A Song for You" is actually one of the most-covered songs in modern music history. Written and recorded by music legend Leon Russell, it appeared on his eponymous album in 1970. The love song seems on target for the celebrity couple as it tells the story of a famous singer who hopes to live up to the expectations of his lady love. Noting that they had been through some tough times ("I've treated you unkindly") — making us think of Timberlake and Biel's brief split — he says there is no one more important than she is, she's made him a better man, and he'll love her "for my life."
Russell — a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee who has played with Elton John, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton, among others — has said that when he wrote the song, he was trying to create something that "anybody can sing" because "that's where the money was." Well, he was right on target. "A Song For You" has been recorded more than 100 times. In addition to Hathaway, it's been covered by a diverse range of singers, including Whitney Houston, Willie Nelson, Amy Winehouse, Cher, and Herbie Hancock featuring Christina Aguilera.
Hathaway's inspired cover of "A Song for You" appeared on his second album, which was released in 1971. And although the singer died in 1979, he's influenced many of today's top talents — including Timberlake. When JT released FutureSex/LoveSounds, he said that the track "(Another Song) All Over Again" was his "homage to Donny Hathaway." Timberlake went so far as to declare Hathaway "the best singer of all time." In this week's issue of People, in which the newlyweds share their wedding album, Timberlake gushed about the tune, saying, that it "happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time, and Jess' as well."
When celebrity couples pick their first song, anything goes. As far as recent newlyweds, when Drew Barrymore married Will Kopleman in June, they danced to "No One's Gonna Love You" by Band of Horses. Later that month, Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Thomas hit the dance floor when Luis Miguel's "Contigo" came on. But not everybody is hung up on the old-fashioned wedding tradition. When Matthew McConaughey married Camila Alves in June, they skipped their first song, instead they just boogied to a variety of American pop and Brazilian rock hits performed by a live band.