A torch song is a sentimental love song, typically one in which the singer laments an unrequited or lost love, either where one party is oblivious to the existence of the other, where one party has moved on, or where a romantic affair has affected the relationship. The term comes from the saying, "to carry a torch for someone", or to keep aflame the light of an unrequited love. Tommy Lyman started the use in his praise of "My Melancholy Baby".
Someday, I know that Jim will up and leave me
But even if he does you can believe me
I'll go on carryin' the torch for Jim.
I'll go on lovin' my Jim.
Torch-singing is more of a niche than a genre and can stray from the traditional jazz-influenced style of singing; the American tradition of the torch song typically relies upon the melodic structure of the blues. An example of a collection is Billie Holiday's 1955 album Music for Torching.
- Smith, L.: Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, and the Torch Song Tradition, p. 9. Praeger Publishers, 2004.
- Allan Forte, M. R.: Listening to Classic American Popular Songs, p. 203. Yale University Press, 2001.
- Shanaphy, Edward (ed.). "My Melancholy Baby". Piano Stylings of the Great Standards. p. xi. ISBN 978-1-929009-14-5.