Taylor Swift stopped by the BBC’s Live Lounge late last month to perform songs from her new LP Lover, but midway through the set she broke out a huge surprise by tackling Leo Sayer’s 1978 classic “I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try).”
“For this cover song I wanted to choose a song that I felt really expressed an interesting, beautiful, exquisite type of love,” she said. “I love this song so much. I remember driving around Nashville when I first had my driver’s license just screaming the words to this song. The type of love that this song sings about is unconditional love. … I think true, unconditional love is like, do you love someone so much that you would even love them if they didn’t love you anymore? That is unconditional love. That’s what this song sings about.”
The Leo Sayer original (written by Billy Nicholls) was a hit in England and Australia, but it failed to chart in America. (Just a year earlier, he went to Number One in the U.S. with “When I Need You.”) Phil Collins rescued the song from relative obscurity in 2002 when he made it the first single from his LP Testify. (Check out the video for it right here.) It was a Top 10 hit all over Europe and it topped the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart even though it rose no higher than Number 76 on the American Hot 100. But it still made enough of an impression to enter the consciousness of Taylor Swift.
“Can’t Stop Loving You” songwriter Billy Nicholls went on to tour as a backing vocalist for the Who on their 1989 and 1996–97 reunion tours and was brought back into the fold earlier this year to help them out on their Moving On! orchestral tour.
Collins hasn’t performed the song since the end of his 2005 First Final Farewell tour, though he resumes his Not Dead Yet comeback tour later this month for a run of North American arena dates and maybe the surprise love from Swift will inspire him to bring the it back.