How Delilah became the queen of sappy love songs

Studio 360
Delilah

Delilah

Courtesy of Delilah/Premiere Networks

Delilah is a DJ with a nightly call-in show on more than 200 stations. She calls herself the “queen of sappy love songs,” and as such she fields calls that run from sweet questions about new love to tough conversations with people going through heartbreak.

Then, after hearing each caller's story she pairs romantic advice with suitable songs. “I can’t sing,” says Delilah Rene Luke, explaining why her love of music led her to become a radio DJ instead of a musician.

“I think one of the reasons that I chose this path for my career is because I have always loved music,” Delilah says. “My father was a musician, he had a country western band. I was raised around people that danced ... music has always been a part of my life.” 

Delilah has 13 children. Over the course of her life she has been dumped, divorced, a single parent, homeless, in love, married and an adoptive parent. The radio DJ says this experience helps her relate to her callers' diverse situations. 

“[It] gave me so much to draw on, so many experiences we went through. I mean, there was a time we were homeless. There was just so much stuff that we went through that when a young mama calls me and says, you know, ‘I'm a single mom. I got three kids,’ I know what she's going through. I know what it's like to choose between ‘Am I going to pay my rent or am I going to buy food for my kid?’ You know, I know those choices,” Delilah says. 

And she knows what songs to play for each of those choices. 

“I love music and I have this storehouse of lyrics in my brain. So if you call me and you tell me a situation, I can find a song that hopefully lyrically speaks to your situation,” Delilah says.

There have been many unusually memorable calls for Delilah. In one case, a man named Mike called requesting a song for his long-lost high school girlfriend. Later a woman called into the show saying she knew both Mike and the long-lost girlfriend. Delilah put them in touch. 

“Two or three weeks later, Mike calls me back. He can't even talk he's so emotional. I'm like ‘Are you OK?’ He says, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘After we talked with you we agreed to meet. And we set up a time to meet in a restaurant.’ And he says, ‘I walked in and she was as beautiful as she was the day I left and joined the military.’ He said, ‘We sat, we talked for probably 10 or 15 minutes. She said, ‘I have a little surprise for you,’ and in walked my 21-year old daughter,” Delilah recounts. “Six months later on the air I get a call from the daughter who says ‘How would you like to come to a wedding?’ Her folks got married after being apart for 22 years.”

Delilah pairs love stories like these with songs by artists ranging from Celine Dion, to Pink, to Justin Timberlake. There are some songs, however, that are too sappy even for the queen of sappy love songs.

“Yeah, there are songs that are so sappy it's like eating a spoonful of sugar. It just puts my spirit on edge,” Delilah says. 

Her least favorite song? “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”

“Well, I like the version by Lee Greenwood the best. That I can listen to maybe twice before I want to put a pen through my eyeball. But Bette [Midler’s version] gets requested all the time. I still get requests for that song every night,” Delilah says.

This story is based on an interview that aired on PRI's Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.