June 11, 2005

No, no, no...

This is so not the right list of sad songs. But you know how we love lists, so here I am linking.

Please offer better suggestions in the comments.

My personal sad, sad song -- the song I used to play when I was already sad and wanted an accompanying soundtrack for my sorrows -- is: "Fool To Cry."

UPDATE: On a nonpersonal level, I should think "Gloomy Sunday" would take first place, given its reputation for inspiring suicide.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots of great suggestions in the comments. Go in and add some! I thought of a long -- really long -- story song that gets me: "El Paso." I remember hearing the Grateful Dead do it, and recently I heard the brilliantly sung Marty Robbins version on the radio. Here's the cowboy's terrible end:
Something is dreadfully wrong, for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side
Though I am trying to stay in the saddle
I'm getting weary, unable to ride

But my love for Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen
Though I am weary, I can't stop to rest
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest

From out of nowhere Felina has found me
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for
One little kiss, then Felina good-bye.

46 comments:

Troy said...

My vote would be for anything sad not on that horrific Guardian list. (Those songs -- many of them-- are sad for all the wrong reasons).

Top picks:


Sunday Morning Coming Down written by Kris Kristofferson and sung perfectly by Johnny Cash (and not so bad by Kris either)

Also: "The Shadow of Your Smile" most versions, but I like Sinatra's best (Live at the Sands)
"The Drowning Man" by U2 (War album) at least when I was in high school I thought so.

Anything off of Springsteen's "Nebraska" is sad -- or at least depressing...

Nate said...

I come from a younger generation, but for me it would be "True Love Waits" by Radiohead and maybe "Reservations" by Wilco. I can send anyone live versions of each if they'd like.

Troy said...

And how could I forget "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division ca. 1981?

twwren said...

I was all right for a while...

Whatever the list, it must include Roy Orbison: "Crying'.

DB said...

1. The Brides Have Hit Glass - Guided by Voices
2. High and Dry - Radiohead

David Manus said...

"It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" or "Lucky Guy" by Todd Rundgren

Finn Kristiansen said...

It seems like the author of the Guardian list was trying to pick the worst and most over the top sad songs: all drama and no soul. (Although I do quite like Bruce's "The River" for its minor chord melancholy.)

My choices would be:

"Save Me" by Aimee Mann, who used to sing in a band called Til Tuesday. Her music permeates the brilliant film Magnolia (and not to be confused with Steel Magnolias). "Come on and save me...from the ranks of the freaks," she begs.

My second choice would be Keith Urban's "You'll Think of Me", where he wakes up early at 4 A.M thinking of his woman who left him for another guy. "Take your cat and leave my sweater," he says, while driving and trying to clear his head of emotions.

Finally, I would add Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street", which is like a sonic trance. The lyrics and song itself are somewhat related to dead poet Anne Sexton, who killed herself (using the kitchen appliance method, if I recall correctly, or not, but nevertheless out-Plathing Plath).

David Manus said...

Save Me, I agree with, or Wise Up, but actually almost all Aimee's songs are sad :)

I'm kind of an aficianado, I figured out and transcribed all her solo stuff here:
Aimee Mann Tabs

I'd rate "Just Like AnyOne" as one of her very saddest though. Or "There Must Be A Word" or "Invisible Ink"

Kate Marie said...

I nominate:

"There Will Never Be Another You" (the Nat King Cole version)

"You and Me" (Frank Sinatra version)

"Long, Long Time" (Linda Ronstadt)

"Empty Chairs" (Don McLean)

"The Dance" (Garth Brooks)

SippicanCottage said...

Well, the most overlooked songs in this category are of course,
"I Just Can't Get Over You Dear, So You'll Have To Get Up And Answer the Phone Yourself" by Emmit Sounds, Unlimited, and "Cut Off Your Arms, Cut Off Your Legs, Let's Dance," by Nemie and the Nuts.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I vote for George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today".

Gerry said...

Yes to George Jones.

Also, I am amazed that "Alone Again, Naturally" did not make it.

"Now looking back over the years
And whatever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to hide the tears
And at sixty-five years old
My mother, God rest her soul,
Couldn’t understand why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken
Leaving her to start with a heart so badly broken
Despite encouragement from me
No words were ever spoken
And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally"

.....*sob*!

Gerry said...

Also, Mike and the Mechanics' "Living Years"

"I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I could swear I heard his echo
In my baby's newborn tears
I just wish I could have told him
In the Living Years"

Freeman Hunt said...

I rarely ever listen to music now, and when I do, it's not for a soundtrack to go with sadness. I haven't had the occasion to be sad for a very long time. I guess that's good.

Almost ten years ago, I was in high school, and my sad soundtrack was Talk Show Host by Radiohead.

Bill said...

Try these with a Texas flavor:
1) "Ghost in This House", as sung by Alison Krauss (written by UTEP alum Hugh Prestwood)
2) "Gulf Coast Highway", duet with Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson (written By Nanci Griffith, James H. Brown Jr and Danny Flowers)

MrsWhatsit said...

"It Makes No Difference" by The Band.

It makes no diff'rence where I turn
I can't get over you and the flame still burns
It makes no diff'rence, night or day
The shadow never seems to fade away ...

It makes no diff'rence how far I go
Like a scar the hurt will always show
It makes no diff'rence who I meet
They're just a face in the crowd
On a dead-end street
And the sun don't shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door ...

Matt Barr said...

Some of the songs in the comments are good songs. St. Roy and George Jones shouldn't be associated with a list of insipidly bad depressing songs!

I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine by Beth Orton might make the next 25. Behind the Sun, Eric Clapton. Those are kind of obscure. That one Phil Collins song, what was that? Won a Grammy instead of a truly outstanding sad song, Nothing Compares 2 U. Another Day in Paradise? That was it.

It's hard to believe there were three songs ahead of Seasons In the Sun.

Stephen said...

Of the songs on the list, the only one I both knew and thought worthy was "Brick", by Ben Folds Five.

George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is a great suggestion. The voice delivery by Jones is simply perfect...

I think "Living Years" becomes too focused on a positive message later in the song to be one of the best sad songs ever...

G said...

There's one song that after more than 30 years still brings a tear to my eye. It's the theme from "The Legend of Billy Jack"

One Tin Soldier

Of course back then I was a soldier.

Abraham said...

I contend that part of the confusion is that there are different kinds of depressing.

Depressing by lyrics e.g.:
- "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.," by Simon and Garfunkly
- "Tears of a Clown," by Smokey Robinson

Depressing by association, e.g.:
- The last track of the Terminator 2 soundtrack
- Any song played at a funeral you've attended

Depressing by sound alone, e.g.:
- Prelude in C-Sharp Minor by Rachmaninoff
- Abraham's Song from Chariots of Fire
- Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
- Prelude in C-Sharp Minor by Rachmaninoff

Mark Daniels said...

When it comes to sad songs, my favorite is "For No One." The combination of McCartney's lyrics, haunting melody, and the arrangement lay me out almost every time I hear it...and I listened to it again this past week.

It's especially poignant when he sings the last verse:

You stay home, she goes out
She says that long ago she knew someone but now he's gone
She doesn't need him

Your day breaks, your mind aches
There will be time when all the things she said will fil your head
You won't forget her

Who hasn't been there or at least been in love enough to imagine being there?

A second really sad song that I like is James Taylor's 'Another Grey Morning,' the lament of a housewife for whom the weight of sadness has become so great that any emotion has simply been wrung from her. This is sadness beyond sadness. Because this song is likely not well-known, here are its lyrics:

When I feel as though my love is sinking down
The sun doesn’t want to shine
When it feels like she won’t face another day
Life is unkind
She’s frozen in time

Here comes another grey morning
A not so good morning after all
She says "Well, what am I to do today
With too much time and so much sorrow"

She hears the baby waking up downstairs
She hears the foghorn calling out across the sound
Repetition in the morning air
Is just too much to bear
And no one seems to care

If another day goes creeping by
Empty and ashamed
Like an old unwanted memory
That no one will claim
The clouds with their heads on the ground
Shes gonna have to come down

She said "Move me, move me
“I’m locked up inside"
Well, I didn’t understand her
Though God knows I tried

She said "Make me angry
“But just make me cry
“But no more grey morning
“I think Id rather die"

Ann Althouse said...

MarK: "For No One" is a great choice.

Abraham: Those three categories are very useful. When I was reading the list at the link, it irked me that everything was sad by lyrics, not by the melody and instrumentation or the particular performance. My personal choice, "Fool to Cry," is sad to me for all three of your reasons.

A lot of movie soundtracks, not really songs, are sad in the second and third way. Two movies that I've seen before but that, if I watch again, I'll cry as soon as I hear the soundtrack begin are "Wuthering Heights" and "Limelight."

A song I think is trash but will make me cry because of a funeral is "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Outlier said...

He may have been a teen idol, but "Lonesome Town" by Rick Nelson was anything but happy-go-lucky or bubble-gum. I've always thought it was the one of the saddest songs ever made, lyrically and musically and even sadder by association, given the circumstances of his death.

Ann Althouse said...

Outlier: That reminds me that "Heartbreak Hotel" should be on the list.

David Manus said...

MarK: another sad Taylor one is "Millworker", from an aborted Broadway show he worked on. I believe its on "Daddy Loves His Work".

Barry Kearns said...

I'm surprised no one mentioned Michael Martin Murphey's "Wildfire". That one messed with me as a kid and it still gets me a little misty.

Shawn Colvin's entire album "A Few Small Repairs" does it for me when I'm looking to embrace the darkness for a bit, especially the tracks "If I Were Brave" and "Suicide Alley".

Sarah McLachlan's "Good Enough".

Lisa Loeb's "Furious Rose".

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" is now the pre-eminent funeral association for me, as it was the first track played at my mother's memorial this past February.

Troy said...

Marty freakin' Robbins! Brilliant! His version of "The Streets of Laredo" would make Mt. Rushmore cry. There is also an old song by a country singer named Jim Reeves about a guy who almost gets home in a blizzard, but ends up a few yards short.... Can't remember the title, but sad.

Amazing what comes from being force fed Hee-Haw as a youngster at Granny's house.

Blair said...

The John Cale version of Heartbreak Hotel is way more depressing than the Elvis one.

My personal vote for most depressing song of all time is I Am An Animal by Pete Townshend:

http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/pete_townshend/i_am_an_animal.html

But Candidate by Joy Division runs it a close second:

http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/joy_division/candidate.html

A lot of songs have depressing lyrics set to upbeat music or vice versa, but those two are depressing on both counts.

meac said...

You're right that lists are fun...even lists about the saddest songs ever. Three songs on the top 25 list you posted resonated with me--"Brick," "The River," and "The Freshmen."

My additions, all of which I think are sadder and more poignant than those three, are:

"I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt,

"She's Already Made Up Her Mind," by Lyle Lovett,

"The Road Not Taken," by Bruce Hornsby,

and what I refer to as the saddest song of all time:

"You Had Time," by Ani DiFranco.

Jamie said...

Shameless self linking, but this was too good an idea to not make a post for my blog.

Jamie said...

Shameless self linking, but this was too good an idea to not make a post for my blog.

bill said...

Saddest song ever is John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery." Particularly Bonnie Raitt's version. Beautiful and haunting, still.

Angel From Montgomery
©John Prine

I am an old woman named after my mother
My old man is another child that's grown old
If dreams were lightning thunder was desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago

Chorus:
Make me an angel that flies from Montgom'ry
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

When I was a young girl well, I had me a cowboy
He weren't much to look at, just free rambling man
But that was a long time and no matter how I try
The years just flow by like a broken down dam.

Repeat Chorus:

There's flies in the kitchen I can hear 'em there buzzing
And I ain't done nothing since I woke up today.
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say.

Repeat Chorus:

bill said...

I could also throw a vote out for "2 out of 3 ain't bad" by Meatloaf, though that might be more a matter of setting.

Somewhere around 1983-84, about 3am, ended up with some friends at an all night pool hall on Lake St. in South Minneapolis. People were pleasant enough, but about every third song played on the jukebox was "2 out of 3." Practically an anthem for this place and a bit sad.

disinterested spectator said...

Three songs come to mind for me:

1) The Smiths - How Soon is Now? To me this song perfectly captures teenage angst and sadness. My favorite sad part is:

There's a club if you'd like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go, and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home, and you cry
And you want to die

With Morrissey's ridiculously sad voice, it has an incredible, if slightly over-dramatic effect.

2) Hurt - Johnny Cash. While the song was originally by Nine Inch Nails, the version by Cash brings incredible pain. If you haven't seen the video for the song, find it on the web and download it - it is unbelievably sad. The saddest part to me is the conclusion:

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

3) Never is a Promise - Fionna Apple. From her debut album, this song just had such resonance and sadness. Without hearing her voice, the lyrics don't seem remarkably sad, but when she delivers them, they are powerful:

You’ll never see the courage I know
Its colors’ richness won’t appear within your view
I’ll never glow - the way that you glow
Your presence dominates the judgments made on you

But as the scenery grows, I see in different lights
The shades and shadows undulate in my perception
My feelings swell and stretch; I see from greater heights
I understand what I am still too proud to mention - to you

You’ll say you understand, but you don’t understand
You’ll say you’d never give up seeing eye to eye
But never is a promise, and you can’t afford to lie

LarryK said...

Lots of great songs here, but there is only one saddest song of all time, and that is "One for My Baby" by Frank Sinatra.

Barry said...

Late to this story, but had to comment...

Have you heard "Beloved Wife" by Natalie Merchant? All about a man who just lost his wife of 50 years reminiscing and wondering how he's going to go on.

"my beloved wife
my love is gone she suffered long
in hours of pain
my love is gone
now my suffering begins
my love is gone
would it be wrong if I should
surrender all the joy in my life
go with her tonight? "

And with Merchant's powerfully mournful vocals and the delicate piano chords and guitar, it meets at least 2 of Abaraham's categories, and the third in certain situations.

Colin Samuels said...

"Puff, The Magic Dragon" would get my vote. Perhaps it was one too many family road trips in the 70s listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary on the 8-track, but there's something about the little boy growing up and leaving his loyal, but imaginary, playmate behind that still gets me. If the dragon ceased to be when that happened, no problem; that the dragon lives on in exile, separated from his boy, is too sad:

A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys/
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened; Jackie Paper came no more/
And Puff, that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow; green scales fell like rain/
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave/
So Puff, that mighty dragon, sadly slipped into his cave.

Sam Chevre said...

My vote would be Hank Williams Sr--I'm not sure which song, though.

Probably "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," but "Nobody Lonesome for Me" woudl be a close second.

bill said...

re: puff the magic dragon

My God, you're right. That is depressing. -- No, that's OK, you just grow up and forget about me. I'll just sit in my cave for all eternity feeling suicidal.

I need a drink.

Beachcomber said...

The other commenters' suggestions are far better than the Guardian's. Oddly, this does not come as much of a surprise! For what it's worth, here's another suggestion: "I Will Always Love You" (multiple versions). But for me, for very personal reasons, it's Dire Straits' "Tunnel of Love".

chronicler said...

Oh my top have to go with Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven and the new music Diamond Rio's "One More Day".

And then yes, the hat's off to McCartney's "For No One". That one went on too many times during my high school years.

chronicler said...

Oh and someone needs to tell them Comfortably Numb is soooo not depressing. It rocks and is appropriate when you want to mellow out!

David Manus said...

Someone mentioned Shawn Colvin: "Monopoly" is another one of her very sad songs (about a break-up, of course)

Mary said...

Sad country music story song that brought a tear to my eye when I first heard it in the car (but really, it's a redemption song): Randy Travis, 3 Wooden Crosses.

"Three Wooden Crosses" is reminiscent of the old country classics from the '60s and '70s. There was one small glitch, however. "People started coming up to us and saying, 'What happened to the bus driver?' We hadn't really thought about that," said songwriter Doug Johnson laughs. "So we just started telling people that Jesus was the bus driver."

JAT said...

I vote for "Boulder to Birmingham by Emmy Lou Harris

I don't want to hear a love song
I got on this airplane just to fly
And I know there's life below me
But all that it can show me
Is the prairie and the sky

And I don't want to hear a sad story
Full of heartbreak and desire
The last time I felt like this
It was in the wilderness and the canyon was on fire
And I stood on the mountain in the night and I watched it burn
I watched it burn, Baby I watched it burn.

I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace.
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face.

Well you really got me this time
And the hardest part is knowing I'll survive.
I have come to listen for the sound
Of the trucks as they move down
Out on ninety five
And pretend that it's the ocean
coming down to wash me clean, to wash me clean
Baby do you know what I mean

I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace.
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face.

swc said...

I vote for just about anything on Linda Ronstadt's "Hasten Down the Wind" album, but "Lose Again," written by Karla Bonoff, kept me company through many long nights my freshman year of college...

Save me,
Free me from my heart this time.
The train’s gone
Down the track and I've stayed behind.

But nothing can free me
from this ball and chain
I've made up my mind
I would leave today.

But you're keepin'
Me goin'
I know it's insane
Because I love you
And lose again

When the heart calls
The mind obeys
Oh it knows better than me, baby.
If I hold on
For one more day,
Oh maybe, maybe he'll be true

And nothing can free me
From this ball and chain
I've made up my mind
I would leave today
But you're keepin'
Me goin'
I know it's insane
Because I love you and lose again.