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This Will End in Tears
August 24, 2012 10:01 AM   Subscribe


 
I've seen this list bouncing around.

100 best known sad songs is more like it. To begin with, George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is a cliche at this point. "The Grand Tour" tops it easily for tear-jerking, and Gene Watson's "Farewell Party" (same broad idea, spitefully watching your own funeral) is sadder still.
posted by spitbull at 10:06 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


And if you don't have even one track from Elvis Costello/Burt Bachrach's *Painted From Memory,* you ain't had a good cry yet. Title track will do.
posted by spitbull at 10:06 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think it's a pretty good list, actually, even though it lacks the Carpenters "Goodbye to Love."
posted by neroli at 10:07 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]




Where's "No Children"?
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:10 AM on August 24, 2012


Ctrl-F "Holocaust". Yup.
posted by capnsue at 10:11 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd add some Richard Thompson -- Beeswing for sure, & either The Great Valario or God Loves a Drunk.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:13 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


And if you don't have even one track from Elvis Costello/Burt Bachrach's *Painted From Memory,* you ain't had a good cry yet. Title track will do.

Whoa, seeing "Not Dark Yet" on the list reminded me that I needed to add Time Out of Mind to my Amazon Music collection which then reminded me that I needed to add Painted From Memory. For whatever reason those albums are linked in my memory.
posted by kmz at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2012


It's a pretty good list, but the world's saddest song is Commander Cody's Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues.
posted by maurice at 10:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


High on my personal list is either of Ben Fold's little sketches, Hospital Room or Cigarette.

Glad to see Sam Stone on that list. Prine is one of a small handful of artists who can make me weep openly. Hello In There is just as sad.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:16 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sad songs are nature's onions.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:17 AM on August 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


Is Bonnie “Prince” Billy's “I See a Darkness” popular? I didn't think so, but I don't have a good guage on what is popular or not.
posted by Quonab at 10:17 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


not a single Sade tune??
posted by supermedusa at 10:20 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two Soldiers.
posted by swift at 10:21 AM on August 24, 2012


They picked the Björk version of "Gloomy Sunday." All the different versions of that incredible song, and they picked the Björk one. That's sad, all right.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:22 AM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Nothing off "Hospice"? Ridiculous. That whole album will make you bawl like a suicidal baby.
posted by Decani at 10:23 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


maudlin != sad

Some of these songs might bore me to tears, but that's hardly the same.

I find the saddest songs aren't deliberately sad, but are really only sad in retrospect; where the real hope and real love on display have been dashed by real circumstances that the songs almost seem to knowingly predict. Songs like "Oh Yoko," or Blind Melon's "New Life."
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Billy's Christmas Wish (Red Sovine).
posted by mazola at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2012


this is interesting. I think there must be an innate aspect of human nature that is drawn to things that evoke sadness (songs, stories, movies etc., I call it "pressing on a bruise" which we do, but why? it hurts...)

I like a lot of very sad, somber music. most of it doesn't make me cry but can certainly impact my mood badly if I'm in a vulnerable space (ie, avoid The Sneaker Pimps' Splinter album in its entirety if you are feeling melacholy!) some times I have to really discipline myself to listen to upbeat music so I can get stuff done.

but yeah Radiohead, David Sylvian, Sade...I guess it hurts so good??
posted by supermedusa at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2012


68. “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” The Pogues

I am not an actor, but if I was, and I needed to cry on cue, all I would have to do is play back a few verses of this song in my head.
posted by murphy slaw at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


They've got Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt", which I'll agree is pretty sad, but for my money it's got nothing on his version of Willie Nelson's "On the Evening Train". When that comes up on shuffle while I'm at work I have to skip past it. Cash's wavering voice (he was near death himself at the time), combined with a song about going down to the station with his children to put Mama's coffin on the evening train? I don't tend to cry at songs but I get pretty close with that one.
posted by ZsigE at 10:26 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Marie" by Townes Van Zandt was the first song I thought of when I saw this post. Probably the bleakest song I've ever heard. I was quote surprised to see it listed at #4.
posted by skwm at 10:27 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where's "No Children"?

"No Children" isn't really sad because it's so triumphant in its failure. It's not a song to sit and cry to, it's a song to blare as you get fired from a job you hate.

Also, cliche or not "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is a great sad song. I assume they didn't want to just fill the list with George Jones songs, even through they could, even some of the stuff that's sounds positive like "I Always Get Lucky With You." As a fan of maudlin country music, though, I'm a little miffed at the failure to include "Wreck on the Highway" or "Long Black Veil" but I'm probably the only one.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:28 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was actually all prepared to be like what about Purcell's "When I Am Laid in Earth," then I clicked through and dang, there it was, No. 14.

(Still missing Eva Cassidy's rendition of "Fields of Gold," though.)
posted by Iridic at 10:29 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


No way to do this sort of thing definitively, of course, but I'll quibble anyway:

"God Only Knows" is several magnitudes more heartbreaking than "Caroline, No."

"How to Disappear Completely" isn't sad, it's numb - a dull gaze into the existential void. (It's not even the saddest song on Kid A - "Motion Picture Soundtrack" deserves that honour.) The saddest song in the Radiohead canon, I'd argue, is the gorgeous, soulwrenching "Let Down."

I could quibble on, but the absence of Iron & Wine's "Trapeze Swinger" and Wilco's "Remember the Mountain Bed" wearies me. I believe I shall retire to the porch with a bottle of whiskey and an Uncle Tupelo album and contemplate the inevitability of failure. This list's, everything else's.
posted by gompa at 10:32 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sade's Bulletproof Soul just because its a lovely (and very sad) song
posted by supermedusa at 10:33 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Frames' "What Happens When The Heart Just Stops"
posted by Damienmce at 10:35 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Sun and The Sea and The Sky was dropped from The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs for not technically being about romantic love, but it's as affecting as anything that made the cut.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:35 AM on August 24, 2012


I thought "Everybody Hurts" was a kind of sappy, uplifting song. It's not a bad song, but it's not sad. Maybe people are confused the same way they think "Born in the USA" is a patriotic song when it is a bleak depiction of the situation of war veterans.

Also, they don't have "I Will Follow You Into the Dark". That song is intensely moving: very sad and very loving at the same time.
posted by demiurge at 10:36 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I tried to take a sad song and make it better, but then I couldn't stop singing Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na for 15 minutes.
posted by jonp72 at 10:36 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


And off the same Obscurities album, Plant White Roses is pretty much the perfect codependent post breakup song. (Don't know why video is over 6 minutes long, song is under 4.)
posted by yellowbinder at 10:37 AM on August 24, 2012


The Johnny Cash verse that always gets me is the 3rd one from Folsom Prison Blues:

I bet there's rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
They're probably drinkin' coffee and smoking big cigars.
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free
But those people keep a movin'
And that's what tortures me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:37 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


No point in quibbling with lists. If we're looking for truly heartbreaking music, though, one that always comes to my mind is Desdemona's Willow Song from Verdi's Otello.
posted by yoink at 10:39 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, no I Am Stretched On Your Grave?
posted by murphy slaw at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, they do say so much.

Elton John taught us that.
posted by inturnaround at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I thought "Everybody Hurts" was a kind of sappy, uplifting song. It's not a bad song, but it's not sad.

Yup, there's lots of maudlin and sentimental on this list, but not enough real bone-aching sad. "Fall On Me" is a sadder song than "Everybody Hurts," and "Country Feedback" is so much further down the dark gravel road of sadness that it'd probably take a week for a silly little postcard from "Everybody Hurts" to arrive there.
posted by gompa at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


One thing I certainly wouldn't argue with on that list is Ne Me Quitte Pas. Now that's a no-holds-barred performance.
posted by yoink at 10:43 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Missing two absolute triggers for me--Meryn Cadell's "The Cat Carol" and Pete Yorn's "Lose You."

I do give them props for including "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda." Hadn't thought about that one in ages, but ooooh yeah.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:44 AM on August 24, 2012


I support any list that includes the Pogues, for whatever reason.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:44 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Suggested alternative to Death Letter Blues
posted by theodolite at 10:45 AM on August 24, 2012


Eric Bogle (who wrote "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda") is an amazing songwriter. I find his version significantly more affecting than the Pogues' version.
posted by immlass at 10:46 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not enough pop on that list - where's 'The Winner Takes It All"?
posted by colie at 10:48 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


OH GOD THE CAT CAROL. That song is insane. Just the line, "When Santa arrived at the snowdrift/The reindeer started to cry..."

Seriously. If you haven't heard it, it's the most brilliantly beautiful yet WRONG song.
posted by Madamina at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2012


Aimee Mann, "Wise Up."
posted by Mapes at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I sort of feel like this list could just be randomly selected songs from the Pogues and Townes Van Zandt and it would be as good.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:52 AM on August 24, 2012


No "Forbidden Colours?"

This list is bullshit.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:53 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Johnny Cash's Ballad of Ira Hayes is a killer
Oh and Lou Reed's The Kids or The Bed off Berlin.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:59 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surprisingly little Hurtin' Music.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:00 AM on August 24, 2012


supermedusa: "this is interesting. I think there must be an innate aspect of human nature that is drawn to things that evoke sadness (songs, stories, movies etc., I call it "pressing on a bruise" which we do, but why? it hurts...)
...but yeah Radiohead, David Sylvian, Sade...I guess it hurts so good??
"

My friend coined the term "Depressarific" to describe things like this, and specifically the Cure. (and thank god they listed Same Deep Water As You... fuck yeah, that one is fucking brutal).
posted by symbioid at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The saddest song in the Radiohead canon, I'd argue, is the gorgeous, soulwrenching "Let Down."

QFT. Runner up is probably True Love Waits, which they perform live but has never made it onto a studio record. This list is also missing Ryan Adams' Come Pick Me Up (in place of say, Mingus' Goodbye Porkpie Hat, which isn't really all that sad). Although an argument could be made that Come Pick Me Up isn't even the saddest song on Heartbreaker (Oh My Sweet Carolina or Why Do They Leave certainly being contenders, but for my money, Come Pick Me Up has a tinge of bitterness that somehow makes it a better song).
posted by axiom at 11:02 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know this is nowhere near as famous as the songs on that list, but Tom Smith's A Boy and His Frog is scientifically tested and proven to be among the very saddest.

I was on a road trip with my brother once, with a cassette tape tzikeh had made me, and I said, "You want to hear the Saddest Song In The World?" "Sure," he said blithely.

By the last two lines, he was staring very intently out his window so I couldn't see him weeping. I would have been too, if I hadn't been driving.

Watching clips of the Henson memorial from today's thread on Jerry Nelson reminded me of it.
posted by theatro at 11:02 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


What, no Sailing? No Two Little Boys? I suppose no list would be complete without omissions, ha!
posted by comealongpole at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Suicide by Star by God Is An Astronaut always hits me pretty hard...
posted by symbioid at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2012


Ugh Suicide by Star
posted by symbioid at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2012


And this one from Tom Waits: Georgia Lee

Cold was the night, hard was the ground
They found her in a small grove of trees
Lonesome was the place where Georgia was found
She's too young to be out on the street.

posted by Kafkaesque at 11:05 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Clarence Carter's Patches
Bee Gees New York Mining Disaster 1941
Pogues Fairytale of New York
posted by tommasz at 11:06 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


A couple of other candidates: Lucinda Williams "Jackson."

Paul Kelly: "How to Make Gravy."
posted by yoink at 11:08 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clarence Carter's Patches

Patches is a sad song, but Clarence Carter's version always makes it hard for me to forget that I'm listening to the guy who sings "Strokin.'" This version by B.B. King and George Jones works better for sadness purposes for me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:08 AM on August 24, 2012


This list need more Ryan Adams and Tom Waits, but then again, don't we all?

To digress a bit, the song that instantly brings me to tears isn't all that sad, but the fact that it was on the mix cd given out at my best friend's funeral has imbued it with extra emotion for me. It is, however, a very bleak song about what happens when you let old friends get away, forgeet what it is you want out of the world and how life kind of manages to get run down sometimes. The couplet: "Got myself in a jam or two/Guess it's what I had to do," kills me every time. So I humbly present the saddest song in my world: 2002, by Bob Scheinder.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:10 AM on August 24, 2012


A couple of other candidates: Lucinda Williams "Jackson."

Yeah, or her version if Which Will.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:11 AM on August 24, 2012


No Galaxie 500? Rubbish.
posted by repoman at 11:13 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another one that gets me right *here* Is Jellyfish's The Man I Used To Be, as sung by a dead soldier's ghost to his son.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2012


Rainy Days and Mondays - by the Carpentars
Seasons in the Sun - by Terry Jacks

Those are two of the saddest songs IMO - and neither is on the list
posted by Flood at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Half Life Sneaker Pimps
posted by supermedusa at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2012




flaming lips - spiderbite song
posted by rare_g at 11:21 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where's The River??
posted by jabes at 11:22 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Lonely" by Tom Waits on his album Closing Time is pretty much a wrist-slitter.
That whole album, in fact, is so damn beautiful and touching and sad... A night alone and a bottle of wine and a pair if headphones and that album will crush you.

not that I'd know
posted by Auden at 11:24 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Came in here to link everybody to The Saddest Song in the World™, but I see theatro has already done it for me. I am a good bad person.

As for the list, yeah, I was pleasantly surprised to see "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" listed, though I agree with immlass that Eric Bogle's rendition of his work is far more moving than the Pogues' (and the Pogues' is plenty moving).

I was interested to see The Ballad of Lucy Jordan on the list. I haven't thought of that song in ages and ages. My reactions to that song vacillate between weeping and fury, depending on the day's successes and failures in the complex world of feminism and my participation in the sociopolitical game.
posted by tzikeh at 11:25 AM on August 24, 2012


Yeah, or her version if Which Will.

Hah--I was just trying to decide which Nick Drake song to suggest. Nick Drake/Lucinda Williams combined is pretty perfect.
posted by yoink at 11:26 AM on August 24, 2012


I think "Red Dirt Girl" by Emmylou Harris should be on there somewhere.
posted by BeeDo at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog, where his voice is so frail, is pretty haunting.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:32 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Catherine Wheel song "Pain" could make me depressed while at Disneyland on Christmas day after winning the lottery. I realize this wasn't a list of "Normally happy holidays ruined for rich people at theme parks" but, well, there it is.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:33 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, the saddest songs? The saddest songs are, in no particular order:

Tom Joad
The Water Is Wide/Wild Geese (Ann Hills, can't seem to find it online)
A Pair of Brown Eyes, which is much sadder than Waltzing Matilda to me although it too has that theme of the persistence of war and loss
One more bottle to drink, by Billy Childish
And virtually every song on PJ Harvey's Let England Shake. "Hanging On The Wire" is so sad that I have not listened to it except once, because it reduced me to hysterical tears. The whole album is almost that sad. I mean, to me it's sad in the way that a lot of this other stuff is not - so sad that I take nothing from it except sorrow, so it's not something that I listen to very often even though it's an extremely fine album.
Also, Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" is pretty sad, because it's so clear that no car is going to be fast enough.
Also Come Back To Me by X, which I have always assumed is about her mother's death but which really might be about a sibling.
Also various Clash songs - Washington Bullets is pretty sad ("please remember Victor Jara/in the Santiago stadium"), but then Rebel Waltz is also pretty grim. But for me Something About England is the saddest one, because it details this long and unfixable history of suffering. It's a song whose performance is essential to convey the whole bitter thing.

Maybe it's because I'm old but I don't seem to find songs about relationships and break-ups very sad anymore.
posted by Frowner at 11:34 AM on August 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Almost any song from Astral Weeks or from either of Everything but the Girl's first two albums. Love Not Money will make you want to slit your wrists.
posted by blucevalo at 11:35 AM on August 24, 2012


Natalie Merchant's cover of "Gulf of Araby" is extraordinarily sad, and helped me come to grips with my wife's miscarriage. But it never fails to make me cry.
posted by jscalzi at 11:36 AM on August 24, 2012



They've got Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt", which I'll agree is pretty sad, but for my money it's got nothing on his version of Willie Nelson's "On the Evening Train".


or his take on the #51 selection, Bonnie Prince Billy's I See A Darkness (which features the Bonnie Prince in the background). If I were compiling a list such as this today, it would probably be my #1 ...

Because I've been there, man.
posted by philip-random at 11:39 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This list needs more songs by "traditional." Like the actual "Waltzing Matilda", "House Carpenter", "Barbara Allen", "Foggy Foggy Dew." I think people knew how to be sadder better in earlier centuries, what with lots of young deaths in childbirth and at sea and from disease and all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:40 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, 1f2frfbf, isn't "2002" basically just a riff on "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis"? In that vein, though, I sorta want to DQ Tom from this whole list -- I mean, come ON. The guy can crush you.

It's not sad, exactly, but the Lips' "Do You Realize" is the one that's most likely to slay me. That's mostly a personal association with a friend who was a big fan, and with his untimely passing. It's sad, but there's that intense affirmation in it that makes the tears less crushing.
posted by uberchet at 11:40 AM on August 24, 2012


Frowner beat me to it, but I was surprised Tracy Chapman's Fast Car wasn't included. That song breaks my heart.
posted by something something at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Rainy Days and Mondays" by the Carpenters
"Stephanie Says" by the Velvet Underground
"Waltz #1" by Elliott Smith
"24 Hours" by Joy Division
"Place to Be" by Nick Drake
"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" by Jimmy Ruffin
posted by timsneezed at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd add some Richard Thompson -- Beeswing for sure, & either The Great Valario or God Loves a Drunk. posted


Oh yes. Now, Beeswing is more bittersweet than sad, about the responsibilities and pains of loving a free spirit, and I lovelove The Great Valerio but it doesn't hit my sad place, but God Loves A Drunk makes me weep openly from the moment I hear Will there be any bartenders... and even thinking about it makes me tear up. Richard Thompson writes the Hell out of a sad song and his concerts always result in public crying.

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda just breaks me. The saddest. I heard the Eric Bogle version when I was a kid, and several covers before I heard The Pogues version, and it has always affected me profoundly.

Sam Stone is real sad, but Prine has so many that are sad in different ways. He portrays loneliness so eloquently. Hello in There is great, as is Angel From Montgomery.

I would also add Last Thing on My Mind and Sully's Pail by Tom Paxton. I mean, it's a song about a guy whose only friend is a bucket. Holy crap, that is sad.









And while this isn't technically sad watching this was the last time i had to figure out creative ways to hide my face and pretend i wasn't sobbing.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given that the list leads with Barber's Adagio, I'm surprised no one's mentioned Joss Whedon's _Sugarshock_ yet:

"For the song is indescribably sad. It’s sort of like Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” if it was written by Leonard Cohen and Paul Westerberg for Emmylou Harris, with a hint of the theme from that French film Diva in the underscoring and a bridge that feels a bit like The Dead breaking into “Morning Dew” and a narrative of loss and emptiness and vibrantly agonized love, with lyrics — even syllables — too potent to print, consonants that flick and tumble over lips like the gold goins of virtue and vowels that ring out as plaintively as the unreturned call of the last dolphin on Earth but mostly it pretty much sound like “Adagio for Strings”.
— Joss Whedon - Sugarshock
posted by gurple at 11:43 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Beeswing is more bittersweet than sad,

Beeswing brings on a powerful wistfulness. It's a gripping, taut wistfulness that just fills my whole chest with a longing for things that could not be. Mistakes were... made.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:45 AM on August 24, 2012


I thought this would just be 100 Jason molina songs.
posted by cmoj at 11:46 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don McLean's "Empty Chairs" is possibly the most depressing and sad song amongst a number of pretty damn sad and tender songs on his brilliant album American Pie...
posted by Auden at 11:47 AM on August 24, 2012


The only songs I've listened to that have made me consistently tear up are Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens, Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin by The Magnetic Fields, Starry, Starry Night by Don McLean, and The Last Time I Saw Richard by Joni Mitchell. And none of them are on this list. :(
posted by archagon at 11:51 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Came in to mention Which Will, but it's well represented.
For Tom Waits, the ones that get me are The House Where Nobody Lives and Soldier's Things.
posted by rocket88 at 11:54 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, let's talk about the Magnetic Fields.

I know people really like "100,000 Fireflies," and I do too, but is that really the saddest in their catalog? Not "Why I Cry?" Not "All The Umbrellas In London?" Not "The Desperate Things You Made Me Do?" Not "When You're Old And Lonely"? Not any of the songs from their pissed-off heartbroken breakup classic, Get Lost? Mistake.
posted by koeselitz at 11:56 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


No Casmir Pulaski Day? No Upward Over The Mountain? And nothing by Drive-By Truckers? List is not sad enough.
posted by snwod at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


(I mean, those first lines in "The Desperate Things You Made Me Do" –
Time provides the rope
And love will tie the slipknot
And I will be the chair you kick away...
... I mean, gah. Sad, sad, sad. A masterpiece of sad.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:00 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leaves out the season of sad! Top 10 Sad Christmas songs. Topped by "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" which is sadder seen in the context of the (WW2-era) film.
posted by Twang at 12:00 PM on August 24, 2012


The SADDEST happy song ever - Something - George Harrison

The most upbeat sad song ever - Vietnam - Jimmy Cliff

Speaking of George - While my Guitar Gently Weeps - All Things Must Pass - and more I can think of.

The funniest sad song ever - Reverend Horton Heat - Where in the World Did You Go With My Toothbrush.

Prettiest sad song - Stardust - Clifford Brown

The most tear your heart out vocals of Stardust - Billy Ward and his Dominoes

Ohhh one more and I quit. Bell Bottom Blues - Eric Clapton w/ Derek and the Dominoes
posted by Che boludo! at 12:01 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


#30 "Hallelujah,"by Jeff Buckley. If you're going to go with Jeff Buckley, which is fine by me, why choose a Leonard Cohen song? Jeff Buckley wrote some incredibly sad songs of his own. "Lover, You Should've Come Over" would fit right in on any list of sad songs. The whole thing is heart wrenching, and it contains one of the most poignantly sad lyrics I've ever heard: She's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever. I don't know that it's possible to distill sadness any purer than that.
posted by Balonious Assault at 12:02 PM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


A couple of other candidates: Lucinda Williams "Jackson."
Yeah, or her version if Which Will.


UH-uh. "Lake Charles." EVERY time. Stupid me for not thinking of it sooner.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:02 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now if you can manage to get
your trembling fingers to behave,
why don't you try unwrapping
a stainless steel razor blade?
That's right, it's come to this,
yes it's come to this,
and wasn't it a long way down,
wasn't it a strange way down?
posted by blucevalo at 12:02 PM on August 24, 2012


If Samuel Barber is up there then certainly so should Chaconne from BWV 1004.
posted by Anything at 12:04 PM on August 24, 2012


And virtually every song on PJ Harvey's Let England Shake. "Hanging On The Wire" is so sad that I have not listened to it except once, because it reduced me to hysterical tears. The whole album is almost that sad. I mean, to me it's sad in the way that a lot of this other stuff is not - so sad that I take nothing from it except sorrow, so it's not something that I listen to very often even though it's an extremely fine album.

Yes! I have followed PJ Harvey since her first record, and Let England Shake is probably her best yet, but I can't listen to it much. It takes a great deal of preparation to deal with it. It's not a record that I listen to on my iPod unless I just want to cry all over the street.
posted by cincinnatus c at 12:04 PM on August 24, 2012


Oh, and then there's "When She Loved Me," which should probably be subtitled "A child's introduction to the end of love." One of the most effective uses of a song in an animated movie ever, which is saying something.
posted by jscalzi at 12:05 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, 1f2frfbf, isn't "2002" basically just a riff on "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis"?

Yeah... if you really want to dig, "Hooker" is a riff on any number of Red Sovine songs, which are themselves riffs on story songs from Celtic and Highland traditions... Which is all fine, of course. That's the way it's supposed to go.

I happen to like the 'gimmick' of the lyrics being a letter that was never sent, a message by way of the dead letter office, if you will. His lyrics are pretty clever, when you sit down and really read them. There's no concrete actions, no definite endings, everything falls apart, and ambles around pointlessly, like a Richard Linklater character. The narrator starts out by lying to you: "The year's 2002/Doing exactly what I want to do/I don't even think about you, anymore." And then reveals everything is the exact opposite. A pair of lines like "When she decided not to have the baby/Said she might move back to the mainland, maybe," is a perfect little two line novel, in Hemingway terms... a veritable feast of inaction and loss. Finally the song concludes with "I don't know where I'm gonna send this letter/Doubt things are ever gonna get much better" you can almost picture the sad guy sitting alone in his apartment, tv mumbling away in the background and realizing he's written a letter to noone, with nowhere to go. There's no punchline or moral like Sovine or Waits, no cheap sucker punch to trigger emotions, just a long lingering pause and a sadness that steeps like tea.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:07 PM on August 24, 2012


First Christmas Away from Home by Stan Rogers.
posted by ohshenandoah at 12:08 PM on August 24, 2012


Oh, if you are looking for a relationship song that is sad, No Looking by the Raincoats has always struck me as pretty darn sad. It's a translation/reworking of a poem by Jacques Prevert, but it is about a million times sadder than the poem.
posted by Frowner at 12:11 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought "Everybody Hurts" was a kind of sappy, uplifting song. It's not a bad song, but it's not sad.

Yes! It kinda drives me crazy that it's seen almost universally as this sad, depressing song, when actually it's about how everyone goes through hard times and you'll be OK.
posted by lunasol at 12:11 PM on August 24, 2012


Laugh if you will but how about one from a fictional folk pair:

The Ballad of Bobby and June - by Mitch and Mickey

Recorded for 'A Mighty Wind' but only appearing on the soundtrack. My wife makes me skip it in the car so she won't cry.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:13 PM on August 24, 2012


Should have known it's also on the YouToobz.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:14 PM on August 24, 2012


I've always found Mary Gauthier's "I Drink" pretty cripplingly terminal. But that's probably personal associations with drinking and all that.
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Springsteen has sadness in his so many of his songs, but it's almost always tempered by defiance, or at least there's this distance of the story, he's telling someone's story and, yes it's sad, but it's other.

The Promise (solo piano version only please) is neither defiant nor about someone else and it ruins me every time.

Well now I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
I lived a secret I should'a kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it

All my life I fought this fight
The fight that no man can ever win
Every day it just gets harder to live
This dream I'm believing in

Thunder Road, oh baby you were so right
Thunder Road, there's somethin' dyin' on the highway tonight

I won big once and I hit the coast
But somehow I paid the cost
Inside I felt like I was carryin' the broken spirits
Of all the other ones who lost

When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken and it don't make no difference
Somethin' in your heart goes cold

I followed that dream through the southwestern flats
That dead ends in two-bit bars
And when the promise was broken I was far away from home
Sleepin' in the backseat of a borrowed car

Thunder Road, for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road, for the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road, Billy and me we'd always say
Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all and throw it all away
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:17 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Semi-previously on Metafilter -- I'll quote from my comment from that thread:
"The Kind of Love You Never Recover From" by Christine Lavin
"Ten Complaints" by Dee Carstensen
"February" by Dar Williams
"Doug at the Gates of Hell (Epilogue)" by Electric Bonsai Band
"Oh, My Brother" by Eddie From Ohio
"Wings of the Ragman" by Peter Mulvey
Oh, man, when the winter edition of the MetaFilter Music Swap (aka MeFiSwap, or The Swappening [previously, previouslier, previouslier..er, and so on) rolls around, the MeFites in my swapset are gonna be saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad....posted by tzikeh at 12:19 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, any list of sad songs that doesn't include Decades (or any Joy Division song, for that matter) just doesn't make any sense.
posted by googly at 12:19 PM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


1f2frfbf, I should note that I don't disagree that "2002" is a great song in its own right. _Lonelyland_ is a brilliant record, and your description is spot on, but for some reason "2002" doesn't work for me as well as its antecedents.
posted by uberchet at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2012


Surely Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again (Naturally) should have made the list.
posted by vac2003 at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2012


1916. Even Lemmy has a sensitive side.
posted by Sailormom at 12:23 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I call bullshit on nothing from The Antlers' Hospice being included. That album was so sad I couldn't even cry, it just tore something out of me from the moment "Kettering" ended with "And I didn't believe them when they told me that there was no saving you."

I'm also a little surprised to see This Mortal Coil's cover of "Song to the Siren," on the list. That's one of my favorite songs ever, but I'd classify it as longing more than sad. Maybe splitting hairs, but I don't think songs that are full of longing are in the same category of sad as "Adagio for Strings" and "Hurt."
posted by yasaman at 12:24 PM on August 24, 2012


The Delgados deserve a mention. Here's 'child killers' .

Eyes of black and lips of grey
When do I get my say?
posted by Ansible at 12:25 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most of Neil Young's On The Beach could find a place on here, particularly See The Sky About To Rain or the title track.

And Sebadoh's Too Pure is another that always fucks me up..
posted by anagrama at 12:26 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we're cataloging the saddest Richard and Linda Thompson/Richard Thompson solo songs here, you gotta include The End of the Rainbow. Lyrics here.

Tycoons and barrow boys will rob you
And throw you on the side
And all because they love themselves sincerely
And the man holds a bread-knife
Up to your throat, is four feet wide
And he's anxious just to show you what it's for


Al Bowlly's in Heaven also deserves an honorable mention. (Lyrics.)
posted by ActionPopulated at 12:32 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, no. None of these songs we've listed, none of the songs in the link, none of them are sad. You know what's sad? This:

"God Damn The Sun," by Swans.

And I've got one thing to say
Before I am drunk again:
God damn the sun
God damn the sun
God damn anyone that says a kind word


I mean, this is a band that had a song called "Raping A Slave." That song's title is more depressing than any of the songs here, to be honest.
posted by koeselitz at 12:35 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lyle Lovett's "Texas Trilogy" has some really sharp moments. The "Bosque County Romance" portion is particularly melancholy. It tells the story of Billy Archer and Mary Martin, who married at 17 in the middle years of the 20th century. It ends like this (to scan, it helps to know that the county name is pronounced "Boskey"):

Now the drought of '57
Was a curse upon the land
No one in Bosque county
Could give Bill a helping hand
The ground was cracked and broken
And the truck was out of gas
And cows can't feed on prickly pear
Instead of growing grass

Well the weather got the water
And a snake bite took a child
And a fire in the old barn
Took the hay that Bill had piled
The mortgage got the money
And the screw worm got the cows
The years have come for Mary
She's waiting for them now

And cattle is their game
And Archer is the name
They give to the acres that they own
If the Brazos don't run dry
And the newborn calves don't die
Another year from Mary will have flown
Another year from Mary will have flown
posted by uberchet at 12:35 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


uberchet: Fair enough, I just feel like Sovine is Norman Rockwell magazine cover, Postcard from a Hooker.. is a Weegee photo, and 2002 is a Rothko painting. Different goals, different paths, all art.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:36 PM on August 24, 2012


Since I am a big Paul Simon fangirl, I have to nominate "Train in the Distance":

"Now the man and the woman
Remain in contact
Let us say it's for the child..."

And "Hearts and Bones":

"One and one-half wandering Jews
Return to their natural coasts
To resume old acquaintances
Step out occasionally
And speculate who had been damaged the most"

I think those are about the endings of his first and second marriages, respectively. Carrie Fisher, his second wife, is Jewish on her father's side.

Or, from when he was even younger, "Overs":

"We might as well be apart.
It hardly matters,
We sleep separately.
And drop a smile passing in the hall
But there's no laughs left
'Cause we laughed them all."

If you don't like songs about the end of relationships and marriages, "Jerusalem" (which is about Jerusalem) or "Three Men Down" (which is about baseball, and if you don't believe a song about baseball can be deeply sad, then you are not a baseball fan.)

(You'd think as he ages his songs would get sadder, but if so, it's in a much less extravagant way. They tend to be funnier and more tender and more resigned, these days.)
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Delgados deserve a mention.

Oh, definitely. The Drowning Years would be my choice, but that's largely because it hits a little closer to home than I'd care it to.
posted by anagrama at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2012


Sorry, it's not called "Three Men Down," It's called "Night Game." And it's about death as much as it's about basebally, really.
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:42 PM on August 24, 2012


I find most songs that top the charts to be sad. though not often for the content.
posted by evilDoug at 12:43 PM on August 24, 2012


UH-uh. "Lake Charles." EVERY time. Stupid me for not thinking of it sooner.

Or Drunken Angel, which was written about Blaze Foley. His murder hit pretty hard in my sphere. I'd only seen him around, but have good friends who played many gigs with him.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:47 PM on August 24, 2012




Hungarian composer of Gloomy Sunday committed suicide by strangling himself in a Budapest hospital after surviving a self-inflicted flinging from a window. That's a serious case of the sads :(
posted by kreestar at 12:50 PM on August 24, 2012


One of the few songs that can frequently bring me to tears for real is a Finnish Christmas song, 'Varpunen jouluaamuna', 'A sparrow on Christmas morning'. It's a tale of a sparrow who has no food left from the summer, and a little girl who's feeding her. The last verse goes, in my rough non-poetic translation:

"My dear girl, I am not a creature of this earth
I am your little brother -- I came down from Heaven
The little seed you gave to a poor creature
you gave to your brother from the land of angels"


I don't take it literally as being about the spirit of the boy coming down in the form of a bird, but as being a fantasy of a little girl who misses his dead little brother. A simple story, but together with the melody it's very effective.

I couldn't find a version I really like as much as how I remember the song, but this one is decent, I guess.
posted by Anything at 12:50 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think my spouse would agree: Tracy Chapman's Fast Car is a tear-jerker every single time.
posted by psylosyren at 12:52 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a matter of convenience
We don't speak of dying gardens
As a woman of heart and lenience
I make liberal with my pardons
I am generous with kindness
He, with smiles and exultations
Though he binds his wounds in silence
I my own in practiced patience, lest he know
It's always winter when he goes

-Dave Carter, Always Winter Where He Goes
posted by Danf at 12:54 PM on August 24, 2012


As long as we're discussing the saddest song in the Radiohead canon, I'd like to nominate Videotape.
posted by Pistache at 12:57 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Tigers Have Spoken by Neko Case
posted by superna at 1:02 PM on August 24, 2012


And "Hearts and Bones"

And "Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War," which is sad on a lot of different levels. Great song.
posted by blucevalo at 1:05 PM on August 24, 2012


Drive-By Truckers - Space City.

I have never once gotten through this song without shedding a few tears. But in keeping with the theme of the album it comes from (2006's memorable but flawed "A Blessing and a Curse") how wonderful is it to have ever had such deep love that leaves behind such an unimaginable void....
posted by kjh at 1:09 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blue Moods Of Spain - Untitled #1
posted by Brocktoon at 1:12 PM on August 24, 2012


"Papa Was A Rodeo" appears nowhere on that list. Your list is invalid.
posted by General Malaise at 1:15 PM on August 24, 2012


Rickie Lee Jones' Company always makes me sad.
posted by Mittenz at 1:17 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tainted Love - Coil. They take the original and turn it into a dirge for AIDS victims. I don't know how this could make anyone feel better.

Their Cure track is waaay off base, which means they're not fans :P'' They should've chosen (at the very least) The Funeral Party, or anything off of Faith.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:17 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If there's only going to be one Otis Redding song on the list, how can it not be Dock of the Bay?
posted by jfuller at 1:20 PM on August 24, 2012


There are songs with sad melodies and songs with sad lyrics but it is only when it gets personal that I cry real tears. I had someone play He was So Beautiful at my son's memorial service. Needless to say, I cannot listen to it without weeping.

The first time I heard Alison Krause and Robert Plant's Your Long Journey I could so easily imagine playing it at my husband's funeral that it was too close to the bone. Now every time I listen to Raising Sand I have to skip over that track.

Which got me thinking about how the Rock and Roll generation are dying off now and special funeral songs are going to be in demand. Much like Christmas CDs took off, I wonder if a new niche market is ready for exploitation.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:22 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I'm glad to see this list isn't limited to pop music or the modern era. Good on list for that.
posted by jfuller at 1:22 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, no Tom Waits? Not even Old Shoes and (Picture Postcards), the only song that makes the room dusty every time I hear it?
posted by General Malaise at 1:23 PM on August 24, 2012


In the non-breakup category, Rasputina's Signs of the Zodiac.
And no Cat Stevens, really? Trouble and Sad Lisa were my go-to songs in high school when I needed a good cry.
posted by pernoctalian at 1:27 PM on August 24, 2012


> If we're cataloging the saddest Richard and Linda Thompson/Richard Thompson solo songs here

Just being reminded of Richard and Linda makes me sad.
posted by jfuller at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I doubt anyone else will get this but for me, the saddest, most emotional piece I have ever heard is Keith Jarret's La Scala performance. Actually, at least a couple of folks on youtube seem to agree.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2012


I may be pre-disqualified to even offer an opinion, but the Sad List would have to include:

- Beth Orton: Blood Red River
- Karen Carpenter: Superstar (minimal instrumentation) (via this fabulous thread)
- Charlie Rich: Feel Like Goin' Home (the demo version -- The Star listed the song, but the over-produced version doesn't work like this one)
- Douglas Perry's performance of Evening Song by Philip Glass
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch / John Cameron Mitchell: Wicked Little Town
- Warren Zevon: Keep Me In Your Heart
posted by maudlin at 1:32 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Martha" is the only schmaltzily sad song I actually fall for, I think, and it's not on here (good catch with "Lonely" upthread too). Super agree about "Red Dirt Girl" and "I See A Darkness" ("Even If Love" and lotsa other BPB/Will Oldham/Palace songs work too). There ought to be tons of altcountry to fit the bill--Gillian Welch's "Annabelle", pretty much anything Jay Farrar sings or writes (so I picked her up at St. Mary's/she was skinnier than before...the acoustic live version of "Punch Drunk"), that Ryan Adams/Gillian Welch cover of "Helpless", Whiskeytown, Varnaline...also, Red House Painters/Mark Kozelek is pretty much a requirement, unless we're making distinctions between "suicidal depression-inducing" (Codeine lives there too) vs. more poignant, one-time sadness. I like songs that get to those pangs in small moments for no "real" obvious reason, more a general whole-life-wrong best--stuff like Crooked Fingers' cover of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" or yes, "The River".

Lots of Low. Some Cat Power. Possibly certain Smog ("All Your Women Things"?). Lisa Germano. And the Smiths, natch. Yo La Tengo. Hayden ("My Parent's House", "I'm to Blame", "I'll Tell Him Tonight", "Nights Like These").

Then there's songs that just make you feel uneasy in your bones about all of life. Stuff like "Working Nights" and "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything", where the unhappiness is like a specter that haunts the everyday mundane. To me those have a much more devastating effect than "oh they died" type obvious tragedies in songs.
posted by ifjuly at 1:32 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Tuesday's Gone"
posted by kirkaracha at 1:41 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


How can I help you to say goodbye seems like it'd fit in well here.
posted by CaffinatedOne at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2012


Oops – got my link wrong. Swans, "God Damn The Sun."
posted by koeselitz at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about Blue Rodeo "Bad Timing" Or Kris Kistofferson "For the Good Times?"
posted by Pablo MacWilliams at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2012


Actually, the correct Beach Boys song is 'Til I Die.
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:49 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Morphine - In spite of me
posted by Sailormom at 1:51 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


'The Boxer' by Simon and Garfunkel kills me every time.
posted by fikri at 1:53 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Glad the hugely under-rated American Music Club are represented in the list. This song by them is also incredibly poignant- 'Why Won't You Stay?'.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 1:55 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, the piano version of 'Mistress' by Red House Painters...
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 1:56 PM on August 24, 2012


'A Shot in the Arm' by Wilco also pretty much never fails to make me turn away and say, 'yeah, I just got something in my eye...'
posted by fikri at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2012



This one should be #1 with a bullet...

I ride tandem with the random, things don't run the way I plan them
posted by any major dude at 2:13 PM on August 24, 2012


"Papa Was A Rodeo " appears nowhere on that list. Your list is invalid.
posted by General Malaise at 1:15 PM on August 24


General Malaise, I agree wholeheartedly that 'Papa Was a Rodeo' is a tearjerker of the highest order, but ultimately, I would have to say it is a happy song.
posted by fikri at 2:18 PM on August 24, 2012


Yeah, "Papa Was A Rodeo" is touching and beautiful and not at all sad.
posted by koeselitz at 2:18 PM on August 24, 2012


I cried pretty hard when I heard that Friday song by Rebecca Black.
posted by haricotvert at 2:22 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, no Tom Waits?

as rocket88 noted, Soldier's Things.

I stopped at a yard sale one time and a very old woman had a yard full of men's stuff for sale. I bought a really nice brass Gem razor for $1.00 & it was the saddest thing ever. I heard this song for the first time not long after, and yeah.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:23 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pfft. Sad, is it? I'll give you sad:
 • Dogsong 2 — The Be Good Tanyas.
 • Your Own Spell — King Creosote & Jon Hopkins.

There. The kleenex are on the table by the window. Help yourself.
posted by scruss at 2:24 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh God yes - Lou Reed's "The Kids". Fantastically depressing.

A track off the aforementioned Antlers album

How To Disappear Completely is an excellent call, but let's face it: Radiohead offer an embarrassment of riches in this department.

Tom Waits, of course. No one's mentioned Ruby's Arms yet, so I will. That rare thing, a song that actually made me tear up the first time I heard it.
posted by Decani at 2:35 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I nominate "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," as done by Kurt Elling. It has the word "sad" right in the title, and therefore wins automatically.
posted by crLLC at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2012


Glad to see I am not the only person traumatized by Meryn Cadell's "The Cat Carol" (a very good song! Just one that makes me weep like a baby).

I remember one December the Vancouver Sun newspaper offered a free album download of Christmas songs sung by Canadian musicians. Most of them were peppy and light (e.g. Sarah McLachlan singing "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" with the Barenaked Ladies, etc.) The last song was one I had never heard of--"Rudy," sung by the Be Good Tanyas. It sounds like it's going to be about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, right? And I like the Be Good Tanyas. Anyway I popped the songs on the car stereo without having previewed them and my partner and I were listening to them while driving to Christmas dinner. And then "Rudy" came on and it turned out to be about a homeless guy named Rudy who had no one to care about him for Christmas and he ends up dying cold and alone with his hand frozen to a pay phone. Now these sorts of social issues are very dear to my heart, but this song was SO heavyhanded and over the top in its depressingness (and in such wild contrast to the rest of the album) that it just seemed ridiculous.

But "The Cat Carol," that's the real deal. Meryn Cadell has such a light touch that you don't realize you've been punched in the gut until it's nearly over. Those songs are the saddest, I think.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:41 PM on August 24, 2012


Ack God, I fucked up the Tom link. Here it is.
posted by Decani at 2:51 PM on August 24, 2012


My comments have mostly been said, but:

1. Ctr-F "God Damn the Sun". Nothing? Amateurs.
2. Magnetic Fields has been well discussed, but for me their big tear-jerker is Take Ecstasy With Me ("we got beat up, just for holding hands").
3. I had somehow managed to listen to the Antlers without being aware of the lyrics. So I googled them. Yep, those are pretty damn sad alright.
4. Needs more Joy Division. Almost anything really.
5. If you're including the Cure there are about a million sadder songs than the one they choose. Most of Pornography and Faith for a start, or A Few Hours After This.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:52 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why, why, why did I look up the lyrics to "The Cat Carol," when I *knew how it would end even without knowing the central conceit of the song*.

AUGH crying at the office is bad. Crying at the office when you're a temp looking for gainful employment is just a disaster.

I miss my cat so much
posted by tzikeh at 2:53 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry, tzikeh : (

*hug*
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:57 PM on August 24, 2012


Portishead's Dummy makes me really depressed. I can't listen to it anymore — it's like sinking to the bottom of the ocean. "Roads" is probably the worst offender in that regard... that violin swell after "how can it feel this wrong" always gets me.
posted by archagon at 2:58 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd love to see a Spotify list of the top 100 saddest tale songs...those are much more effective for me and each one is it's own little narrative. I like those.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:59 PM on August 24, 2012


Not such a bad list, actually. Any list needs personal edits, and we're doing that.

I agree with Richard Thompson, but I'll add, How will I ever be simple again and Burns Supper (ronstadt cover).

For David Sylvian, Damage.

For American Music Club, The Confidential Agent.

For Portishead, Roads.

Jane Siberry, The Walking.

The Clogs, Last Song.

Damien Rice, Rootless Tree.

Kate Bush, This Woman's Work and Never Be Mine .
posted by vers at 3:01 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Danf: "-Dave Carter, Always Winter Where He Goes"

I was just listening to Tracy Grammer's version of "Blue Wing" which, though a bit maudlin, gets me every time. Sam Dave Alvin's version of "Kern River" and Hag's "If we make it through December". While we're at it, Tom Russel doing "Navajo Rug" does weird things to me.

Most of Lyle Lovett's "Step Inside this House" album (covers) will wreck me, especially the title track. "funny how I love that book but I never loved that girl," just knots my throat.

Time for some Townes.
posted by notsnot at 3:16 PM on August 24, 2012


Also, I forgot. Rent by Pet Shop Boys isn't just sad - it's harrowing.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:55 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"True Faith" by New Order
posted by timsneezed at 4:01 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' is one of the more heart-breaking songs because of its raw vulnerability.

Gary Jule's 'Mad World' successfully imagines the Sound of Sad.

For that matter, I came here specifically to mention Rasputina's 'Signs of the Zodiac', because I thought it would go unmentioned. I was pleased to see that someone else was privy.

Sarah Mclachlan's 'Black' is another overlooked gem.

Bill Withers 'Ain't No Sunshine' is getting a shout out.

Everybody always mentions 'Hurt' but 'Something I Can Never Have' is totally the saddest NIN song.

Finally, Mihály Víg's orchestral score for Werckmeister Harmonies had a right good sadness about it.
posted by dgaicun at 4:03 PM on August 24, 2012


Chris Pureka's "So It Goes" from Dryland. About living with the grief of loss when a loved one dies, without the illusions of afterlife to console. ...every time I listen to the last verse's refrain it makes the hair stand up on my neck.
posted by warreng at 4:05 PM on August 24, 2012


This song always makes me cry. I listened to it just now and it made me cry.

The Cramps: It's Just That Song.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:19 PM on August 24, 2012


Bright Eyes's Amy in the white coat on has always been the most devestating song to me.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:24 PM on August 24, 2012


something I can never have is also great. kudos dgaicun.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:25 PM on August 24, 2012


I love a good tragic ballad. Some of my favorites:

Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen
Favorite lyrics:
And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobodys wife.


The Last Farewell by Roger Whittaker

Favorite Lyrics:
Though death and darkness gather all about me
My ship be torn apart upon the seas
I shall smell again the fragrance of these islands
And the heaving waves that brought me once to thee

Mary Brown by Dave Alvin
Favorite Lyrics:
Now I haven't seen Mary Brown since the trial's end
And she never answers the letters that I send
And I heard that she married her husband's best friend
Yeah but for the love of Mary Brown, man I'd do it all again.


Strawberry Blond by Ron Sexsmith

Favorite Lyrics:
If there was trouble at home
She kept it to herself all summer long

Finally, although it is not technically a ballad the back story is a hell of tale,

Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet by Tom Waits and unknown Tramp


It kills me every time I listen.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:28 PM on August 24, 2012


tzikeh, I did the exact same thing with the lyrics to The Cat Carol. "A heartbreaking song about a cat? Of course I should go look at the lyrics for that! Great idea!" (It was a horrible decision.) I just had a huge health scare with my nearly 21-year-old cat where I thought we were going to have to put her down, and while I was reading the lyrics she came and jumped up next to me and then I didn't get any work done for quite some time.

Oh god, now I'm thinking of Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure by The Weakerthans...whyyy? Sad cat songs are the worst.
posted by ilana at 4:31 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The list is all wrong. If you really want to depress yourself, just queue up your favorite happy pop favorites from your last years of high school and first years of college — especially ones you haven't heard in a while.

While you're swimming in those feelings of unfettered hope, you'll also begin to realize that you're never going to genuinely feel that way again. Your sense of joy is now only an approximation.
posted by deanklear at 4:38 PM on August 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


or say something like "your favorite happy pop favorites" in a cruel forum where regret is the only substitute for an edit window
posted by deanklear at 4:47 PM on August 24, 2012


No October Project? I've pointed out their intensely sad music twice here before. The mix of thick, moody instrumentation with original vocalist Mary Farr's powerful voice in their first album could prompt tears doing "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah"...

Bury Me Lovely a tearjerker from the title on (but the video is a little bit faux-melodramatic for my taste)
Return to Me
A Lonely Voice
Ariel (NOT the mermaid or the font)
Take Me As I Am

For 20 years, this album (acquired during a relatively happy period of my life) has brought me to tears every time I play it. Am I that far out of the mainstream?
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:50 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


One that always gets me: Steve Earle's Gulf of Mexico.
posted by Token Meme at 5:00 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was pleased to see Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 on that list. I distinctly remember the first time I heard it. I was visiting my brother when he was finishing up college and I was about to start. It was a lazy afternoon. He put on the first movement and I sank into his couch and stared out a window, unable to move or speak for the duration. I think he did a charcoal drawing of me since I was being so still. It's one of my favorite memories.
posted by JohnFredra at 5:05 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Any sad song list without Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" isn't remotely comprehensive.
posted by thorny at 5:22 PM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


immlass: "Eric Bogle (who wrote "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda") is an amazing songwriter."
The song is actually titled "No Man's Land".

Anyway, Bogle also wrote the even sadder but less well known "My Youngest Son Came Home Today" about The Troubles.
posted by brokkr at 5:33 PM on August 24, 2012


Bang on with 'tank park salute'; I've never made it through that song without crying. Bit misdirected with the cure track, I agree. There are sadder songs on that album let alone the earlier period others have mentioned (I do enjoy that song though). I hadn't thought about Eric Bogle for yonks, thanks for bringing him up too.

There are some big absences for me (Paul Kelly, nick cave as just Australian examples) but I'm going to enjoy exploring some of the stuff on there I've not heard before. maybe not on this Friday night though.
posted by pymsical at 5:39 PM on August 24, 2012


No Dan Hicks, no No I Scare Myself

No A Day in the Life, No Joy Division. One Lou Reed Song?

Pfffff
posted by the noob at 5:42 PM on August 24, 2012


The song is actually titled "No Man's Land".

That's actually a different song also known as "Green Fields of France" or "Willie McBride", which I'd also put on my list of saddest songs ever.
posted by immlass at 5:58 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, Here's my two cents worth
posted by milkwood at 6:22 PM on August 24, 2012




Passing Afternoon by Iron And Wine chokes me up every time I hear it.
posted by Night_owl at 6:25 PM on August 24, 2012


Oh, and my brother played this song at his toddler son's funeral.
posted by Night_owl at 6:27 PM on August 24, 2012


Oh, if you are looking for a relationship song that is sad, No Looking by the Raincoats has always struck me as pretty darn sad. It's a translation/reworking of a poem by Jacques Prevert, but it is about a million times sadder than the poem.

Frowner, will you be my friend?

posted by jokeefe at 6:44 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


No Mountain Goats? Fine, I'll do this.
the Mountain Goats - Woke Up New. Getting this album shortly after my last breakup was one of the best and worst things I ever did, musically.
On the morning when I woke up without you for the first time
I was cold, so I put on a sweater
And I turned up the heat
And the walls began to close in and I felt so sad and frightened
I practically ran from the living room out into the street


Slightly more obscure, but I think more compact and equally effective, Waving At You.
And if four long years come to nothing
It's alright
But it's your birthday
It's your birthday tonight
And I went to buy you something
But I caught myself in time
And nothing makes any sense anymore
But everything rhymes


Also, shouts to ilana for being the first to mention The Weakerthans - Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure, the most recent song to absolutely destroy me every time I heard it for weeks in a row.
After scrapping with the ferals and the tabby
Let you brush my matted fur
How I’d knead into your chest while you were sleeping
Shallow breathing made me purr
But I can't remember the sound that you made for me.

posted by valrus at 6:47 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm wrong. "No Children" was mentioned early on. But I don't agree that it's sad. It's a banger.
posted by valrus at 6:48 PM on August 24, 2012


My votes for saddest Mountain Goats songs are as follows:

You Or Your Memory
Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod
Pale Green Things
posted by dialetheia at 6:56 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bob Dylan: You're a big girl now
American Music Club: The dead part of you
Smiths: Back to the old house
Roy Orbison: Only the lonely
Walker Brothers: The sun ain't gonna shine anymore
R.E.M.: Laughing
Joni Mitchell: The circle game
Red House Painters: Lord kill the pain
posted by blucevalo at 7:07 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Clifford Coulter: Before The Morning Comes.
posted by ovvl at 7:54 PM on August 24, 2012


No October Project? I've pointed out their intensely sad music twice here before.

Funny thing about October Project is that their first album is intensely sad and gorgeous, and their second one just feels schmaltzy to me.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:18 PM on August 24, 2012


Randy Newman, "I think it's going to rain today" and "God's song".
posted by cogneuro at 10:19 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny thing about October Project is that their first album is intensely sad and gorgeous, and their second one just feels schmaltzy to me.

It's like a writer who writes one great novel and never comes close again. And when I noted that Mary Fahl could make me cry singing anything, I had forgotten her semi-recent less-than-successful cover of Pink Floyd's entire Dark Side of the Moon album. Sigh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:28 PM on August 24, 2012


This is a surprisingly good list, IMO.

Here's what I would add. It's a weird mix.

Paul Simon's The Obvious Child -- the video and the recording are so problematic in so many ways, but there's something about the lyrics and the music that just gets me every time. Especially when it gets to the part about "Sonny".

Laurie Anderson's O Superman.

Original Air -- Blue Gown by the Mountain Goats. Lots of tear-jerking stuff in the Mountain Goats catalogue, but this is the one that haunts me the most.

Holland 1945 by Neurtal Milk Hotel. This may too angry to qualify as "sad", but, damn.
posted by treepour at 1:59 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


something weird happened with the Laurie Anderson link. Trying again: O Superman.
posted by treepour at 2:13 AM on August 25, 2012


Shit, I hadn't thought of October Project in years. That takes me back.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:00 AM on August 25, 2012


(Popping in to say October Project--without Mary Fahl but with the original singer who preceded her--is working on a new album right now. Vocals are different but the feel is similar. Didn't know there were so many OP fans here.)
posted by immlass at 6:50 AM on August 25, 2012


Still no votes for Tears in Heaven?
posted by morganannie at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2012


Paul Simon's The Obvious Child -- the video and the recording are so problematic in so many ways, but there's something about the lyrics and the music that just gets me every time. Especially when it gets to the part about "Sonny".

I agree. But I think The Cool, Cool River (also on Rhythm of the Saints) is even sadder. I also think it's one of Paul's best lyrics ever, which is saying something.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2012


I love the Rhythm of the Saints. Beautiful and vastly underrated (compared to Graceland, that is...).

While on the topic of Paul Simon, I think the song "you're kind" is pretty heartbreaking. Knowing that you have it good, but looking for whatever superficial reason to call it off because you're just not feeling it.
posted by incurable at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also would like to nominate Laura Cantrell's "A Christmas Letter Home". Ugh....kills me everytime.
posted by incurable at 12:16 PM on August 25, 2012


Jean Sibelius: Valse Triste (animation from Allegro Non Troppo.)
posted by homunculus at 1:22 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Try to listen to this and not cry.
posted by anothermug at 1:34 PM on August 25, 2012


83. “Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs): Third Movement,” Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

They should also include the Second Movement:

Gorecki Symphony No. 3 "Sorrowful Songs" - Lento e Largo

posted by homunculus at 1:36 PM on August 25, 2012


The Steve Earle track for this list is "Ft. Worth Blues" which is his elegy for Townes, so double shot.
posted by syncope at 2:25 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This Will End in Tears

Let's all sit down and cry
posted by homunculus at 2:42 PM on August 25, 2012


It's funny, "The Cool, Cool River" isn't sad to me at all*. In my head, I picture a people under tremendous pressure and moving towards revolution - it makes me think of the indigenous and labor organizers in Mexico, like in Chiapas or Oaxaca or of the Guatemalan resistance. I think of the cool, cool river as the force of the ordinary people, people becoming, the urge people have to just be alive and be all right. The wild, white ocean better watch out, that's what I think. To me it's about the way you can look at the surface of a society and miss the changes that are coming, the way that power can't detect and control everything - that anyone might be an enemy of the regime, sliding past the metal detector. For me it's a song that carries with it a profound excitement and hope. There's also this ironic/self-protecting distance: "I believe in the future/we shall suffer no more/maybe not in my lifetime/but in yours, I feel sure"...but I read that as the kind of thing where you hope for something but are afraid to name it as a real hope.

*I have not seen the video, but I fully acknowledge that Simon's work is vexed in both form and content - appropriative, uses POC musicians to prop himself up, and breaking the ANC boycott of apartheid South Africa and ripping off Los Lobos were really shitty things to do.
posted by Frowner at 9:39 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm as tempted as anyone here to disown a musical list for missing something crucial but I think considering the untold number of songs that could qualify as 'sad songs' this list was doomed to be just a list of 100 sad songs. I mean I'm astounded that "You Are My Sunshine", which by alternating its mournful verses with a bright chorus gains depressive power, was left off but...
posted by jeffen at 11:58 AM on August 26, 2012


Goodnight,Travel Well by the Killers does it for me every time.
posted by talitha_kumi at 1:05 PM on August 26, 2012


Steve Earle - Billy Austin
Bruce Springsteen - Paradise

Don’t watch though, just listen.
posted by bongo_x at 10:50 AM on August 27, 2012


Roger Waters' Watching TV, about the Tienanmen Square massacre.
posted by benzenedream at 9:59 PM on August 28, 2012


A song that almost always gets a lump in my throat--although in some ways against my own better judgment--is Johnny Cash's I Hung My Head.
posted by yoink at 10:13 AM on August 29, 2012


Sorry, that should have read "Johnny Cash's version of..."
posted by yoink at 10:15 AM on August 29, 2012


Scott Walker: Big Lousie
Tim Buckley: Driftin'
Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris: Sleepless Nights
Joy Division: The Eternal
posted by ovvl at 8:01 AM on August 31, 2012


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