It’s therapeutic to have a good cry. If at least one of the following doesn’t loosen the tear ducts, then you are made of stone! Friendship, love and loneliness are all featured. So, get the tissues ready. It’s not just the lyrics that get to you; it’s those damned minor keys! If you enjoy this list of sad songs and even if you don’t, here are 10 more sad songs to make you cry that will get the water works going.
10. Ebony Eyes by the Everly Brothers
‘And I knew the heavenly ebony skies had taken my life’s most wonderful prize, my beautiful ebony eyes’.
The duo had a hit single in 1961 with this John D. Loudermilk song, which tells the tragic story of Flight 1203. The narrator has a weekend pass to marry his fiancée but the plane bringing her to him has crashed. Most songs with a spoken part are cringe worthy but our hero (was it Don or was it Phil?) carries it off with aplomb.
9. Tell Me on a Sunday by Marti Webb
‘I’d like to choose how I hear the news‘.
Andrew Lloyd Webber teamed up with lyricist Don Black to produce a ‘song cycle’ titled ‘Tell Me on a Sunday’ about an English woman named Emma who emigrates to America and has a series of disastrous love affairs. There are witty observations of a Brit’s view of the US alongside the sad and sometimes angry songs about the relationships. In the title song, Emma knows that she is going to be dumped one day. She would like a little control and wants to be told on a Sunday and in the park. Marti Webb, who also played Eva Peron in Evita on stage, is superb and conveys every emotion.
8. Friend of Ours by Elbow
‘Love you mate’.
The British band Elbow came together in 1990 but their commercial success peaked with the release of the 2008 album, ‘The Seldom Seen Kid‘. The critical praise heaped on the album culminated in a prestigious Mercury Music Prize. ‘Friend of Ours’, written by the band, is a song about lead singer Guy Garvey‘s best friend, Bryan who died from a sudden illness. The seldom seen kid is a nickname that Garvey’s father gave Bryan. Love you mate is a phrase that Bryan used to say when saying goodbye to his friends. When Guy Garvey quietly delivers that line, he is visibly moved.
7. In My Room by the Beach Boys
‘Now it’s dark and I’m alone but I won’t be afraid’.
The Beach Boys, under the guidance of Brian Wilson, developed from purveyors of good time surfing songs to beautifully crafted ballads. The 1963 album ‘Surfer Girl’, showing a cover of the boys holding a surfboard, contains a gem with ‘In My Room’. Brian produced the record and co-wrote it with Gary Usher. Teenagers all over the world can identify with the lyrics that identify one’s room as a sanctuary, a place where you can ‘do my crying and my sighing’ and ‘tell my secrets to’. The gorgeous harmonies wash over you like a warm dip in the ocean.
6. Shine on You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd
‘Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far’.
This is Pink Floyd’s tribute to founding member, Syd Barrett. Written by Richard Wright, David Gilmour and Roger Waters for the 1975 album, ‘Wish You Were Here’, it is a composition made up of nine parts and lasts almost thirty minutes when played in full. Barrett was a tragic victim of mental health problems, possibly caused or worsened by psychedelic drug experimentation. He left the band in 1968 and became a recluse after a brief solo career. He had written many of Floyd’s early songs and was their driving force. The song hails him as a ‘piper‘ and a ‘seer of visions’. The crazy diamond passed away in 2006.
5. Everybody Hurts by REM
‘When you think you’ve had too much of this life, well hang on’.
Written by the band, the song appears on the 1992 album, ‘Automatic for the People’, and is probably their best known song. John Paul Jones, bassist with Led Zeppelin, was responsible for the string arrangement. The band has said that the song was written with teenagers in mind. The British charity for people seeking help when thinking of suicide, the Samaritans, has used the song for one of its campaigns. It is a song intended to give hope; ‘take comfort in your friends’ and ‘you are not alone’.
4. The Scientist by Coldplay
‘Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry, you don’t know how lovely you are’.
The track appeared on the bands’ second album, ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head‘ and was released as a single. Written by the band, it’s about a relationship gone wrong. He wants to apologise and start again. The accompanying video shows a car crash in reverse time, illustrating this desire to turn back time. ‘I was just guessing at numbers and figures‘ shows a preoccupation with trying to understand a complex world through science and mathematics. The third album would be titled ‘X & Y’.
3. Exit Music (for a film) by Radiohead
‘Now we are one in everlasting peace’.
No one delivers a poignant lyric like Thom Yorke. The song was written by the band for Baz Luhrmann’s film, ‘William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet’ and is played over the closing credits. It’s also a track on Radiohead’s 1997 album, ‘OK Computer’. The lyrics interpret the plight of the star-crossed lovers but can be applied to a personal tragic situation. Just like Romeo and Juliet, ‘today…we escape’.
2. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) by John Lennon
‘I can hardly wait to see you come of age’
This is Lennon’s gift of love to his son, Sean. It is a joyful song and appears here, purely because of the context. Lennon sang to his son every night at bedtime. Sean was five years old when his father was killed. The song was released on the album, ‘Double Fantasy’, three weeks before the murder. The final spoken words say it all, ‘goodnight Sean, see you in the morning’.
1. Hurt by Johnny Cash
‘Everyone I know goes away in the end’.
‘Hurt’ was already an outstanding song when Nine Inch Nails recorded it for their album, ‘The Downward Spiral’. Written by band member, Trent Reznor, the lyrics tell of a life of regret, ‘I will let you down, I will make you hurt’. Johnny Cash can be forgiven for taking such a personal song. This is a song about pain, something Cash was familiar with. He recorded it towards the end of his life for his album, ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’. The voice is frail and full of emotion. The accompanying video, which shows a montage of his life, is exceptional. Cash did something magical with this song and we are beholden to him.