Top Ten Saddest Songs
My Top Ten Sad Songs: Songs Of Sorrow, Songs Of Loss
Everyone has a favourite sad song, a song that makes them cry, a song that instantly recalls a lost love, a time past, gone and never to be regained. A master of the sad song, Kris Kristofferson, sang "I'd trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday" and the lyric resonates. It may be lost love, a dead parent, it may be horror at what man does to man, what man does to planet, but somewhere it's been crystallised in a song.
I've picked my list of top ten sad songs: songs that I hear with a mix of pain and enjoyment, though the enjoyment is often tempered with the memory of someone or something gone. Younger readers may recognise some classics or know current versions, older readers will ask where the time went. The saddest songs bring back the deepest memories.
There's a list of sad songs towards the end of the page to add and vote for your own selection so please add and tell us about your favorite sad song in the comments section.
Image credits Amazon unless otherwise stated.
Do You Have A List Of Sad Songs? - Do the saddest songs appeal to you?
Do you enjoy sad songs?See results without voting
Giving up hope
I'll say goodbye to love
No one ever cared if I should live or die
Time and time again
The chance for love has passed me by
And all I know of love is
how to live without it
I just can't seem to find it
Top Ten Sad Songs #1: Goodbye To Love: Carpenters
Karen Carpenter's lovely voice soars over the lament of a woman who has given up on finding true love. This is one of those songs where lyrics, melody, arrangement and performance all click to produce something special. Even if you're not a great fan of the Carpenters you'll admire this song.
Sad for the obvious reasons, sad because the singer has given up hope of love, sad because of Karen's personal miseries and untimely death at the age of 32. Whatever your taste in music this song has to be in your top ten sad songs.
Carpenters Official Site, authorised by Richard.
Very good 2 CD set of the Carpenters' greatest hits. Forty tracks including most of their classics. Some are new versions (Richard Carpenter does like to tinker with arrangements) but an excellent selection nonetheless.
I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
Top Ten Sad Songs #2: At Seventeen: Janis Ian
Janis Ian's bitterly beautiful and saddest song, written at an age when black despair can be the most powerful emotion. The teenager who doesn't fit in, lisping her despair in a song that would become almost anthemic for girls who suffered real or imagined slights at seventeen. And for more than a few boys as well.
Musical talent dragged Janis through the sad years. Nowadays she's a proud and handsome woman, standing confident in front of an audience, a powerful performer, but these words can still send you back to younger, harder times. And once you've heard it it's probably in your top ten sad songs.
>>> Janis's own site, free downloads, tour dates
Janis Ian's huge album. Issued in 1975 but still fresh and almost unbearably poignant at times.
Fact of the day: She got a Grammy for At Seventeen and performed the song on the first ever Saturday Night Live,
Father/son relationship missed
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you, Dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"
Top Ten Sad Songs #3: Cat's In The Cradle: Harry Chapin
A new child, a bond to form, but the father's too busy, and the years pass by. Then one day an old man tries to connect with the son and he's gone, grown up and departed. The time to bond and enjoy his child has passed by, one of the saddest ways to lose a relationship.
A simple message delivered by Harry Chapin in a song of wonderful lyrics: the failing of the relationship avoidable at every stage, in every verse, but still it happens. A top ten sad song even without the awful early death (aged 32) of Harry Chapin.
Harry Chapin was a wonderful live performer and here are 12 of his songs, Cat's In The Cradle is there, as are the famous W.O.L.D. and All My Life's A Circle, plus a mix of others. These are tales set to music.
Love grown stale and cold
You don't bring me flowers
You don't sing me love songs
You hardly talk to me anymore
When I come through the door
At the end of the day
Top Ten Sad Songs #4: You Don't Bring Me Flowers: Streisand/Diamond
A song that started life as a short throwaway TV theme but grew into a tale of a relationship grown cold and distant. Read the full story behind You Don't Bring Me Flowers on Wikipedia.
The clip below is Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond at the 1980 Grammys - a performance that blew the socks off the audience. It's good enough to make many a top ten - not just of sad songs,
Neil Diamond Box Set
This is a 3 CD set that includes most of Neil Diamond's best songs including a duet with Barbra Streisand of You Don't Bring Me Flowers. It amazes me how such a powerful voice can deliver such personal lyrics in intimate tones, yet next minute blast out a song like Coming To America.
Lives and limbs lost in the carnage of war
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned their faces away
Top Ten Sad Songs #5: And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda: The Pogues
Eric Bogle's incredible song: based on Waltzing Matilda, telling a tale of the Battle Of Gallipoli. The narrator is taken from his roving life and sent to fight in the disastrous landings at Suvla Bay in 1915, when Australian and New Zealand forces were slaughtered by entrenched Turkish machine guns and artillery.
This song doesn't preach, it's just quietly bitter and wondering from the narrator's point of view, but it's one of the most powerful comments on war you'll ever hear in song.and it's perfectly delivered by Shane McGowan and the Pogues.
The Pogues, including what Shane's up to
The Pogues' unmistakable blend of traditional and new, mixing folk and rock behind Shane MacGowan's oddly lyrical vocals. This album has love songs, tributes to Ireland and more.
Young child loses father
And then one night Daddy died and went to heaven
And God came down to earth and slipped away
I pretended not to know I'd been abandoned
But no one sang the night into the day
Top Ten Sad Songs #6: Embrace Me, You Child: Carly Simon
One of the monster albums of the Seventies was No Secrets by Carly Simon. You're So Vain was the main single but one of the eternally admired tracks is Embrace Me, a song mourning the death of a flawed but loved father. Lyrically, it's simple but inventive, musically it's a gentle howl of memory and loss. One of the saddest songs I know and one of the few such tracks you should turn up the volume for.
Carly Simon: "Embrace Me, You Child".
Lovely album from Carly Simon, a huge seller in USA, UK and other countries. The single from this, You're So Vain, supposedly about Warren Beatty, spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard singles chart.
Relationship that never will be
You say you're lookin' for someone Never weak but always strong
To protect you an' defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain't me, babe
No, no, no, it ain't me, babe
It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe
Top Ten Sad Songs #7: It Ain't Me Babe: Joan Baez
Joan Baez version of Bob Dylan's sad song: a love unreturned, and the question whether it's the loved who is at fault:
Go melt back into the night, babe
Everything inside is made of stone
There's nothing in here moving
An' anyway I'm not alone
Why Baez, not Dylan himself? Because she uses that amazing voice to float the lyrics over, because she's the one person who does Dylan better than Dylan himself.
Why a top ten sad song? For me, the lyrics, the performance by Joan Baez, and a sad memory that goes with this song.
Joan's own site, lyrics (of her own compositions), links, tour dates.
Bob Dylan's Original Version
A major blast from the past - 1964 this album was released but it's just about timeless - Chimes Of Freedom, To Ramona, My Back Pages and of course, It Ain't Me Babe. Songs that have entered the realms of music history yet songs you can listen to today and still marvel at the power of Bob Dylan's writing.
Cry of despair to a parting lover
No, I can't forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrows
When I had you there but then I let you go
And now it's only fair that I should let you know
What you should know
I can't live if living is without you
I can't live, I can't give any more
Can't live if living is without you
I can't give, I can't give any more
Top Ten Sad Songs #8: Without You: Harry Nilsson
Not the greatest lyrics but it's the melody and the delivery that make this song (originally by Badfinger) notable. Harry Nilsson blasts it out like he's channelling Streisand; you can hear the despair and the fake defiance in his voice.
Lost love is probably what makes most of us rate a top sad song - this is a pure howl of despair.
Harry's official site, a little touch of Schmilsson ...
Harry Nilsson's classic album, Nilsson Schmilsson. This is a reissued version with some odd and interesting bonuses that weren't on the original. Nilsson's fantastic vocal range covers several genres, all in his inimitable style.
The death of a child
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you feel the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven
Top Ten Sad Songs #9: Tears In Heaven: Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton's song in memory of his son Conor, tragically dead in an accidental fall when just four years old. I can't imagine the pain that a parent would feel at the death of a child just starting his life's journey.
Clapton actually stopped playing this for some years, feeling that the loss wasn't so cutting, but he returned to the song on the Old Sock tour in 2013.
Clapton's official site, good for tour news but not too exciting otherwise.
The first movie for which Clapton provided music, and perhaps an odd choice, was a tale of two undercover narcotics cops. Clapton wrote a dozen dark but mellow songs: Slowhand in style but lyrically some of his best work.
The relationship is ending
I'm not looking for another as I wander in my time
Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme
You know my love goes with you as your love stays with me
It's just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea
But let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie
Your eyes are soft with sorrow
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye
Top Ten Sad Songs #10: Hey, that's no way to say goodbye: Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen's wonderful song about the time when a relationship is just breaking up. Convince yourself at the time it's the right thing - you know the pain is waiting. Circumstances and time may be sundering the relationship but the pain is deep and cutting.
Oddly, this is one of several Leonard Cohen tracks used in McCabe And Mrs. Miller, the quirky Western directed by Robert Altman.
Leonard Cohen's debut album, an album that rocked the world for many people - deep, brooding lyrics, stark and beautiful poetry with simple but haunting music. Not many records stand the test of time but this I(and the man himself) has rarely been matched.
Some of mine and some of yours - is your sad song here?See results without voting
Not Just Sad Songs
Much as we love a wallow with our sad songs, there's a load more music out there. Try some of the links below and see what you think.
Time Magazine's Top 100 albums of all time Lots of good stuff here and it's always fun to shout at other people's lists.
AllMusic.com A mixed bag but some interesting material on a growing site.
Jango Radio Free online music streams - and it's legal. Set up your own virtual radio station and compile your own playlists.
NME's 50 Sad Songs
Interesting set from NME, though some of theirs are more miserable than sad (Radiohead).
A UK Newspaper List
The Daily Telegraph (quite conservative) has just had a vote on saddest song - most depressing really. Their list of candidates is a bit weak, in my opinion but have a look and see what you think.
Top Ten Sad Songs: Index Pic Credit
© 2011 Paul
More in this Series
When one of the great performers, Joan Baez, sings songs by perhaps the greatest writer of all time, Bob Dylan, how do her versions stack up against his?
One of the all-time great singer songwriters, Joni Mitchell has for years made fantastic albums: here are my ten favourites.