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Ten Classically Haunting Songs

Updated on September 11, 2008

We all have those moments.... when we feel a need to listen to a song that's melancholy and deeper than the usual tunes ruling the commercial airwaves.

Songs that are haunting are always memorable. Some transport, some leave you uneasy and some are just plain weird.

Here are ten classic songs that seem to relate anguish, fear and the always eventful mystical haunting presence.

Gary Jules ~ Mad World

Johnny Cash ~ Hurt

U2 ~ New Year's Day

Sia ~ Breathe Me

Pink Floyd ~ Hey You

Gary Jules ~ Mad World

Originally a classic b-side from the band "Tears for Fears", "Mad World" was covered 2 decades later for a film called "Donnie Darko". Gary Jules' rendition projected haunting imagery and took it from an angle of a depressed voyeur.

Johnny Cash ~ Hurt

Nine Inch Nails originally brought the song "Hurt" onto the public scene, but was later covered by the legendary Johnny Cash. Emotionally charged, very eerie and, in my opinion, one of the most memorable performances of Johnny Cash's career.

U2 ~ New Year's Day

U2 took on global unrest when recording their album "Under the Blood Red Sky" released in 1982. The song "New Year's Day", from that album, was written by frontman Bono. He thoughtfully attempted to depict war through the eyes of hope and relentless struggle. It lyrically described the Polish solidarity movement during that time and coincidentally, Martial law was later abolished on New Year's day, 1983.

Sia ~ Breathe Me

I first heard this song when it was used for the finale of the HBO Series, "6 Feet Under". I thought it was the perfect haunting serenade for an incredibly brilliant series. An especially beautiful song that relates the anguish of lonliness and deep desperation. Sia recorded this song immediately following a battle with the flu, which seems to have appropriately added the underlying weakness conveyed.

Pink Floyd ~ Hey You

Off the album "The Wall", Pink Floyd released "Hey You". A song which seemed to represent a desperate plea to be heard. "Hey You over there", some sort of physcial interaction "Can you feel me?" "Would you touch me?" Disturbing and spellbinding. Cries for help will do that to you. Pink Floyd left an incredibly sad tale of madening isolation and fans blasted the message loud and clear.

Phil Collins ~ In the Air Tonight

Phil Collins ~ In the Air Tonight

From the 1981 Album "Face Value", Phil Collins released his first solo hit following his departure from the very successful rock band Genesis. "In the Air Tonight" consistently receives wide airplay and shot up in the charts following being featured in the pilot episode of "Miami Vice". Even though the song lends itself to many strange theories, witnessing a murder, drowning, suicide, and rape, Phil Collins has been quoted as saying "I don't know what this song is about. When I was writing this, I was going through a divorce. And the only thing I can say about it is that it's obviously in anger. It's the angry side, or the bitter side of a separation."

The Moody Blues ~ Nights in White Satin

The Moody Blues ~ Nights in White Satin

A song written by Justin Hayward in 1972, who was only 19 at the time. Inspired by being gifted a set of white satin sheets and the ending of a tumultuous love affair, this song is one of the most haunting songs ever recorded. Initially, it didn't gain much traction in the charts due to the length and seriousness. It was difficult to make sense of it. Later, it resurfaced when dramatic epic songs became the trend. Passionate, painful, heartbreaking.

Led Zeppelin ~ Stairway to Heaven

Led Zeppelin ~ Stairway to Heaven

"Stairway to Heaven" by one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Led Zeppelin, was never released as a single to the general public. A song basically about one learning the hard way that racking up all the money in the world is still not enough to get you into heaven. This song holds many differing opinions as to the idea behind it and weather or not Satin had a hand in it, but to me this song always felt like a psychadelic telling of a bad dream.

Simon & Garfunkel ~ The Sounds of Silence

Simon & Garfunkel ~ The Sounds of Silence

Featured in the 1965 film "The Graduate", "The Sounds of Silence" was Simon Garfunkel's first major hit. The idea silence can be more dangerous and destructive then the voicing of one's opinion strikes a chord. Well-written and poetically haunting.

Red Rider ~ Lunatic Fringe

Red Rider ~ Lunatic Fringe

If you remember the early days of MTV then you may recall a little known band named Red Rider. Guitarist Tom Cochrane led the Canadian 80's band and wrote Lunatic Fringe in 1981. The album was entitled "As Far as Siam" and was never really a bit hit in the U.S., although it did get it's fair play in MTV's video rotation. This is a song about oppression and the destructive obssessive thoughts of revenge. It was eerie and left a lasting impression for many.

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    • profile image

      Gary Fletcher 

      9 months ago

      None of the songs on the list are very haunting. Other than a little bit of Pink Floyd not. Try "Love" by John Lennon, Olivia Newton John version of "Love Song" and "Summer (The First Time) by Bobby Goldsboro.

    • kereeves3 profile image

      Karen 

      5 years ago from Salem, OR

      Ooh I love "Breathe Me" by Sia... reminds me of the series finale of Six Feet Under! Great Hub.

    • profile image

      stevehergert 

      5 years ago

      there is one song YOU should add to the list "House Of The Rising Sun"

    • George Greene Jr. profile image

      George Greene Jr. 

      5 years ago from California PA

      Procol Harem..especially Whiter shade of pearl

      The House of the rising sun

      just a couple standouts of my own!

      great hub and voted up!!!

    • profile image

      Joshua 

      6 years ago

      Sorry Wicked Games

    • profile image

      Joshua 

      6 years ago

      Wiked Games

    • profile image

      Cara 

      6 years ago

      Hurt by Johnny Cash

    • profile image

      Cara 

      6 years ago

      Hurt by Johnny Cash

    • profile image

      kyle 

      6 years ago

      How about enigmas return to innocence?

    • profile image

      ------------ 

      7 years ago

      Heron blue by sun kill moon deserves to be on here!

    • profile image

      Chris 

      7 years ago

      most Enya ... Theme from Last of the Mohicans (dunno composer)

    • profile image

      Liam 

      7 years ago

      I've always though of Chop Suey by SOAD as quite a memorable song...

    • DaveysRecipeRead profile image

      DaveysRecipeRead 

      7 years ago

      My choice; "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by the Fleet Foxes. Lots of Simon & Garfunkel would qualify here and although this particular Led Zep Album was (for me) their best and one of the best albums ever in general, the Fleet Foxes tune "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" maintains it's ultimate "otherworldly" status even after hearing it over the course of a few years. Lovely Hub.

    • DaveysRecipeRead profile image

      DaveysRecipeRead 

      7 years ago

      My choice; "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by the Fleet Foxes. Lots of Simon & Garfunkel would qualify here and although this particular Led Zep Album was (for me) their best and one of the best albums ever in general, the Fleet Foxes tune "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" maintains it's ultimate "otherworldly" status even after hearing it over the course of a few years. Lovely Hub.

    • profile image

      ally 

      7 years ago

      "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak..

    • profile image

      Ywan 

      7 years ago

      some good songs on this list, but some weak picks too... mostly a borderline pop list

    • profile image

      lee 

      7 years ago

      also death in vegas_dirge

    • profile image

      lee 

      7 years ago

      gloomy sunday.

    • profile image

      Shashi 

      7 years ago

      Mad World, In The Air Tonight and Lunatic Fringe are a few of my favorite haunters. I would like to recommend Fell On Bad Days by Rubyhorse, Don't Close Your Eyes by Kix, Woman by Scorpions and House Of Broken Love by Great White.

    • profile image

      me 

      8 years ago

      be careful! roger waters and gary numan will haunt you forever. don't look for "haunting songs". trust me! music is like drugs if you are prone to it- be careful.

    • profile image

      Mumbulu 

      8 years ago

      Strange Fruit. Absolutely the most haunting song I've ever heard. Downright chilling.

    • profile image

      naja 

      8 years ago

      How is Strange Fruit not on here?

    • profile image

      srvjam 

      8 years ago

      Amazing Grace on bagpipes tops my list, but others are-

      Into Dust- Mazzy Star

      The Story- Brandi Carlisle

      U2- Bad, and MLK

    • profile image

      Avro Arrow 

      8 years ago

      I think you missed one that should be on that list as even more haunting than a lot of those, the song is called "Criminal Mind" by Gowan:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIjddye2JSA

    • profile image

      rxj 

      8 years ago

      500 miles by Peter Paul & Mary

    • profile image

      eezeekial 

      8 years ago

      Depeche Mode - Walking In My Shoes should be up there.

    • profile image

      Jenn 

      8 years ago

      Is not Hotel California included in this list? How i it possible?

    • profile image

      NYJ 

      8 years ago

      "Dont Cry" by Guns N' Roses

    • profile image

      hooky75 

      8 years ago

      you guys should check out "i can feel a hot one" by manchester orchestra brilliant hauntingly godsong i was mesmerised

    • MtnMan56 profile image

      MtnMan56 

      9 years ago

      Thank you for a wonderful hub.Music is pretty much my life now and I plan on writing hub on The Sound OF Silence.Ty again!

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 

      10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Yes, a very nice choice of songs for sure. Now I can listen to some I had forgotten thanks summer10

    • capalynn profile image

      capalynn 

      10 years ago from Roseville, CA

      These songs are so great, and yet so intense and just as you say, haunting. It surprised me that Gary jules is on the list, although, being as sad as it is, I can understand why.

    • summer10 profile imageAUTHOR

      summer10 

      10 years ago from my happy place :)

      ColdWarBaby ~ your blog is quite impressive... Bush and Cheney sporting bright orange is priceless.. "Socially Acceptable" is lyrically genius. I've bookmarked your site and will share it... Thank u so much for the link..

    • profile image

      ColdWarBaby 

      10 years ago

      Some sweet, some deep. I was a performer myself back in the day. See the player here: http://coldwarproductions.blogspot.com/ From the early 80's, maybe 83. Not exactly haunting but you may find it interesting.

    • summer10 profile imageAUTHOR

      summer10 

      10 years ago from my happy place :)

      ColdWarBaby ~ Great music will do that to you... Thank u for coming by, I hope these songs brought back some sweet memories....

    • profile image

      ColdWarBaby 

      10 years ago

      Some outstanding choices summer10. A few bring back strong memories for me.

      Thanx

    • summer10 profile imageAUTHOR

      summer10 

      10 years ago from my happy place :)

      Brainstormer ~ Thank u for taking the time to listen and comment. Much appreciated.

      talented ink ~ I agree with your choices.... especially "End of Innocence", that song always takes me away...

    • talented_ink profile image

      talented_ink 

      10 years ago from USA

      There's a song for every emotion we can ever have and the best music puts us in a certain emotion whether we want it or not. The first two songs and the Phil Collins song are among some of my favorite songs. I'd also think that Phil Collins "I Don't Care Anymore" and Don Henley's "End of the Innocence" would be good to add to your list.

    • Brainstormer profile image

      Brainstormer 

      10 years ago from Australia

      I love coming over here and listening in. Great songs. Thanks again Summer

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