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The Vinyl Countdown: Saddest Classic Rock Songs

Updated on June 11, 2015

20. How Soon Is Now? - The Smiths

This 80's British band explored the depressing effects of having crippling shyness. It talks about people who long for love but don't know how to get it. "There's a club / If you'd like to go / You could meet somebody / Who really loves you. / So you go and you stand on your own / And you leave on your own / And you go home/And you cry and you want to die."


19. Wild Horses - The Rolling Stones

Jagger says he was "very inside this piece emotionally." This breakup song was apparently not about Jagger's relationship with Marianne Faithfull, but it did express the longing musicians typically have to be home - rather than a million miles away from the ones they love.

18. Here Come Those Tears Again - Jackson Browne

During the recording of his fourth album, Jackson Browne's wife, Phyllis Major, died of an apparent suicide by overdose. Browne wrote the song with his wife's mother.

17. Hell Is For Children - Pat Benatar

This song was about child abuse, and was written for Benatar's album Crimes of Passion. Benatar had read articles of child abuse and was stunned because she didn't even know it existed. She succeeded in writing an emotional and powerful song.

16. The End - The Doors

This depressing song began as a goodbye song, and ended as a goodbye to childhood and welcoming of death.

15. Empty Garden - Elton John

This song was Elton John's tribute to the late John Lennon. The two were good friends - they collaborated on several songs, and Elton was even made godfather to Sean Lennon. Elton rarely plays the songs live, as it is a painful reminder of his good friend's death.


14. All My Love - Led Zeppelin

Another tribute song, this was written for Robert Plant's son who died of a stomach virus while the band was touring. He was only five years old.

13. Cemetary Gates - Pantera

Influenced by suicide and death, this song is about a lover who has passed. The narrator contemplates suicide to join her. "And when she died / I should've cried and spared myself some pain / You left me incomplete / All alone as the memories still remain."

12. Love Hurts - Nazareth

A song with so much emotion, this tune was first recorded by the Everly Brothers. Dan McCafferty sings with such heartbreaking realness that you can't help but feel a little down.

11. November Rain - Guns N' Roses

This song was written by Axl Rose, and has made it onto many top rock song lists. The orchestral background really adds depth and feeling to the song. The video for the song features Rose getting married to his then-girlfriend, and is then cut to her funeral in the same church.


10. She's Leaving Home - The Beatles

A heartbreaking line from this song - "Standing alone at the top of the stairs, she breaks down and cries to her husband, 'Daddy, our baby's gone.'" This song is about the time in a parent's life when their child no longer needs them.


9. Landslide - Fleetwood Mac

Stevie Nicks wrote this song about the changes in her life, as bittersweet as they were. Her dad was the inspiration, suggesting that maybe she continue school if singing didn't work out in six months.

8. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley

This song was written by Leonard Cohen, who struggled while writing it. He wrote as many as 80 verses before settling on several. Buckley's version of the song comes across with sorrow in his soft voice.

7. The Flame - Cheap Trick

Another song about loneliness, this song depicts the loss of the one true love. This wasn't originally Cheap Trick's song, so they were hesitant to record it - but when they did, it shot them to #1.

6. Fade to Black - Metallica

I leave you with this quote from James Hetfield: "That song was a big step for us. It was pretty much our first ballad, so we knew it would freak people out... Recording that song, I learned how frustrating acoustic guitar can be. You could hear every squeak, so I had to be careful. I wrote the song at a friend's house in New Jersey. I was pretty depressed at the time because our gear had just been stolen, and we had been thrown out of our manager's house for breaking shit and drinking his liquor cabinet dry. It's a suicide song, and we got a lot of flak for it, as if kids were killing themselves because of the song. But we also got hundreds of letters from kids telling us how they related to the song and that it made them feel better."

5. Open Arms - Journey

A song that always brings tears to my eyes, it asks for a lover to forgive the past and agree to begin again with a clean slate. This song was huge, and held the #2 spot on the Billboard charts for 6 weeks in 1982.


4. Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles

One of the saddest songs about loneliness there is, this song follows two lonely people. Nobody comes to hear the sermons of Father Mackenzie, and nobody arrives at Eleanor Rigby's funeral.

3. Hurt - Johnny Cash

This tune was originally by the Nine Inch Nails, but Cash covered it as one of his last hits before his death. It alludes to self-harm, heroin addiction, and suicide. Cash's rendition will break your heart - there is so much emotion and pain in his voice. Sniff.

2. Yesterday - The Beatles

Paul McCartney, in my personal opinion, has the most soul in his voice of any white boy singer. Everything he sings has incredible amounts of emotion, and this song is no excecption. The tune came to him in a dream, and the lyrics followed afterwards - creating a picture of a love lost.

1. Tears In Heaven - Eric Clapton

This song was formed from the bottom of Clapton's heart - after his four-year-old son tragically fell to his death from a 53rd floor apartment window. Clapton no longer plays the song.



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    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Reed 

      24 months ago

      Cool. I knew some of these and their stories pretty well but not all. Love music and the stories behind it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      you did nail it.. clapton being the saddest voted up :)


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