Just How Much Can A Sad Song Say?

Apr 22nd, 2008 // 53 Comments

A lot, judging by the way I got vaguely bummed out while reading The Walrus’ survey of the 31 saddest pieces of music to be put to tape. Bookended by the Band (“Rockin’ Chair”) and Brahms (Horn Trio Op.40., Second Movement), the list runs the gamut as far as genre and reasons to be sad, with guaranteed tear-jerkers like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “It’s Not Easy Being Green” nestled among tracks that are bummers for aesthetic reasons as well as those relating to subject matter (hello, “Tears In Heaven”!). And there are a few curveballs on the list, particularly the theme from Growing Pains–which, despite being slightly over half a minute in length, is full of enough references to crying and death for Paul Isaacs to call it “odd and heartbreaking.” Full list after the jump.

1. The Band, “Rockin’ Chair” (1969)
2. Tom Waits, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” (1978)
3. Randy Newman, “Marie” (1968)
4. Mary J Blige, “Not Gon’ Cry” (1996)
5. The Kinks, “Oklahoma USA” (1971)
6. Joni Mitchell, “River” (1971)
7. The Communards, “For A Friend” (1987)
8. Patsy Cline, “She’s Got You” (1962)
9. Billie Holiday, “I Get Along Without You Very Well” (1958)
10. “It’s Not Easy Being Green” (from Sesame Street, 1970)
11. Dolly Parton, “Down From Dover” (1970)
12. Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (1963)
13. Bruce Springsteen, “The River” (1980)
14. Sinead O’Connor, “Streets of London” (orig. 1969)
15/16. Buffalo Tom, “Taillights Fade” (1992) / Red House Painters “Katy Song” (1993)
17. Mahalia Jackson, “Trouble of the World” (1959)
18. Neil Young, “Borrowed Tune” (1973)
19. Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris, “$1,000 Wedding” (1974)
20. Lee Hazlewood, “My Autumn’s Done Come” (1966)
21. John Prine/Swamp Dogg, “Sam Stone” (1971/1972)
22. Judy Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1944)
23. Strawberry Switchblade, “Since Yesterday” (1984)
24. The Notorious B.I.G., “Suicidal Thoughts” (1994)
25. “Somewhere Out There” (from An American Tail, 1986)
26. Eric Clapton, “Tears in Heaven” (1992)
27. Phil Collins, “Against All Odds” (1984)
28. BJ Thomas, theme song from Growing Pains (1985)
29. Gravediggaz, “Burn Baby Burn” (2002)
30. The Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” (1986)
31. Brahms, Horn Trio Op.40., Second Movement

The Saddest Music In The World [The Walrus via PTW]


  1. NeverEnough

    @Dickdogfood: Good call on Roxy Music.

  2. saturn



    “Here Comes a Regular” is so sad. As is “Whiskey Lullaby” sung by Allison Krauss and Brad Paisley. That always makes me cry.

  3. Anonymous

    Billy Bragg– “Levi Stubb’s Tears;” and a traditional Irish trilogy: “Carrickfergus” (Van Morrison nails a great version), “The Butcher Boy” (Sinead O’Connor’s version from the film of the same name gets the job done) and “Peggy Gordon.”

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