Paul Ward profile image

Top Ten Saddest Songs

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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?

  • I love them, best kind of song
  • Sometimes, when I'm in the mood
  • Just curious
  • I'm looking to revive memories
  • I'm filling in gaps in my CD collection
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

karen carpenter
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karen carpenter

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.

Teenager's despair

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

janis ian at seventeen
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janis ian at seventeen

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


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"

harry chapin cats in the cardle
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harry chapin cats in the cardle

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.

Chapin family's site very well done
Well established fan site, range of info and pics

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

streisand diamond 1980 grammys flowers
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streisand diamond 1980 grammys flowers

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's official site, done by Columbia, a bit stiff
Streisand's official site, diva alert!


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

waltzing matilda gallipoli anzac
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waltzing matilda gallipoli anzac

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

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

carly simon embrace me you child
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carly simon embrace me you child

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's official site

Carly Simon: "Embrace Me, You Child".
(Clip opens in new window)

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

joan baez it ain't me babe dylan
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joan baez it ain't me babe dylan

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.

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

without you harry nillson
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without you harry nillson

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 ...

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

Eric Clapton Tears In Heaven
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Eric Clapton Tears 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 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

cohen no wat to say goodbye
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cohen no wat 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.

Some of mine and some of yours - is your sad song here?

  • Cat's In The Cradle: Harry Chapin
  • Embrace Me You Child: Carly Simon
  • At Seventeen: Janis Ian
  • Hurt: Johnny Cash
  • Without You: Harry Nillson
  • You Were Always on My Mind: Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley and others
  • November Rain: Guns 'n Roses
  • Goodbye to love: Carpenters
  • You Don't Bring Me Flowers: Streisand/Diamond
  • Tears In Heaven: Eric Clapton
  • Everything I Own: Bread
  • Alone Again (Naturally): Gilbert O'Sullivan
  • Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town: Kenny Rogers
  • Fire and Rain: James Taylor
  • And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda: The Pogues
  • Nothing Else Matters: Metallica
  • She's Out of My Life: Michael Jackson
  • Fast Car: Tracy Chapman
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.

Loads of links: some will have you scratching your head, some are a delight to discover.

Jango Radio Free online music streams - and it's legal. Set up your own virtual radio station and compile your own playlists.

Sad love songs      Sad love stories

NME
NME

NME's 50 Sad Songs

Interesting set from NME, though some of theirs are more miserable than sad (Radiohead).

NME song list

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

What song strikes a sad chord with you? (Please note: you don't have to be registered to comment.)


© 2011 Paul Last updated on September 12, 2014

Useful {1}Funny Awesome {3}Beautiful {1}Interesting {4}

Do You Have A Sad Song? - Share it with us 276 comments

gottaloveit2 profile image

gottaloveit2 5 days ago Level 4 Commenter

A really beautifully put together article, Paul. Excellent.


Wednesday-Elf profile image

Wednesday-Elf 6 days ago from Savannah, Georgia Level 6 Commenter

'You don't bring me Flowers' has always been my favorite. Not so much from the sadness side, but because of how the Diamond/Streisand version happened. Each sang the song well on their own, but together - wow - it's as if it was always meant to be that way. And having 45 years of marriage to a radio broadcaster, I can really relate to the back-story of how this duet came about. :)


fanfreluche profile image

fanfreluche 7 days ago from France (but Canadian at heart)

Nice to see this great page about sad song have a new home. it looks good, the import from squidoo doesn't seem to have made too much of a mess?


AJ2008 profile image

AJ2008 9 days ago from UK

It has to be The Carpenters for me.


SusannaDuffy profile image

SusannaDuffy 10 days ago from Melbourne Australia Level 4 Commenter

Just hearing the title of 'And the band played Waltzing Matilda' is enough to bring on the tears with me. Dreadfully sad. Appallingly sad


LisaAuch1 profile image

LisaAuch1 10 days ago from Scotland

Oh Man! Neil Diamond gets me every time....


julieannbrady profile image

julieannbrady 10 days ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA Level 6 Commenter

Suddenly, I'm feeling sad ... song sung blue ...


savateuse profile image

savateuse 11 days ago Level 2 Commenter

Some good old nostalgia here... Oh, the memories... ;)


pkmcruk profile image

pkmcruk 13 days ago from Cheshire UK Level 3 Commenter

A number here that bring back memories - I think we all have a time for "sad songs"


NC Shepherd profile image

NC Shepherd 13 days ago

Honey by Bobby Goldsboro - "See the tree, how big it's grown, but friend it hasn't been too long it wasn't big..."


annieangel1 profile image

annieangel1 13 days ago from Yorkshire, England Level 1 Commenter

thanks for a trip down memory lane Paul. my favourite has to be cat's in the cradle.


shellys-space profile image

shellys-space 7 weeks ago from Midwest U.S.A.

So many great sad songs to choose from, but I had to vote up Without You by Harry Nilsson!


burntchestnut 8 weeks ago

I don't consider all of the songs you listed as sad, thank goodness. However one song I can't listen to is "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro.


jewlsss profile image

jewlsss 2 months ago Level 1 Commenter

I have never heard of any of these songs and I´m always looking for new sad songs. Thank you therefore! One of my favourite sad songs is "9 Crimes" by Damien Rice.


brittabucketlist profile image

brittabucketlist 2 months ago

Great lens! Thank you!


brittabucketlist profile image

brittabucketlist 2 months ago

Great lens! Thank you!


Bergey7 profile image

Bergey7 2 months ago Level 1 Commenter

Nice nostalgic lens. One of my personal favorites i did not see here was "Neither one of us" by Gladys Knight and the Pips. Thanks!


Eventide79 profile image

Eventide79 2 months ago

Great lens, expertly composed. I hope to one day be on that kind of level. Thanks.


asereht1970 profile image

asereht1970 3 months ago Level 5 Commenter

These songs thug at your heart. They can make a sad person sadder. Great lens.


PaigSr profile image

PaigSr 4 months ago Level 5 Commenter

The running gag with the wife is that I have a dirge always running through my head.


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