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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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".
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
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 ...
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 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.
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
Do You Have A Sad Song? - Share it with us
GalaxyRat on May 12, 2017:
Let Her Go by Passenger, love song, but also sad.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on April 10, 2015:
Enjoyed the visit and seeing your favorite sad songs
savateuse on April 10, 2015:
Nice to revisit this article, with some of my favourite sad songs.
Giovanna from UK on October 31, 2014:
Fabulous songs in this hub. I have to say I feel very sad now. My son sings 'Tears in Heaven' so beautifully with his guitar, and it's very hard for me to hear him because of it's 'story'. I can see that my son, who is only 14 , doesn't understand why I cry when he sings it! One day, sadly, when he learns what it's about he'll be very sad too. You have brought back some very dear memories. Glad you included Dylan and Cohen and Simon.
BgF on October 22, 2014:
This would be on my "10 saddest ..." Communards "for a friend" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOArNfHCKqU
and I'm not a ...
RaintreeAnnie from UK on September 19, 2014:
Oh so many faves from this list -Cats in the cradle, You don't bring me flowers and Goodbye to Love and more.... However, I do have to be in the right mood to listen to this kind of music. Love this page , you have good taste in music!
gottaloveit2 on September 12, 2014:
A really beautifully put together article, Paul. Excellent.
Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on September 11, 2014:
'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 from France (but Canadian at heart) on September 10, 2014:
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 on September 08, 2014:
It has to be The Carpenters for me.
Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on September 07, 2014:
Just hearing the title of 'And the band played Waltzing Matilda' is enough to bring on the tears with me. Dreadfully sad. Appallingly sad
Lisa Auch from Scotland on September 07, 2014:
Oh Man! Neil Diamond gets me every time....
julieannbrady on September 06, 2014:
Suddenly, I'm feeling sad ... song sung blue ...
savateuse on September 06, 2014:
Some good old nostalgia here... Oh, the memories... ;)
pkmcr from Cheshire UK on September 04, 2014:
A number here that bring back memories - I think we all have a time for "sad songs"
NC Shepherd on September 04, 2014:
Honey by Bobby Goldsboro - "See the tree, how big it's grown, but friend it hasn't been too long it wasn't big..."
Ann from Yorkshire, England on September 04, 2014:
thanks for a trip down memory lane Paul. my favourite has to be cat's in the cradle.
Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on July 28, 2014:
So many great sad songs to choose from, but I had to vote up Without You by Harry Nilsson!
burntchestnut on July 20, 2014:
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 on July 18, 2014:
I have never heard of any of these songs and IÂ´m always looking for new sad songs. Thank you therefore! One of my favourite sad songs is "9 Crimes" by Damien Rice.
brittabucketlist on July 18, 2014:
Great lens! Thank you!
brittabucketlist on July 18, 2014:
Great lens! Thank you!
Bergey7 on July 08, 2014:
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 on July 06, 2014:
Great lens, expertly composed. I hope to one day be on that kind of level. Thanks.
asereht1970 from Philippines on May 29, 2014:
These songs thug at your heart. They can make a sad person sadder. Great lens.
PaigSr from State of Confusion on May 01, 2014:
The running gag with the wife is that I have a dirge always running through my head.
Barbara Walton from France on February 04, 2014:
These brought back memories! I'm going to see if you've done a happy song collection as an antidote!
Lee Hansen from Vermont on October 18, 2013:
Oh sigh. I still get weepy at Tears in Heaven, and many more on your list certainly are on my hit-the-heart-hard list as well.
joshTheECE on September 29, 2013:
Yeah, I love sad songs. They can transport you all the way back to memory lane and sometimes makes you feel better after listening to them. Thank you for this list!
'Vikk Simmons from Houston on September 10, 2013:
Usually ones that are sad to me would not be sad to others simply because they are more identifier songs linked with a person or event. Love your list.
Ibidii on August 02, 2013:
Of your top 10 sad songs I would say the one that I felt was the saddest and most impressionable was Cat's In The Cradle: Harry Chapin. The next one that I liked Elanor Rigby - The Beatles, and November Rain: Guns 'n Roses, Awesome lens :D
Michey LM on August 01, 2013:
Very interesting topic, yes! i like them and I don't consider them being "sad", they are profound human songs..
John Dyhouse from UK on July 09, 2013:
I have still got that BOb Dylan Album- now also on CD. I love tears in heaven so poignant But my fave sad song has to be Old Shep, gets me blubbibg everytime. I first heard it when our family dog was ill with distemper and we thought he would not live. I actually have tears in my eyes just thinking about it right now.
sunaria on May 30, 2013:
love Carpenters, respect from sunaria beat making software blog.
sunaria on May 30, 2013:
DoctorMo1 on May 22, 2013:
Loved these songs, but mostly didn't view them as sad, just real.
Palitra27 on May 22, 2013:
The sad songs you listed are really great.
kavalonthatsme on May 20, 2013:
Just wanted to say great lens, I have a broken heart, easy to cry these days!
julieannbrady on May 05, 2013:
This morning, I am humming "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" as it so relates to my single status > but, enough about me! I was watching my poor sunflower plants weather the heavy rains and winds we have experienced the last several days. Sort of seems related. ;)
CristianStan on April 03, 2013:
I love sad songs, they help me study way better. My personal favorites are Almost Lover and My Immortal
employmentresources on March 28, 2013:
@Paul Ward: :) you're welcome
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on March 28, 2013:
@employmentresources: A new one on me but thanks for suggesting it,
employmentresources on March 28, 2013:
Love cats in the cradle, but can't believe you missed my all time favorite sad song Wildfire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pc3OnSQc48s
Rose Jones on March 27, 2013:
I love your choices: pinned to my music board. We all have a place in our life for sad songs.
Bill Armstrong from Valencia, California on March 27, 2013:
One that I have loved for years along with a close personal friend is "Ben" by Michael Jackson
MexicoTravel on March 26, 2013:
Cat's In The Cradle deeply touched me :(
savateuse on March 23, 2013:
You got me with your first choice : Goodbye To Love, by the Carpenters. I also love Without You, by Harry Nilsson
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on March 14, 2013:
I used to cry along with some Crystal Gayle songs when I was going through my divorce. "Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For?" and "Ready for the Times to Get Better." "When I Dream" and "Down That Wrong Road Again" are great too.
EricKnight on March 13, 2013:
Awesome selection! Here's a few of my faves:
Vincent - Don Maclean
Misty Blue - Dorothy Moore
On My Own - Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald
I Will - Ruby Winters
Ill Be Over You - Toto
SiMone3 on March 07, 2013:
Alone Again (naturally): Gilbert O'Sullivan, Nothing Else Matters: Metallica and MacArthur Park:Jimmy Webb...
Otto Phillips on March 05, 2013:
End of the Road by Boys II Men, Against All Odds by Phil Collins, Drive by The Cars and Nothing Else Matters by Metallica are a few of my favorite sad songs.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on February 25, 2013:
I had also done an article on sad songs and was surprised to see that we did not even have one in common. Although I remember Without You by Harry Nilsson and agree 100 percent with that pick. That is indeed a very very tear jerking heartbreak song that is so very sad. I'm sure I have shed a tear or two to it in the past.
TL Stahling from US on February 18, 2013:
Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton; not only can it make me cry for my lost loved ones, I can cry for the loss of Clapton's child.
Eric Mayo on February 17, 2013:
Alone again, Naturally, Gilbert O'sullivan
john9229 on February 04, 2013:
Air supply - without you!
One of my Sad Song....
FatLossDiva on January 31, 2013:
Some very nice songs here. Right Here Waiting For You, by Richard Marx, was a sad song for me many years ago when I was in a long distance relationship.
Don't think I'd ever paid attention to the words in And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda before, and I'm Australian. Thanks for a great lens.
anonymous on January 15, 2013:
I heard the Dulux advert with Maybe Tomorrow from The Littlest Hobo and it immediately brought tears to my eyes.
The programme made me cry every week as a child.
I also can't listen to Memory from Cats without crying.
Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on January 13, 2013:
Careless Whisper.... I used to sing that with my band many years ago and it always made me cry just singing it!
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on January 13, 2013:
@Frischy: I first heard that many years ago in the TV film "She Lives!" and remembered it evermore. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_Lives!
Frischy from Kentucky, USA on January 13, 2013:
I woke up this morning with Time in a Bottle playing inside my head. I had to come see if it was listed on this lens yet, and it wasn't so I added it. It's a very sad song. I suppose it resonates with me quite a bit these days as I go through midlife.
anonymous on December 17, 2012:
This is great, thank you for your sharing, I really like them. :)
John Dyhouse from UK on December 17, 2012:
Ever since I was a boy, I have loved Old Shep by Elvis. I heard it after our much loved pet had overcome a case of distemper and the thought of what might have been had me in tears. Maybe there are much sadder things which happen in life but to a small child....... The feelings I have when I hear this song have stayed with me over the following 50 years or so. I still love to hear it.
Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on December 15, 2012:
I'm feeling my age. I only recognized one song on the list. But I do love the sad songs.
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on December 14, 2012:
@getmoreinfo: Thank you: glad you liked it,
anonymous on December 14, 2012:
Never Again - Elvis
XxSadieLadyxX on December 13, 2012:
James Blunt - Goodbye My Lover
cjbmeb14 lm on December 13, 2012:
Only yesterday from Karen Carpenter. Not so much a sad song but very emotional song for me for family reasons.
xtianfriborg13 on December 09, 2012:
getmoreinfo on December 01, 2012:
This is a great list of songs it takes me back down memory lane.
CoolKarma on November 25, 2012:
Led Zeppelin, "That's The Way" makes me cry but I love it. If you don't know it, it is on YouTube with the lyrics written. Too sad :-(
geoffhoff on November 17, 2012:
Jacque Brel - If You Go Away
LadyFlashman from United Kingdom on November 17, 2012:
Definitely Johnny Cash "Hurt" is very sad, I would also add "Angie" by the Stones and Johnny Cash again singing "The Man Comes Around". Sob!
Cushk on November 11, 2012:
That's a great list. Was happy to see Leonard Cohen on it!
bezabeza on November 10, 2012:
Yes definitely some of these are really very sad..very true! I always find myself wanting to cry at the end of 'Up the Junction' by squeeze when after telling the story of setting up home with his girlfriend, having a baby then them splitting and how 'the devil came and took me, to bar to street to booky..'
NativeArtsColle on November 05, 2012:
Great List..Thanks for this, it reminded me of a few that I haven't heard for a long time.
Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on November 02, 2012:
I immediately thought of "Cats in the Cradle" when I read the title of your lens. Yep, that one is definitely up there on my list. So is "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." *sniff* I think I'd better go turn on some disco or something else with goofy, meaningless lyrics and a fun beat.
LisaDH on November 02, 2012:
I love your list. My favorite among these is Cat's Cradle. Such a sad, true song for too many folks.
neomil on November 02, 2012:
Yes my favourite is Fading Like A Rose
bt55 on November 02, 2012:
There are so many sad songs that it is hard to remember them all unless there is a sad memory attached to it. You have chosen some really good ones here.
anonymous on October 31, 2012:
you've listed one of my favorite songs... i really love november rain by guns n' roses....
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on October 26, 2012:
Beautifully sad collection of songs.
anonymous on October 24, 2012:
The Living Years by Paul Carrack
anonymous on October 24, 2012:
When She Loved Me by Sarah McLachlan
anonymous on October 24, 2012:
Birds by Neil Young
AdriatiX on October 22, 2012:
Sometimes sad songs just make you feel better. Very good collection.
anonymous on October 09, 2012:
heart touching songs
AdityaAgarwal on October 06, 2012:
happynutritionist on October 02, 2012:
I don't have any new sad songs to add, but this is a page suited for the gray, rainy weather we are having today...but I'm going to :-) anyway and leave you a blessing.
anonymous on September 30, 2012:
What A great Lens!
Frischy from Kentucky, USA on September 13, 2012:
Back for another visit. Such sad songs deserve a blessing.
poppy mercer from London on September 13, 2012:
For me, Leonard and Joan rise high above the rest as classics; the songs are sad, but they rise above the maudlin and ickyness of others...because the poetry is actually good, and the delivery unsentimental.
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on September 12, 2012:
I know most of these and agree with you they are sad songs, but catch you by the heart strings just the same. Thanks for sharing and bringing back some memories. Blessed by a SquidAngel.
writerkath on September 12, 2012:
I do have a bunch - and you named a good many of them. It's really interesting, but I just recently made an UPBEAT feel-good songs lens - and I'm still looking for more to add to it. Seems like there are more sad than happy songs, doesn't it?
Deb Bryan from Chico California on September 12, 2012:
Love this selection of sad songs. Most are my all time favorites and a couple I've never heard before (thanks for putting this page together).
BarbaraCasey on September 12, 2012:
The Eric Bogle "Walzing Matilda" song puts chills up my spine. "Singing the Spirit Home" is another... sad but powerful.
whiteskyline lm on September 12, 2012:
I have a number, and am drawn to some. Fire and Rain strikes me as one sad song I think of, especially with the story behind it with James Taylor.
carolinarobin on September 12, 2012:
Sometimes a good sad song just hits the spot!
John Dyhouse from UK on September 02, 2012:
Great list of songs, as Poddy's said need something to cheer myself up now
Diana Grant from United Kingdom on September 02, 2012:
You've got most of my favourite sad songs in your original list - we still play a lot of them
Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on August 31, 2012:
Just came back for another look. Now I need to find a happy lens :)