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An Appreciation of Sad Songs

by Simon Martin
17 May 2011 22 Comments

It's late, you've had one too many, and the song playing in the taxi reminds you of your ex and your dead dog. Don't hold back the tears though, let it out. Here's why the best cure for the blues, can actually be The Blues.

You give it up love, you're probably listening to Pink

Thankfully I, and hopefully all you lovely readers of Sabotage Times, do not have to experience real loss very often, and I mean real heartbreaking loss. The kind that would make you drop to the floor and howl at the pain. I haven’t, but I know those emotions are there and the only way I ever get to even taste how they feel is listening to sad songs while being a bit pissed up.

TV and film doesn’t do it I’m afraid, it’s not personal enough. Yes “Love Story”, “Terms of Endearment” and “The Champ” might raise a lump in the throat but it’s not the same as getting the cans on, a glass of something strong and having someone sing to you.

Good sad songs appear to me to come in two categories, lost love and death. There are far more in the first category and so many don’t really hit the mark or are so familiar you don’t feel the sentiment anymore. Why Culture Club thought a playful reggae beat was appropriate for David Gates’ “Everything I Own” is a mystery to me, particularly with Boy George dressed as an ambitious sock puppet doing a bouncy “Wakey two step”. The tit. The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Harry Nilsson’s cover of Badfinger’s “I Can’t Live”, whilst fabulous tracks, are so familiar they’ve maybe lost their impact as sad songs. I’d like to give a nod though to Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” as they still stand up today.

The really powerful songs are the ones that lament painful loss of loved ones and often regret. “Tears in Heaven” might be a tune very familiar to anyone with ears, but to listen to it knowing it’s about his own four year old boy who fell 53 storey’s to his death, and it becomes almost unbearably sad. Hell, I

hell I’m filling up writing this thinking of my own 3 year old son. Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” performed by Johnny Cash has the power to move you but “Everybody Hurts” by REM, which is from what I can ascertain, about teenage suicide, still hits the all the right buttons. I suspect, although, that it feeds the cult of melancholy that many American teens seem to wallow in but it get’s me blubbing more than an episode of “Children’s Hospice: Where are they now?” I just made that show up but you get my drift.

My favourite sad song is one you may not have heard by an artist who may be more famous to many for his offspring than his own, albeit excellent, work. Try and get a listen of “Sometimes I forget” by Loudon Wainwright III. His kids Martha and Rufus have probably eclipsed his success in recent years if you like duets with Snow Patrol (which I don’t mind) or Judy Garland covers (which I do not) but he is an excellent songwriter and folk singer. Again, I may be wrong but it appears to be about the loss of his father and him dealing with the fact his has not gone off on a trip he is no longer there. Great lines like: “why would you leave your wallet behind, your glasses your wristwatch and ring” make you immediately identify with the situation and you think of your own family and how you would feel. It’s very powerful stuff and I urge you to get it up on YouTube.

So next time you are in a late night armchair, headphones, average bottle of red, tears rolling down your face moment just let it go, it’s good for the soul. Which ones get you blubbing?

If you like it, Pass it on

image descriptionCOMMENTS

Rob 9:06 am, 17-May-2011

'first day of my life' by Bright eyes floored me last week

Tim Russell 9:22 am, 17-May-2011

Tom Waits - Martha

Dan 10:10 am, 17-May-2011

Boy George's (not Culture Club's) version of Everything I Own was based on Ken Boothe's reggae version. Hence the playful reggae beat. Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours was an album that got me through some bad times.

Antony 10:24 am, 17-May-2011

Living Years - Mike and The Mechanics. Gets me every time.

Dan 10:45 am, 17-May-2011

Antony - Just had a flashback to an episode of Stars In Your Eyes that aired three days after my dad's father died. As soon as he said "Tonight Matthew I'm going to be Paul Carrack" I knew that we were in trouble.

Mr Patrick 11:06 am, 17-May-2011

Mazzy Star - Fade Into You... gets me every time.

Fin 3:20 pm, 17-May-2011

Blade runner scence 1. Holden presses play on the Voight Kampff CD player. Billly Bragg's - Tank Park Salute. Leon cries, film over, roll credits.

ianbrownshairdo 4:16 pm, 17-May-2011

History by the Verve, turns me into a weeping wreck. mind you me and my bro did used to pretend it was about me and him. he's been dead 10 years, still gets me.

Simon Martin 5:03 pm, 17-May-2011

I love Billy Bragg I will check that one out Fin. He's usually angry about loss is Billy though. St Swithins Day is one of my favourites of all time.

Simon Martin 10:20 pm, 17-May-2011

Just You Tubed it. Fin, you are not wrong my friend.

Dan 6:23 pm, 18-May-2011

If you wanna really 'feel' try Jimmy Cliff, many rivers to cross or Radiohead, creep. I'm taking both daily at the moment but to be honest... It's making it worse!

James G 8:50 pm, 18-May-2011

Antony & The Johnsons, Hope There's Someone is the most hauntingly beautiful song I have ever heard, particularly the Jules Holland performance. Musical misery perfection.

domestosgoddess 9:15 pm, 18-May-2011

For me, "Smile" especially if it's Nat King Cole, and Doris Day's "Secret Love". both pop songs (of the 1950s I admit) and both guaranteed to awaken the laziest tear glands.

Dan 9:55 pm, 19-May-2011

Otis Reading, these arms of mine? Sam Cooke, a change is gonna come? and Beach Boys, Wouldn't it be nice is very sad but only if you are sad, otherwise its a corker. Note to self... Listen to more upbeat music, my shrink won't be pleased with me!

Michael Isura 11:01 pm, 20-May-2011

Once I was - Tim Buckley Achingly beautiful/sad.

Simon Martin 1:15 am, 27-May-2011

On the Billy Bragg theme, try The Myth of Trust, it's superb.

J Cooper 10:13 pm, 3-Jun-2011

The band played waltzing matilda,The Pogues.

J Cooper 10:25 pm, 3-Jun-2011

The band played waltzing matilda, The Pogues.

StreboreS 5:00 am, 4-Jun-2011

Van Morrison beside you.

Simon Martin 5:02 pm, 13-Dec-2011

I've only just realised, the article is not complete. Rest is below: hell I’m filling up writing this thinking of my own 3 year old son. Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” performed by Johnny Cash has the power to move you but “Everybody Hurts” by REM, which is from what I can ascertain, about teenage suicide, still hits the all the right buttons. I suspect, although, that it feeds the cult of melancholy that many American teens seem to wallow in but it get’s me blubbing more than an episode of “Children’s Hospice: Where are they now?” I just made that show up but you get my drift. My favourite sad song is one you may not have heard by an artist who may be more famous to many for his offspring than his own, albeit excellent, work. Try and get a listen of “Sometimes I forget” by Loudon Wainwright III. His kids Martha and Rufus have probably eclipsed his success in recent years if you like duets with Snow Patrol (which I don’t mind) or Judy Garland covers (which I do not) but he is an excellent songwriter and folk singer. Again, I may be wrong but it appears to be about the loss of his father and him dealing with the fact his has not gone off on a trip he is no longer there. Great lines like: “why would you leave your wallet behind, your glasses your wristwatch and ring” make you immediately identify with the situation and you think of your own family and how you would feel. It’s very powerful stuff and I urge you to get it up on YouTube. So next time you are in a late night armchair, headphones, average bottle of red, tears rolling down your face moment just let it go, it’s good for the soul. Which ones get you blubbing?

Fugate Starkweather 3:42 pm, 26-Aug-2012

I'm going through the pain of unrequited love right now and "Bad Girl" by Lee Moses and "I'd Rather Be With You" by Bootsy Collins are getting me through it.

mart 1:53 pm, 23-Dec-2012

Brothers in Arms-Dire Straits, and as mentioned, Against All Odds-Phil Collins and finallt Hands to Heaven_Breathe

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