10 Saddest Songs In Rock Music

Saddest Songs In Rock

Photo: Oleg Onchky

Why do rockers write so many sad songs? Peter Gabriel noted in interviews that writing sad songs was much easier than writing happy songs. From the days of the blues, sad music can make you feel really good. Or does it just make you feel worse. And why do want to hear sad songs when we are already feeling pretty down. Isn’t rock and roll supposed to be all about making us feel great, happy and all that jazz? Here is a look at some of the saddest songs in rock music. Of course there are thousands more, but we just thought we mention some of the saddest. What are yours?

# 10 – Tom Waits: Hell Broke Luce

Tom Waits puts his customary gravel-inside-a-silk-purse growl into a wail of despair as he takes on the voice of a crippled, drug-addicted veteran. It’s thought that the song was (sadly) inspired by a real Iraq veteran named Jeff Lucey. The song marches relentlessly through Luce’s problems, including being crippled, mother dying, watching a buddy die, and getting addicted to meth. “What is next?” he cries and apparently nothing is next because that’s where the song ends. It appears on Tom Waits’ 2011 album Bad as Me.

 

# 9 – The Beatles: Eleanor Rigby

Nothing very dramatic happens is this next look at the saddest songs in rock music, but that’s just why this is so depressing. Two ordinary people are shown, Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie, and how their lives turned out to be completely inconsequential. It’s a stark reminder of our own mortality coming from The Beatles, then incredibly consequential and young. Often, a look at mortality only comes from older musicians. This first appeared in the Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver.

 

# 8 – Warren Zevon: Excitable Boy

Although it does not deal with the usual sad song subject of lost love, Warren Zevon’s macabre classic looks at a wasted life of a murderer and rapist. If that’s not deserving of a spot in the saddest songs in rock music, we don’t know what is. It’s all set to an upbeat tune, with doo-wop backing vocals and a robust sax solo, which underscores how stark the lyrics are. It first came out in the 1978 album Excitable Boy.

 

# 7 – Pink Floyd: Don’t Leave Me Now

Even rock stars get the blues. Here, Roger Waters writes of a rock star hitting rock-bottom. His wife has left and he is totally blind as to how cruelly he treated her. Roger Waters wail is accompanied by an echoing piano, synths, organ, bass and distorted guitar and what sounds like a person hooked up to a ventilator. The song builds up to a crescendo of pleading. It was first released on the classic 1979 masterpiece, The Wall.

# 6 – Trent Reznor: Hurt

There are very few things sadder in life than a drug addict that’s hit bottom and realizes that he’s wasted his life and the lives of everyone who loved him. This might have been confined as an obscure song, even for Nine Inch Nails fans, had it not been for country superstar Johnny Cash recording a jaw-dropping version for his 2004 album Cash I: The Man Comes Around. Producer Rick Rubin brought the song to Cash’s attention and the rest is history. The song first appeared in the Nine Inch Nails’ 1994 album The Downward Spiral.

 

# 5 – The Rolling Stones: Paint it Black

Far back in European folk music is the ballad to the girl who died young. In 1968, this tradition was explored by The Rolling Stones. Flavored with the late-sixties standard of a sitar, guitars and a pounding drumbeat, this is an intensely relentless look at a man mourning the loss of his young love. All of normal life seems obscene, as if not recognizing the horror of the girl’s death. That’s why Mick Jagger insists on everything being painted black and “I want to see the sun blotted out from the sky.” It first appeared on the 1966 album Aftermath.

 

# 4 – Roy Orbison: Crying

For a sheer weep-fest, it’s hard to beat Roy Orbison’s heartfelt 1961 classic. Orbison explained in videos that this was based on a meeting he had with an ex. Although it’s often been covered, it’s hard to beat Orbison’s quavering soul-filled voice, revealing the agony of living while the one you love does not love you anymore. This three-minute masterpiece first appeared as a single and then in the album called, appropriately enough, Crying.

 

# 3 – Peter Gabriel: Home Sweet Home

Perhaps Peter Gabriel’s most underrated song, it can be hard to listen to because of the subject matter. A young mother kills herself and her child because of poverty. The husband then suddenly wins a fortune and lives in a huge home all by himself. Gabriel wrote this after reading of just such a suicide. As a father, he thought of how the father felt coming home from work to discover his reason for working were dead. This first appeared in Gabriel’s first solo album, Peter Gabriel in 1977.

 

# 2 – The Magnetic Fields: From a Sinking Boat

Drowning is a horrible death. And yet, what would the last thoughts of a drowning person be? According to the Magnetic Fields, the last thoughts are of you. This song reads as if a last letter was discovered in the wreckage of a sunken ship. The vocals are low and dirge-like, multi-layered as if the while drowning crew is singing the same song. The backing instruments include an accordion, an instrument usually associated with sea shanties. This song first appeared on the 2010 album Realism and in the soundtracks of documentaries on sad subjects.

 

#1 – Lou Reed: The Kids

Even die-hard Lou Reed fans find The Kids hard to listen to because of how desperately sad it is. It’s a song about authorities taking children away from a single mother. It features recordings of two children screaming their hearts out. The good news is that the screaming kids were actors. The song’s producer asked one child to think of the saddest thing he could think of. When he started crying, the second child did, too. This is a more than worthy list topper for our look at the saddest songs in rock music.

10 Saddest Songs In Rock Music article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021

Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business or any organizations is allowed to republish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. 

DMCA.com Protection Status

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Periphery Songs
Top 10 Periphery Songs
Dirty Rotten Imbeciles Songs
Top 10 Dirty Rotten Imbeciles Songs
Debbie Harry Solo Songs
Top 10 Debbie Harry Solo Songs
Carly Simon Album Covers
Top 10 Carly Simon Album Covers
15 Greatest Hits Albums With Best Unreleased Tracks & Non-Album Songs
18 Best Greatest Hits Albums With Unreleased Tracks & Non-Album Singles
Best Rock Albums Of 2022
Best Rock Albums Of 2022
12 Essential Jazz Guitar Albums
12 Essential Jazz Guitar Albums
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks In Your Dreams LP
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks In Your Dreams LP
Tom Verlaine Of Television Has Passed Away At 73
Tom Verlaine Of Television Has Passed Away At 73
Remembering David Crosby
Remembering David Crosby
David Crosby Dead At 81
David Crosby Dead At 81
Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming With Dave Letterman To Premier On Disney+ March 2023
Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming With Dave Letterman To Premier On Disney+ March 2023
10 Classic Rock Bands That Have Never Released A Live Album
10 Classic Rock Bands That Have Never Released A Live Album
Will Music CDs Become Collectors Items?
Why Basic Music CDs Will Become Collectors Items
Greatest Rock Bass Lines Of The 70s
Greatest Rock Bass Lines Of The 70s
Don Kirschner Rock Concert
Before MTV, There Was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram Interview
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Garnett Grimm Of Savoy Brown Interview
Garnet Grimm of Savoy Brown: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Pat DeSalvo Of Savoy Brown Interview
Pat DeSalvo of Savoy Brown: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Steve Zing of Danzig Interview
Steve Zing of Danzig: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Real Meanings Behind Songs On Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad Album
Real Meanings Behind Songs On Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Rihanna's Music of the Sun Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Rihanna’s Music of the Sun Album
Rihanna Albums
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Rihanna’s A Girl Like Me Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks Rock a Little Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks Rock a Little Album
The War On Drugs Albums
Complete List Of The War On Drugs Albums And Discography
Turnstile Albums
Complete List Of Turnstile Albums And Discography
Pentatonix Albums
Complete List Of Pentatonix Albums And Discography
Kim Petras Albums
Complete List Of Kim Petras Albums, Songs And Singles