by Julia Buckley
Sad songs make me cry. My family will tell you that happy songs make me cry also, and even seemingly neutral songs can elicit tears. I am a person who responds to music, and that usually involves weeping. I am not sure why.
When I was pregnant, I became the laughing stock of my family for crying while listening to Ray Stevens' MISSISSIPPI SQUIRREL REVIVAL on the country radio station. It's one of the dumbest songs ever written, but somehow in my maternal state I found the depths of sadness in the song.
Anyway, aside from that embarrassment, I think I can identify a truly sad song, and somehow I take great satisfaction from a good tear jerker. If you asked me I could list 100 good sad songs on the spot, but I'm going to choose a top five of truly satisfying sad songs.
Number One: KILKELLY, IRELAND
My husband and I made the mistake of listening to this on a cassette tape back in the 80s when we were headed out on vacation together. It had gotten dark, and we were driving down a pitch black expressway, not talking and therefore really listening to the lyrics of this song. When it was over, we looked at each other, and we both had tears running down our faces. Here it's sung by the Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell (although we heard it by the group ARRANMORE). I recommend listening to the words with your eyes closed so you can get the full effect. Tears guaranteed.
2. Whiskey Lullaby, Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss. Country singers have a lock on the sad song, and this one is hauntingly beautiful. This duo sang it live at the Country Music Awards (and they won one).
3. Early Morning Rain. This song gets deep into my bones, whether it's this Peter, Paul and Mary version or the Gordon Lightfoot version (Lightfoot wrote the song). There's something about a sad person in the rain . . .
4. Where've You Been? Kathy Mattea. As someone who's lost a family member to Alzheimer's, I find this song particularly wrenching, but even before that this one got to me. It was written by Mattea's husband, who had gone through something similar in his family.
5. You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive Patty Loveless. Patty Loveless has what she terms "a hill country voice" and it's utterly poignant in this song about coal mines and the destruction they wrought on families too poor to escape them.
6. Streets of London, Ralph McTell. Okay, I lied--I had to include an encore song here. Ralph McTell wrote this song in 1969, but he left it off his debut album because he thought it was too depressing; by 1974 it was released as a single in the UK and at one point was selling 90,000 copies a day (or so says Wikipedia). I see this as more evidence that people love sad songs.
I could go on and on. But of course I've missed some truly sad ones. What are they? Tell me so I can add them to my list.