An Appreciation of Sad Songs

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.
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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?