I was hoping to have a new Robert Tolkien short story up today. Unfortunately, the story is taking me longer to write than I anticipated. Suffice to say, it’s going to be the first multi-part story. Since I don’t have that, I thought I thought I’d bring out another blast from the past. Since I don’t like to air my personal issues on this site, I’ll just keep it short and say this article summarizes how I’m feeling today. So without further adieu, here’s my list of my favorite sad songs:

5. Tuesday’s Gone by Lynard Skynard: For me, one of the things I really like is the way this song builds.  The lyrics are okay – pretty standard breakup stuff, but the way they’re sung really tells the story. In the middle, there’s some pretty wicked guitar work and a piano solo that has me green with envy wishing I could play like that. By the end of the song, the strings have swelled and the drum fills have become more elaborate. The song starts as a simple ballad about lost love and just builds to an epic climax. Lastly, there’s that organ, it’s as if all the heartache were just poured into that one beautiful organ hook. I love this hook. Without the many positives I just mentioned, that organ hook alone probably would have sold me on this song.

4. Hurt by Johnny Cash: Considering I’ve talked in the past about being a big Johnny Cash fan, it should come as no surprise that surprise that this one made the cut. Yeah, there’s a reason that even though this is a cover, everyone considers this Cash’s song. Even Trent Reznor said this is now Cash’s song. (And to be fair, the original NIN nails song is pretty good.) One of the reasons I like Johnny Cash so much is that he was such an emotional singer. Here, he taps into his real experiences with drug addiction to sing an absolutely heartbreaking song. It’s impressive that Cash could still sing at his age and I think the fact that he sang it at such a late age added to the song. The extra quaver in his voice makes him sound more wounded – adding to the sadness. You just feel like you’re listening to someone who’s been broken down by his years of drug battles and mistakes. When he goes for the higher notes at the chorus, he sounds like he’s broken down, even as the music swells toward the end of the day. This song was also used as a tribute to pro wrestler Eddie Guerrero who lost his life because of similar drug issues. This song is a perfect choice for anyone who’s lost the battle to drugs, but even for those of us who have avoided drugs, it’s hard not to get choked up at this one.

3. I Never Cry by Alice Cooper: I have a confession. For the longest time, I’ve misinterpreted this song. I thought it was about bottling up one’s emotions and Cooper separating himself from the ones he loves. Actually, it’s about Alice Cooper’s battle with alcoholism. He used it to… well… do all the things I just described. So I was half right. The song starts out in a very understated manner but eventually rises up without becoming too over-the-top. When most people think Alice Cooper, they think of his on-stage shock rock antics. And having seen him live, I can assure you the man knows how to put on one hell of a show. But his singing here, shows that he could tap into a more emotive quality. Even though I’ve never resorted to drowning out my sorrows with alcohol, maybe I connect with this song because I’ve all too often made the mistake of bottling things up and letting them fester. Of course the fact that this song is really good also helps.


2. King of Pain by the Police: In trying to decide a Police song, it was a toss-up between this or “Can’t Stand Losing You.” While that is a great song, and a ripe candidate since it explicitly talks about a man deciding to commit suicide. So how could anything top that in terms of gloominess? Well, for starters, “Can’t Stand Losing You” is a reggae song, so by definition the music is automatically upbeat… even if the lyrics are extremely downbeat. “King of Pain” announces its gloomy nature from the very beginning with its downbeat piano chords and Sting’s distant-sounding singing, you know this one isn’t going to be happy. Lyrically, “Can’t Stand Losing You” starts out as a traditional break-up song. In fact, when I introduced my brother to this song, he thought it was awesome the way it transitions from an almost comical song to such a depressing song. Oh yeah, this is supposed to be about “King of Pain”, isn’t it? The lyrics of “King of Pain” are just an onslaught of unhappy imagery (“There’s a skeleton choking on a crust of bread”). Hmm, I guess I did get to talk about both songs.

1. I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues by Elton John: What gave away that this one would be on the list? The stalker-tastic video I made with this song dedicated to my beautiful Zooey? The fact that I’m obsessed with trying to learn this song on piano? Oh yeah, you’d have to live with me to know I’m obsessed with trying to learn this song. Maybe you guess it would be here because this article is named after an Elton John song. As I’ve mentioned before, Elton John is one of my favorite artists and this song is an example of why: Elton really knows how to make the piano “talk” in the intro that perfectly sets the mood. The lyrics (the work of Bernie Taupin) really paint a picture of lovers separated. The harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder has this certain quality where it’s sad but has this vaguely optimistic tone – like maybe someday things will get better. Although the song is a ballad, Elton sings it with a very soulful flair, and he really cranks up the soul during live performances.

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