Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sad Songs Say So Much (age Twenty-three)

by Juliet Bond

Recently, I heard about a book called, “This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music.” Because we are on a skintight budget, I hurried over to the local B&N to read it while sneaking
free dollops of half and half into my home brewed jug o’ joe.

I am an admitted sad song junkie.  For years I have been creating annual playlists (once lovingly referred to as mix tapes, then mix CD’s) for my collective of girlfriends in our monthly Dinner Club.  These gorgeous and brilliant dames openly disdain my depressing assortment of suicidal yearnings.  Still, every year I hand out a lovingly fashioned, plastic disc to each something-smells-bad expression on their loyal faces.  (My God, I love my girlfriends!)

Nancy, Shari, Rian and me

Let me explain, sad songs rock.   The right sad song at the perfect time can be the down comforter, broken-in sweatpants, two straight days of movies based on Jane Austin novels, or good ugly cry that you need to get over it, or start to anyway.

At age twenty-three I’d just been through a break up.  The hardest part of that split wasn’t the losing of the guy, who was so wrong for me the actual dating of him was a shock to most of my closest friends.  Let’s just say that he was studying for his PHD in physics while indulging in Dungeons and Dragons-type role-play games on the side.

Perfect for someone, just not me.

We’d gotten engaged and then my subliminal mind kicked into gear, sending me all the way to San Diego for the summer to give myself the space to figure out how ridiculous the whole plan really was.  Thankfully, the guy ended up cheating while I was away and it ended with no grey areas to mull over.

Still, the being cheated on and the calling off of a scheduled wedding were pretty crushing. 

Sad songs were there for consolation.   I blasted Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough,” wallowed in anything Sarah McLachlan and indulged in a little angry Alanis Morissette for good measure. 

Fellow sad-song lover, Jeanne and me at twenty-three

Years later, I heard a podcast on NPR about a woman recently dumped who actually attempted to write her own break up song.  For advice, she called Phil Collins, THE Phil Collins.  Sweet man that he is, he called her back and chatted about how his divorce had inspired some of the most awesome tearjerker hits of the 1980’s. 

Watch, as Phil Collins creates a place of comfort where the bloody remnants of a shattered soul once set up house!

You're totally with me now, right?

And I would remiss if I didn’t mention Adele.  To date, Adele has sold over twenty-two million records, jam-packed with sad songs.   I mean every one of her songs is a lament that reaches into your body, clutches your heart and squeezes just tightly enough to buckle your knees but not actually kill you.  And then, somewhere mid-wail, you start to feel stronger, less alone - like Kiss my backside, broken heart.  I'm movin' on.  

For the most part, I can plot my life, year by year, with the juiciest sad songs I blasted over and over and over again, sopping up my snot and tears with a nearby blanket.

1976 Case of You by Joni Mitchell
1977 Song for Duke by Judy Collins
1979 Big year, lots of silence
1980 Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper
1981 Open Arms by Journey
1982-84 Like, all of middle school = The entire Purple Rain album
1985 I Can't Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon
1986 Live to Tell by Madonna
1987 Queen and the Soldier by Suzanne Vega
1988 Only You by Yaz
1989 Gypsy by Suzanne Vega
1990 Waiting for That Day by George Michael
1991 Closer by Jonathon Richman
1992 How Can I Tell You by Cat Stevens
1993 December (The album) by George Winston
1994 You Learn by Alanis Morisette
1995 Strong Enough by Sheryl Crow
1996 Angel Dream by Tom Petty
1997 Baby Mine sung by Bonnie Raitt
1998 Power of Two by The Indigo Girls
2000 Teddy Bear Named Freddie (Lilly) Bear by Justin Roberts
2003 Useless Desires by Patty Griffin
2004 I Will by the Beatles
2005 For Good from Wicked and Emily by Beth Nielsen Chapman
2006 Mary by Patty Griffin
2007 Songbird sung by Eva Cassidy
2008 The House that Built Me by Miranda Lambert
2009 Superwoman by Alicia Keys
2010 You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples (and the beautiful Nora O’Conner!)
2011 Glitter by Pink
2012 That Wasn't Me by Brandi Carlile

That’s one heavy mix tape/mix CD/playlist.  My girlfriends are going to shove it in their purses and never listen to it.

But it's perfect, for me.

Now, what are the songs on your sad song mix?


  1. I love Phil Collins & Adele! And many of the songs you mentioned. I love songs that make me cry, but of course, the Star-Spangled Banner & Let There Be Peace on Earth will make ME tear up. Since I'm waaaaaayy older than you, my childhood witnessed songs about the final break-up, those heart-wrenching dead-teen sagas like Teen Angel, Last Kiss, Patches, & Tell Laura I Love Her. And then there was that anti-war, whole-village-killed song, One Tin Soldier. OK, now I'll be singing & crying all day. Great post, Juliet.

  2. Thanks, Kathy! I'd forgotten about the rash of 50's & 60's songs where the boy dies tragically - oh! Those are soooo good. My aunt was here this weekend. She is very good and she talked about what a rebellious teen she'd been. None of us believed her until she started talking about the drag racing she'd done. My cousin asked, "Did you bring down the flag in a sexy pencil skirt?" She replied, "No, I drove."

    Some of the songs you mentioned are total drag-race-ends-in-tragedy songs. I love it!

  3. Great list! My life changed forever when you played that 1987 selection for me in the KFC parking lot your blue Tercel. Kind of rocked my world considering my entire music collection at that time was Billy Joel and Huey Lewis! And while Billy Joel can do a sad song--Huey Lewis, not so much.

  4. Best sad song on the list. It made me irresistible to you :)

  5. Hey. loved this post -so funny! Very clever and great writing. And I love sad songs, too. You can cry while you sing, but you can't keep feeling bad while you sing (and cry)!
    Jane Ann

  6. What a great point, Jane. I've read studies about the positive stuff that happens in your brain when you sing, so sing on!

  7. A wonderful post, so sad and funny at the same time. Zach keeps telling Jeremy that he should write some sad songs because that's where the money is.