February 1st, 2012
A rather spurious poll has declared REM’s Everybody Hurts “the saddest song of all time”. Given that there were only twenty songs to choose from, none of which were by Elliot Smith, I’m not sure how seriously we can take it. I have country albums that are more depressing than that entire list (note to whoever compiled it: Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is not a sad song. Try Famous Blue Raincoat, Master Song or Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye if you want to shed tears with Lenny).
I’m a sucker for a musical weepie. The first single I ever bought was Terry Jacks’ Seasons In The Sun. I have shelves groaning under the weight of melancholic singer-songwriters, crammed with albums lamenting deaths and departures, propped up with a whiskey bottle. For my personal heartbreak, it’s hard to get past the forlorn ache of Frank Sinatra’s Wee Small Hours of the Morning, although there are parts of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks that run it close (Simple Twist of Fate, If You See Her Say Hello, She’s A Big Girl Now) and the combination of death and country music can floor me unexpectedly (I had to pull over to the side of the road recently listening to Willie Nelson’s new version of Guy Clark’s Desperadoes Waiting For A Train).
If we add up all that heartbreak and loss, there must be millions of sad songs floating about on oceans of minor chords. Far more, I suspect than there are happy songs.
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