The Songs of Our Discontent

on air at The Ryman, Nashville, TN

So I’m minding my own business, browsing in my favorite home furnishings store, when it comes on the sound system. The saddest song ever recorded.

I’m not going to link to it because it’s so sad. I might not even tell you what it is.

Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. Circa 1974.


My sugar plum thoughts of needlepoint pillows and coffee table tchotchkes came to a sudden halt. My mind flooded with the festering waves of parental guilt.

What if my child grows up and never comes to see me because he has to go shopping instead?

“Yes, I’m gonna be like you, Mom. You know I’m gonna be like you.”

I sprinted past the dinette sets. Wriggled around étagères. Leaped over ottomans. Until I landed in living rooms where my son sat on a fine leather sofa with my husband, vanquishing a game of Penguin Wings.

Yes, Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon were in the store with me. And no, we still don’t have a cat.

“Mommy loves you!” I said with watery eyes.

“I have 145 penguin coins,” said my son and shooed me away from the iPhone.

“Why are they playing this song?” I said to my husband.

“What song?” he said.

And then there’s Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg. Oh, Dan, Dan, Dan.

It runs a close second for the saddest song ever recorded. Heard that one while ice skating recently. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Imagine kneeling and weeping on the cold, cold ice.

pac man fever

Did you know it was based on a true story? Fogelberg crooned the tearjerkers Leader of the Band and Run for the Roses with it on the same 1981 album entitled The Innocent Age. Good grief.

Fogelberg dominates the sad songs category for the 80s. Maybe for all time.

Sister Christian by Night Ranger in 1984 was sort of sad, and yet oddly comforting at the same time.

“You’ll be all right tonight.”

In 1989, Don Henley managed to sneak New York Minute in under the wire and into the decade on his album End of the Innocence. Nice bookend, Don.

November Rain by Guns N’ Roses didn’t come out until 1992. Axl Rose had been working on it since 1983. That explains a lot.

I won’t try to escape if those songs come on like I do with Chapin and Fogelberg. But I will cover my ears if the anguish fest of 100 Years by John Ondrasik (aka Five for Fighting) does. It’s from a 2003 album called The Battle for Everything.

Could someone please just wake me up before you go-go?

Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us. Ecclesiastes 7:2 NLT

because clearly I do not spend enough time with my child

Wham! was destined to make an appearance here sooner or later. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Jitterbug. Gotta get in line for one of those t-shirts.

Have a great weekend, y’all!
Be a peach and leave a comment about a sad or not-so-sad song on your way out the door, will ya?

Thank you, William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, for inspiring the title.

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28 Responses to The Songs of Our Discontent

  1. The saddest song ever is easily ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ by George Jones. May be the best song ever. Keep up the good work!

    • Oh, Jeff, excellent one! I didn’t even venture into the country music genre. Everyone knows that’s where the saddest songs are. Country singers have the life stories to match the angst in the music. Except for Taylor Swift maybe…

  2. Ok, I’m going to date myself, but … what about “Tell Laura I Love Her”?? Have you never heard that?? It’s about a boy who gets killed in a drag race and those are his last words! I’m sure this explains much of my neuroses, but that was… the very first record I ever owned. My mom gave it to me (it had “Eye of the Tiger” on the other side), I guess because she thought I thought it would be neat because it had “Laura” in the lyrics. Guess she didn’t know the whole story!

  3. rebecca gill

    Not sure who origionally sang “If I Could” but someone gave me the Celine Dion Miracle CD during my first pregnancy and I bawled through the whole thing and never listed to it again! It is a beautiful song : )

  4. Tammy (Mishoe) Suggs

    I’m the same way Aimee. One song that I think is sad and I get testy-eyed every time I hear it is By Patty Loveless, “How Can I Help You To Say Goodbye.” She does a good job to make a mental picture of what’s going on in the life of the girl in the song.

    • Tammy, good one. That IS such a sad song! I’ve been driving and crying when that has come on the car radio before. I’m telling you, those country music people will get you every time. Thanks for the comment, lady!

  5. Tammy (Mishoe) Suggs

    *supposed to say teary-eyed.

    (good video on YouTube.)

  6. Tammy (Mishoe) Suggs

    You’re welcome! Yeah, those country songs will do every time!

  7. roy

    Harry Chapin – The Shortest Story, actually makes me cry every time.
    The Leader Of The Band – sorry, not a sad song for me.
    But if anyone needs to “get over” The Shortest Story, there is always 30,000 Pounds of Bananas on the same recording…..
    Kind of like Wolf Creek Pass, only with bananas……

  8. Let’s not forget “The Christmas Shoes” by New Song, and “Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride. Ain’t much sadder than a mom dying at Christmas, and a little girl getting beaten to death.

  9. For me the saddest song ever is Sultans of Swing… Listened to it on the radio in the car both times my husband was leaving Hungary and I was taking him to the airport, knowing I won’t see him for a year or more. :(

    Another additur: Last Kiss by Pearl Jam. Makes me ball like a baby every single time.

    • Sultans of Swing, huh? Sounds like it was situational sadness for you with that one. I think I know that Pearl Jam one. May have to youtube it…
      This is fascinating to me bc everyone’s selections are so personal and subjective!

  10. Amy

    I couldn’t love Wham more. Soundtrack to my youth. I’m sure I know some of those other sad tunes too. Don’t get me started on songs that make me cry though, it’s Friday and I don’t feel like starting my weekend with puffy eyes. I do, however, love the description of you hurdling through the store and landing at the feet of your uninterested kid, panting and teary-eyed, only to have him be all, I’m busy on the phone, MOM. I replayed it in slo-mo in my mind. You looked very athletic. :)

    • Soundtrack to my youth, too. Danced a cheerleading routine to the Wham! Rap at my first pep rally my freshman year. Good times. Perhaps it subconsciously became my theme song, except for the I am a man part:
      Wham. Bam. I am a (wo)man. Job or no job, you can’t tell me that I’m not. Do you enjoy what you do? If not, just stop. Don’t stay there and rot…

  11. Aww, a walk down music memory lane. Add At This Moment by Billy Vera and the Beaters. (Season finale Family Ties, 1985).