The 34 Saddest Songs of All Time (Updated for 2023)

Written by: Cody

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

It’s no secret that music has the ability to affect our emotions. Different songs can make us happy or sad, depending on what we’re listening to. Some songs are so sad that they can make us cry… and sometimes we all need a good cry.

If you’ve just gone through something difficult and need some sad songs to relate with, this list of the saddest songs of all time is for you.

What Are the Saddest Songs of All Time?

1. “I Will Always Love You” By Whitney Houston

We’ve got to start this list of saddest songs with the great “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.

This song was originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton, but Houston’s version is the one that everybody knows.

Bitter-sweet memories
That’s all I’m taking with me
Good-bye, please don’t cry
‘Cause we both know that I’m not
What you need

The lyrics talk about how the singer will always love the person they are breaking up with, even though they are no longer together. This makes the song sad because it is a reminder of the pain that comes with a breakup or a loss.

2. “Don’t Cry” By Guns N’ Roses

“Don’t Cry” by Guns N’ Roses is a sad song that talks about a relationship that is falling apart.

Give me a whisper
And give me a sigh
Give me a kiss before you
Tell me goodbye

The lyrics of the song are written from the perspective of someone who is breaking up with their partner while also trying to console them and let them know that they’ll be alright.

3. “Angels” By Robbie Williams

Most people know Robbie Williams as a talented and upbeat singer. However, his song “Angels” is a somber ballad that tells the story of a man who has the power of angels by his side.

When I’m feeling weak
And my pain walks down a one way street
I look above
And I know I’ll always be blessed with love

The song is full of emotion and speaks to the power of love, friendship, and quite frankly the unknown. Apart from the lyrics, the music to this song is also beautifully somber thanks to the slow tempo, gentle piano, and emotional vocal performance.

4. “Nobody Knows” By Pink

“Nobody Knows” by Pink is a heartbreaking song about the pain of feeling lost or alone.

Nobody knows but me
That I sometimes cry
If I could pretend that I’m asleep
When my tears start to fall

The lyrics are incredibly sad and poignant, and it’s one of those sad songs that make you think retrospectively.

It’s a perfect song for anyone who has experienced loss or grief, and it’s a great reminder that we’re not alone in our sorrow. We can reach out to family and friends for advice or help.

5. “Hurt” By Nine Inch Nails

This song references to self-harm and drug abuse.

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real

The lyrics of the song are incredibly powerful and speak to the hurt and pain felt by those who are struggling with similar issues.

Trent Reznor doesn’t really sing the lyrics to this song but rather more or less whispers them which adds an element of vulnerability to the words.

6. “Goodbye” By Air Supply

“Goodbye” is about a couple who is breaking up. The narrator speaks about how his significant other deserves more than what he thinks he can offer.

I can see the pain living in your eyes
And I know how hard you try
You deserve to have so much more
I can feel your heart and I sympathize
And I’ll never criticize all you’ve ever meant to my life

The lyrics go on to reveal how much the couple loved each other, but they know that it’s time to say goodbye. The song is heartbreaking to listen to because it’s clear that the two people are really sad about parting ways.

This song was released in 1993 and definitely has that 80s ballad feel to it so if that’s your style then this is the perfect song for you.

7. “Yesterday” By The Beatles

Could you imagine a sad song list without “Yesterday” on it? I certainly can’t.

Fun fact: Yesterday is the most covered song in history with over 2,000 different versions!

Why she had to go?
I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.
I said something wrong.
Now I long for yesterday.

This heartbreaking ballad is about lost love and how the singer, McCartney) longs for going back in time and returning to how things were (yesterday). The lyrics are incredibly sad, and they speak to the pain and loneliness that comes with heartbreak.

8. “Tears in Heaven” By Eric Clapton

Sad songs can often be incredibly powerful, and “Tears in Heaven” is a perfect example of that.

The song is about the death of Clapton’s son, and it’s clear that he was deeply affected by the loss by the emotion in his voice when singing this song.

Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please
Begging please

The lyrics are incredibly moving, and they speak to the pain and grief that we all feel when we lose someone we love. “Tears In Heaven” is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, we can find comfort in our memories of the ones we’ve lost as well as through the hope of one day seeing them again in another life.

9. “My Heart Will Go On” By Celine Dion

Don’t tell me you didn’t cry while watching the Titanic… I don’t believe it.

That movie did such a great job of capturing the audience’s emotions and getting them invested in the relationship between Jack and Rose.

To top it all off, Celine Dion’s song “My Heart Will Go On” was the cherry on top.

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more, you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

The song is about the pain of losing someone and the hope that one day they will reunite but that person always being in your heart. The song is beautiful and sad at the same time. It is a reminder to cherish the moments we have with the ones we love.

10. “Wind Beneath My Wings” By Bette Midler

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler is about someone who seems to have gotten all the attention by perhaps achieving something great. All the while, the singer’s partner was the person that gave them the strength to carry on and achieve those things

So I was the one with all the glory
While you were the one with all the strength
A beautiful face without a name for so long
A beautiful smile to hide the pain

The song is sad but also beautiful, and it is a great song to listen to when you are feeling down.

11. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” By Hank Williams

Country music has a reputation for songs that are sad and melancholy. It’s a genre that often focuses on themes of heartache, loneliness, and loss. This song is a sad ballad about loneliness and heartache.

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I’m so lonesome I could cry

Hank Williams sings about how lonely he feels and how much he misses his lover. He makes a few comparisons such as when a robin weeps when leaves begin to die. This adds to the imagery of the lyrics and conveys his deep emotions.

12. “The Rose” By Bette Midler

“The Rose” was actually written for a film called coincidently, “The Rose”. It’s a sad song about the struggles of love but also expresses the positive side too.

Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need

The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone who has experienced how others have been impacted by love. Lyrics like “Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed” represent the more somber side of love.

However, Midler provides more of a positive outlook toward love as she says “I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed”

All this to say that there is always a silver lining in every cloud.

13. “Make You Feel My Love” By Adele

Adele is the queen of heartful, powerful ballads, and “Make You Feel My Love” is no different.

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

She sings about how she would basically go to the end of the world for someone. The other person however isn’t sure that they feel the same way or wants a relationship. The lyrics are full of emotion and longing, and the song is sure to tug at your heartstrings.

14. “I Will Remember You” By Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” was released in 1995 and peaked at number 65 on the Billboard top 100. It’s a beautiful ballad about remembrance and the fragility of life.

I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone who is losing a lover, and in the lyrics, McLachlan sings about the ways in which she will always remember them. The song is incredibly emotive and heartfelt, not only lyrically but also musically.

If you are looking for a sad, beautiful song to listen to, “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan is a perfect choice.

15. “My Immortal” By Evanescence

There’s no better band than Evanescense if you’re looking for that early 2000’s style emo music that all the 90s kids listened to. This song is about a broken relationship and how the singer is struggling to move on.

These wounds won’t seem to heal, this pain is just too real
There’s just too much that time cannot erase

The overall message of the song describes how the singer’s partner has left her and she is struggling to cope. She talks about how she loved him so much, and now that they’re no longer together the once happy memories now haunt her.

The song is incredibly moving and the black and white music video adds yet another element of sadness to the song.

16. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” By Judy Garland

Perhaps one of the most famously sad and hopeful songs, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was originally written for the movie The Wizard of Oz, and was performed by Judy Garland.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

The song is about a young girl who is dreaming of a better life somewhere far away from her current situation. She sings about how she wishes she could find a place where “the clouds are far behind me”.

17. “Say Something” By A Great Big World

When a song starts with a solo piano section that’s both soft and slow you know it’s going to be a heartful sad song. And “Say Something” by A Great Big World certainly fits that bill.

And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all
And I will stumble and fall

It talks about how a relationship is failing and the struggles that one of the parties is going through. The song expresses a feeling of being overwhelmed and pleading with a significant other to “say something” in order to help save the relationship.

18. “I Miss You” By Blink-182

Although this tune is a bit more upbeat than the other songs in the list and likely won’t break your heart listening to it, the lyrics are just as powerful.

Hello, there
The angel from my nightmare
The shadow in the background of the morgue
The unsuspecting victim
Of darkness in the valley

Singers Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge combine their talents and alternate singing parts of this song to add to the impact of the lyrics. The song portrays how the narrator deeply misses someone and effects that depression can have on a relationship.

19. “Hallelujah” By Leonard Cohen

Sadness fills the air as one listens to the haunting notes of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Maybe there’s a God above
As for me all I ever seemed to learn from love
Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you

The lyrics are tinged with heartbreak and loss, painting a picture of a love that was perhaps never meant to be.

The song has been covered by countless artists over the years, each giving their own unique interpretation of the emotion-filled words. No matter who is singing “Hallelujah,” the result is always the same: a powerful feeling of deep sadness and longing.

20. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” By Bob Dylan

This song is incredibly raw, poignant, and to some, heartbreaking. The features only Bob Dylans, vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica.

But I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
But we never did too much talking anyway
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

This song is about how one person in a relationship was putting in all the work while the other person wasn’t contributing at all. The narrator sings about how he wishes his partner would do or say something to convince him to stay but the other person does nothing, causing them to drift apart.

21. “Yesterday Once More” By The Carpenters

The Carpenters were a brother-and-sister duo who became popular in the 1970s. They had a number of hit songs, including “Yesterday Once More.”

Lookin’ back on how it was
In years gone by
And the good times that I had
Makes today seem rather sad
So much has changed.

The song is about reminiscing on things that happened in the past. The nostalgic feeling of looking back on memories and experiences helps the narrator move forward and feel content that they happened but also sad that they’re gone.

The lyrics also suggest that the narrator is looking for comfort and solace in the past, hoping that the memories will bring a sense of peace and hope.

22. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” By Bonnie Raitt

The song “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt is a sad ballad about a love that is destined to fail.

‘Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power

Raitt sings about how she has tried everything to make her lover love her, but he just doesn’t care. The feeling of loving someone so deeply but not receiving anything in return is heartbreaking.

23. “The End of the World” By Skeeter Davis

The song “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis is a sad ballad about a broken heart.

Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
‘Cause you don’t love me any more

The lyrics describe how the singer is losing the love of her life and she doesn’t know what to do. She talks about how she will never forget him, and how it feels like the end of the world is coming.

24. “Unchained Melody” By The Righteous Brothers

This song was originally recorded in 1955 but the version by the Righteous Brothers, released in 1965 is what really propelled the popularity of the tune.

Woah, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time

The song is about someone longing for a loved one and being apart for a long time. However, even though they are apart the singer is pleading for his significant other to wait for him so that they can be reunited.

25. “Snuff” By Slipknot

“Snuff” was released on Slipknot’s All Hope Is Gone album in 2009. It doesn’t convey the same musical saddest as some of the other songs on this list however the lyrics are incredibly emotional in their own regard.

Bury all your secrets in my skin
Come away with innocence, and leave me with my sins
The air around me still feels like a cage
And love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again

The narrator expresses their hurt, regret, and resentment that their love was not enough for the person who betrayed them. They also make it clear that they will not listen to any of the person’s excuses or attempts to make amends.

26. “If I Ain’t Got You” By Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys’ saddest song “If I Ain’t Got You” was written in 2003 on her album The Diary of Alicia Keys. This love song reflects on the contrasting views that some people want materialistic things while the narrator simply wants her partner’s love to be happy.

Some people want it all
But I don’t want nothing at all
If it ain’t you, baby
If I ain’t got you, baby

The song is sad, but also beautiful and lyrical. Musically the song has a somber tone but lyrically, the song actually has a fairly positive message about love and relationships. The song’s chorus expresses the idea that materialistic things don’t bring happiness, but being with the one you love does.

27. “Nobody Home” By Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd has certainly made some interesting songs with sometimes cryptic messages. The song “Nobody Home” by Pink Floyd is one of those sad songs that talk about the emptiness that comes with what seems to be a failed relationship or perhaps a lost life.

When I try to get through
On the telephone to you
There’ll be nobody home

The narrator talks about how he has all these things but when he picks up the phone there will be nobody home. This song is a reminder that despite our best efforts, sometimes we all feel alone and lost.

Read Next: 20 Best Funeral Songs of All Time to Honor Someone’s Life

28. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” By Death Cab by Cutie

The song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” has a rather dark and dreary message of death.

Love of mine, someday you will die
But I’ll be close behind
I’ll follow you into the dark

The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone who is losing a loved one, and they are pledging to follow them into the afterlife no matter what. This song is a beautiful tribute to those we have lost, and it is sure to touch anyone who listens to it.

29. “Angel” By Sarah McLachlan

This is the second song entitled “Angels” on this list and although it is by a different artist, it has a similar message of hope and comfort. There’s just something about this song that speaks to the soul.

In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear

This song’s message is rather heartbreaking and the lyrics seem to capture the essence of sadness and loss. McLachlan’s voice is haunting and beautiful, and it seems to convey all of the pain and hurt that we feel when someone we love dies.

30. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” By Bonnie Tyler

Name a more heartful 80s ballad than the epic “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler… I’ll wait.

Every now and then
I get a little bit lonely
And you’re never coming round

Although the music isn’t overly somber, the overall vocal performance is incredibly emotional. On top of that, the signature line “Once upon a time I was falling in love, but now I’m only falling apart. There’s nothing I can do, a total eclipse of the heart” is oh so powerful.

31. “Iris” By the Goo Goo Dolls

The Goo Goo Dolls are best known for their hit song “Iris”, which was released in 1998. The song was written by the band’s lead singer, John Rzeznik, and was featured on the soundtrack to the movie City of Angels.

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

The song reflects on the memories of a relationship, and how the person who is now gone was once an important part of the singer’s life. “Iris” is a beautiful and heart-wrenching song that will resonate with anyone who has ever experienced a loss in their life.

32. “Candle in the Wind” By Elton John

The song “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John is a sad song that originally talks about the death of Marilyn Monroe but was also adapted to be played at Princess Diana’s funeral.

Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

In the song, Elton sings about how Diana was such a special person and how her death left a hole in everyone’s hearts. The song is a beautiful tribute to Diana and is one that is sure to make anyone who hears it feel sad.

33. “Open Arms” By Journey

There’s something about the sad song “Open Arms” by Journey that just makes your heart ache and maybe even a tear or two roll down your cheek.

Living without you
Living alone
This empty house seems so cold

Everything from the lyrics to the vocal performance to the musical accompaniment is what makes this song so special. The singer speaks of a strong love shared by him and his partner which eventually faded but has since been rekindled. The lyrics are poetic and heartfelt, conveying the idea that you need to hold on to something that’s good because it can be gone in the blink of an eye.

34. “Everybody Hurts” By R.E.M.

The title alone for this song tells you that it’s going to discuss a somber topic that everyone feels at some point in their lives.

Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes

The song speaks to the universality of human experience, and the idea that we all suffer in different ways. It’s a reminder that we aren’t alone in our pain, and that there is comfort in shared experiences.

Final Thoughts

Sad songs can be a great way to deal with sadness and express emotion because, in reality, everybody hurts from time to time. Songs can also provide comfort in difficult times.

While everyone’s favorite list of saddest songs is likely different, the 34 tracks in this list are some of the most heartbreaking and soul-searching songs I’ve ever come across.

So if you need a good cry, grab a tissue, put on your headphones, and listen to a few of these songs that are sure to bring out some of your emotions.

About Cody
Cody is the founder of Musician Tuts, a free tutorial hub for musicians. He has over 15 years of experience playing a variety of instruments and dabbling in audio engineering. He spends his days blogging, listening to Spotify, and playing music.

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