Tag Archives: Sad song

The Saddest Songs in History: Townes Van Zandt’s Marie


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Townes Van Zandt’s Marie from his album, No Deeper Blue

Marie is one of the most harrowing but touching songs ever written; if you’re not affected in some way by this tune upon hearing it, then you have no soul!  I’m kind of joking (but not much…)
No other songwriter brings out emotions the way Townes do, and that’s why his songs stand the test of time.

Willie Nelson recorded several of his songs, including this one. His version is on the album, Poet, a tribute album. He was nominated for a Grammy for it. Of course, he lost, but Townes’s music has often been like that–it is underappreciated  and mainly unknown by the  masses. Willie Nelson’s version is incredible, but it pales in comparison to Townes’s original.

Townes Van Zandt – Marie (Solo Sessions, January 17, 1995):

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The Saddest Songs in History: Billy Bragg Tank Park Salute

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Billy Bragg at Oya Festival 2012 by Hallgeir Olsen/Johannasvisions

“Daddy is it true that we all have to die?”

“You were so tall. How could you fall?”

In 1991 Billy Bragg released the album, Don’t try this at home.

“… (this album) was where Bragg first began to sound completely comfortable with the notion of a full band. With Johnny Marr (who helped produce two tracks), Peter Buck,Michael Stipe, and Kirsty MacColl on hand to give the sessions a taste of star power, Don’t Try This at Home sounds full but uncluttered; the arrangements (most complete with — gasp! — drums) flesh out Bragg‘s melodies, giving them greater strength in the process”
– Mark Deming (Allmusic)

It is one of his best albums and it has a eulogy to his father Dennis who had died of cancer when the singer was only 18.
It is devastatingly beautiful!

In an interview with the blog Timber and Steel, Billy Bragg said:

” My father passed away in 1976, and before I wrote that song, oh, I’m guessing now, in 1991. It’s on Don’t Try This At Home so it’s about that time. Until I’d written that song, I’d never spoken to anyone about my father dying, which was something I couldn’t face.

And I wrote that, and it just came out in a huge flood. And I got it down on paper and looked at it and thought, “D’ya know what? If I sing this song, I will have to talk about what happened.”

And I went and showed it to teach to my keyboard player to show her part, and she said, “Wow, that’s about your dad, isn’t it?”

And I thought if she gets it, anyone will get it, and it obviously works as a song. And I’m really glad when I find someone who it’s helped because I can tell them – honestly – it helped me too. It had the same effect on me; it helped me to deal with losing somebody. So more often than not these days I find myself playing it at gigs, because more people are getting to the age where we’re losing loved ones, so it’s become a really important part of my set now.”

 

Billy Bragg – Tank Park Salute (Spotify):

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The Saddest Songs in History: Richard and Linda Thompson Walking On A Wire


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The clear sound of a marriage falling apart. It is about regret and resignation but no anger, and so much more sad for it. The Album, Shoot Out the Lights was a culmination of Richard & Linda Thompson’s career together.

In hindsight, we see how their records and Richard Thompson’s texts of jealousy, rage, and betrayal lead to this emotionally  document of sadness.

Walking on a Wire with Richard’s lyrics for Linda to interpret, well, it must have been hard.

Linda:
“I wish that I could please you tonight”
 “I hand you my ball and chain/You just hand me that same old refrain.”

“Too many steps to take
Too many spells to break
Too many nights awake
And no one else”

My god, how harrowing a break-up can be!

Richard and Linda:
I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling”

..they both fall and they share the blame and the regret, and they know how this is gonna end.

Richard Thompson cries through his guitar in a solo just as painful as the lyrics (starts at 4:42), it is incredible and he manages to convey his/their sadness in a howl from his electric guitar! He has done some great guitar work through the years but this must be one is his most emotionally demanding solos committed to record.

Richard and Linda Thompson – Walking On A Wire (Spotify):

The song had to be included in our series of the saddest songs in history.

Linda Thompson was several months pregnant when the album (Shoot out the lights) was recorded and so there was no prospect of an immediate release or supporting tour. By the time the album was released Richard and Linda Thompson’s marriage was over.

Ironically, the album was their best-selling album and acclaimed as one of their greatest artistic achievements.

…but as I said, it is the sad sound of a marriage falling apart.

Richard and Linda Thompson – Walking On A Wire (audio):

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The Saddest Songs in History: George Jones If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)


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The Saddest Songs in History: George Jones If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)

If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will) is  written by Harlan Sanders and Rick Beresford, and recorded by American country music artist George Jones. It was released in January 1981 as the third single from his album I Am What I Am (my favorite Jones album!). The song peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will) at Spotify:

When George Jones was divorced from Tammy Wynette in 1975, he went on an epic binge, an excess in cocaine and alcohol. His albums continued to sell ok and his singles were on the charts, he actually recorded some of his most popular songs between 1975 and 1980, but George was a wreck on a personal level.

He started cancelling concerts in large numbers and he got the un-flattering nick name, “No Show Jones”. George Jones went into rehab at a psychiatric hospital in Muscle Shoals. Thank God for that, it was the start of what would be his best record. It is a dark album, full of heartbreak and drinking, good melodies and the velvet voice of the restrained, but strong Mr. Jones.

George Jones – If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will), live:

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