Tag Archives: The Saddest Songs in History

The Saddest Songs in History: Billy Bragg Tank Park Salute

Billy_Bragg
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: Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson Alexandra Leaving





Alexandra Leaving

The Saddest Songs in History: Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson Alexandra Leaving

Leonard Cohen is a first class melancholic and he has quite a lot of songs that could fit in the “sad song” category. I’ve chosen a lament of lost love, actually it’s about lost love twice(!). It is even harder the second time, because he had given up on that whole “love stuff”. And when I say love, I include lust and desire of course. Sharon Robins is credited as co-writer on this song and her contribution must not be understated.

In concerts, Cohen speaks the opening words of a poem-song he wrote three decades ago, inspired by another poem published in 1911. He reads some lines from his own text and then says,  “Sharon Robinson, ‘Alexandra Leaving’.” (I have never heard a live version where Cohen sings the song himself, if it exists I would be very thankful to get a link in the commentaries.)

Back to the songs meaning.

Alexandra Leaving on Spotify:

It sounds like the protagonist  in the song didn’t plan to love/make love again, but it happened. Now he has to face the devastating loss all over again.
Continue reading The Saddest Songs in History: Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson Alexandra Leaving