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


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):

Another wonderful version, here by Steve Earle:


Marie (lyrics):

I stood in line and left my name
Took about six hours or so
Well, the man just grinned like it was all a game
Said they’d let me know

I put in my time till the Pocono line
Shut down two years ago
I was staying at the mission till I met Marie
Now I can’t stay there no more

Fella ‘cross town said he’s lookin’ for a man
To move some old cars around
Maybe me and Marie could find a burned-out
Van and do a little settlin’ down

But I’m just dreamin’, I ain’t got no ride
And the junkyard’s a pretty good ways
That job’s about a half week old besides
It’d be gone now anyway

Unemployment said I got no more checks
And they showed me to the hall
My brother died in Georgia some time ago
I got no one left to call

Summer wasn’t bad below the bridge
A little short on food that’s all
Now I gotta get Marie some kind of coat
We’re headed down into fall

I used to play the mouth harp pretty good
Hustled up a little dough
But I got drunk and I woke up rolled
A couple of months ago

They got my harp and they got my dollar
Them low life so and so’s
Harps cost money and I ain’t got it
It’s my own fault, I suppose

The Pocono’s down but the Chesapeak’s runnin’
Two freights everyday
If it was just me, I’d be headed south
But Marie can’t catch no train

She’s got some pain and she thinks it’s a baby
Says we gotta wait and see
In my heart I know it’s a little boy
Hope he don’t end up like me

Well, the man’s still grinnin’ says he lost my file
I gotta stand in line again
I want to kill him but I just say no
I had enough of that line my friend

I head back to the bridge, its getting kinda cold
I’m feelin’ too low down to lie
I guess I’ll just tell Marie the truth
Hope she don’t break down and cry

Marie she didn’t wake up this morning
She didn’t even try
She just rolled over and went to Heaven
My little boy safe inside

I laid them in the sun where somebody’d find them
Caught a Chesapeak on the fly
Marie will know I’m headed south
So’s to meet me by and by

Marie will know I’m headed south
So to meet me by and by

– Hallgeir

Check out some other sad songs:

George Jones – If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)
Richard and Linda Thompson – Walking on a Wire
Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson – Alexandra Leaving
Billy Bragg – Tank Park Salute

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