Either I’m too sensitive or else I’m getting soft

That earworm thread was one my all-time favorites, especially these two comments, so I thought I’d try another one like it on this crappy, rainy afternoon.

My favorite genre of music is songs that give you that kicked-in-the-gut, can’t-move, can’t-breathe, something-awful-is-happening kind of feeling: stuff like “Love In Vain”, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground”, “I’ve Got It Bad”, “I Loves You Porgy” (“don’t let him touch me with his hot hands” gets me), and, even though I’m not such a high-brow guy, the ending part of “Madame Butterfly”. (My second favorite genre is the “I’ve been kicked in the gut and I can’t breathe, but fuck it, I’ll try to have fun anyway” type.) But there are some songs like this I literally cannot get all the way through, because there’s too much of a gut kick — “For The Good Times” (I can’t get past the “tomorrow and forever and ever and ever” part) and “Simple Twist Of Fate” (I can’t listen to “I still believe she was my twin”) are the two main examples.

What are your favorite kicked-in-the-gut songs and what songs are you unable to get through?

162 replies
  1. 1

    I still can’t believe MacArthur Park didn’t come from an alternative universe.

  2. 2
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    what songs are you unable to get through?

    The full-length In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Oy.

  3. 3
    piratedan says:

    well there’s a couple of qualifiers here… there are songs that are too beautiful in that they touch you in such a fashion that they almost encapsulate all the emotion and feeling that you have for another person. Then there are songs of remembrances, good or bad that also start my personal waterworks…

    songs of remembrance…..

    Be Still by Los Lobos because it reminds me of my father’s struggles with cancer


    Wings of a Nightengale by The Everly Bothers for the same aforementioned reason


    songs of love

    The Air that I Breathe by The Hollies


    songs that remind me vividly of the times when my heart was ripped out of my chest and pierced by the long stiletto heels of betrayal

    It’s All Over Now by the Rolling Stones

  4. 4
    Ben Franklin says:

    ‘Circus’ by Eric Clapton. It was the last time he spent with his son, before the tragic accident.

    “Pilgrim’; a peak of darkness CD-The bridge to his new adventures.

  5. 5
    Ted says:

    Danny Boy and The Patriot Game both wipe me out.

  6. 6
    MattF says:

    When Nelson’s ‘Red-Headed Stranger’ comes up in the rotation, I turn the volume down.

  7. 7
    LM says:

    For that kind of music–if I’m understanding what you mean–you might like Muse, many songs but e.g. Sing for Absolution http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ck6Hcg2cjk, the Mars Volta e.g. the creepy Televators http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bJIQNo34hY, and maybe Band of Horses’ The Funeral http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMFWFhTFohk.

  8. 8
    Raven says:

    Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Throw me a Rope

    I lost you awhile ago
    But still I don’t know why
    I can’t say your name
    Without a crow flying by
    Gotta watch my back now
    That you turned me around
    Got me walking backwards
    Into my hometown

  9. 9
    Raven says:

    Iris DeMent

    My life, it don’t count for nothing.
    When I look at this world, I feel so small.
    My life, it’s only a season:
    A passing September that no one will recall.

  10. 10
    piratedan says:

    I’d also have to say Faron Young’s version of Willie Nelson’s “Hello Walls” is especially haunting……

  11. 11
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I only miss you here every now and then
    Like the soft breeze blowin’ up from the Caribbean
    Most Novembers I break down and cry
    But I can’t remember if we said goodbye.

  12. 12
    woodyNYC says:

    Billie Holiday: “But Beautiful”

  13. 13
    Raven says:

    John Prine

    So if you’re walking down the street sometime
    And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
    Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
    As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

    I couldn’t listen to it for five years after my old man died.

  14. 14
    BGinCHI says:

    Uncle Tupelo, “Black Eye.”

    Listen to the words and try not to cry. Man, that’s a brilliant song that still knocks the wind right out of me.

    OK, I think I’ve got something in my eye….

  15. 15
    AndyG says:

    “Take it with me” by Tom Waits

  16. 16
    Raven says:

    Jerry Jeff

    One day I looked up and he’s pushin’ eighty
    He’s got brown tobacco stains all down his chin
    To me he was a hero of this country
    So why’s he all dressed up like them old men
    Drinkin’ beer and playin’ Moon and Forty-two
    Like desperados waitin’ for a train

  17. 17
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    and, because funerals are an increasingly frequent part of my life:
    Shadows are fallin’, and I’m runnin’ out of breath
    Keep me in your heart for a while
    If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less
    Keep me in your heart for a while.

  18. 18
    Ken says:

    Joan Baez; ‘Forever Young’. Had it played at my son’s christening.

  19. 19
    Comrade Nimrod Humperdink says:

    Feel free to mock me at your leisure, but that Tool knockoff band A Perfect Circle did a cover of ‘Imagine’ that’s just depressing as all hell. That’s a tough one to get through even though I don’t mind it.

    @Xecky Gilchrist: Dude, just lay back and enjoy the drums, maaaan…

  20. 20
    burnspbesq says:

    My two favorite kicked-in-the-gut songs are “In the Shape of a Heart” (Jackson Browne) and “My Old Friend the Blues” (Steve Earle).

    In the “hard to get through” category, another shout-out to Los Lobos. “Is This All There Is” is such a great snapshot of the hard lives of American immigrants.

    @ Raven: “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” is a great great song, but give the songwriting credit where it belongs, to Guy Clark.

  21. 21
    Twisted Martini says:

    “Blessed” by Elton John…reminds me of my son’s birth.

  22. 22
    Rosalita says:

    “I’m Not in Love” has just given a sad vibe ever since it first came out. Always have to turn the station. I just seems to channel loneliness.

    I’m not in love
    So don’t forget it
    It’s just a silly phase I’m going through
    And just because
    I call you up
    Don’t get me wrong, don’t think you’ve got it made
    I’m not in love, no no, it’s because..

  23. 23
    wrb says:

    It Makes no Differencea href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPsqysU4SWs”>I’d Rather Go Blind)
    Boulder to Birmingham
    Hickory Wind
    off the top of my head. There are many more.

  24. 24
    burnspbesq says:


    Here’s one for you, in the same vein.


    Come laddies come hear the cannons roar.

  25. 25
    piratedan says:

    also too, listen at your own risk…


  26. 26
  27. 27
    Steve Alcott says:


    “Sweet Memories” from The
    Time Jumpers”

  28. 28
    Linkmeister says:

    Jackson Browne’s “In the Shape of a Heart.”

  29. 29
    forked tongue says:

    You haven’t been kicked in the gut until you’ve been kicked in the gut by “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones. I start to choke up just thinking about that one.

    Nursing the bleakest heartbreak of my life, I listened to it about a hundred times and then finally had to move on…somewhere. So then it was “Have You Seen Her?” by the Chi-Lites.

    Arrrrrgh, where’s the Jack Daniels???

  30. 30
    Jewish Steel says:

    The Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony #5


  31. 31
    Emma says:

    K.D. Lang’s version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Or Constant Craving.

    Runrig’s Nightfall on Marsco.

    Johnny Cash singing Hurt.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    what songs are you unable to get through?


    Because it SUCKS!

  33. 33
    forked tongue says:

    Unable to get through? I dunno, the only thing that comes to mind is the Jonestown Massacre tape, now there’s a real picker-upper.

  34. 34
    Savage Henry says:

    Billy Bragg – “Little Time Bomb”

    In public he’s such a man
    Punching at the walls with his bare and bloody hands
    He’s screaming and shouting and acting crazy
    But at home he sits alone and he crys like a baby

    Actually “Workers Playtime” has a bunch of good ones

  35. 35
    piratedan says:

    @Emma: good call on Ms. Lang, she does longing well, although I am more partial to Miss Chatelaine, still she has a silky voice that is pitch perfect to sadness….

  36. 36
    Jager says:

    Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Aint Gone N Give Up on Love”


    I listened to this on the way to work on Wednesday and couldn’t lose the bass line for 48 hours. That’s a good ear worm!


  37. 37
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    The full-length In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Oy.

    That “hymn” sounds like rock and/or roll!

  38. 38
    Comrade Nimrod Humperdink says:

    @Emma: Yeah, wifey loves that KD Lang version of Hallelujah. It’s a good one…

    Just thought of another: The Last Song, by Elton John

  39. 39
    realbtl says:

    We Can’t Make It Here- James McMurtry

  40. 40
    SteveM says:

    What are your favorite kicked-in-the-gut songs and what songs are you unable to get through?

    Lorrain Ellison’s “Stay with Me” almost falls into both categories for me, because the vocal is so over the top and yet so obviously from the deepest reaches. It hurts to listen to it, in both senses of the phrase. Listen here (but ignore the picture).

  41. 41
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    I find mine have evolved over time. When I was in college (c. 2000), Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” got me every. single. time. I still love it, but it doesn’t rip my guts out like it used to.

    Bruce Springsteen, “Reason to Believe.”

    Man standin’ over a dead dog
    by the highway in a ditch
    He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled
    pokin’ that dog with a stick
    Got his car door flung open
    he’s standin’ out on Highway 31
    Like if he stood there long enough
    that dog’d get up and run

  42. 42
    gogol's wife says:

    If you mean, “can’t get through without weeping,” then “La mamma morta” from Andrea Chenier, sung by Renata Scotto.

  43. 43
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I’m not sure if “can’t get through” is the right word. There’s certainly some songs that always make me choke up a little: “Only a Dream” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Father Son” by Peter Gabriel, “Dear Friend” and “A Gentleman’s Excuse Me” by Fish, and “Whistle Down The Wind” by Tom Waits.

  44. 44
    bin Lurkin' says:

    Dire Straits Brothers In Arms


    Melissa Etheridge Somebody Bring Me Some Water


  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    If you want a great immigrant’s song, I love “Thousands are Sailing” by the Pogues.

  46. 46
    Montysano says:

    Since I’m a music lover and a soft-hearted liberal, there’s a whole list, but Tom Waits’ “Time” comes to mind. The Avett Brothers’ “I And Love And You” might be another.

    Since this is a music thread: last Wednesday night, Mrs. Monty and I got invited to a private Black Keys show in Nashville, where they were wrapping up rehearsals for their tour. The BK had been at the top of my must-see-live list, and they didn’t disappoint. They’re the band Led Zeppelin wishes they had been. Dan Auerbach is a Rock Star also, too.

  47. 47
    Felanius Kootea says:

    Sinead O’Connor covering Elton John’s Sacrifice.

  48. 48
    TaMara (BHF) says:

    About ten years ago as my divorce was finishing up and I met Bad Horse and was terrified of starting and possibly screwing up a relationship with a terrific guy, this song suddenly was back in rotation EVERYWHERE. It would gut me. I still can’t hear it and get through it:


  49. 49
    red dog says:

    Cohen’s “Hallelujah” or Waylon doing “Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys”

  50. 50
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    Oh, but I know the one song that still always hits me like a gut punch. It’s why I almost never listen to it.

    Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl

  51. 51
    MattF says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Speaking of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jubilee always gets me.

  52. 52
    celiadexter says:

    A beautiful tune from the ’50s that still gives me chills: Clifford Brown, Delilah.

  53. 53
    Donut says:


    Ah, David Hidalgo and Los Lobos are such an under-appreciated treasure. He’s a brilliant guitarist and one of our most poetic lyricists. I don’t know how to say it any more plainly and sincerely. He is one of the all time American greats, in my book.

    Los Lobos’ tune “Two Janes” is my pick for this topic. I cannot listen to it without crying. No shit. It hits that close to home.

  54. 54
    red dog says:

    @piratedan: Good choice. Earworm wise and gut wise “don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” does it for me.

  55. 55
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    In high school, I couldn’t get through R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” without crying.

  56. 56
    Jager says:

    For Country ass kickers (as oppossed to shit kickers)

    Brooks and Dunn

    I have excellent memories attached to this by Hal Ketcham


  57. 57
    eemom says:

    Emma, by Hot Chocolate

    The agonized cry at the end cuts to the bone.

  58. 58
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Iris Dement, and John Prine. You, my friend, have excellent taste.

  59. 59
    McB says:

    Eric Bogle’s version of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

  60. 60
    vawolf1974 says:

    Here Today by Paul McCartney. He wrote it after John Lennon was murdered.

    Still can’t play/sing it without choking up a little.

  61. 61
    celiadexter says:

    And for my second entry: something completely different — chamber music that’s a gut kick:

  62. 62
    Max L says:

    Another liberal sentimental softie here, so all kinds of songs and stories and smells kick up some dust for me. But the the real dagger in the guts song, every time, is Dave Matthews “Gravedigger”.


  63. 63
    eemom says:

    @Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago):

    Red Dirt Girl

    Excellent, excellent pick.

    “But there won’t be a mention in the News of the World ’bout the life and the death of a red dirt girl named Lillian….who never got any further across the line than Meridian…”


  64. 64
    Montysano says:

    On the latest Paul Simon album (which is excellent), there’s this lyric:

    If every human on the planet
    And all the buildings in it
    Should disappear
    Would a zebra grazing in the African Savanna
    Care enough to shed one zebra tear?

    Not only is it lovely lyric, but Simon delivers it with such wistfulness. Puts a lump in my throat every time.

  65. 65
    Amir Khalid says:

    Springsteen’s Downbound Train, from Born In The USA:
    Last night I heard your voice
    You were crying, crying, you were so alone
    You said your love had never died
    You were waiting for me at home
    I put on my jacket and ran through the woods
    I ran till I thought my chest would explode
    There in a clearing beyond the highway
    In the moonlight our wedding house shone
    I rushed through the yard, i burst through the front door
    My head pounding hard, up the stairs I climbed
    The room was dark, our bed was empty
    Then I heard that long whistle whine
    And I dropped to my knees, hung my head and cried

    Just heartbreaking, I tell you. Just heartbreaking.

  66. 66
    Wag says:

    Martha and the Muffins. Echo Beach. My ear worm for the past week.

  67. 67
    eemom says:

    The Grave, by Don McLean. May be one of the most powerful anti-war songs ever written.

  68. 68
    Montysano says:


    Speaking of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jubilee always gets me.

    MCC’s “Halley Came To Jackson” too. In a just world, she would be a big star and Kenny Chesney would be flipping hamburgers.

  69. 69
    Phineus says:

    Bonnie Raitt’s version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Deadly.

  70. 70
    HumboldtBlue says:

    Since my sister’s death the entire catalog of Simon and Garfunkel

  71. 71
    becca says:

    @Raven: HUGE Walker fan here. Clark, Newbury, Nelson are additional reasons to forgive Texas for GWB.

    Jeff Buckley’s version of Cohen’s Hallelujah destroys me. Buckley dying tragically young probably has something to do with it.

  72. 72
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    Nanci Griffith, Gulf Coast Highway

  73. 73

    “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” The guitar part is one of the best examples of ‘less is more’ that I can think of.

  74. 74
    Birthmarker says:

    Can’t get through–The hymn How Great Thou Art

    for obvious reasons. And I am not particularly religious.

  75. 75
    ComradeOlaf says:

    Tom Smith, A Boy and His Frog

  76. 76
    vtr says:

    To 71: Speaking of forgiving Texas, Townes van Zandt’s “No Lonesome Tunes.” “and in the kitchen Momma sneezed, and Dad grinned big as you please.”

    Also, not a song per se, but the second movement of the Ravel piano concerto…

  77. 77
    uila says:

    The Tom Waits ref made me think of this one:


    The whole thing is good, but the last stanza kills me.

    God’s green hair is where I slept last
    He balanced a diamond on a blade of grass
    I woke me up to a cardinal bird
    And when I want to talk he hangs on every word

  78. 78
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    The full-length In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Oy.

    Paging Rev. Lovejoy.


  79. 79
    PTirebiter says:

    Dylan’s Girl From The North Country and John Prine’s All The Best still conjure up the ghost of heartaches past.Tom Waits’ Downtown Train is another.

  80. 80
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:


    Love Has No Pride also too.

  81. 81
    badpoetry says:

    Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song” is mostly an amusing, philosophical song, but right in the middle of it there is this bridge:

    I see you standing on the other side
    I don’t know how the river got so wide
    I loved you, baby
    Way back when…
    All the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
    But I feel so close to everything that we lost
    We’ll never,
    We’ll never have to lose it again…

    Gets me every time.

  82. 82
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    “Now the stars still fall on Alabama
    The night she finally laid that hammer down
    Without a sound
    In the red dirt ground.”


  83. 83
    JerryN says:

    Some great ones already. I’d add John Prine’s Sam Stone, Tom Waits’ San Diego Serenade and about two thirds of Richard Thompson’s work (when your fan club puts out a compilation named Gloom and Doom From The Tomb, you’re probably not penning frothy pop ditties).

  84. 84
    Nicole says:

    The chorus of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie gets me.

    And the Cat Stevens version of “Morning Has Broken.” My aunt, who died after fighting breast cancer for 25 years, chose it to play at her memorial. She got dealt such a rotten hand of cards, getting breast cancer in her 30s, but spent the next quarter century cherishing every single day. So typical of her to choose something so bright and optimistic to say goodbye to all of us who loved her. I still can’t listen to it without weeping.

  85. 85
    Ruviana says:

    Last May a colleague of mine died unexpectedly. At his memorial service they played Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley of Over the Rainbow and It’s a Wonderful Life. which had also been played at his wedding about 7 years earlier. Broke my heart. I won’t ever be able to listen to it again.


  86. 86
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    Greg Brown, “Rexroth’s Daughter

    Both for the song itself, and because it reminds me of my best friend from college, who I miss like crazy.

    “Even the very longest love don’t last very long.”

    “This life is like a thump-ripe melon
    So sweet, and such a mess”

    “I heard a man speak quietly
    I listened for awhile
    He spoke from his heart to my woe
    And then he bowed and smiled.
    What is real but compassion,
    As we move from birth to death?”

  87. 87
    badpoetry says:

    And one more Cohen song… everyone knows his song “Hallelujah”, but the most gut punching verse is one that doesn’t make it into very many cover versions:

    I did my best, it wasn’t much
    I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
    I’ve told the truth,
    I didn’t come here to fool ya
    And even though it all went wrong
    I’ll stand right here before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but “Hallelujah”

    There’s something about being grateful for having had something that you now have lost forever that always crushes me.

  88. 88
    Raven says:


    All those years to prove how much I care
    I didn’t know it, but you were always there
    Till September when you slipped away
    In the middle of my life on the longest day

    Now I hear you say
    I’ll be watching you from above
    Cause long after life, there is love
    Baby I’ll be watching you from above
    Long after life, there is love.

  89. 89
    becca says:

    Too also…

    Burn Down the Mission by Elton John. Lyrics Taupin. Class warfare circa 1970.

    Burn down the mission
    If we’re gonna stay alive
    Look to the east to see where the fat stock hide
    Behind four walls a rich man sleeps
    It’s time to take the flame torch to their keep.

  90. 90

    It’s an instrumental, but Ry Cooder’s and V.H Batt’s version of “Isa Lei” . Many of you will know it from “Dead Man Walking”….

  91. 91
    Raven says:

    Knopler and the Sweeheart did this song about the people that made call from the planes at 9/11

    Those famous last words are lying around in tatters
    Sounding absurd whatever i try
    But I Love you, and that’s all that really matters
    If this is goodbye if this is goodbye

    Bright shining sun, would light up the way before me
    You were the one, made me feel I could fly
    And I love you, whatever is waiting for me
    If this is goodbye if this is goodbye

    Who knows howlong we got, or what we’re made of
    Who knows if there’s a plan or not
    There is our love, I know there is our love

    Those famous last words could never tell the story
    Spending unheard and the dark of the sky
    But I love you, and this is our glory
    If this is goodbye, if this goodbye
    If this is goodbye, if this goodbye

  92. 92
  93. 93
    Marcellus Shale, Public Dick says:

    something like this doug g-e?

    heather nova, island

    Yeah, there are parts of me he’ll never know
    My wild horses and my river beds
    And in my throat, voices he’ll never hear
    He pulls at me like a cherry tree
    And I can still move but I don’t speak about it
    Pretend I’m crazy, pretend I’m dead
    He’s too scared to hit me now
    He’ll bring flowers instead

    I need an island
    Somewhere to sink a stone
    I need an island
    Somewhere to bury you
    Somewhere to go

    And the dogwoods shimmer in the October sun
    “Oh sweet thing,” he sings to me,
    “You’re the only one.”

    I need an island
    Somewhere to sink a stone
    I need an island
    Somewhere to bury you

    I need an island
    Somewhere to sink a stone
    I need an island
    Somewhere to bury you
    Somewhere to go

    And I don’t know why I can’t tell my sister
    He spat in my face again
    And I don’t want to die here
    You know that dream when your feet won’t move
    You want to come but your body won’t let you
    He steals it from me
    He steals it from me
    It shines like sweat
    Like jewels
    Like something that has died too soon
    He fucks with the beauty
    A kiss, a kick, a kiss, a kick
    A kiss kiss kick kick kick
    He steals it from me
    It’s out of my hands again

  94. 94
    Karounie says:

    “Ain’t No Grave” by Johnny Cash

    especially when listened to with this:

    Also “E lucevan le stella” Cavaradossi’s final aria from Tosca.

    I even cried when Mumbles’s son sang a rewritten version of this praising dad in Happy Feet 2.

  95. 95
    Another Bob says:

    I like this great performance of a beautiful song. No post-production effects, just a simple, subtle, well-executed live performance. “When Sunny Gets Blue”

  96. 96
    Raven says:

    @Karounie: If you are a Cash fan it’s worth hearing him whisper to her on Roseanne’s Black Cadillac,

  97. 97
    Steeplejack says:

    Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” always hits me hard, because it is tied to the specific memory of hearing it in the car as I was taking a beloved cat to the vet to be put down.

    She is dancing away from me now
    . . .
    and a memory is all that is left for you now

  98. 98
    Yutsano says:

    Wanna wrench your gut? Leave it to a tenor.

  99. 99
    Pope Ratzy says:

    John Hiatt – Wreck of the Barbie Ferrari
    John Hiatt – Seven Little Indians
    John Hiatt – Through Your Hands

    Oh, the hell with it, anything by John Hiatt

  100. 100

    DougJ, you know how I love If you see her say hello (actually you’ve probably forgotten my 17 suggestions that you sing it a karaoke) so that’s for the thread title.

    James McMurtryRuby and Carlos. I’m in tears every.fucking.time I hear it. TVZ’s No Lonesome Tunes and Maria. Lyle Lovett’s Lights of LA County. Three more reasons to forgive Texas. Recovering the Sattelites, Counting Crows.

    @Raven: Dave and Gillian, Iris Dement, John Prine, and Roseanne Cash. Indeed you have excellent taste in music. I’m just guessing you like TVZ as well…

  101. 101
    merrinc says:

    Two songs I will never delete from my iTunes library but cannot listen to again:

    No One Knows But You by Beth Nielsen Chapman. She wrote it for her husband after his death and the pain and loss she feels is evident in every single note. By the end of the second verse, I am having one of those crying so goddamn hard I can’t f’ing breathe episodes.

    The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics. I never listened to the lyrics until one morning when I was getting ready for work. I was 8+ months pregnant with my son at the time and hyper-emotional. These lyrics:

    I wasn’t there that morning
    When my father passed away
    I didn’t get to tell him
    All the things I had to say

    I think I caught his spirit
    Later that same year
    I’m sure I heard his echo
    In my baby’s new born tears
    I just wish I could have told him in the living years

    Made me break completely down. (Lost my dad when I was 16.) I was an hour late for work because I couldn’t pull myself together.

    Now I’m going to go have a good cry. Thanks, DougJ.

  102. 102
    Raven says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Yea but I like Nanci’s cover of Tecumseh Valley better. If you haven’t seen the two doc’s on him they are worth a look but I truly regret the toll booze took on him.

    Heartworn Highway Better than Waitin Around to Die.

    Be Here to Love Me is really a bummer.

  103. 103
    TaMara (BHF) says:

    DougJ-whatever you are today* – I was out riding in the spring cold thinking, next round, DougJ should ask about songs that remind us of summer. Because I can’t wait for summer.

    *no disrespect intended.

  104. 104
    kvenlander says:

    Dylan’s I Threw it All Away just kills me. Because it’s true.

    From the other end of the spectrum, listening to
    I’m not Down by The Clash on repeat probably saved my life. Twice.

  105. 105
    dedc79 says:

    I’m Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn’t Break Your Heart – The Eels

  106. 106
    Steeplejack says:

    “In My Life” always makes me think of the stupid, senseless tragedy that was John Lennon’s death. I like José Feliciano’s version because it’s not John singing (so it’s less painful and feels like a tribute) and the lush strings are all right.

  107. 107
    Raven says:


    Sidewalks of the City

  108. 108
    Raven says:


    Drive-in Movies and Dashboard Lights

  109. 109
    Captain Goto says:

    I can’t say there’s any that actually touch me, that at the same time are so painful I want to turn off the radio.
    One that did get to me was in rotation at our indie station, right when my first marriage was going to shit:

    I Know

    The only one that ever moved me to tears was “Corey’s Coming” by Harry Chapin, from back when my first love was ditching me.
    Sadly, it doesn’t hold up very well…

  110. 110
    Raven says:


    Sam Stone

  111. 111
    grape_crush says:

    Radiohead, Karma Police.

    Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle for the lyrics, not the music.

    Cat Powers, The Greatest.

  112. 112
    Steeplejack says:

    Danny O’Keefe, “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues.”
    Stuck in a small town and thought I would never get out.

  113. 113
    hilzoy says:

    A lot of Richard Thompson. E.g.:



    There is only one (1) song I can’t get through, unless I’m in a very masochistic mood. — Once upon a time, I was completely, totally in love with this guy. It was as though every cell in my body was individually and separately in love with him, even my toenails and the ends of my hair. The last summer we were together, something went horribly wrong, and stayed horribly wrong all summer, for reasons I still do not understand (in fairness, I think it baffled him as much as it did me.) Since at that time we lived about ten thousand miles apart, when I left, that was it — no hope that I might, say, run into him at the grocery store in a few months when whatever it was had gotten better, or anything. I was leaving; it was over; I had no idea why; I was as unhappy and bewildered as I have ever been.

    So picture me, sitting on the plane that will take me home, feeling as though I had been torn into tiny pieces which I was barely holding together with little bits of rusty wire and string, and imagine that they begin to play side 2 of Joni Mitchell’s Blue over the airplane sound system. First, “This Flight Tonight” (chorus: “Turn this crazy bird around/I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight”; I still can’t believe they played that on an airplane.) Then “River” (“Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on…”). And then this:


    I still can’t listen to it.

  114. 114
    becca says:

    Lowell George- Willin’

  115. 115

    @Raven: I haven’t looked at the docs, but I did read A Deeper Blue. The toll the booze took is horrifying, and it’s clear he was self medicating bipolar disorder, since he was diagnosed while in college. And got medical treatment for a while. It makes me so sad – such a talent, lost.

  116. 116
    Steeplejack says:

    Shirley Horn, “Here’s to Life.”

  117. 117
    Spike says:

    @Raven: You and Mr. Prine win the thread. I’ll add another of his gems, “Souvenirs”:

    Broken hearts and dirty windows
    Make life difficult to see
    That’s why last night and this morning
    Always look the same to me

    I hate reading old love letters
    For they always bring me tears
    I can’t forgive the way they rob me
    Of my sweetheart souvenirs

  118. 118
    SBJules says:

    Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven and Bob Dylan’s Tangled up in Blue.

  119. 119
    Tommy says:

    Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is on my list, especially Jeff Buckley’s cover.

    Here’s one I don’t think anybody else has mentioned: “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush. I can’t get through it.

  120. 120
  121. 121
    the antibob says:

    Patty Griffin writes one song after another that just knock you flat. It’s hard to even know where to start.
    Moses, Sweet Lorraine, Not Alone, Tony, Goodbye, Christina, Mary, Peter Pan, Long Road, Burgundy Shoes, Her cover of Stolen Car.
    Everything on Impossible Dream…

  122. 122
    eemom says:

    Good Lord, what a thread. I hope someone owns stock in the Kleenex company. : (

  123. 123
    fedupwithhypocrisy says:

    Jerry Jeff is fine, but that’s a Guy Clarke song and he kills.

  124. 124
    the antibob says:

    Also, the Cowboy Junkies:
    Mining for Gold. Misguided Angel.
    Sun Comes up, It’s Tuesday Morning, Witches. PowderFinger (cover).
    A Horse in the Country. The Last Spike. Cowboy Junkies Lament. To Live is to Fly (a Townes’ song). Good Friday… Their recent tribute to Vic Chesnutt (Demons) is hard to get through.

  125. 125
    Jamie says:

    “Runs in the Family” by Amanda Palmer. No, she’s not the most technically brilliant musician in the world, but fuck, talk about raw lyrics.

  126. 126
    the antibob says:

    Johnette Napolitano used to write some seriously dark songs:
    Joey, Caroline, I Don’t Need a Hero, Song For Kim, Scene of a Perfect Crime.
    Happy Birthday, Little Conversations…

    Carry Me Away:
    I think it’s 7:09 California time.
    Whoever said it was a small world was either a liar or a fool.
    Cause it’s not true.
    And any promise we make is as easy to break
    As the plastic people on the wedding cake.
    So says you. But you know- I Do.

  127. 127
    JPK says:

    Wow, what a great thread.

    “Anchorage” by Michelle Shocked

  128. 128
  129. 129
    Alison says:

    George Michael, “Waiting For That Day” got me pretty damn good after a bad break-up:

    Now every day I see you in some other face
    They crack a smile, talk a while
    Try to take your place
    My memory serves me far too well

    I just sit here on this mountain thinking to myself
    You’re a fool, boy
    Why don’t you go down
    Find somebody
    Find somebody else
    My memory serves me far too well

    It’s not as though we just broke up
    It’s not as though it was yesterday
    But something I just can’t explain
    Something in me needs this pain
    I know I’ll never see your face again


    And if these wounds
    They are self inflicted
    I don’t really know
    How my poor heart could have protected me
    But if I have to carry this pain
    If you will not share the blame
    I deserve to see your face again

  130. 130
    MGLoraine says:

    Cat Stevens – Father and Son
    Simon and Garfunkel – The Boxer
    Linda Ronstadt – Keep Me From Blowing Away
    Bob Dylan – You’re A Big Girl Now
    Frank Sinatra – The Summer Wind

  131. 131
    becca says:

    I hope this thread never dies.

    Joni Mitchell’s Blue

  132. 132
    PPOG Penguin says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Yeah, I can’t think of any songs I “can’t get through” at all, but Mary Chapin Carpenter does have a talent for choking me up. “Jubilee” always gets me: ultimately uplifting, but it always makes me think of friends I’ve left behind. “Stones in the Road” for its historical resonance through a child’s eyes (excepting the clunky final verse). And “Halley Came to Jackson,” for I don’t know why but it does.

  133. 133
    Jamie says:

    Now you have me listening to Amanda Palmer.

    “Ampersand” and “My Alcoholic Friends”, too.

    But “First Orgasm” and “Coin Operated Boy” are awesome. (Those are Dresden Dolls songs, Amanda before they dissolved the band.)

  134. 134
    Steve says:

    Ben Folds – Still Fighting It

    Guy singing to his son,

    “And you’re so much like me
    I’m sorry”

    Just crushes me, every time.

  135. 135
    aarrgghh says:

    “Dad” by NoMeansNo from their ’86 album “Sex Mad”. also found on ’04 compilation “The People’s Choice”.

    a kick in the gut, fist in the face and chair ‘cross the back, from dad to the whole family.

    and it’s still a great tune and available from the itunes store and amazon.

  136. 136
    Commenting at Ballon Juice since 1937 says:

    Van Morrison TB Sheets

    Its what Mick Jagger and Jeff Beck reminded me of when they did that blues thing at the White House. It sick, twisted, and sad.

    “I can almost smell your TB sheets … on your sick bed”

  137. 137
    maryQ says:

    Northbound 35 Jeffrey Foucault
    “It’s just flashes that we own, little snapshots made of breath and of bone, and out on the darkling plain alone, they light up the sky” and “What’s beautiful is broken and grace is just the measure of a fall”.

  138. 138
    maryQ says:

    Oh, and Famous Blue Raincoat
    “Thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes I thought it was there for good so I never tried”

  139. 139
    john f says:

    U2’s Running to Stand Still from the Joshua Tree album still brings back memories of a grammar school friend’s older brother who died in a car wreck that year in 1987. We all were big U2 fans listenin to that album at the time.

    Also,the late Eva Cassidy’s rendition of Buffy Santa-Marie’s song Tall Trees in Georgia puts a lump in my throat.

  140. 140
    the antibob says:

    Oops. Concrete Blonde’s Happy Birthday is a great song. But upbeat.
    I’ll have to sub-in Dave Alvin’s 4th of July.
    Which reminds me of another favorite holiday song:
    the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York – on the same album as “Thousands are Sailing” best Ghost Story/Song ever.
    Which brings to mind an old civil war song-
    Paddy’s Lament (Sinead O’Connor has a great version).
    And another civil war song: Richard Shindell’s Reunion Hill. Which leads to another great poignant song by Shindell
    -Fishing- about an aging border patrolman interviewing a detainee. Then there’s the devastating
    Cold Missouri Waters and the Ballad of Mary Magdeline on the Cry Cry Cry album…

    Also partial to another ghost story:Leslie Ann Levine- The Decemberists.
    Dire Straits: Ride Across the River. The Man’s Too Strong. Brother’s in Arms.
    Knopfler and Emmylou Harris: If This is Goodbye.
    Kathleen Edwards: Six O’Clock News, Alicia Ross. Golden State(with John Doe)

    Oh my God. TOM WAITS… Ruby’s Arms, Briar and the Rose, Soldier’s Things, Town with No Cheer,
    Anywhere I Lay My Head, Bottom of the World, Hold On, Come on Up to the House…. !!!!!! @#@##@*&^@#(%!!!!!!!

    Time to go to the quiet room for a while.

  141. 141
    maryQ says:

    @the antibob: Don’t forget Mother of God and Top of the World. Also love the Dixie Chicks cover of Top of the World

  142. 142
    aarrgghh says:

    @commenting at ballon juice since 1937: seconded for “tb sheets”

    meanwhile, the lyrics to the abovementioned “dad” by nomeansno:

    I went home, I was feeling so alone.
    I was late, It was my mistake.
    I went to my room, and I sat there in the gloom.
    I know I’ve been bad, I know he’ll be mad.

    And I hear him coming, down the hall.
    And there’s nowhere to go, nowhere at all.
    I’ve been bad. It was my mistake!
    He opens the door, and his eyes are full of hate.


    My mom comes running in, she cries “Oh, Please don’t hit him.”
    Dad gives her a kick, and he slaps her around a bit.

    Dad keeps hitting mom’s face, and there’s blood all over the place.
    I said “Please Dad, please, it was my mistake!”
    I’m the one that’s bad! I’m the one that’s bad!
    No, don’t hit her Dad! Don’t hit her, Dad!


    He went into my sister’s room, and he locked the door.
    He said “I hate you, but I love you more.
    I heard her crying, as the lights went out.
    I heard her scream … I had to shout!


    … I’m seriously considering leaving home.

  143. 143
    Applejinx says:

    Sandy Denny, “The Sea Captain”

    “I saw the flower of the ocean- and the universe did me no harm”

    Somehow, unutterably sad…

  144. 144
    MattF says:

    @the antibob: The Ballad of Mary Magdalene is a great and moving song. And the first verse is hilarious:

    My name is Mary Magdalene
    I come from Palestine
    Please excuse these rags I’m in
    I’ve fallen on hard times
    But long ago I had my work, when I was in my prime
    I gave it up and all for love
    It was his career or mine.

  145. 145
    fbjakes says:


    “I can’t male you love me” is simply the best!

    (putting on my Bonnie Raitt gimme cap and tee)

  146. 146
    Jack says:

    “Tubas in the Moonlight” gets me every time – Bonzo Dog

  147. 147
    Karounie says:

    I know I chimed in before, but “The Ship Song” by Nick Cave is also a really spooky one. Can’t say I have trouble getting through it – more like when I hear it once I have to go for another ten times before doing anything else – in fact, I think I’ll go listen to it now.

  148. 148
    Jay says:

    I’m just going to throw these into the category: “Songs That Suck So Hard They Make Me Want To Curl Into The Fetal Position And Weep”:

    -Manfred Mann’s version of “Blinded By The Light” (Springsteen’s rendition, on the other hand, is just above the sucktitude line because, well, he’s Springsteen)
    -Gloria Estefan’s version of “Everlasting Love” (really, the only one I know)
    -“Just Walk Away, Renee”
    -“Brandy”-Looking Glass
    -“The Pretender”-Jackson Browne

  149. 149
    Alison says:

    @Karounie: Ooh, that’s definitely a good one. I’m also often affected by the opening track on Nocturama, “Wonderful Life”. Not just the lyrics, but Cave’s voice as well make it quite poignant, IMO.

  150. 150
    eemom says:

    “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley.

  151. 151
    Jay says:


    -“Fat Boy”-Jewel
    -Honorable Mention: all of Jewel’s “poetry” (EDIT: I was just looking for an excuse to bash that ridiculous collection)

  152. 152
    hintn says:

    Joni, Hissing of Summer Lawns, Sweet Bird, “Guesses based on what each set of time and change is touching…”

  153. 153
    zonker says:

    “You Were Never Mine” by Delbert McClinton, I still remember her and the end like it was yesterday. I was in a bar in Charleston WV night,the Red Carpet Lounge,when Emmy Lou Harris came on the jukebox and sang “Jerusalem Tomorrow”,absoultely stilled the whole bar.

  154. 154
    Mark van Roojen says:

    I know this thread is tapering out, but I didn’t see either
    1,000 Dollar Wedding (“So why don’t someone here just spike his drink, why don’t you do him in, some old way? . . .”)or the version of Love Hurts on the same album by Gram Parsons.

    Not that there weren’t many other great suggestions. I confess to listening to Richard Thompson for about four months when I was as depressed as I ever got. And DougJ is right that No Expectations ought to be on the list.

  155. 155
    the antibob says:

    Emmylou Harris on Quarter Moon and Luxury Liner:
    Tulsa Queen. One Paper Kid. and of course her version of Townes’ Poncho and Lefty. My old shepherd used to roll on her back and whine when Emmylou sang “She”. Never saw her respond to any other music. And my daughter fell asleep for her first two years to Wrecking Ball.
    “Yeah… she sure could sing.”

  156. 156
    harokin says:

    @Tommy: Kate did a new version on her recent Director’s Cut album that is even harder to get through; there’s a part (you know it when you hear it) where SHE can’t get through it.

  157. 157
    Smedley the Uncertain says:

    Cat’s Cradle. it hurts too much…

  158. 158
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @Mark van Roojen:

    I almost added $1000 Wedding in an update.

    Ane he felt so sad when he saw the traces of old lies still on their faces.

  159. 159
    CaliforniaBoy says:

    The original version of I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton. No hate on the late, beautiful Whitney Houston, props for all her hits and heart, but Dolly will wreck you with her original version, and it always reminds me of the Memphis girl who got away and stayed the love of my life.

  160. 160
    SpaceSquid says:

    I find it exceptionally difficult to listen to “Still Ill” by the Smiths. It can’t help but remind me of living with depression for almost two decades (I was prescribed my first anti-depression meds at thirteen), and “Am I still ill?” makes me burst into tears pretty much every time.

  161. 161
    nicteis says:

    The McGarrigles: “Talk to Me of Mendocino”, and “I’ve Had Enough”.

    And Tom Waits, “Georgia Lee”:

    Close your eyes and count to ten
    I will go and hide but then
    Be sure to find me, I want you to find me
    And we’ll play all over
    We’ll play all over again…

    and then the eternal sepia tint of that last line, that
    always takes me by surprise and by the back of the throat:
    “…as the hills turn from green back to gold.”

  162. 162
    Chris says:

    And now she’s two years older
    Her mother’s with a soldier

    That was tough for me when my girls were little.

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