Sometimes you just need to hear a sad song. Whether you’re looking to learn to play some heartbreak songs or just want to listen and have a good cry, here are some of the best saddest songs out there.
The Top 25 Saddest Songs for a Good Cry
1. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash (2003)
Not everyone knows that Johnny Cash didn’t write this hit; it was originally a Nine Inch Nails song. Cash played the song more than 100 times before recording it and called it “the best anti-drug song I ever heard.”
There are a few different versions of the chords for “Hurt” out there, but the easiest version uses Am, C, D, G, and F. This tutorial video (below left) will take you through the chords and the relatively simple strumming pattern. The song only has verses and a chorus, so there’s no bridge to learn.
2. “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver (2007)
This just might be the saddest song off of Bon Iver’s first album, For Emma, Forever Ago. Justin Vernon, the band’s frontman, has said that “skinny love” refers to a love between two people that lacks any real weight.
You’ll need to use an open C tuning to play the song as written. But if you prefer, you can use standard tuning. You need the chords Am, C, Cmaj7sus2/D, Am/C, Cadd9/E, Gadd11/B, and F/A. This video tutorial (above right) can take you through it.
3. “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton (1991)
“Tears in Heaven” was written for Eric Clapton’s son, Conor. Conor was killed at the age of four after falling from a 53rd-floor window. Eric Clapton wasn’t sure he wanted to release the song, but he ultimately did.
If you want to simplify this song, you can strum using easy chords. You’ll need A, E, F#m, D, E7, C#, Bm, C, and G. But “Tears in Heaven” sounds best as a fingerstyle song. This video (below left) gives you a step-by-step guide to playing it this way.
4. “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen (1971)
This song tells the story of a love triangle, though Leonard Cohen has said he isn’t sure if that triangle was real or imagined.
To play this one, you will need the chords Bm, G, Em, A, D, A flat, and a couple of uncommon chords: Fism7 and Cism. Like many other sad songs, this one sounds best-played fingerstyle. This video (above right) will give you an in-depth look at the chords and patterns you’ll need.
5. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones (1980)
Country music is known for its sad songs, and this George Jones hit is one of the saddest of all. It tells a story of a man who loves the woman who left him until the day he died.
The song is not hard to play: you only need three chords to play a beginner version. You need D, C, and G. To really get the old-school country feel of the song, you can play the alternating bassline, too. This is easier than it sounds, and this video (below left) shows you how to do it.
6. “Black” by Pearl Jam (1991)
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam once said that this song is about first relationships. However, some fans have speculated that it was written about abortion.
This sad song is one of the easier ones to play on the list. You just need E, A, C, Em, and D. This video (above right) shows you all the chords you’ll need, and you can sing along, too!
7. “The River” by Bruce Springsteen (1980)
Many sad songs are about emotional cheating and lost love. But this song details all the pain that comes with financial hardship. Springsteen has historically spoken out against income equality, and “The River” has helped him do it.
Though there are several chords you need for this song, none of them are too terribly hard. You will need Em, F#, C, C#/B, G, D, C, and Am. The song has a strumming pattern that incorporates a few little riffs. You can learn them in this useful tutorial (video below left).
8. “Morning Theft” by Jeff Buckley (1998)
Jeff Buckley and Elliot Smith are both known for deeply sad lyrics, and “Morning Theft” is one of Buckley’s best works. This sad song may not be as famous as others on the list, so that you can listen to it here (video above right) if you aren’t familiar with it.
The chords to this song are a little unusual, as is the song structure. You’ll need F5, F4, G#, A#, Bb5, C7, E, Am, Em, Fdim, G#5, and A#5. The song is also full of little riffs, so if you want to go beyond chords and learn these as well, you can check them out here
9. “Grenade” by Bruno Mars (2010)
Most pop music is upbeat and happy. But in this Bruno Mars song, the singer laments the fact that he would sacrifice plenty for the object of his affection. But that loved one wouldn’t do the same. Bruno Mars himself has called it a heartbreak song.
Luckily, “Grenade” is fairly easy to play. As you can see in this video (below left), you can start with a capo on the 5th fret. From there, you just need Am, Em, E7, F, E, C, G, and Dm. Most people start with strumming, but if you want to get creative, you can make your own fingerstyle version.
10. “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys (1966)
This wistful song was inspired in part by spirituality. It also has somewhat unusual lyrics, as it starts out with “I may not always love you.” It became one of the most famous songs by The Beach Boys.
This song generally isn’t too easy to play, but there’s a simplified version that still sounds pretty good. To play this version, you just need G, D, Em, Bbdim7, A, Asus2, B7/D, Fmaj7, Am, A7, and C. This detailed tutorial (video above right) can take you through the song.
11. “Mrs. Bartolozzi” by Kate Bush (2005)
This sad song includes some truly beautiful lyrics about grief, loss, and coping: “I think I see you standing outside/But it’s just your shirt/Hanging on the washing line.” Check out the song in this video (below left).
Though “Mrs. Bartolozzi” is an interesting (if unconventional) sad song, it’s quite challenging to play. It includes a huge variety of different chords and chord variations. But you can check out the chords here if you want to give it a shot.
12. “Jolene” by Dolly Parton (1974)
“Jolene” is an iconic song that tells the tale of a woman afraid of losing her man. But the inspiration for the song actually came from a young fan named Jolene. Dolly Parton thought the name was beautiful, and the song came after.
Since “Jolene” is so popular, countless tutorials exist. You can start with a very easy version to get the hang of the song. As you can see in this video (above right), you only need G, C, and Am with a capo at the fifth fret.
13. “Something in the Way” by Nirvana (1991)
Kurt Cobain wrote this song about a particularly dark time in his life. Each time he tried to feel better, he sensed that something was in the way of happiness.
As you can see in this tutorial (video below left), you can play an especially easy version of the song using Em and C/G. Since you only need two chords, you might want to practice playing and singing at the same time while playing this song.
14. “Sam Stone” by John Prine (1971)
This deeply sad song is about a war veteran who dies of a drug overdose. John Prine himself fought in the Vietnam War, and that experience helped inspire “Sam Stone.”
This song sounds best when played fingerstyle, and this tutorial (video above right) will show you how to play it. It’s still beautifully strummed. You’ll need to play C, Dm, F, G, G7, D7, Am, and Am7 with a capo on the third fret.
15. “Brick” by Ben Folds Five (1997)
Ben Folds wrote “Brick” about his high-school girlfriend undergoing an abortion. He’s said that since neither wanted their parents to know, he pawned Christmas presents just to afford the procedure.
If you want to work on your fingerpicking, this is a great song to practice with. Whether you’re picking or strumming, you’ll need D, G, Bm, E7, A, and Dmaj9. This tutorial (video below left) will show you all you need to know to play it.
16. “When the Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish (2018)
This quiet, heartfelt song captures a moment of trouble or disconnect in a relationship. The unusual visual in the music video underscores the emotion of the lyrics: it shows Eilish crying tears of black.
“Call Me When the Party’s Over” isn’t too hard to play. You’ll need F, G, C, and Dm. This video (above right) can take you through what you need to know. Since this sad song is moody and ethereal, you might try improvising or creating your own picking patterns.
17. “Swim Good” by Frank Ocean (2011)
Though “Swim Good” is one of Frank Ocean’s most popular songs, he says it was written in about 10 minutes. Its eerie lyrics tell the story of a man who drives to a funeral that he finds out is his own.
This might seem like an unusual song to play on guitar, but “Swim Good” sounds quite nice when played acoustically, too. As you can see in this tutorial (video below left), you just need Am, G, Em, and F. The song sounds great, with a little palm muting, too.
18. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd (1975)
Pink Floyd wrote this deeply sad song about member Syd Barrett’s struggle with schizophrenia. The song and the Pink Floyd album of the same name deal with themes of distance and detachment.
You can play this song with a combination of riffs and strumming. This tutorial (video above right) will take you through each riff step by step. You can also check out this chord sheet; you need, Em, G, A9, C9, D, D4, and D9/F#.
19. “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin (1974)
This famous song tells the story of a father who doesn’t take the time to connect with his son. And as the son grows up, he becomes just like his father.
You can easily learn to play this cautionary tale about putting a career before family. To play it, you just need E, G, A, D, and Bsus4. If you follow along with this tutorial (video below left), you’ll master the rhythm pattern in no time!
20. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams
Hank Williams initially intended to record this lyrically complex sad song as a spoken-word piece, but his friends convinced him to make it a song instead. Since its release, it has been covered by countless other artists, too.
Like many classic country songs, this one isn’t hard to play. As this lesson shows you (video above right), you need E, A, and B7. If you’ve played similar songs from the same era, the strumming pattern may be familiar to you. If not, it isn’t too hard to master.
21. “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse (2006)
Amy Winehouse left the world tragically young but left behind masterpieces like this one. Though it’s very catchy, “Back to Black” captures a descent into depression after a breakup.
Though most of us know “Back to Black” as a piano song, it translates nicely to guitar, too. This video (below left) shows you an easy and an intermediate version. For the easy version, you will need Dm, Gm, Bb, and A. It might be simple, but it still sounds good!
22. “Shallow” by Lady Gaga (2018)
You might recognize this track from the movie A Star is Born. And while Lady Gaga’s character in the film performs this dramatically sad song, Lady Gaga co-wrote it outside of the film.
If you want to learn this beautiful song, you might be relieved to hear that it’s actually relatively simple to play. This tutorial (video above right) will take you through both strumming and picking. Regarding chords, you need Em7, D/F#, G, C, D, Em, Bm, and Am.
23. “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John (1973)
This famously sad song is a tribute to Marilyn Monroe. Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics, has said that it’s meant to capture the way artists who die young appear frozen in time.
Like most Elton John songs, this one was written for the piano. But it can be just as moving when played on guitar. This video (below left) takes you through one musician’s guitar rendition. To play it, you’ll need to put a capo at the 2nd fret and play G, A, D, A7, Asus4, Bm, Dsus4, and Gadd4.
24. “Mad World” by Gary Jules (2001)
This somber song about seeing the world for what it really is was originally by Tears for Fears. Even if you don’t recognize the song’s name, you’ve almost certainly heard it; you can listen here.
You can either strum or fingerpick this song using four easy chords. With a capo on the first fret, you’ll just need to play Em, G, D, and A. The rhythm pattern for this gentle melody is surprisingly intuitive. This video (above right) will take you through it.
25. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan (1973)
This iconic sad song is written from the point of view of a dying sheriff. And even though Bob Dylan wrote the song for the film Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, the song’s popularity transcended that of the movie.
As you’ll see in this video lesson, you can play “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” using only four chords: G, D, Am, and C. It sounds especially nice on acoustic guitar, but with the right tone, you might like the sound of it on electric guitar, too.
Even More Sad Songs
Need even more of the best sad songs? Check out these suggestions:
- “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (1975)
- “My Immortal” by Evanescence (2003)
- “Teardrop” by Massive Attack (1998)
- “Laura” by Bat for Lashes (2012)
- “Going for the Gold” by Bright Eyes (2000)
- “I Know It’s Over” by The Smiths (1986)
- “Happy Birthday, Johnny” by St. Vincent (2017)
- “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday (1939)
- “Creator, Destroyer” by Angel Olsen (2011)
- “Girl of the Year” by Beach House (2018)
- “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers (1965)
- “The Drugs Don’t Work” by The Verve (1997)
- “This is the Last Time” by The National (2013)
- “Last Kiss” by Taylor Swift (2010)
- “Tear in Your Hand” by Tori Amos (1992)
Hopefully, you now have some breakup songs, heartbreak songs, and other sad songs to get you through tough times. But what do you think? Tell us your favorite sad song in the comments, and don’t forget to like and share if you found our list useful!
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