Saying “goodbye” and leaving isn’t always easy.
Sometimes it’s freeing, but many times it’s sad and difficult.
It can be hard to find the words to express what needs to be said; often it's not enough to wish a simple farewell.
But music is a language that transcends words – no wonder so many songs are about love.
Music can give expression to our unspoken thoughts and emotions.
In this guide, we’ll look at 46 songs about saying goodbye to help you with these moments.
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“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, A Famous Goodbye Song
Song year: 1992
Inspired by the tragic loss of his son Conor, Eric Clapton put pen to paper and wrote furiously in memory of the beloved.
“Tears in Heaven” is the most notable work to emerge from this period and it was co-written with songwriter Will Jennings.
Conor, at four years old, fell 50 feet from an apartment building in Manhattan, New York.
Tragedy can strike anyone suddenly, and we’re left to deal with whatever emotions arise out of it.
If you’ve experienced a sudden loss in your life, this song can help soothe the shock and pain.
“(Na Na Hey Hey) Kiss Him Goodbye” by The Nylons
Song year: 1969
A cappella group The Nylons offer up a simple, upbeat song about unrequited love.
Sometimes, we fall in love.
And, the people we fall in love with don’t always reciprocate.
Sometimes, they even go on to date others we think aren’t good enough for them.
We wish they would recognize our goodness.
The lyrics to this song leave resolution open-ended, so we never know what happened with the writer and whether his love was ultimately embraced by the girl he was after.
But even if you don’t feel like your loving feelings will ever be returned, this song should leave you feeling uplifted.
“Stay Together” by Mr. Big
Song year: 2009
Love can leave a mark on our hearts.
Being in a relationship can make us feel alive – the tradeoff is that we risk having our hearts broken.
You may feel like you’ll never meet someone again – no one that makes you feel the way you felt about that person you broke up with.
You may even curse the timing of when you met – “if only we had met sooner…” or “if only we had met later…”
We can be endlessly plagued by “if only…”
This is the song you need when you can’t seem to stop saying to yourself “if only…”
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
Song year: 1973
In this song, death is imminent for the cowboy narrator.
Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” has survived through the ages, and regardless of who offered up their own rendition – Eric Clapton, Guns N’ Roses or Avril Lavigne – it continues to leave listeners present to their own mortality.
And, it can’t help but stir up emotions if you know someone in your life who doesn’t have much time left.
This song will leave you feeling when your loved one passes; they will be moving on to a better place.
“Candle In The Wind” by Elton John Is A Classic Goodbye Song
Song year: 1973
Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind” was written in memory of Marilyn Munroe, though John famously performed a rewritten version for Princess Diana in 1997, leaving the audience in tears.
The song describes a tormented soul who lived not as she wanted but as others wanted her to.
The story John tells is one of loneliness and someone who never had a true friend.
For those times when you feel like everyone has expectations for you and you’re carrying the weight of the world, this song will leave you present to the life you’re living and the life you could be living.
“Fade To Black” by Metallica
Song year: 1984
A dark, heavy and unapologetic song about the sting of looming death.
If comfort and peace is what you seek, this is not the song for you.
But as you’re working through your response to loss, you may grow angry.
This is the perfect song to listen to as you’re working through your unresolved pain.
“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac
Song year: 1976
Love is a powerful emotion.
But sometimes you grow distant to those you love.
This song is about the relationship between Fleetwood Mac’s guitarist-singer Lindsay Buckingham and bandmate/singer Stevie Nicks and it describes how Nicks begins to withdraw from Buckingham.
The two must be commended for keeping the band alive well after they broke up.
Things don’t always go how you want them to in relationships, especially when your partner isn’t receptive.
Even if you’re feeling sad, this upbeat rock number with a soaring chorus could leave you feeling lifted.
“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Song year: 1992
Originally written by Dolly Parton in the early 70s, “I Will Always Love You” was further popularized by Whitney Houston in the early 90s.
Sometimes we feel like we’re holding back our partner.
We may love them dearly, but staying with them would be the wrong move, because they have greater things to accomplish in life.
It doesn’t mean that love is dead.
Sometimes, loving someone means setting them free – this song is a reminder of that.
“Someone Like You” by Adele, My Favorite Song About Unrequited Love (Editor)
Song year: 2011
This bit of melodrama cuts straight to the core.
Love is challenging because even if we haven’t moved on, sometimes our partner has.
We act strong to try to protect ourselves, but in the end, we aren’t done processing our loss.
This song is a reminder that acting strong doesn’t resolve matters of the heart.
“Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton
Song year: 1996
A broken heart happens in a moment and it can’t be undone.
But many can surely relate to Toni Braxton’s cry in the unforgettable “Un-Break My Heart”.
We can always hope for reconciliation but there are no guarantees.
If you don’t know whether your significant other is coming back, let this song help you work through the tears.
“New York Minute” by Don Henley/The Eagles
Song year: 1990
The poignant “New York Minute” is a reminder of how fast one’s life can end.
Though we often take it for granted that our loved ones will always be around, we don’t know for sure.
Don Henley (from The Eagles) reminds us to “take care of your own” while you still can.
“Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O'Connor
Song year: 1990
Originally written by Prince for his side project The Family, most of us best remember “Nothing Compares 2 U” being sung by a closeup, teary-eyed, buzzcut Sinéad O'Connor in the trademark music video.
Although the writer briefly explores the notion of being free, she quickly realizes her love is not coming back.
What remains is loneliness.
If you’re feeling lonely right now, this song can keep you company.
“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye Is Another Song About Saying Bye Bye
Song year: 2011
After a breakup, many of us experience anger and resentment.
“Somebody That I Used To Know” seems to wear these emotions on its sleeve.
It’s clear the narrator feels betrayed and insignificant.
We all deal with breakups differently, and our ex-partners might surprise us at times.
If you’re feeling shocked, this song will relate to you.
“Don’t Speak” by No Doubt
Song Year: 1996
“Don’t Speak” is yet another breakup anthem of the 90s, and there wasn’t a shortage of them.
In this unforgettable number, Gwen Stefani begins the song rather matter of fact: “You and me/We used to be together/Every day together always”.
Then comes the chorus, which reveals the writer’s true vulnerability – they are so hurt they can’t even speak to their ex-partner anymore.
If you feel you just can’t take anymore, this song is there for you.
“It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette
Song year: 1987
The gentle and poetic “It Must Have Been Love” struck a chord with listeners everywhere in the late 80s.
It speaks of a love gone as though it were a dream: “It must have been love/But it’s over now/It must have been good/But I lost it somehow”.
This song speaks to the dreamlike quality love can have and how we don’t always know what we’ve got until it’s gone.
This song is yours if you’ve been “whiplashed” by love.
“We Just Disagree” by Dave Mason, In This Song He Says Farewell
Song year: 1977
A simple and beautiful but sometimes forgotten breakup song, Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree” is somewhat matter of fact and mature in its delivery.
Sometimes a peaceful breakup is all you can hope for.
The narrator still cares for a love lost but he knows there isn’t a future for him and his ex-partner.
This is the perfect song when you’ve come to the point of accepting that your love will not live on.
”Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson
Song year: 2012
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” was embraced as a personal empowerment anthem a few short years ago.
Breakups can be hard.
Sometimes they aren’t hard as they are insignificant.
It’s not clear which the narrator was ultimately expressing, but if you’re wondering if there’s any fight left in you, this song is yours.
“Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan
Song year: 1963
There are few breakup songs written quite as impeccably as Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” as it perfectly captures our confused and mixed feelings when it comes to breakups.
At any given moment you can waver between shocked, angry, sad, free and so on.
This song shows you that it’s okay – you can feel whatever you need to feel.
“Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” by Jeff Beck
Song year: 1975
Sometimes you don’t need a voice telling you what to think – you just need a weeping guitar to guide the way.
And, innovative guitarist Jeff Beck does just that in this classic instrumental written by Stevie Wonder.
We all know that music has a certain healing power.
Listen to Beck make his guitar cry and allow yourself to say “goodbye” to your lover.
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette Is A Happy Goodbye Song
Song year: 1995
Canadian-American singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette caused quite a stir in the mid-90s with her grunge influenced alt-rock and edgy lyrics.
“You Oughta Know” isn’t just honest – it’s angry too.
It begins simply enough: “I want you to know that I am happy for you/I wish nothing but the best for you both”.
But then it explodes into the chorus we all remember: “And I’m here to remind you/Of the mess you left when you went away…”
Anger isn’t something to hold onto – so use this song as a tool to calm down.
“One Last Time” by Ariana Grande
Song year: 2015
Far from innocent, but nevertheless honest, the narrator of “One Last Time” admits her ex is already in the arms of another.
Still, she pleads: “One last time/I need to be the one who takes you home.”
Of course, she wouldn’t be alone in feeling that.
If you’re still pining after your ex, this catchy song will give you relief.
“The Scientist” by Coldplay
Song year: 2002
“Nobody said it was easy/It’s such a shame for us to part/Nobody said it was easy/No one ever said it would be this hard.”
Who can’t relate to these words?
Unfortunately, heartbreak isn’t something you can learn about – you can only experience and discover it for yourself.
And, we will all experience heartbreak at some point or another.
But this song is not bad company to have as you’re going through the grieving process.
“Crying” by Roy Orbison
Song year: 1962
The legendary Roy Orbison wrote this essential breakup hit, which continues to be covered by a variety of talented artists.
Digging into the lyrics, it's clear the writer tried to keep it together but ultimately admits: “It’s hard to understand but the touch of your hand/Can start me crying.”
It’s normal for the tears to well up when you feel sad.
It’s hard to imagine a better song to accompany your tears than “Crying”.
“Dreaming With A Broken Heart” by John Mayer
Song year: 2006
John Mayer is no stranger to sensitive acoustic ballads.
The piano based “Dreaming With A Broken Heart” describes the shock you feel the morning after a breakup.
You see ghosts of the person who was once there, waking up next to you.
But as Mayer croons, “she’s gone, gone, gone, gone.”
During a breakup, you go through a range of emotions and your day to day life tends to unfold in a haze.
If that’s the state you’re in right now, you’ll appreciate this song.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
Song year: 1985
This new wave/pop tune from the 80s is hard to forget.
And, it’s not entirely a sad song, though it certainly hints at a future where the couple aren’t together anymore – it seems to be pointing to an inevitability.
The narrator, nevertheless, has positive feelings about the relationship, as indicated by the repeating “Don’t you forget about me” line in the chorus.
None of us want to be forgotten.
If you want to live on in the memories of others, this is your song.
“Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles, A Song About Friends Coming & Going In Your Life Due To Differences
Song year: 1967
“Hello, Goodbye” is a lighthearted and catchy song about differences.
People have disagreements and can’t always see eye to eye on matters.
Sometimes, that leads to separation, which can take many forms – physical, intellectual, emotional and so on.
Despite their overwhelming success, in some ways, The Beatles’ career is marked by moments like that.
And that makes you wonder whether they were singing about their own differences.
Regardless, if you can’t see any reconciliation ahead, this tune is sure to help you take a load off.
“I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
Song year: 1993
This gentle and poetic breakup song is heartfelt and relatable.
Consider this verse:
“I’m so tired but I can’t sleep/Standin’ on the edge of something much too deep/It’s funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word/We are screaming inside but we can’t be heard”.
This song reminds you not to stay in your grief but to keep living.
“If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago
Song year: 1976
When it comes to breakup songs, it doesn’t get much more straightforward than this.
Musically, the song is unlike anything you hear on the radio today, but lyrically, it’s direct.
And, Peter Cetera's signature voice is always a joy to listen to.
When you feel like you’ve invested your whole self into a long-term relationship that’s coming to an end, this gentle song will remind you of who you are.
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John
Song year: 1973
A well-written song often leaves you wondering what it’s about and this is one of those songs.
It's open to interpretation.
The yellow brick road is clearly a reference to The Wizard of Oz and may even point to the fact that this song is about Judy Garland (John is known to write songs about famous people), who played Dorothy in the film.
In the movie, the yellow brick road represented hope, as it led the way to the wizard.
But upon arrival at the Emerald City, Dorothy and company discover they had everything they needed all along.
They were lacking nothing.
So, in this song, the yellow brick road could represent the life we chase after without being present to the fact that we are already enough.
When you’re tired of the rat race, this song might be exactly what you need.
“Closing Time” by Semisonic Is A Going Away Song
Song year: 1998
Whether you're a bar star or a regularly performing musician, you're familiar with the bar scene, a scene this song describes in exacting detail.
At some point, every bar must shut down, and people go their own ways.
Songwriter Dan Wilson says this song is also a pun on birth, which is interesting because that’s more of a “hello” than a “goodbye”.
But it might explain this line: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”
If you’re looking for a simple song about the contrast of monotony and new beginnings, this is a good one to say farewell with.
“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks
Song year: 1981
When you’re invested in a relationship, and your partner engages in questionable behavior, it can’t help but hurt you, which is what “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around” is all about.
This song also describes the whirlwind nature of relationships, which is summed up in this line: “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
Though this tune isn’t necessarily about breakup or the end of a relationship, it’s clear that things aren’t working out too well.
If you’re in a rollercoaster relationship, this song understands you well.
“Just A Song Before I Go” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Song year: 1977
Life can go by in a hurry and the view can get kind of blurry.
If that’s how you’re feeling right now, you’ll relate to these words from “Just A Song Before I Go”:
“Just a song before I go/To whom it may concern/Traveling twice the speed of sound/It’s easy to get burned.”
Fortunately, the smooth summer groove of the song will still leave you feeling like there’s hope.
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver Is A Song About Leaving
Song year: 1969
Singer-songwriter John Denver wrote a great many hits and “Leaving On A Jet Plane” is certainly one of his signature songs.
This isn’t strictly a “goodbye” song, as the narrator shares in a verse: “When I come back, I’ll bring your wedding ring.”
The line, “Don’t know when I’ll be back again” might have you thinking otherwise though.
Either way, it is still a song about saying goodbye until you return.
If you must leave a loved one on their own for a while, you’ll enjoy this sunny but heartfelt tune.
“Bye Bye Love” by Simon & Garfunkel
Song year: 1964
There aren’t many breakup songs that sound as cheery as this.
But the lyrics couldn’t get much sadder.
The narrator declares:
“I’m through with romance/I’m through with love/I’m through with counting/The stars above”.
But if you’ve had your heart broken before, you’ve been there.
Listening to this song could still leave you feeling better.
“Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
Song year: 1970
“Big Yellow Taxi” is Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s signature tune.
Sometimes you must say “goodbye” to the familiar – it could be people, circumstances or familiar landmarks.
If you feel like a fish out of water, have a listen.
“Never Say Goodbye” by Bon Jovi
Song year: 1986
This over-the-top power ballad is a product of its time.
But the sentimentality of the song can still strike a chord with your emotions.
Despite the title, the narrator admits upfront: “I pass time with strangers/But this bottle’s my only friend”.
“Never say goodbye” is more a song about the inevitability of having to part ways than it is about never saying goodbye.
It also sounds like it could be a song about graduation.
Either way, you’re free to rock out to this guilty pleasure.
“Bye Bye” by Mariah Carey
Song year: 2008
We’ve all lost someone important to us and in this song, Mariah Carey is there to let us know we aren't alone.
This is a catch-all song about loss, regardless of who you’ve had to say “goodbye” to and it’s clearly heartfelt.
The hip hop beat and “hey” chants take the wind out of my sails, but as they say, music is subjective – maybe this song will speak to you, and if it does, good on you.
“So Now Goodbye” by Kylie Minogue Is One Of Those Top Goodbye Songs
Song year: 2000
The disco tinged “So Now Goodbye” is impossibly catchy.
Beneath the pristine pop production, of course, lies a much sadder song.
Who can’t relate to this: “Stayed for way too long/Started out with trust/But it isn’t just about the good times baby”.
If you feel like you lost precious time to a relationship that wasn’t worth it, you can dance along to this song.
“Girl Goodbye” by Toto
Song year: 1978
This high-octane rock song is about a killer on the run, though that may not be immediately apparent upon your first listen through.
There are a couple of lines within the spare lyrics that give it away:
“Yeah I’m out on the run, got some heat, got a gun” and “I’m so sorry what I’ve done, and I say it not in fun”.
If that doesn’t leave you wondering what the writer means by “goodbye girl”, you’re not appreciating the essence of the song.
You may not be an outlaw, but this is still a hell of a song to go out on.
“Say Goodbye” by Norah Jones
Song year: 2012
Sometimes you just know when a relationship isn’t going to last.
But love is in the domain of irrational and even if you know the outcome, you can’t help but jump into it headfirst and Jones expresses it well.
The song also sheds light on the living contradiction we are as human beings.
When “goodbye” is the only answer, put this song on.
“This Love” by Maroon 5
Song year: 2002
From the first beat, you can tell this dissonant but groovy song isn’t the bearer of good news.
In a strange way, “This Love” sounds a little bit like an answer to John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane”.
Sample this lyric and tell me I’m crazy:
“Whispered goodbye as she got on a plane/Never to return again/But always in my heart”.
Either way, there are times when you need to get out of a relationship, especially if it isn’t based on the right things.
That’s what this song is all about.
“Who Knew” by P!nk
Song year: 2006
P!nk is no stranger to breakup songs and this one is straight to the point.
The lyric, “If someone said three years from now/You’d be long gone/I’d stand up and punch them out/’Cause they’re all wrong” is characteristically her.
What's interesting is that the writer seems to be calling herself out with the repeated “who knew” sections because the warning signs were all there.
Regardless, many of us have gotten ourselves into relationships that ended up being tumultuous, and this is an anthem for those who tried their best.
“Out Of The Woods” by Taylor Swift
Song year: 2014
Aren’t all Taylor Swift songs about breaking up and saying “goodbye”?
Well, yes, most of them are.
This one isn’t necessarily the most brilliant (if anything it’s quite repetitive), but as far as songs about love that’s doomed from the start, it does the trick.
If you just can’t wait to get out of a bad relationship, this is the song to put on.
“Love Is A Battlefield” by Pat Benatar
Song year: 1983
Love can be built on a shaky foundation.
The narrator sums it up well in these lines: “You’re begging me to go/Then making me stay/Why do you hurt me so bad/It would help me to know/Do I stand in your way/Or am I the best thing you’ve had”.
Love can take the form of a battlefield in a myriad of ways.
There can be fights, temptation, abuse and more.
But you're either fighting for it or you're not.
If you're in the fight, go ahead and dance along to this 80s hit.
“You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel Is One Of The Most Famous Songs About Leaving
Song year: 1995
If you remember the 90s then you might remember this tearjerker as well.
After you’ve endured a breakup it can be difficult to focus on your daily life.
Your daily routine seems insignificant and only reminds you of what’s wrong.
You could take any verse and see this is the case.
When you know what’s going on in your head but can’t get your heart to understand, give this gem a try.
“Miss You All The Time” by O.A.R.
Song year: 2019
Sometimes you just can’t put the shock you experience in breakup into words.
And, as I’ve shared already, breakups can drive up a myriad of emotions, leaving you confused and unsure whether you feel anger, regret, resentment, sadness or even love.
If you can’t stop missing that special someone, you’ll feel at home in the warmth of this song by O.A.R.
Goodbye Songs Conclusion, The Best Songs About Saying Farewell
So there you have it, songs about friends leaving, farewell songs to ex lovers and relationships gone wrong.
There are so many ways to say goodbye.
And, there are a variety of situations in which we must say it.
These moments can be sad or difficult.
But they can also be joyous and freeing.
Songs can often say it in a way we can’t say it in the moment.
So, turn to music for the comfort you need.
Sometimes it can give you expression in a situation where you’re struggling to find the words.
So which of these goodbye songs do you relate the most to?