Country is a genre with plenty of sad songs, from Allison Krauss's Whiskey Lullaby to Alan Jackson’s Here in the Real World. Although depression can be difficult, it certainly makes fodder for good music. These are some popular country songs about depression.
1. Whiskey Lullaby by Allison Krauss and Brad Paisley
Song Year: 2003
Whiskey Lullaby appears on Brad Paisley’s acclaimed 2003 album, Mud on the Tracks. It quickly catapulted to the fifth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Country Singles and Tracks chart.
The song recounts the tale of a breakup. The man and woman regret their breakup and fall into a deep depression. Eventually, they both drink so much that they die.
It’s among the saddest songs on this list—and truly one of the best.
2. Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) by Alan Jackson
Song Year: 2002
Alan Jackson wrote this song after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. In the piece, Jackson attempts to make sense of the tragic loss.
Jackson performed this song at the 35th Annual CMA Awards, receiving a standing ovation for his exemplary performance. It was later placed in the Permanent Congressional Record by the representatives of our governing body.
3. Old Shep by Red Foley
Song Year: 1931
Old Shep is one of the best and most common funeral songs for dogs.
This song was initially written and recorded in 1931, making it one of the oldest songs on this list. The song is about a dog that Foley had as a child. As the dog grows older, he has to put it down. The song ends with a heart-wrenching scene in which he shoots the dog, wishing he could turn the gun on himself instead.
Any song featuring an animal's death is challenging to listen to, so you’ve been warned!
4. Over You by Miranda Lambert
This song is a modern classic. By hit country music star Miranda Lambert, Over You is a song about heartbreak and depression. Lambert sings beautifully about the loss of someone she loves and how much she misses them. She cannot bring herself to come out of her sadness and attempt to get over them.
Lambert wrote the song with her then-husband, country music singer Blake Shelton. When they eventually split, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
5. I Fall to Pieces by Patsy Cline
Song Year: 1961
This song was written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard, famous songwriters of the genre. As the tale goes, it was passed over by two other singers before Patsy Cline appropriated it—and it’s a good thing she did because it topped the Billboard charts the summer of its release.
The song is about a young woman whose lover decides he just wants to be friends—a situation most of us can relate to.
6. Where Do I Put Her Memory by Charley Pride
Song Year: 1978
With its beautiful guitar chords and early use of the synthesizer, this song follows the tradition of artists like Johnny Cash.
Where Do I Put Her Memory is a song about losing a loved one. Charley Pride laments the loss of his wife and recounts the deep sadness that he cannot bring himself to let go.
Charley Pride was a professional basketball player turned country music singer in the late 20th century. He is known as the most successful singer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley.
7. I Drive Your Truck by Lee Brice
Song Year: 2012
This song has all the makings of a country song: beer, a truck, and lonesome highways. But instead of celebrating the good times, this song laments a father’s loss of his son. The father continues to drive his son’s truck to cope with the loss, lamenting the end of his connection to his child. It’s one of the saddest songs ever written, and it touches on the essential themes of masculine sadness—how it is and isn’t expressed.
8. Waiting Around to Die by Townes Van Zandt
Song Year: 2003
According to singer Townes Van Zandt, this song was inspired by a lonely man he met in a bar. The story concerns an older man whose life turns for the worst. First, he is the victim of severe abuse. Then, he ends up in prison. Eventually, he turns to drugs to cope with his depression. A truly sad song—and a great piece to cry to.
9. Hurt by Johnny Cash
Song Year: 2002
This song is literally about living with depression. The Nine Inch Nails originally wrote it, but Cash’s version is far more compelling, given that he performed it when he struggled with a mental illness.
While some believed it to be a suicide note, others maintain that it is a song about addiction since it references opiates and self-harm.
Ultimately, it is one of Cash’s most compelling songs.
10. If Only I Could Fly by Blaze Foley
This song was initially written and performed by historic bluegrass legend Merle Haggard—but Blaze Foley’s version is particularly heart-wrenching.
In this song, Foley expresses his profound depression and wishes to fly away and leave the world behind. He cannot bring himself to feel joy no matter how hard he tries. Instead, he decides to settle down for another lonely night by himself.
11. What Hurts the Most by Rascal Flatts
Song Year: 2006
This is it if you’re searching for the best song about loss.
What Hurts the Most is a gorgeous song by the country music band Rascal Flatts. The song itself is about a difficult breakup. The narrator expresses his profound pain and maintains that the most challenging part of any loss is being so close to someone and suddenly having to learn to live alone.
Although it is a song about a breakup, writer Jeffrey Steele allegedly wrote it to cope with the loss of his father.
12. The Grand Tour by George Jones
Song Year: 1974
In this song, a man falls into a deep depression after his wife leaves him. He chronicles the many sad details that exacerbate his sadness—an empty nursery. He leads the listener through a tour of his unhappy, lonely home.
This song is from George Jones’ hit album The Grand Tour, which peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. The titular song earned the number-one spot through August of 1974.
13. Sweet Old World by Lucinda Williams
Song Year: 1992
Unfortunately, depression doesn’t always get better. This song, Sweet Old World, is about a young man whose depression gets so bad that he eventually commits suicide. It discusses the many things that depression can claim from a person—and what gets left behind after we are gone.
Williams allegedly wrote the song after her lover killed himself, which contains the raw emotion you can imagine would follow such an event.
14. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams
Song Year: 1949
This song is the first of country music’s infamous “high lonesome” sub-genre. The title inspired Elvis’ lyrics from his hit song Heartbreak Hotel.
The song itself is about clinical depression and being lonely. The singer laments his inability to enjoy the world's beauty and be present. Time slows down, and he cannot find joy in anything.
It’s one of the oldest—and best—songs about the condition in the country music genre, and it has inspired many more since its release in 1949.
15. Here in the Real World by Alan Jackson
Song Year: 1990
Alan Jackson sure knows how to write a sad song.
Here in the Real World was released in February of 1990 and earned considerable acclaim from critics and fans. The song is a mid-tempo ballad about sadness. Jackson reflects on the difference between true sadness and depression as depicted in movies and books. He also expresses his desire not to cry since he is a man (and, most importantly, a cowboy).
The song reflects masculine depression and how men struggle to express their emotions in modern society.
Alan Jackson is among the most successful country music artists, worth over $161 million.
Top Country Songs About Depression, Final Thoughts
Heartbreak is a common theme in country music. Something about desolate rural landscapes tends to produce sad music.
Thankfully, the artists on this list—from Hank Williams to Johnny Cash—chose to turn that hurt into an art form we can all enjoy.
Use the songs on this list to make a sad-day playlist, and watch the music video, as they are equally as compelling.