27 Sad Rock Songs; The Saddest Ever

Sadness is an all too universal feeling. And as something we all experience and know well, it features in several rock songs. So, without further ado, here are some sad rock songs – the saddest ever.

1. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

Song Year: 1975

No list of sad rock songs would be complete without this masterpiece from the English band Pink Floyd.

“Wish You Were Here” pays tribute to former frontman Syd Barrett, who left Pink Floyd after beginning to suffer from mental illness. Its lyrics are both comforting and heartbreaking, reminding the listener of those they miss and wish were still here.

2. Cat’s In the Cradle by Harry Chapin

Song Year: 1974

“Cat's In The Cradle” is a sing-along classic with a serious melancholy side. The lyrics tell the story of a father slowly becoming estranged from his child by work and other obligations. Once his child becomes a man, he sees that his son has become just like him – distracted from what matters and constantly busy – and it breaks his heart.

3. Hurt by Johnny Cash

Song Year: 2002

Though Trent Reznor performed the original song, Johnny Cash's version so touched Reznor that he agreed it was now Cash's song. This song, sung by a character looking back at his life after falling from grace, can make almost anyone cry – especially with its minor chord progression and heartbreaking video.

4. Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles

Song Year: 1966

Even though this song is a B-side on Yellow Submarine, its tone is far less joyous than the other side of the record. Eleanor Rigby is the story of two lonely folks – Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie. And as the song narrates their lonesome lives, the lyrics wonder, “All the lonely people, where do they come from?”

By the end of the song, we are still wondering.

5. How Soon is Now? By The Smiths

Song Year: 1984

This song was a B-side but came to define the band that released it. This 1984 tune became the anthem for many lonesome introverts who struggle with their loneliness and struggle to find love.

It is both a testament to the power of the song and a sad fact that it remains popular today.

6. Pictures of You by The Cure

Song Year: 1989

Make no mistake: “Pictures of You ” may sound like a happy song but is far from being so. This breakup song is the thoughts of someone recounting their life with their former significant other – and how they wish they could have “held onto their lover's heart. But they ultimately conclude that it was impossible – and all they have left are pictures of a former life and love.

7. Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen

Song Year: 1982

The Boss produced many sad pieces. However, Atlantic City has a particularly sad arc among the saddest rock songs.

Atlantic City deals with the troubles of a young man reaching desperation as he struggles to make ends meet. He ultimately comes to a resolution: to hop aboard a bus to Atlantic City with his love. But it puts both of them in danger, as he will be working with the mob when he gets there.

8. Keep Me In Your Heart by Warren Zevon

Song Year: 2003

Warren Zevon's last song has the power to make anyone tear up once they know what it is about. This tune is Zevon asking fans to remember him because he knows his time is short, as he is dying of lung cancer. Thus, he begs his listeners to keep him in their hearts.

These powerful lyrics turn the song into a prayer and a request to remember him and all his contributions to music and art.

9. Nutshell by Alice In Chains

Song Year: 1993

It is not just the beautiful instrumentation that carries this song and makes it one of the saddest rock songs; Layne Staley's iconic voice laments through the song's heartbreaking lyrics in one of Alice In Chains's best songs.

He sings about loneliness, self-destruction, and how the world is slowly creeping in and changing him. But unfortunately – he also finds himself powerless to stop this process, and thus, thinks he may be “better off dead.”

10. Something In the Way by Nirvana

Song Year: 1992

Nirvana has no shortage of sad songs to choose from but “Something In the Way” is a unique breed of a depressing song. Kurt Cobain claimed that he briefly experienced homelessness and had to live underneath a bridge for a time. Though research has proven this bit of Cobain mythology is untrue, it remains true for the narrator.

The song, in a seriously grim minor key, takes us through the life of someone living under a bridge living on nothing more than fish, grass, and “drippings from the ceiling.” Though it is a very sad, moody song, it has nonetheless remained one of Nirvana's most popular.

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