27 Sad Rock Songs; The Saddest Ever

11. Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

Song Year: 1992

Death is never easy to cope with. It is harder when someone dies before their time. Eric Clapton experienced this feeling as a new father in 1992 and the feeling prompted him to write “Tears In Heaven.”

The lyrics reference his son, who tragically fell from a 14th-story window in New York City at just four years old. Clapton wonders aloud to us, the listener, if his son would even recognize him upon seeing him in heaven after both of them had died.

He ultimately concludes that he has to be strong and keep going because he does not know if he can ever see his son again. This song will hit home to any parent who has lost a child.

12. Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day

Song Year: 2004

Like many other songs on this list, this song handles death. Specifically, it handles the death of Billie Joe Armstrong's father, and what he said after finding out his father died of cancer on September 1st, 1982.

This song is another with an almost angry tone that combines with its sadness. Billie Joe is wondering why his dad, nothing more than an industrious, innocent person, could be so cruelly struck down with a disease as malicious as cancer.

13. Runaway Trains by Tom Petty

Song Year: 1987

In “Runaway Trains,” Tom Petty is lamenting after presumably leaving a longtime relationship. The heartbreak is setting in already.

He's left her alone at her house in the dark. While she says she understands why he had to leave and that she will go on, Tom Petty still can't get her out of his mind. He concludes that the only thing that will help him clear his head and stop thinking about her is time. But ultimately, he can’t forget her. Her face and words haunt him as he continues to try to move on.

14. November Rain by Guns N' Roses

Song Year: 1987

“November Rain” is Guns N' Roses' only ballad. Even if they wrote others, it would still stand out. The lyrics tell the story from the perspective of a man who can sense that the woman he loves is not ready to commit to him and is restraining her love.

He tells her that he understands – she is doing it to avoid being hurt. But if it keeps on, they will both get hurt, because their relationship rests on an insecure foundation.

So, he reaches an ultimatum within the lyrics: they will have to break up if they cannot commit fully to the relationship because they will both get hurt. This is a conclusion many of us listening can relate to, especially if we have found ourselves in a relationship we have to let go of.

And it all builds to an outro where the singer is hoping she will come around and tries to convince her.

15. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division

Song Year: 1979

Several things make “Love Will Tear Us Apart” one of the saddest rock songs. The lyrics portray someone truly on the edge of a breakdown due to a failing marriage. And the reason they so authentically portray someone who is suffering from internal anguish is that frontman Ian Curtis's life was falling apart when he wrote the lyrics.

Ian Curtis was having an affair and facing a fork in the road regarding his marriage and his daughter. Shortly after he wrote the song, the weight of these decisions and the distress they brought him led him to kill himself.

The lyrics tell us that the narrator and their partner are facing a fork in the road and it is killing their relationship because both recognize that they have become different people. The narrator comes home to a cold bedroom, where his partner turns away from him. It becomes clear to him that their respect for each other has died away.

16. The 59’ Sound by the Gaslight Anthem

The 59’ Sound by the Gaslight Anthem

Song Year: 2008

“The 59′ Sound” is often regarded as the Gaslight Anthem's “Born to Run.” Unlike Born to Run, the 59′ Sound does not celebrate being young, free, and the escape from a dead town; it explores coping with the death of a friend when you couldn't be there for their funeral.

This sad song is based on a real experience frontman Brian Fallon had with the death of a friend. Upon leaving a concert he was playing, he found out one of the friends he grew up with had died in a car accident.

The lyrics track the process of coping with untimely death and ask what Brian Fallon's friend experienced as he died.

Fallon asks what song he heard before dying, what song they played at his funeral, and what he felt as he left the world. The lyrics build to a bridge featuring one of the most crushing lyrics ever written.

17. Fade to Black by Metallica

Song Year: 1984

“Fade to Black” is one of Metallica's most accessible instrumentals, but don't be fooled by that fact: the song handles suicide and someone deciding to cope with the pain of existence by ending it.

This song came before James Hetfield's voice deepened into the growl we know for now. Thus, his higher range adds a desperate quality and undertone to the heartbreaking lyrics.

Though the song builds to a thrilling musical crescendo with a fantastic guitar solo and outro, you are still left with a haunting implication by the time the music stops playing: the narrator has committed suicide and set themselves free from their feelings.

18. Snuff by Slipknot

Song Year: 2009

Among the saddest songs, there are many takes on heartbreak but few are as poetic as Corey Taylor's timeless lyrics in “Snuff.” This beautiful ballad, atypical of Slipknot, begins with simple acoustic guitar before moving into its iconic opening lyrics. The song's narrator then elucidates their heartbreak, criticizing the partner who broke his heart.

As the song plays out, it's clear in the lyrics that his partner never committed to him and it's left him questioning their entire relationship after it has ended.

To add to the sad quality of this song, it was the last song that former Slipknot bassist Paul Gray helped write before dying. Thus, every time Corey plays it, both he and the audience think of someone taken far before their time.

19. The Flame by Cheap Trick

Song Year: 1988

“The Flame” is yet another song about heartbreak but adds a unique take on this universally crushing feeling. While other songs talk about physical pain or take on other metaphors to represent pain, Cheap Trick uses the image of a flame to represent a love still burning and contrasts it with the cold feeling heartbreak leaves the narrator with.

Though their partner has left them, they are still ready to run to them in the cold and “be the flame” to bring them warmth and love. 

20. Since I’ve Been Loving You by Led Zeppelin

Song Year: 1970

Led Zeppelin, as a blues-based band, created many sad songs but their masterpiece “Since I've Been Loving You” tops the list. Robert Plant takes us into the mind of someone who has been long hours and feels like they are succumbing to thoughts of depression.

The song's subject has been suffering since they met their partner as they have been working incredibly hard to compensate for what they feel are their inadequacies in the relationship. 

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