Divorce is a devastating transition that impacts an entire family. Processing the separation takes time and patience. While music won't cure the pain, it can serve as a balm to the burn. These songs about divorce cover every separation-related emotion, from relief to devastation.
1. “No Children” by the Mountain Goats
Song Year: 2002
The Mountain Goats' poison valentine to a venomous divorce became an unexpected Tiktok hit in 2022. Perhaps audiences responded favorably to Darnielle's wickedly clever lyrics or the surprisingly upbeat acoustic guitar melody. Either way, the song's message of a mutually toxic couple finally parting ways captured the popular consciousness.
The song doesn't provide a template for healthy separation; however, it might give some comfort for divorcees enjoying some well-earned bitterness.
2.” Busby Berkeley Dreams” by the Magnetic Fields
Song Year: 1999
Stephin Merritt released the Magnetic Fields' seminal album 69 Love Songs in 1999. “Busby Berkeley Dreams” finds the wry songwriter in an unusually earnest mode. The singer explains that despite being separated from his partner, he thinks about them daily and dreams of a life they could have shared.
“Busby Berkeley Dreams” is a gorgeous, piano-driven ballad propelled by thoughtful lyrics about a man living in denial of his disintegrating relationship. It's a heartbreaker, sure to draw tears from the stoniest eyes.
3.”Give it Away” by George Straight.
Song Year: 2006
“Give it Away” tells the story of a woman desperate for freedom. The narrator's wife surprises him by not only leaving but abandoning all of their shared worldly possessions. Instead of taking anything with her, she tells her ex to give everything away.
The narrator isn't prepared to leave the relationship, but his ex-partner is already gone. The story shows the complications of divorce when both parties aren't on board.
4. “Ms. Jackson” by Outkast
Song Year: 2000
Andre Benjamin wrote “Ms. Jackson” about his separation from Erykah Badu. While many divorce songs focus on the impact the parting has on the couple or their children, Outkast's hit explores the breakup's damage through the mother-in-law's perspective.
The mother and son-in-law's relationship is fraught; the song examines how complicated untying an entwined life is. Outkast reminds listeners that a divorce isn't just between a couple; the separation fractures multiple relationships.
5. “I Cried all the Way to the Bank” by Norma Jean
Song Year: 1965
“I Cried all the Way to the Bank” is sadder and more earnest than the title suggests. The singer laments that her ex-partner paid her off for a quick and easy divorce.
The narrator is financially secure, but she doesn't care. She never wanted her husband's money, and now she is wealthy but heartbroken.
6. “Alimony” by Weird Al Yankovic
Song Year: 1988
“Alimony” isn't going to draw any tears, but divorcees needing a laugh may appreciate Weird Al Yankovic's parody of “Mony Mony.”
The song is pretty straightforward. The singer laments his ex-wife's continued pursuit of alimony payments. He establishes he isn't fiscally solvent, making the demands untenable.
7. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” by Tammy Wynette
Song Year: 1968
“D-I-V-O-R-C-E” focuses on Tammy Wynette's fears that her separation will devastate her child. The singer says that she and her soon-to-be ex spell out words in front of their son, so he isn't privy to secret topics.
The song cleverly uses the spelling conceit to establish how hard the separation is on the narrator and how deeply she fears the impact on her child, who mistakes the spellings for indicators of gifts.
8. “The Great Divide” by Neil Young
Song Year: 2000
Neil Young beautifully presents painful things. “The Great Divide” refers to the singer's separation from his spouse.
The tune poetically addresses the gulf between the partners, focusing on how the former lovers become strangers and how empty the world feels in the wake of the divorce.
9. “Got My Name Changed Back” by Pistol Annies
Song Year: 2018
“Got My Name Changed Back” is a triumphant divorce anthem for anyone who's ever been cheated on.
The singer explains that while her ex-husband was frequently unfaithful, she's spent time in court getting much of his money and reclaiming her name. The song is a celebration of freedom from a toxic marriage and reclaiming yourself.
10. “Stomach” by Aly & AJ
Song Year: 2021
“Stomach” ponders both sides of a no-win situation. The narrator of the Aly AJ song faces a harsh reality. She and her partner have drifted apart to the point of unhappiness. She feels separated and apart from her spouse, but the notion of divorce gives her pause.
The song presents the brutal reality many individuals face when entering the final phases of a marriage. The singer knows divorce is coming, and it's probably the best thing for everyone involved, but the idea makes her sick.
11. “In Our Bedroom After the War” by Stars
Song Year: 2007
“In Our Bedroom After the War” captures the paradox of divorce. The singer addresses a divorcee on the first post-divorce morning. The song acknowledges the sadness and loneliness endemic to separation, establishing the feeling of emptiness and loss.
However, the song compares life after divorce to post-war peacetime. The relationship is dead, but the divorcee isn't. The singer tells his friend to summon optimism and hope; a new day dawns, and opportunities await. “In Our Bedroom After the War” allows the listener to mourn the divorce but encourages them to pursue the chances borne in its wake.
12. “All the Good Times” by Angel Olsen
Song Year: 2022
Angel Olsen understands loss. Songs of broken love affairs populate the singer's oeuvre. “All the Good Times” takes a mature approach to divorce.
The singer acknowledges the relationship is over, but she doesn't feel sad. While many breakup anthems deal with traumatic fractures, “All the Good Times” tells the story of a relationship that's simply run its course. Olsen is pragmatic; she's neither angry nor sad. She looks back on the relationship fondly, remembering the things that brought the couple together.
“All the Good Times” is a peaceful farewell, a healthy and amicable ode to divorce.
13. “Good Enough” by Sarah McLachlan
Song Year: 1993
Sarah McLachlan provides a fresh perspective on divorce in “Good Enough” from her classic album Fumbling Towards Ecstacy. The narrator talks to a friend nearing the end of a toxic marriage. The singer explains the myriad ways her friend's abusive partner has degraded and worn her down over the years.
McLachlan assures the soon-to-be divorcee that she will be there for her and that she deserves to be in a better, happier relationship. The song reinforces the certainty that it is far worse to remain in an abusive situation than to embrace divorce.
14. “Bring it on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke
Song Year: 1962
It's difficult to tell which partner did the most damage in Sam Cooke's r&b classic, “Bring it on Home to Me.” The narrator establishes that he may have taken his ex for granted. He laughed and didn't take her seriously when she told him she was leaving.
However, the erstwhile partner cheated on him pretty consistently throughout the relationship. She went out each night, despite his best efforts to maintain their relationship. Sam's not ready to give up on the marriage, though. He assures her that he's prepared to take her back even though she ran around.
He promises her gifts and affection if she returns to him. The song is a fun, upbeat, and absolutely devastating look at a man who can't handle the reality of his divorce and is willing to endure abuse to maintain a bad marriage.
15. “Roll With the Punches” by Dawes
Song Year: 2016
Taylor Goldsmith wrote “Roll With the Punches” about his wife, Mandy Moore's, divorce from Ryan Adams. The song provides a third-party perspective on divorce, detailing a separation's mechanics.
Goldsmith discusses how love turns to indifference and sometimes enmity in divorce. He also sings about the mundane irritations of separation, like dividing assets and determining fault.
Despite Goldsmith's personal involvement, the song maintains a neutral attitude. The lyrics
reflect the sad reality of becoming a stranger to someone you used to love and having to create a new life when you thought you'd already found your happy ending.
16. “Woods” by The Rosebuds
Song Year: 2011
The Rosebuds' devastating album Loud Planes Fly Low is a collection of songs about divorce. The duo, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, began Rosebuds as a couple. Their marriage dissolved, inspiring a stark shift in their music and an album dedicated to the breakup.
“Woods” is one of the more devastating songs on a heart-breaking album. The tune details the complications of moving forward when you're still near your ex and hoping to maintain a healthy relationship outside of the marriage. While the Rosebuds referred specifically to being in a band together, the situation applies to several scenarios. Divorcees may need to work together or co-parent, both cases that require an amicable relationship.
“Woods” understands that moving forward is challenging for many reasons when your former lover is still an integral part of your life.
17. “Silver Lining” by Rilo Kiley
Song Year: 2007
Rilo Kiley's “Silver Lining” reminds listeners that sometimes divorce is the best option. The song celebrates a woman's liberation from a toxic relationship. The singer establishes that she felt trapped by her spouse's assertion that she was the best thing in his life.
The narrator suppressed her own wants and needs to support him and be his silver lining. The divorce allows her to blossom and focus on herself.
“Silver Lining” acknowledges that with divorce comes pain but believes her own potential and happiness is worth the sacrifice.
18. “A Little Soul” by Pulp
Song Year: 1998
“A Little Soul” shifts the focus of a divorce from the couple to their shared child. Jarvis Cocker explains to his estranged son how the narrator and his wife came to part ways.
The narrator sees himself in his son and says he hopes the child doesn't take after him. The singer treated his ex poorly, causing the separation. The song is a brutal self-appraisal in which the narrator takes full responsibility for the failed marriage.
19. “Picking Up the Pieces” by Paloma Faith
Song Year: 2012
Being a divorcee's first partner, post-separation carries a lot of weight. “Picking Up the Pieces” finds Paloma Faith questioning her new lover's devotion. He's recently separated from his wife, and Paloma worries she'll never live up to the ex.
The singer's new partner idealizes his former love, creating a perfect image no woman could hope to live up to. The song explores the challenge of following in the shoes of a long-term partner.
20. “Jackson” by Johnny Cash
Song Year: 1967
One of the literary world's all-time awful marriages inspired “Jackson.” Billy Edd Wheeler wrote the song as a response to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“Jackson” tells the story of a couple who's fallen out of love. They head to Jackson, Tennessee, to separate. The song is a duet between a man and a woman. The male singer expresses his confidence that he'll be embraced by Jackson's many lovely ladies. The ex-wife assures him he'll only damage his health and embarrass himself.
The upbeat song doesn't overtly celebrate divorce, but it is clear that separation is the best option for the unhappy couple.
21. “The Pharaohs” by Neko Case
Song Year: 2009
“The Pharaohs” tells the story of a couple married too young. Neko Case's narrator married her partner at 16, seduced by his easy charm.
Their relationship begins to falter as the husband grows more distant from the singer. She finds she wants more from the relationship. The narrator wants an idealized man but ends up with a distant and indifferent one.
“The Pharaohs” looks back on the relationship at the point of separation. The singer looks at the various ways the marriage failed, taking a great deal of responsibility on herself.
The song's melancholic longing suggests it's entirely possible to know a situation is toxic and to still mourn its passing.
22. “Start a War” by The National
Song Year: 2007
“Start a War” is a beautiful but painful listen. The National's singer and lyricist, Matt Berninger, establishes quickly that the song's couple entered their marriage expecting great things that never came.
Both parties hoped to use their relationship to move past prior pain. Unfortunately, things quickly break down between the couple.
The singer knows the relationship is over, but he intends to fight the divorce with every fiber of his being. He assures his partner that if she walks away, he'll fight it. He promises to improve by making more money and regaining his good cheer.
“Start a War” shows the desperate measures a person will go to to avoid a divorce, with heart-breaking accuracy.
23. “Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye” by Leonard Cohen
Song Year: 1967
Leonard Cohen sadly but healthily approaches separation in “Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye.”
The singer is parting from his partner. He explains that though love remains between the pair, they've grown distant.
Cohen sings about the story's familiarity; a couple meets, falls in love, and breaks up. The singer is sad but pragmatic. He hasn't met someone new; he doesn't hate his ex. The couple simply doesn't work anymore.
24. “It Ain't Over Till It's Over” by Lenny Kravitz
Song Year: 1991
Lenny Kravitz wrote his perfect Motown anthem, “It Ain't Over Till It's Over,” in response to his own failing marriage with Lisa Bonet.
The song details a man's efforts to convince his partner their marriage is worth fighting for. However, the context of the tune makes it clear that, despite the title, the narrator knows the relationship is over.
25. “Star-Crossed” by Kacey Musgraves
Song Year: 2021
“Star-Crossed” is the title track off Kacey Musgraves's 2021 breakup album. The alt-country singer wrote the confessional record about her divorce from Ruston Kelly.
The album provides a wealth of songs about separation; however, “Star-crossed” establishes the record's thesis.
The singer explains how the couple's relationship started idyllically but fell apart. She's signed divorce papers and is dealing with the melancholy of a marriage beyond redemption.
26. “Starting Over Again” by Dolly Parton
Song Year: 1980
Dolly Parton tells stories in her songs. “Starting Over Again” weaves the narrative of a husband and wife divorcing after 30 years of marriage.
The song talks about the practical difficulties of separation at middle age. Both parties struggle to find a place to live. The ex-partners struggle with a small community's perception of their divorce.
“Starting Over Again” focuses on the day-to-day realities of separation instead of looking at the emotional ramifications, suggesting that divorce is devastating even on a mechanical level.
27. “Highway 20 Ride” by Zac Brown Band
Song Year: 2008
“Highway 20 Ride” looks at the impact of divorce on a father-son relationship. The singer establishes that he makes the titular trip every week to see his son since the mother has primary custody.
The narrator worries that his child resents him for being unable to make things work out with the mother. The singer assures his son the marriage is dead but still worries that the divorce damage will follow them their entire lives.
Popular Songs About Divorce, Final Thoughts
Music may not be able to cure divorce blues, but it can provide a sense of community and connection. The songs in this list remind listeners that separation is hard on everyone, and the fears and pains associated with divorce are shared by many.
Whether you're enduring a divorce yourself, the child of a divorce, or simply empathetic, grab a box of tissues, turn on Spotify and stream these great songs about separation.