And the world’s saddest song is…

Come on you already guessed this right??

And the world’s saddest song is… has just issued a ranking of  “The 25 Most Exquisitely Sad Songs in the Whole World,”  No. 3 is The Beatles Eleanor Rigby, No. 2 is Billie Holliday’s “Gloomy Sunday” and No. 1 is “Chicken Wire,” a 1998 song by the Pernice Brothers that the site describes this way: “Breathy Massachusetts sad sacks offer a lovely ballad about a woman choking to death on exhaust fumes … and a cloud of minor chords.”Other sites have mined this vein as well.  When ranked The Saddest Sad Songs Of All Time, it put  George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (video) at No. 1. contends that scientific studies show that “The Drugs Don’t Work, a 1997 hit from The Verve (video) “will bring more people to tears than” any other song.

Amazon’s ranking of sad songs puts “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton at the top (video).’s unscientific poll  has a three-way tie at the top — Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” (video) “Hurt” by either Johnny Cash (video) or Nine-Inch Nails and, yes “Baby Mine,” the sweet lullabye from Disney’s “Dumbo.” (“If you are not on the floor sobbing from the love between cartoon elephant mother and child, you are a cold cold human being,” offers a commenter to a sad-songs thread at MetaFilter.) (Grab a tissue and watch the YouTube video of “Baby Mine”)

The Guardian asked Tom Reynolds, author of “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” to rank his top 25 most miserable tracks. At No. 3, Reynolds put Bobby Goldsboro’s 1968 song “Honey” (“The world’s wordiest dead wife song”); at No. 2 he had Harry Chapin’s 1976 ballad, “The Shortest Story” (“features the late songwriter/activist Harry Chapin adopting the persona of an African baby who dies of malnutrition”);  and at No. 1 he has Newsong’s 2000 number “The Christmas Shoes” (“Never heard of it? Well, you should. This serotonin-draining Yuletide song, based on an apocryphal story passed around the Internet….tells of a disgruntled holiday shopper who encounters a lone dishevelled little boy trying to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mother.”)

Other songs that show up often in these rankings include

  • “Yesterday,” by the Beatles (video)
  • “Fire and Rain,” by James Taylor (video)
  • “Tears in Heaven,” by Eric Clapton (video)
  • “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin (video)
  • “Alone Again, Naturally” by Gilbert O’Sullivan. (video)
  • “Everybody Hurts,” by R.E.M. (video)
  • “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” by Hank Williams (video)

The song I always associate with sadness is Linda Ronstadt’s version of Dolly Parton’s”I Will Always Love You.”  (history; Dolly’s version on video) But are romantic heartbreak songs really distinct and poignant enough to be No. 1?  Doesn’t a truly sad song have to hit you  in a couple of places at once — with death or nostalgia or some other layer of pure poignance added to the mix?

If you had to name the one song with the most power to make you weep, what is it and why?

(Leave video links in comments, if you can find them — search here)

(See also’s 20 Worst Lyrics Ever — for some reason, “There were plants and birds and rocks and things” from America’s ‘Horse With No Name’ —video — is only No. 13.)

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