sad songs sometimes cheer me up

Yesterday at Daily Post they asked the following question:

When you’re feeling down, what music cheers you up?

This proved to be a little trickier to answer than I first thought ‘twould be. At first I thought about all the really high-octane-happy songs out there:  Walking on Sunshine. Nuthin’ but a Good Time. Accidentally in Love.

But that’s not the case. Those songs, and songs like them, don’t cheer me up; rather, they cheer me up more.

Which is to say that I listen to music that reflects my mood.

I grew up feeling – justified or not – very isolated from or perhaps against most people around me. My family was different from me. They thought differently. They reacted differently. The same was true of my classmates. And my extended family. Pretty much everyone I encountered.

Which is really a long-winded way of say that as I kid I felt lonely.

The brilliant part of being a kid is all the things you don’t know. Kids can handle monsters and demons because they don’t know that those things are not supposed to be part of the logical, up-front world.

Adults, though…we tend to imprison ourselves in logic. And in words. Once an adult learns that she is lonely, she must deal with the storied history of loneliness and the human condition.

Or at least the millions of pop songs.

As a kid I never knew I was lonely. I don’t think I even knew the word, or at least didn’t know the weight of the word. I just set about trying to find people like me.

Some of them I found in fiction.
Some of them I found in music.

And since way back then, sometimes when I listen to music I’m listening for someone who feels the way I do.

So my list of music that cheers me up is a list filled with sad songs.

Pink Floyd

Probably my personal longest-standing example of sad music, Floyd was great also for when I just felt confused as hell. No one captures how confounding and vexing the world can seem better than Pink Floyd.

Counting Crows

Adam Duritz writes the loneliest songs I know. “…like a ghost into a fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white.” I feel like that every single day.

Aimee Mann

With songs like Deathly and Save Me – not to mention pretty much the entirety of the Bachelor No. 2 album – Aimee Mann has given me a hand to hold through many a night.

Leonard Cohen

Famous Blue Raincoat may very well be the saddest song ever written in English. If I ever meet Mr. Cohen, I would personally thank him for giving us this song.

Bright Eyes

Conor Oberst can be a tad dramatic in his approach, but the guy isn’t afraid to let loose what he feels.

Damien Rice

Check out Cannonball and Rootless Tree for a couple of songs that drag you into the places you really don’t want to go.

Dan Bern

God Said No and One Thing Real are so personal to me that when I listen to them I almost feel guitar strings under my fingers.

The nice part is that despite these being such sad and lonely songs, listen to them does help. I don’t know that they cheer me up, exactly, as help me feel. And help me feel that what I feel is okay. That’s why they work. I may still feel sad and lonely after spending some time with Adam, Dan and Leonard, but I don’t feel alone.


  1. And now I gotta go. I gotta go grab my guitar and play. While I’m gone, what songs cheer you up? Or, what are some of your favorite sad songs? I can name the person who introduced me to each of the artists above, and I am grateful to them all. I would be equally indebted and grateful to anyone who can give me something new.

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