4/17/09

Music Lists #5: The Top 55 Depressing Songs of the 1970's


The 1970's were real good at producing songs of depression. Here's a list in no particular order of some  gut wrenching tunes that will have you reaching for your Prozac.
1. Alone Again (Naturally) - Gilbert O'Sullivan
2. Diary - Bread
3. Shannon - Henry Gross
4. Needle and the Damage Done - Neil Young
5. Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
6. Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks
7. Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters
8. All By Myself - Eric Carmen
9. Reflections of My Life - Marmalade
10. Wishing You Were Here - Pink Floyd
11. Dust in the Wind - Kansas
12. At Seventeen - Janis Ian
13. He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother) - The Hollies
14. It Never Rains in Southern California - Albert Hammond

"... Out of work/ I'm out of my head/Out of self respect/ I'm out of bread
I'm under loved/ I'm under fed/I wanna go home..."


15. I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself - Elton John
16. Fly Away - John Denver
17. Goodbye to Love - The Carpenters
18. Deacon Blue - Steely Dan
19. Love Hurts - Nazareth
20. That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be - Carly Simon
21. Fire and Rain - James Taylor
22. Aubrey - Bread
23. One - Three Dog Night/Harry Nilsson
24. Superstar- The Carpenters
25. Billy Don't Be a Hero - Paper Lace
26. I've Gotta Get a Message to You - The Bee Gees

"I've just got to get a message to you/One more hour and my life will be through..."
27. Send in the Clowns - Judy Collins
28. You Don't Bring Me Flowers - Barbara Streisand & Neil Diamond
29. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
30. Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town - Kenny Rogers
31. Lucky Man - Emerson, Lake and Palmer
32. He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones
33. Just Another Day - Paul McCartney & Wings

"... As she posts another letter to the sound of five/People gather round her/And she finds it hard to stay alive..."

34. So Far Away - Carol King
35. By the Time I Get to Phoenix - Isaac Hayes (12 minute ver.)
36. Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
37. It's Not Easy Being Green - Kermit the Frog

"...People tend to pass you over, cause you’re not standing out / Like flashy sparkles in the water, or stars in the sky..."

38. Down from Dover - Dolly Parton
39. Suicide is Painless - M*A*S*H* Theme Song
40. Cotton's Dream - Bless the Beasts and Children theme (Later used as the theme for The Young and the Restless and AKA "Nadia's Theme".41. Everything I Own - Bread
42. Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word - Elton John
43. Abraham, Martin and John - Dion
44. Vincent - Don McLean
45. Mandy - Barry Manilow
46. Mr. Bojangles - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
47. I Am... I Said - Neil Diamond
48. Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas) - John Denver

"... And now I'm almost eight as you can see/You came home at a quarter past eleven/Fell down underneath our Christmas tree/Please Daddy, don't get drunk this Christmas/I don't wanna see my Mumma cry..."

49. She's Gone - Hall & Oates
50. I'm Not in Love - 10cc
51. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain - Willie Nelson
52. Piano Man - Billy Joel
53. Lyin' Eyes - The Eagles
54. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart - The Bee Gees
55. Sylvia's Mother - Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show

Too bad George Jones' "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)" didn't get released till 1981, because that would've fit perfectly on this list.
I almost titled this post as "Songs from the 1970's that make me want to kill myself", but I thought that might leave this list open to songs like "You Light Up My Life" which are not at all sad, but are so awful that I contemplate offing myself just to end the pain.

Let me know if there's a particularly depressing 70's tune that I missed, or if one off this list jumps out at you as the absolute low point of all the depressing sounds of the seventies.

[See a related retrospace post: Depressing Songs of the Seventies where several of these songs were pulled.]

58 comments:

  1. I'm glad to see 'Shannon' is #3, it was the first song I thought of when I saw thw title of this post. Also glad to see you put George Jones on the list. I would also add 'Wildfire,' but that's just me.

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    1. Yea, I was thinking Wildfire too lol

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  2. Yeah but look at that cheerful table scene above....

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  3. Very good list. Er, or should that be "Very depressing list", which would mean you had succeeded? Anyway...

    How about "River" from Joni Mitchell. Very sad.

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  4. "Wildfire" is exquisitely depressing and belongs on this list. And "Shannon" made the cut because songs about dead pets are an automatic in.

    Joni Mitchell could be singing about mass suicide and I'd be happy 'cause I love her voice too much.

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  5. You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille... with four hungry children and a crop in the field...

    Also thanks for reminding me of "Bless the Beasts and Children." That movie freaked me out.

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  6. Great List! Personally, I would include Wayne Newton's "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" to the list....that was one downer sounding of a song!

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  7. As a child, my musical impressions were formed by listening to AM radio during the 1970s. No wonder I love sad sack music so much.

    Great list.

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  8. tommy - Bless the Beasts and Children is one of the most depressing films I have ever seen - it makes Terms of Endearment look like a slapstick comedy. When will it ever get on DVD?

    jbfunky - Good Lord, that is one helluva depressing song. "Now it broke my heart to tell my little daughter that her daddy had to run to catch a train..." (sniff)

    paul - Your formative years were shaped by bands like Bread and The Carpenters... you literally couldn't have turned out any other way.

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  9. Send in the Clowns is tops for me when it comes to depression. I also get depressed when I hear any song by the Carpenters. I think Karen has a pretty voice, but it's always so sad.

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    1. 'For All We Know' always made me want to cry as a boy growing up in the 70's whenever my mom played it..
      On Christmas morning a couple years ago, I had to fill in the night shift for the holidays. On the way home I stopped at a McDonalds for coffee and I was feeling alone, what song do you think came on?

      I had to hurry out of there quickly as I could feel it coming just like a knee-jerk reaction. I made it outside just in time before the levee burst.

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  10. The Carpenters make even Alice in Chains sound peppy. Karen could sing me Happy Birthday and I would feel hollow and listless.

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  12. I was going to suggest "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro, but that was a very depressing song from 1968. I also wanted to let you know that I've posted my Top 100 Groovy Songs of the 1970s if you're interested in checking out my list at "Deep Dish".

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  13. Boy do those guys up top look depressed or what???
    Even though "At Seventeen" falls into the depressing category, it's one of my favorites.

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  14. I think deep dish has a point about "honey". I wouldn't want to have lived with that chick, all she did was wreck the car and plant sick trees....

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  15. deep dish - I checked your list and left a comment. Great stuff! I'm always glad to spread the retro love.

    joe - Many of these songs are among my favorites; depressing songs can be good too. In fact, sometimes there's nothing better than a sad song. Just follow it up with KC & the Sunshine Band, and you're back in action.

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  16. Correction: #23 should read Harry Nilsson, not Henry

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  17. Thanks, anonymous. It's been changed.

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  18. Man, I wanna kill myself after just reading the list!

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  19. There was a reason for all the rampant drug use! It was all this yucky music blaring out of the radios everywhere. Man what a list! Dead on the money. Fortunately I lived through that dreary decade and rocked into the fabulously big haired and gliterry 80's thank God for MADONNA! LOL Nice post took a lot of work to put that together...

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  20. How about a couple of Queen songs.
    1) "Somebody to Love" in 1976:
    "Each morning I get up I die a little
    Can barely stand on my feet..."
    2) "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 1975: I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all..."

    What is interesting is that these utterly depressing songs were both used in comedy movies. Ella Enchanted has Anne Hathaway singing "Somebody to Love" and we all are familiar with Wayne and Garth's version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in Wayne's World.

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  21. One I heard way too much of back in the day was "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Since it was based on current events made it even more depressing! That and Edwinn Star's "War" were always playing on our high school jukebox. Yes, we had one in the school lounge.

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  22. What about "The Morning After" (from The Poseidon Adventure)? Also, Skylark's "Wildflower", here's the song: http://priortimes3.blogspot.com/2009/04/wildflower.html

    Love this list. I'll make sure not to drink while listening to those songs. :D

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  23. I think the Pink Floyd song is "Wish you were here."

    I'd add The Who "Behind Blue Eyes" and Robert John "Sad Eyes." Also "Jolene" by Dolly Parton. Wasn't "Me and Bobby McGee" from the 70s? You've got to have some Janis Joplin on a depressing song list.

    Glad to see Joy Division on the list.

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  24. Since someone else stared doing corrections, I'll add that you can drop the "Just" from Paul McCartney's Another Day.

    Great list, though! Made my already gloomy Monday!

    I adore Karen carpenter's voice but you're right. Any dozen of their songs could have made this list. Merry Christmas, Darling indeed!

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  25. I think you gotta include "Me and Bobby McGee," which is a bit more poetic than many you've listed, yet still a masterpiece of longing, loneliness and melancholy.

    Also, how can one overlook "The Way We Were?"

    Your blog is fantastic, quite obviously a labor of love and one that I will most certainly follow.

    Hope you can check out my new effort: The Platypus Maximus Media Filter.

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  26. AnonymousJune 06, 2009

    Yup, some of the worst music ever made, and you wonder why so many people offed themselves in the early 70s.

    check out 1CLUB.FM, they have a 70s lite channel that plays all of these, i listen alot and just laugh now

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    1. And that's why your screen name is Anonymous. Just like your thoughts. Bland and uninteresting.

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  27. I've just discovered your website and love, love, LOVE it! Very good list here including several songs that readily came to my mind... and a few that I apparently need to go back and listen a bit more closely to!

    But at the top of my list has to be "Rocky" by Dickie Lee. I guess it was a country song, and maybe a one-hit wonder, but as a kid I could cry any time I heard it. The same theme was also used in a '70s TV movie called "Sunshine" where the young wife dies of cancer, leaving her husband alone with a baby daughter. Due to the movie's popularity, they went so far as to develop a half-hour sitcom based on it that jumped ahead a few years with the father & growing daughter, but the original premise was just too painfully depressing and it was quickly dropped. Hard to laugh at the father's challenges of raising his daughter alone when all you can remember is crying your eyes out over those terrible hospital scenes of mom losing her hair and desperately writing a journal to leave her daughter after she died. I hope someone was fired over that brilliant idea!

    Anyway, thanks for the memories and keep up the great work! :-)

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  28. Great choice with "sunshine", MTM. I actually have this soundtrack on vinyl and will be creating a post on it shortly.

    Glad you dropped by!

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  29. While not a radio "hit", you might want to consider the song "Solitude" from Black Sabbath's third album Master of Reality.

    Both musically and lyrically, it stands as one of the most melancholy tracks ever recorded.

    "My name, it means nothing. My fortune is less.
    My future is shrouded in dark wilderness.
    Sunshine is far away. Clouds linger on.
    Everything I possessed, now they are gone."

    And it just gets darker from there!

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  30. I can't believe no-one has mentioned "Patches" by Clarence Carpenter. Or was it from the 60s?

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  31. I'm sure that Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again - Naturally" and Terry Jacks "Seasons in The Sun" helped push many a person to commit suicide!! God, how I hate those 2 songs and damn them both for writing and the record company for releasing them!!

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  32. What about Daniel by Elton John?

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  33. Holding on to Yesterday by Ambrosia

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  34. The Grand Tour by George Jones.

    Step right up to get your heart torn out.

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  35. AnonymousMay 04, 2012

    The folks at the dinner table are great! These were perfect songs while driving Vega's and Pinto's.....

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  36. AnonymousMay 17, 2012

    Where can I download these songs for free?

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  37. AnonymousJuly 07, 2012

    Billy Don't Be A Hero (#25) was not from Paper Lace (The Night Chicago Died) but from Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods.

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  38. Wow! Alone Gain, (Naturally) is the first on your list. Rightly so, I feel! I was a kid in the 70s and am left with this feeling that it was a most awful decade. Some of the songs you list are so awful that they actually seem comical. Elton John's I think I'm Going to Kill Myself comes to mind. lol. Like there should be a T.V. ad for a 2 CD collection. "Depressing Songs of 70s from Time-Life!" It certainly was depressing in terms of my family and my life. Alone Again plays a major role in my autobiography, Waking From the American Dream: 10 Mile. Mike/Kane S. Latranz https://www.createspace.com/3846205

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  39. AnonymousJuly 29, 2012

    "One" and "Ive Got To Get A Message To You" are '60s not '70s ; also, why no Faron Young or Leonard Cohen on this list?

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  40. You forgot, "The Last Game of the Season ( The bling man in the bleachers)" by Geddes. Depressing and the worst.

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  41. Um, rocky by Austin roberts,. Or run joey run, same artist. Kiss and say goodbye, manhattans. Leaving LA by deliverance. I could go on, yes I was a DJ in the 70's. Being able to string songs and make girls cry, well that is justan art form.

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  42. One Tin Soldier

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  43. songs from 70s rock musicians are very interesting to listen to for sad songs .you could try the following as they influenced ny life a lot
    misstreated-deep purple
    child in time-deep purple
    when a blind man cries-deep purple
    love hurts - nazereth
    empty rooms -gary moore
    heartbreaker-grand funk railroad
    angie-rolling stones
    sea gull- bad company
    ready for love- bad company
    love to love-ufo
    love reign over me-the who
    misty eyes-uriah heep
    still in love with you- thin lizzy (live)
    parriseene walkaways-gary moore
    you keep me hanging on-Rod steward version
    i would rather go blind-rod steward version
    changes-black sabbath
    let it be-beatles
    hey jude-beatles(can be joyous at times)
    wish i could hideaway-creedence clearwater revival
    have you ever seen the rain-creedence clearwater revival
    blackbird-alterbridge
    when i am gone-alter bridge ( live acoustic v0ersion
    open arms -journey
    stairway to heaven-led zepplin
    since i ahve been loving you-led zepplin
    tuesdays gone-lynard skynard
    simple man-lynard skynard
    instrumental the messiah will come again -gary moore-just to get your emotion in check
    see me feel me-woodstock version the who
    with a little help fom me friends-joe cocker(woodstock)
    careless whisper-george michael
    goodbye my love goodbye-demis rousseau
    samba
    pa ti -santana(instrumental) and europa
    i could give you plenty more ,but start off with these they are sure to make you feel sad.but good.TRY IT ALL I STILL LISTEN TO MOST OF THEM EVEN TODAY

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  44. I have bee trying to recall this song my mother used to listen to I think it was in the seventies! Theres a knock on the door and someone says someone died and she screams then the song starts to play. I can't for the life of me remember it! Can someone help..? I think the song starts off Mrs... your son passed away??

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    1. That is the song I'm trying to find. Can not remember the name. lots of dad saying how bad the boy was things like that.

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  45. AnonymousMay 11, 2013

    "There's Got to be a Morning After" by Maureen McGovern belongs here if no one has mentioned it... beautiful song too. I love the sad songs from the 70's, they are really beautiful, moving songs. Remember the 70's when it was cool to be happy, kind, genuine and sentimental. I love the simplicity and innocence of the 70's when I grew up.

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  46. swampwizMay 30, 2013

    Let The Music Play, Barry White

    Cat's In The Cradle, Harry Chapin

    Torn Between Two Lovers, Mary Macgregor

    Lonely Boy, Andrew Gold

    Traces, Classics IV

    Puppy Love, Donny Osmond

    The Way We Were, Barbara Streisand

    Hopeless Devoted To You, Grease

    With all that said, the #1 song on this list is most deservedly so - I can't listen intently to "Alone Again (Naturally)" without tearing. The biggest omission (that someone has already noted) is "Patches" (and a close second to "Alone Again (Naturally)".)







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  47. AnonymousJune 16, 2013

    Does anyone remember a song "Timothy"? Apparently these two guys ate their friend. Timothy, Timothy, where on earth did you go!!

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  48. I have all the records of the 60s, 70s, and 80s . Starting in 1969 depressing songs started becoming big. Me and Mrs. Jones, Oh Girl, Alone Again Naturally and hundreds of others particularly from my two favourite artists "the Carpenters" and "Barry Manilow", made that decade. Turn on your radio today and ne hears the opposite ... frivolous techno music with no substance annexed with some rap star. Trash! Have we resorted to a youth culture that cannot listen to anything not depressing but Beautiful as Karen and Barry? Shallow society. So, a Pipe Organ is now depressing too? This means they too will become extinct. Are there any Boys Choirs around today? NO! Throw away you immoral sex and drugs and then maybe you will wake up to the beauty of ballads like "You Light Up My Life", "MacArthur Park", "Nights In White Satin", "My Way", "If I Can Dream" ... the Lady Ga Gas of today R depressing ...

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  49. You forgot I Am A Rock by Simon and Garfunkel. I sing it when I'm depressed. It makes me more depressed. lol.

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  50. I would add "Wildfire," "One Tin Soldier," and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."

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  51. Andrew beadleMay 08, 2014

    Why isn't Clifford t ward's- 'home thoughts from abroad' on the list

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  52. AnonymousMay 23, 2014

    CHARLIE MANSON - HOME IS WHERE YOU'RE HAPPY.

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  53. Great comments, and excellent list .. but don't you all think that what makes a 'depressing' song is how you feel at the time you heard it ? Some of the songs on the list make me happy .. Queen for example.. All depends on the context I think !

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  54. You missed one: "Just When I Needed You Most" by Randy VanWarmer 1979

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