Top 20 Tearjerker Songs

Sad tearjerker songs stick in the memory forever.

The song that stands alone at the top is… Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O’Sullivan. It has a great title, self-pitying lyrics, whiny vocal and an infuriating catchy tune (which forms the basis to any true tearjerker) all with the backing of a lush orchestra.

Three of my top four choices are sung poignantly by one hit wonders. (Gilbert O’Sullivan, Eric Carmen, Terry Jacks) There are others that are sung by truly tragic figures. (Karen Carpenter, Roy Orbison, Maurice Gibb) And there are maudlin offerings by some of the top artists. (Beatles, Elton John) Plus there are some truly touching melodies. (Vincent, Faded Love, Are You Lonesome Tonight?)

So here are my Top 20 cringe-worthy, teeth-curling, fingernails-on-the-blackboard, depressing, heartbreaking, ripe, maudlin, sentimental, self-pitying, self-serving, irritating, tasteless and sad anthems of the Me Generation.

1. Alone Again (Naturally) Gilbert O’Sullivan
2. All By Myself Eric Carmen
3. Vincent by Don MacLean
4. Seasons in the Sun Terry Jacks.
5. Where Have all the Flowers Gone? Kingston Trio (wr. Pete Seeger)
6. At Seventeen Janis Ian
7. Eleanor Rigby Beatles
8. Goodbye to Love The Carpenters
9. Honey Bobby Goldsboro
10. Faded Love Patsy Cline
11. My Eyes Adored You Frankie Valli
12. Patches Clarence Carter
13. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? Bee Gees
14. Without You Harry Nilsson
15. Are You Lonesome Tonight? Elvis
16. Candle in the Wind Elton John
17. Crying Roy Orbison
18. Fire and Rain James Taylor
19. Green Green Grass of Home Tom Jones
20. Mr. Bojangles Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (wr. Jerry Jeff Walker)

Other similar lists include Spinner’s Top 25 Exquisitely Sad Songs and the Top 25 Top Sad Country Songs from About Country Music.

If you have any I missed, please check in!

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28 Comments on “Top 20 Tearjerker Songs”

  1. C L I C K Says:

    Jerry~ I sit here all faclempt missing you and your warped brilliant mind.
    How about The Isley Brothers Who’s That Lady?
    Oh My goodness… not sure why but I chose to click on Karen Carpenter’s Goodbye To Love……How could they allow that on National TV. The FCC missed that one! For an anorexic, singing that song over and over again it had to drive her to an early grave. Thoughts are things, image performing that song repeatedly.

    I will be driving by on my way to Maine in June…. Stay tuned! x LG

    • Jerry Says:

      The lyrics to Goodbye to Love are shocking in regards to Karen’s situation. We’ve all been there of course, pining for “the one”…but to sing so sweetly about giving up hope for love, while having anoerxia, well that’s too much to take.

  2. susan Says:

    Oh my. Lest we forget Wayne Newton’s “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast”

    I know you’ve tried.

  3. Jerry Says:

    I never heard that one. It’s touching.

  4. EVAN THOMAS Says:

    I BELIEVE “NOBODY KNOWS IT BUT ME”BY TONY RICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN BUT THERE!!HANDS DOWN,IT WAS TO ME THEE BEST TEAR JERKER JOINTS OF THE 90S.IT REMINDS YOU OF A GOOD ONE YOU LET GET AWAY(WHY DIDNT I SAY THE THINGS I NEEDED TO SAY/HOW COULD I LET MY ANGEL SLIP AWAY)AND YOU DO KNOW IF YOU’LL EVER RUN ACROSS ONE LIKE THAT AGAIN!A ONCE IN A LIFETIME DEAL BLOWN!

  5. Kurly Says:

    After mom died I was looking thru a box of stuff and found a homemade cassette tape labeled songs that make you cry. It was the first time I remember hearing anything by Red Sovine and let me tell you, those songs make you cry. Youtube Red Sovine, pick any song and grab the kleenex.

  6. Jerry Says:

    OK, here’s Glen Campbell in “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” another great oldie that tugs at the heartstrings:

  7. crybaby Says:

    “In the Ghetto”
    “Mother”
    “Wise Up”
    “Neither One of Us”

  8. Nils Says:

    I do not think that you can all Gilbert O’Sullivan a one hit wonder with songs as nothing rymed, underneath the blanket go, clair and get down, those where hugh hits in the beginning of the seventies but I am from europe so maby he did not so well in the USA, must say that I enyojed your list, some of them I didnt know some of them I completly forgot, thanks, Nils

  9. rick Says:

    you miss a big one one that even tough men cry ,one more year of daddy s little girl

  10. Greg Says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with tearjerkers. They are some of the greatest, highest quality songs in existence. And you all have picked a lot of them. There are MANY, MANY more. Most of which I haven’t heard since I was a kid in the 70’s.

    None of them, least of all Alone Again (Naturally), deserve the wretched adjectives that were used to describe them! I know you may be sheepish (for NO good reason) to admit you like them, but you shouldn’t describe them thusly. It only legitimizes the ignorant hate of these songs by those who have yet to get in touch with their inner empathy for others, and therefore have none apparantly.

    Even as a young “macho” boy, I loved these songs. I didn’t make a big deal of loving them, but I never denied it either, and wasn’t afraid to say I loved this or that song. It never occured to me that it wasn’t manly to cry, at least inside, when hearing these songs. I would just turn my back to others and stare off into space while I let the scenes the songs would conjure up inside of me, play across my mind, while I fought back tears.

    I had seen my Dad, a conservative southern Baptist preacher, cry many times, including when singing or preaching in church. So it was not a sissy thing to me. And it shouldn’t be to anyone. I know some here, including the author, may claim they are meaning to fault the songs. But I know better. These songs are with OUT fault. If you can’t deal with the feelings they conjure up, then the fault lies within. If you don’t think the story is natural, or “true enough” to life, then you don’t know much about life yet.

    Even a somewhat more easy to predict song like Dolly Partons “Me and Little Andy” can grab you, especially if you’re a kid. And you should know, that between church and parental (and grandparental) lessons and a steady diet of these songs, it is hard to raise a kid who is not extremely empathetic to others.

  11. ciananm Says:

    Cat stevens.father and son
    skid rw.i remember you

  12. Terry Says:

    Two little boys by Rolf Harris gets me every time.

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    this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something. I think
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  15. Bob L. Says:

    Hi. I just happened by your list while googling for tear-jerker movies. As a child of the late 60s & 70s, the radio seemed to always be playing. Virtually every pop song from those years trips a vivid memory for me. These recollections trigger all forms of emotion. Emotion by Samantha Sang was the first song I ever held a girl for a slow dance. Any Creedence tune makes me think about Viet Nam. Raspberries’ Go All The Way reminds me of…I think you can figure that one out. Now as I approach the big 5-0, coming next month, I find myself sentimentalizing every old song I hear. I now know no shame and have no filter when it comes to choking up upon listening to those old melodies. As corny as it sounds, I feel as though each of these songs has played a small part in shaping who I am. They remind me of my lost loves and breaks to my heart, my regrets and failures, the wonder of being a kid, old friends I’ve let slip away, family gone forever, simpler times, pain and disappointments I have caused for the ones I love, what could or what might have been, the inherent goodness in people. But the ones that really turn on my retina faucets are as follows:
    Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday – Stevie Wonder
    Neither One Of Us – Gladys Knight & The Pips
    Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me – Gladys & Pips
    Yesterday Once More – Carpenters
    So Far Away – Carol King
    The Heart Of The Matter – Don Henley
    You Are Everything – Stylistics
    Betcha By Golly, Wow – Stylistics
    If I Can’t Have You – Yvonne Elliman
    4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Springsteen
    Memory Motel – Stones
    Sideshow – Blue Magic
    Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad – Meatloaf
    Too Much Heaven – Bee Gees

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