Soundtracks Of My Tears
In focusing on the small joys of life, there is no doubt about the delight I get in hearing a sparkling, happy song. All I need is to hear “I’m A Believer” or “Walking On Sunshine” or The Rascal’s “Good Lovin'” and my butt starts bouncing and I’m set for the day.
However – there is also something wonderfully comforting about a heart-wrenching sad song.
I love a song that can bring tears to my eyes.
When I was a little kid, I had no understanding of romantic love and heartbreak, but there were still sad emotions that I could identify with.
I think the first song that really moved me was Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” in 1960. I was nine. Although I didn’t identify with lovers’ quarrels, I certainly could understand how it feels to do something wrong. To know something is your fault and to feel terrible. And in this way, I “got” the song. And to this day, I love hearing it.
Even a child can truly feel the emotion of loneliness. I had the most amazing, happy family a kid could have, but even the thought of losing them was a terrifying idea. Bobby Vinton’s “Mr.Lonely”– a soldier, alone and frightened – could bring me to tears when I was eleven, and it still can today.
That same year, I also had my first inkling of the painful side of romantic love. Not because I had any experience at all, but because the emotion was so raw and so clear that even a child could feel the heartbreak. It was “You Don’t Know Me” by Ray Charles. “You give your hand to me. And then you say goodbye. I watch you walk away…” I wanted to shout “Tell her! Tell her you love her!” How I love that song – how I love a song that makes me so filled with empathy.
And of course there is Smokey Robinson with “The Tracks Of My Tears.” Holy cow, that man could write a song. I love all the versions of this song – Smokey’s, Johnny River’s, Linda Ronstadt’s.
And speaking of Linda Ronstadt – Lord, how she can tear at my soul. I’ve been crying over “Long, Long Time” for 47 years.
Another singer who ripped me apart with his plaintive songs was Glen Campbell. In the middle and late sixties, he could always be counted on for the sweet sorrow in his voice – mourning the end of love with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” or the simple everyday loneliness of “Wichita Lineman.” And most of all, with the lonely and frightened soldier (yes, again) of the heart-wrenching “Galveston.”
There’s something especially poignant for me with songs of soldiers and war if they are individual and personal. I’m not much on the grand global view. The songs that make me cry are the ones that show how war hurts one person, one family. Like in “Galveston” or “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”. And one morning in 2002, my radio clicked on, and the first thing I heard was The Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier” – I lay in bed and felt that little girl cry under the grandstand at the football game. I just played that song again now as I write this, and I am crying again.
Social Consciousness songs can move me too, though like with war songs, the ones that move me are the small, personal heartbreak ones…Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” or Springsteen’s “The Streets Of Philadelphia.”
And of course, there’s Love and the Loss of Love. Now that I am old, and I have felt it for myself – and felt it all around me – the sorrow, regret, and heartache that often accompany love assaults my heart in the best way. There is an eloquence in the best of the sad songs that leaves me wondrously breathless. Some of these songs I love to cry to include
Carly Simon- “That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be”
Jim Croce – “Operator”
The Eagles “You Get The Best of My Love”
Dusty Springfield “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”
Toni Braxton – “Unbreak My Heart”
Little Texas – “What Might Have Been”
Bonnie Raitt – “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
R.E.M. “Everybody Hurts”
Hootie and the Blowfish – “Let Her Cry”
Adele – “Someone Like You”
And, Oh my God, not romantic love, but a father’s love, in Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece By Piece.”
I wish there was a better word than ‘cathartic’. Maybe ‘Purifying’ will work.
There is a certain purifying joy in the perfect sad song.
Watch this and cry. You will feel a lot better.