In the last few months I have found myself becoming the go-to gal for friends who it seems are at their wits ends: men, money, mental problems. You name it, I'm giving advice on it. I have found myself zoning out recently, not because I am any less interested in my friends lives but I have been going through the comforting motions: "No, he doesn't mean that", "I don't know why he didn't take your number", and of course "I hate to say I told you so but..."I start each piece of advice I give with, "Look, I don't know anything about anything, but..." Friends may think its me being modest, an admission of my human error right before I pontificate to them what they should do with their lives. But in reality I feel like I really don't know anything about anything. I mean I do not have a great track record when it comes to men, money or, well actually I'm okay on the mental problems. You have a secret tryst or an affair to talk about, or maybe you have maxed out your credit card and don't know how you're gonna make rent, these are my kinds of problems. But my lack of knowledge doesn't seem to bother these people. Maybe it's because they already know the answer, they know what they want me to say, they are setting it up for me to say "Oh no, he's an arsehole" or "I definitely think he likes you" ie lie. But I can't. Not any more anyway.
This on top of a recent discovery of an acquaintance being at a very low point in their life has finally spurred me on to put down my favorite sad songs. It has everything: unrequited love, forbidden love, love that just can't be, acceptance of self and your failings and those occasions when love just isn't enough. I want to hand this list to my friends and say hey, maybe life isn't so tough right now. Or maybe it is shit, but have a listen to these, people have done it all before and will do it all again.
Sophie's Sad Songs
Dark End of the Street - James Carr
No matter how many times I listen to this song, it never fails to stop me in my tracks. James Carr's haunting vocals transport you to the titular street, waiting for your forbidden lover, looking over your shoulder, hoping to God no one sees. A 1960s's soul classic it has been recorded by numerous artists since, with my personal favourite being The Commitments in 1991, but Carr's original still stands.
I know time is gonna take it's toll/We have to pay for the love we stole/It's a sin and we know it's wrong/But our love keeps coming on strong
Angie - The Rolling Stones
From Richards' guitar intro, Angie immediately tugs at your heart strings as Jagger moans "Angie, Angie, when will those clouds all disappear?" Here is a love that has run it's course, a well that has run dry. The song details of a couple who have gone through numerous hardships (a notion hard to swallow thinking of the sheer amount of money each of the Stones has by now amassed), but some have just proved too much for this young love. Also, the best song with a girl's name in the title. Hands down.
But Angie, I still love you baby/Everywhere I look I see your eyes/There ain't a woman that comes close to you/Come on baby dry your eyes
The River - Bruce Springsteen
One of many, many songs that is just infinitely better live, The River is a song about what happens when young love just isn't enough. Featured on the album of the same name, the record was released in 1980 when Springsteen had just entered his 30s. He managed to evoke the halcyon days of American youth as well as the bitterness of middle-age with a convincing heartache. If you get a chance to try and listen to the version from the Live/1975-85 album where he opens the song with a story about his tense relationship with his own father. Tough stuff.
Now those memories come back to haunt me/They haunt me like a curse/ Is a dream a lie if it don't come true/Or is it something worse?
Hurt - Johnny Cash
There isn't much to say about this song that hasn't already been said. Even if I tried I don't think I could do it justice. One of the saddest parts of the video for me was the presence of June Carter Cash, as many believe it after her death, John died of a broken heart. What a man, what a couple.
What have I become/My sweetest friend/Everyone I know/Goes away in the end
I Can't Make You Love Me - Bonnie Raitt
Arguably the greatest song about unrequited love, this country/blues modern classic may be more familiar to you as a George Michael song (I know that everyone's mom has a copy of Ladies and Gentleman, so if you're scratching your head trying to think of it, its on there). Raitt's version revels in the simplicity of love, either you do or you don't. Oh you can have whole relationships, marriages even but you can't make someone love you. You can't help but root for the narrator, like the inevitable end of Romeo & Juliet, you find yourself wanting it to be different this time. But the narrator is one step ahead, they have accepted their fate, and there is a proud dignity in it.
Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't/You can't make your heart feel something it won't/Here in the dark, in these final hours/I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power/But you won't
Adagio for Strings - Barber
For No-One - The Beatles
Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley