Rainy days and Mondays don’t always get me down, but sometimes they do. Sometimes I just need to wallow in the sadness. When I’m in a wallowing mood, I have a “Rainy Days and Mondays” playlist full of Songs That Make Me Sad. This is the only time I listen to most of these songs since they send me straight to my unhappy place. Listening to them is the biggest benefit of rainy, wallowing days.
Number one on the list? “Visions of Johanna,” by Bob Dylan. What makes it a perfect wallowing in sadness song? For one thing, the weariness in Dylan’s voice, as if he’s lived through it all and knows all is lost. The weariness matches the overriding sense of futility in the lyrics: “We sit here stranded, though we’re all doing our best to deny it.” Of course, in this song there’s a specific cause for this existential dread–he’s lost Johanna. The visions and memories of her affect everything he does and sees now. The singer knows he had his chance and lost it, and nothing will ever be as clear and bright and good as it once was. By the end, the “visions of Johanna are now all that remain.”
Second on my list is Bonnie Raitt’s version of “Too Long at the Fair.” Her interpretation of the lyrics is a killer, especially the opening when she sings “Jesus cried, wept and died, I guess he went off to heaven.” If life even wore Jesus down, what chance do any of us have? Bonnie’s voice sounds tired, too, letting us know, even without words, “Lord, I just can’t stand it anymore.”
Nothing in the details of”Backstreets,” by Bruce Springsteen, has anything to do with the details of my life, but the emotions still hit home. “Remember all the movies, Terry, we’d go see/Trying to learn how to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be/And after all this time to find we’re just like all the rest.” Perfect description of that moment of sadness when we realize that not all of our childhood dreams will come true, that there may not be a happily ever after.
“Nothing Ever Happens,” by Del Amitri, is a three-minute rock song illustration of Henry David Thoreau’s quote that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. The song reminds me of “Eleanor Rigby” (also on the playlist) as it describes the lives of all the lonely people before concluding “we’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow.”
Nobody sings sad better than Otis Redding, and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is maybe the saddest of all. The singer left his home in Georgia (“I had nothing to live for, and look like nothing gonna come my way”) only to find himself 2000 miles away, but in the same place. The pessimism of “Look like nothing gonna change/Everything still remains the same” is . . . well, sad.
Some of the others on my Rainy Days and Mondays playlist:
- I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry–Hank Williams
- In the Ghetto–Elvis Presley
- Alison–Elvis Costello
- Eleanor Rigby–The Beatles
- It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go–Nanci Griffith
- Hurt–Johnny Cash
- Mary–Patty Griffin
- Prayer in Open D–Emmylou Harris
- I Wish I Was the Moon–Neko Case
- Wild Horses–The Rolling Stones
- I’m Amazed–My Morning Jacket
- Sound of Settling–Death Cab for Cutie
- Rainy Night in Georgia–Brook Benton
- Sweet Old World–Lucinda Williams
What songs are your sad song playlist? I’m always looking for new titles to add to mine.
And now I’m off to spend this rainy Sunday listening to music.