Sep 14, 2016

The 13 Saddest Songs of the 1970s

People who weren't there think of the 1970s as a nonstop party before the deprivation of the 1980s, with everyone doing weird drugs, having sex with everything that moved, and dancing all night long.  But there was a lot of angst going on: Watergate, the recession, gas lines, Son of Sam, Anita Bryant.  And for every lively, upbeat song about dancing queens, there was a depressing one.

And not just the usual lost-love depression.  Life is meaningless depression.  Death, despair, and agonized crying.

Here are the 13 worst, most depressing songs of the 1970s.

1. "Suicide is Painless" (Johnny Mandel, 1970).   The theme song to M*A*S*H.  Or the way you feel after watching an episode.

2. "Alone Again, Naturally" (Gilbert O'Sullivan, 1972).  Ok, this is a lost-love song at least to start off with.  His fiancee has left him at the altar, and he's planning to kill himself -- but it gets worse.  Mom and Dad die, too.

Oh, if [God]  really does exist, why did he desert me
In my hour of need
I truly am indeed, alone again, naturally

Why are you smiling, Gilbert?

3. "I Shot the Sheriff" (Eric Clapton, 1973).  He shot the sheriff, and now he's going to be executed.

4. "Mr. Bojangles" (Bob Dylan, 1973).  An old drunk has been grieving for his dead dog for 15 years.  And it gets worse.

5. "Billy Don't Be a Hero" (Paper Lace. 1974).  But Billy joins the military anyway (apparently the Civil War, not Vietnam).  He dies, of course.

Paper Lace also sang "The Night Chicago Died (1974), about his cop daddy going after gangsters.  Chicago might die, but Dad doesn't.

Why has no one heard of these guys, before or after?

6. "Seasons in the Sun" (Terry Jacks, 1974).  A guy about to die reflects on his lost innocence with a girl.

Goodbye my friend, it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere.

Depressing and heterosexist!

By the way, this isn't the same Terry Jacks, but I couldn't resist the photo..

7. "Cat's in the Cradle" (Harry Chapin, 1974).  Dad neglects son, so son grows up and gets revenge by neglecting Dad.

When you coming home, son?  I don't know when, but we'll get together then, Dad.

1974 was a rough year.  But it gets worse.

8. "Rocky" (Dickey Lee, 1975).  I literally cannot tell you what this song is about.  Every time I try to type up a description, I start crying and can't hit the keyboard.

Instead, I'll give you some of the lyrics to "Patches" (1962), which is much less depressing:

I hear a neighbor telling my father
He says, a girl name of Patches was found floating face down
In that dirty old river that flows by the coal yards
In old Shantytown

Ok, he's hot, but who cares?  It's impossible to listen to his songs.

9. "Wildfire" (Michael Martin Murphy, 1975).  Her beloved horse dies, its owner dies, flowers die, and the singer dies.  Fun.

This is not the same Michael Martin Murphy, of course, but who wants to see a picture of the guy singing about everybody dying.

10. "Shannon" (Henry Gross, 1976).  His beloved dog dies.

I'm not kidding.  These songs actually exist, and were played on the radio.

11. "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (Gordon Lightfoot, 1976).  The Edmund Fitzgerald was a real ship that sank during a storm on Lake Superior.  The entire crew of 29 drowned.  Why sing about this horrible tragedy?  

12. "Dust in the Wind" (Kansas, 1977).  Everything is dust in the wind.

13. "Baker Street" (Gerry Rafferty, 1978):

You used to think that it was so easy, you used to say that it was so easy
But you're trying, you're trying now.
Another year and then you'd be happy, just one more year and then you'd be happy
But you're crying, you're crying now

Thank God the sad song craze was over by 1979, when the top hit was "I Will Survive"

I've got all my life to live, and I've got all my love to give, and I will survive!