Country music has a bit of a reputation for being sad — so, unsurprisingly, there are a lot of country songs that
- Trace Adkins has several:
- "Arlington". It's about a soldier being brought to Arlington National Cemetery. Especially triggering might be the line "And it gave me a chill, when he clicked his heels, and saluted me." (talking of his dead grandfather)
- "You're Gonna Miss This". This song can be tear triggering to people who are about to leave a stage of their lives behind them.
- "All I Ask For Anymore" is a sweet song about a father's prayers for his family's safety. But the music video, sang as joyful children and spouses greet their loved ones returning home from war, is a tear-jerker in the best way possible.
- "Till the Last Shot's Fired" Is a story told from the perspective of several dying soldiers. Who wish nothing more than to come home, but know they can't do so until the last shot is fired.
- "The Stubborn One" A grandson is visiting his grandfather in the hospital and recounting all of the good times they had together. We then learn that the grandfather can't remember who his grandson is.
- Alabama's "In Pictures", where a young man looks at pictures of his daughter that divorce keeps him from seeing. (The other common interpretation is that he is in prison.)
- Gary Allan has a few:
- "Tough Little Boys", which is about a man who watched his little girl grow up and get married. It can be hard for a father to refrain from shedding not-so-Manly Tears at these lines:
"I know one day
I'll give you away
But I'm gonna stand there and smile.
But when I get home
and I'm all alone
Well, I'll sit in your room for a while."
- His cover of Vertical Horizon's "Best I Ever Had" does this, considering the context: his wife committed suicide.
- "Life Ain't Always Beautiful" can be considered one of these too. Not only can it relate to his wife's suicide it can also be related to the singers own life as well as life in general as well. Especially when the refrain is both so sad but so encouraging:
"But the struggles make you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has its own way of taking its sweet time..."
- Jason Aldean's "Laughed Until We Cried" is wonderfully sincere and heartwarming. Especially in the third verse, when he remembers how long he and his wife tried to have a baby: "We tried so long, we almost gave up hope / And I remember you coming in and telling me the news". The second verse about his grandpa is pretty moving too.
- Rex Allen: The former silver-screen cowboy had his tearjerker with the 1962 hit "Don't Go Near the Indians," a song where a middle-aged man implores his son (through whom the song's perspective is from) to stay away from the Native American reservation, but for years refuses to explain why. Then, the son, now in his late teens, has fallen in love with a stunningly beautiful teenaged girl, about a year older than him, called Nova Lee. The son wants to marry him, and finally the father's years of hem hawing around the truth catches up with him, and he must explain why, setting up the tearjerking heartbreak: Years earlier, when the boy was just a baby, he was kidnapped from the reservation, in retaliation for a rouge tribesman killing his own little boy ... and he feared the day he would meet Nova Lee ... because he knew the son and Nova Lee were biologically brother and sister.
- John Anderson, "I Wish I Could Have Been There". A father laments having never been there to witness milestones in his kids' life due to working so much. In the last verse, it's turned around — the children say the same come their parents' anniversary.
- Sherrié Austin's "Streets of Heaven" is sung from the persepctive of a mother sitting by her daughter's side in ICU, bargaining with God for her life. The transition from "God, you can't take her, she's my little girl!" to "God, if she dies tonight, please take care of her in heaven for me" can gets one every time.
- Steve Azar has a couple:
- In the music video for "I Don't Have to be Me ('Til Monday)", an ecentric-looking man has a magical door that sends people to their ideal weekend. The scenarios range from a nun in boxing equipment to your typical biker stereotype in a three-piece suit to a businessman in drag. The true Tear Jerker is when a homeless woman goes through the portal, and nothing really appears different... except she's clutching a new, red hat to herself, an expression of pure, absolute joy and appreciation on her face. After seeing all sorts of rather big changes, seeing this humble one, possibly for the person most appreciative of the gift, is a true tear jerker.
- "Waitin' on Joe". A first, you think it's just about a guy with a dead beat friend who's constantly holding him back. The man laments that if he could just leave Joe behind, he could get on with his life. Then you find out that Joe really did try to be on time for their new job by racing the train, only to have the train win. Then you find out that Joe's not his friend, but his brother. Yeah.
I didn't even tell my brother good-bye. I wish somehow, he could send me a sign.
- By this point you will be sobbing.
- The David Ball song "Riding with Private Malone" can get one in the last bits, Narmy or not. Although, the amazing thing about that song is that it absolutely should be Narmy — but the singer's quiet earnestness makes you believe every single word.
- The Band Perry has a few:
- Even if you strongly dislike country music, the song "If I Die Young" can reduce you to tears especially if you know someone who died in their teens. The lyrics are simple and poignant: ''The sharp knife of a short life, well, I've had just enough time....funny when you're dead how people start listening."
- ''Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother. She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors. Life ain't always what you think it oughta be, no- ain't even grey but she buries her baby..."
- "I've never known the loving of a man - but it sure felt nice when he was holding my hand."
- Depending on whether you're a fan of Anne of Green Gables, the references in the lyrics and the video can amplify the song's tear-jerking effects.
- Big & Rich has a couple:
- Those who have despised this band for their goofy country-rock novelty songs such as "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" should, at least, give "Holy Water" a chance. It'll hit you even harder once you realize it was written about Big Kenny's sister, a victim of domestic abuse — or, worse, she may have been raped.
- "8th of November". The Vietnam war told from the perspective of seeing your friends die around you. The song's intro says it perfectly:
"On November 8th, 1965, the 173rd Airborne Brigade on Operation Hump, War Zone D in Vietnam, were ambushed by over 1200 VC. 48 American soldiers lost their lives that day. Lawrence Joel, a medic, became the first living black man since the Spanish-American to receive the United States Congressional Medal of Honor for saving so many lives in the midst of battle that day. Our friend Miles Harris — the guy who gave Big Kenny his top hat — was one of the wounded who lived. This song is his story. 'Caught in action of killed or be killed, great love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend'."
- Suzy Bogguss' "Letting Go". Even though it's a generally positive message, it goes back to the realization that the daughter has grown up and is leaving.
- Lee Brice:
- "I Drive Your Truck". He says that, to deal with the pain of losing a brother in battle, he drives said brother's truck. Even as early as the first verse, he sounds like he's choking up. Even more tear jerking is that the man the song was based on, the father of a deceased soldier, has said that he can't listen to the song all the way through because it hurts too much.
- "Boy" for anyone who's close to their father. Especially the last verse:
It's 3am and I'd do anything to get you back to sleep
And that face will be the same one in the rear-view
The day I watch you leave
But boy, you're gonna come back home
You're gonna settle down
But you won't feel the way I'm feelin' now
Until you have a boy
- "Brothers" by Dean Brody. The narrator begs to do anything to keep his older brother from going off to war, and is told "this is what brothers are for". They interact through letters in the second verse, once again echoing that sentiment. When the brother finally comes back, he's in a wheelchair and apologizes for having to be pushed in one, but the narrator says "this is what brothers are for" yet again.
- Go listen to Brooks & Dunn's "Cowgirls Don't Cry." Now try not to bawl. Most likely, you'll fail — especially if you've ever been involved with horses.
- It get sadder with the remix with Reba not only singing in the background, but definitely with her singing the final verse. It is a song about her life after all.
- "Highway 20 Ride" by the Zac Brown Band is a song in which a divorced man thinks about his son. Lines like "And a part of you might hate me, but son, please don't mistake me / For a man who didn't care at all" can be especially triggering.
- Luke Bryan, "Drink a Beer". Especially when you realize that he chose to record it in memory of his brother, whom he lost in a car accident. It's simple yet effective in its memory of moving on from the loss of someone.
- "Address in the Stars" by Caitlin & Will, a soaring ballad about missing someone: "I write these letters to you but they get lost in the blue / 'Cause there's no address in the stars."
- "Remembering" by Ashley Campbell is a moving tribute to her father, the very famous country singer Glen Campbell, and his struggles with (and eventually death from) Alzheimer's:
Bone for bone we are the same
Bones get tired and they can't carry all the weight
We can talk until you can't even remember my name
Daddy, don't you worry, I'll do the remembering...
- Glen Campbell himself would record a final song shortly after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease titled "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" focusing on how he would be unaware because of the illness of how much his family would have to deal with the issues of caring for Glen as the illness progressed.
- "Skip A Rope" by Henson Cargill is a rather chilling song, concerning how society affects the next generation, all set to a rather catchy tune. It all culminates together at the end with the last verse, stating "Stab 'em in the back, that's the name of the game/ and mommy and daddy are whose to blame/ skip a rope..." before the final chorus, in which the main line is changed from "Now ain't it kinda funny, what the children say?" to "It's really not very funny, what the children say...skip a rope...".
- Jason Michael Carroll has a couple:
- "Hurry Home". It's about a father who pleads a runaway daughter to come home.
- His Alyssa Lies is Narm either the first time you hear it or the fiftieth. In between, you will weep. Much like "Concrete Angel" (below), it's about an abuse victim who dies.
- "The Car" by Jeff Carson. The young son pleads his father to buy him a Mustang, but says that what he wants more is a chance to be with Dad more — and that, if he gets the car, there will always be a part of Dad in it. In the second verse, the son is now an adult when he receives a card that the father gave him just before dying. Inside is a set of keys for a new Mustang.
- Try listening to Rosanne Cash's "Black Cadillac" album and especially the song "I Was Watching You".
- Kenny Chesney has a couple:
- "Who You'd Be Today". Only natural, since it's a song directed to a deceased loved one — and some of the lyrics suggest they were young, or even a child.
- "The Good Stuff". The narrator has a big fight with his wife and goes to drink at a bar. He tells the bartender he wants "the good stuff". The bartender doesn't pour him a drink, and tells him "the good stuff" can't be found in a bottle. They drink milk and talk about all the great moments in their lives, and how that's the real "good stuff".
- "Don't Blink" is about being so caught up in the day-to-day aspects of life that you forget to look up once in a while and suddenly find you're in your Golden Years with no lasting memories of your life. It's sung from the perspective of Chesney watching a long-lived gentleman being interviewed on his longevity, and feeling like he needs to slow down and enjoy his family while he has them.
- Tammy Cochran has a couple:
- "Angels in Waiting" is a tribute to two brothers who died too soon. Get out an extra box of Kleenex if you ever see the video. Especially poignant when you realize that it's about her two brothers, who both died young (14 and 23).
- "Life Happened" is where the characters all share stories about how they had big plans that never came to fruition ("We set out to chase our dreams on wings of passion / But somewhere along the way, we got distracted"). The second verse in particular, where a former racecar driver is moved to change his life after nearly dying in a car accident, is particularly effective here.
- Confederate Railroad has a couple:
- "When You Leave That Way You Can Never Go Back". The narrator realizes far too late that he's screwed up his life by poor decisions (estranging his dad, leaving a bride-to-be at the altar and killing a man), and wishing he could go back and do it all over again.
- Also from the same band, "Jesus and Mama" (similar idea, but instead he cleans up because he knows that Jesus and mama always love him) and "Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind" (his father tells him not to put too much pride in material things, and as he dies, he's driven away in a Cadillac). It's the humility in both that keeps them from going into Narm territory.
- Easton Corbin's "I Can't Love You Back." It's sad enough when you take it in the context of being just an ordinary breakup song, but the context of the music video makes it absolutely gut wrenching: it's for his girlfriend who died, how much he still loves her, and how much he wishes the love was enough to "love her back" to life.
- Eric Church's "Lightning" chronicles the internal thoughts of a condemned murderer in the moments leading up to his execution via the electric chair. If you don't at least get goosebumps at the four-minute mark, you're not human.
- To make matters worse, he explains why he's being executed. He robbed a liquor store to feed his starving daughter, then shot the teenaged clerk without thinking when the clerk went for his gun. Now, both his daughter and the clerk's mother are watching him be executed.
- Guy Clark's "Desperados Waiting For A Train"
- Roy Clark's "Yesterday, When I Was Young." Clark, the host of Hee Haw and the guy who could make you crack up with laughter one minute, does a complete 180 in this song about an aging man who realizes, too late, he wasted his entire life, opportunities, everything that's good on the many poor, if not outright bad choices he made in his life.
- Patsy Cline: Many of the songs in her catalog. The music is amazing, but listening to the greatest hits compilation reveals a master of singing songs of heartbreak, such as "Crazy" and "She's Got You."
- Compare Cowboy Troy's "If You Don't Wanna Love Me" to the rest of his career. So what if the song's a rap; it's still one of the most sincere and saddest raps you'll ever hear (about various women who feel unloved in their relationships with family or lovers). The chilling chorus vocals from Sarah Buxton certainly don't hurt.
- Billy Ray Cyrus has a couple:
- "Get Ready, Get Set, Don't Go" can be tear triggering for people who are about to leave home. The duet version with his daughter, Miley Cyrus, can also be tough to hear; it recalls a time when Miley was a carefree, innocent Disney star with a loving, supportive family, and was about to go on to even bigger and better things.
- "Some Gave All" is another one.
- Jimmy Dean:
- "Big Bad John" can bring people to tears, particularly toward the end when the inscription is read. And both the original and bowdlerized versions have the same impact.
- "To a Sleeping Beauty," a sentimental song where a young man checks in on his daughter, a beautiful little girl who is about 4 or 5 years old, while she's sleeping. The tearjerking part kicks in as he envisions her growing up, going through the normal stages of tween and teen years and finally adulthood, and later getting married and one day having a family of her own.
- "I.O.U.," the classic recitation about Mother's Day.
- "That's Just Jessie" by Kevin Denney. The singer is describing how he spaces out— being late for work, doodling on his legal pad during meetings, and it turns out he can't get a past love named Jessie off of his mind.
That's just my mind, jumpin' fences once again
But I'll be fine, once I get it rowed back in
I know sometimes I may act a little crazy
But that's just Jessie
- John Denver has a couple:
- "Take Me Home, Country Roads"... "Driving down the road, I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday..."
- "I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane" is both sad in the context of the song and because of the fact that he died in a plane crash.
- Diamond Rio's got a number, including:
- "Mama, Don't Forget To Pray For Me," where a young man calls his parents for reassurance after some discouragement. During the conversation, he reflects on his growing up with some sadness.
- "You're Gone" (which is heartbreaking in its simplicity: "And the good news is I'm better for the time we spent together / And the bad news is / You're gone")
- "One More Day" (which has been used in tribute to many tragic deaths, leading to a lot of pop and AC airplay after 9/11).
- "I Believe" (where the singer speaks to a loved one who has passed on). The fact that Diamond Rio employs incredible harmonies in these heartbreaking songs only makes it that much worse.
- Dixie Chicks has a couple:
- "Traveling Soldier," a tale of a young, Army recruit whom is stranger in the town he lives, develops a relationship with a teen-aged girl who works at a waitress at a small diner in town. He is eventually sent to Vietnam and killed in action. This is revealed only toward the end of the song, when at a high school football game, a list of local soldiers who had been killed in the war during the past year was announced ... and she is the only one to not only recognize her boyfriend's name, but grieve his passing.
- It gets worse. That song is one of their touching ones, "Top Of The World" is their song that was so depressing, MTV and VH1 refused to continue playing it after viewer complaints. The video was rarely seen from 2002 to 2008 when someone finally uploaded it to YouTube. Here it is.
- "One Last Time" by Dusty Drake. It starts out sounding like a standard (if nearly operatic) breakup song, until you get to the last verse. He never sings that final word, just letting the song end abruptly and really driving home the point that the man dies in an airplane crash:
He said, 'Honey, I've gotta go'
She said, "Don't you dare hang up
There's so many things I need to say
I love you so much'
It was almost like she felt him leave
She cried out, 'Can you still hear me?'
She fell down on the kitchen floor
When the signal died
As the pilot tried to pull out of the dive
- "Daddy's Hands" by Holly Dunn. If you ever lost a father, this song will tear out your heart.
- "Billy Austin" by Steve Earle. Yes, it is Anvilicious but that doesn't make it any less haunting.
- "Raymond" by Brett Eldredge. At first, it's just a song about a nursing home worker who plays along sympathetically with an old woman's Alzheimer's-fueled insistence that he's her son... but in the second verse, he says that he wishes he were indeed Raymond. The twist is that Raymond died in combat in Vietnam.
- Emerson Drive's "Moments". A young man plans to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge, but a homeless man nearby sees it and shares his life story, which convinces the young man to ponder his own life and reconsider his actions. The young man walks away, imagining the homeless man sharing his encounter with others.
- Country Rap artist Colt Ford has one in "Back", a reminiscence of his younger years — things like a gas station a friend owned, meeting his first date, etc. Just the longing sound of the song (including a chorus by Jake Owen) and the impressive level of detail should get nearly anyone going.
- "She Likes to Ride in Trucks" (with Craig Morgan) is also a very touching song about a father watching his daughter grow up.
- Ashley Gearing's "Can You Hear Me When I Talk to You?" is pretty sad in its own right — its lyrics make it pretty clear that she is missing someone who has died. At first, you'd almost think it's directed to a lost lover, but when she softly says, "I miss you, daddy" at the end, the emotions get turned Up to Eleven.
- Vince Gill: "Go Rest High on That Mountain."
- Danny Gokey, "I Will Not Say Goodbye". ESPECIALLY the video. No matter what you thought of the guy on Idol, this song deserved to be a Top 40 country hit, and it was.
- Bobby Goldsboro:
- His 1968 country-pop No. 1 smash "Honey," a song that spins foreshadowing ("See the tree, how big it's grown/But friend, it hasn't been too long/It wasn't big ...") with the typical tale of a marriage of two people in their early-to-mid 20s. The wife dies, and as her husband mourns, he's left to take solace in watching the tree she planted just a few years earlier, when it was "just a twig."
- Vern Gosdin's "Chiseled in Stone", about a man, feeling alienated and depressed after the latest of many fights with his wife, who is counseled by an elderly widower that the alternative is far worse. For anyone who's lost a spouse, this song is potentially a sledgehammer.
- "A Dozen Red Roses" by Tammy Graham (also recorded by Canadian singer Joan Kennedy). Red roses mysteriously show up at her wedding, and she doesn't know who they're from until she opens up the card and finds that the note was written by her father before he died — in anticpation of a wedding that he couldn't attend.
- "Dixie Lullaby" by Pat Green, especially the last verse and chorus where the kid (who is know grown up) is singing the song to his dad, who has died.
And I sang him a Dixie Lullaby
We'll meet again
by and by
Oh my, what a beautiful life
Just like a Dixie Lullaby
- Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA". It can be hard to listen to that song after getting hold of a version laced with vocal clips of world leaders (specifically Blair and Bush) responding to the events of 9/11, because tears will flow like rain.
- Dave Gunning has several, but "Prince of Pictou" stands out because it was based on a true story: the illegitimate son of George IV. He died very young, never meeting his father and being treated the way illegitimate children generally were in the early 19th Century. The verse about his funeral describes how the important people of the town showed up for that even though they'd ignored him his entire life.
And although they never said "hello"
They came to say "goodbye"
Just in case the story's true.
- Merle Haggard has a couple:
- "Mama Tried".
- "Sing Me Back Home".
- "Daisy" by Halfway to Hazard is similar to Tim McGraw's song, "Don't Take the Girl" — which, halfway through, has much the same twist as the ending to the aforementioned song — but ends on a more uplifting note.
- "Craig" by Walker Hayes, despite its pop-rap sound, is about a man who helped Walker when he was poor and between record deals by buying him a new car.
- Emmylou Harris has a lot of these:
- Especially "Bang the Drum Slowly".
- That whole album, Red Dirt Girl, is one heartbreaking song after another. "My Antonia" and the title track, especially the title track, are of particular note. Poor Lillian.
- "A Love That Will Never Grow Old" from Brokeback Mountain.
- "Boulder To Birmingham", especially if you know the story behind it - it was the first song she wrote for her (proper) debut album, shortly after hearing that her mentor/friend/Love Interest Gram Parsons had overdosed.
...And the hardest part is knowing I'll survive.
- "I Loved Her First" by Heartland is a song about parents letting go of their children, and might bring even the most stoic people to tears.
- "Heather's Wall" by Ty Herndon. The narrator is wounded in a bank robbery, knowing he's about to die, but all he can think about is his lover. He caps this off with the line "Our love will last forever, like that 8 by 10 hanging on Heather's wall".
- "Love Lives On" by Mallary Hope. At first, it sounds like a song about a woman recovering from a failed relationship, but the third verse reveals that he died instead of breaking up, and their love lives on in the form of their daughter.
- Alan Jackson has a few:
- "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)". Come on, if you're American, you cried when you heard that for the first time.
- "Monday Morning Church". The narrator's faith is shaken to the point where he can't stand the sight of a Bible sitting on the nightstand. You think it's about a breakup until the end, where it's revealed his wife actually died. She was a woman of faith, and praying to God only reminds him of her memory.
- "Sissy's Song" packs quite the emotional punch as well.
- His cover of George Jones' "He stopped loving her today" and the Grand Ole Opry tribute to the late country legend. Not even one verse in and every one was crying.
- Jamey Johnson:
- In "The Dollar", a little boy asks his mother where his father goes every day. His mother tells him that his father has a job and they pay him for his time. He responds by scraping up a dollar and asking if it's enough to "spend some time with me".
- "In Color" tells of a young boy looking through an old black-and-white photo album with his elderly grandfather. The photographs highlight the major events of his grandfather's life, including living through the Great Depression, fighting in World War II, and getting married. As the young boy stares in wonder at these photographs, his grandfather simply tells him "You should have seen it in color."
- George Jones: "The Possum" was, throughout his career, considered the master of the heartbreak song. Examples abound, including:
- "The Grand Tour," a song about a man struggling with his imminent divorce from a wife who just walked out on him, "taking nothing but our baby and my heart."
- The original "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
- You wouldn't expect Toby Keith to turn up on this list, but he nailed it with "Cryin' for Me (Wayman's Song)", a tribute to basketball player/jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale, a close friend of Keith's.
- His song "My List" sounds like simply a call to appreciate your life...then you watch the music video and realize what it's truly aimed at.
- It might be hard to make it through "The Call" by Matt Kennon without crying, the first time you hear it. One person attempts suicide and another abortion, but both are stopped by a moving phone call.
- "I Wanna Be In The Cavalry" by Corb Lund starts off the album Horse Soldier!, which focuses on, well, the cavalry. It's really high and upbeat..... until you reach the reprise at the end of the album.
- Lady Antebellum has a couple:
- "Hello World" by has some really tearjerking moments. Especially the last verse. It truly makes you want to appreciate life more. It sounds very much like a Christian song, yes, but still, it lifts the soul.
- For some reason, "Need You Now" brings tears to the eyes. Maybe something about the song's message about wishing for someone you are separated from, combined with the downright desperate tones of the singers' voices, but it is a very good, but melancholy, listen.
- Blaine Larsen's song "How Do You Get That Lonely" is already sad enough, seeing as it's about a teenage suicide but the music video just makes it so much worse . The most heartbreaking part might be when Larsen sings the line "Did his mom and daddy forget to say, 'I love you, son'?" and you see the women who is apparently the boy's mother mouth the words "I love you, son" along with Larsen.
- Miranda Lambert has a couple:
- "The House That Built Me"?
"You leave home
You move on
And you do the best you can
I got lost in this old world and forgot
Who I am..."
- "Over You", about someone who's died. Especially when you realize that she wrote it with her husband, Blake Shelton, who drew inspiration from losing his brother in a car accident.
- "If I Don't Make It Back" by Tracy Lawrence. A soldier asks all his drinking buddies to do all sorts of things in his honor if he doesn't make it back (have a beer for him, drive his old Camaro, etc.) Instead of explicitly stating that the soldier dies, it jumps from "If the good Lord calls me home / I'd like to think my friends will think about me when I'm gone" straight to "Well, Miller Lite ain't my brand / But I drink one every now and then in his honor..."
- "Paint Me a Birmingham," released concurrently by Tracy Lawrence and Ken Mellons. It describes a man who happens upon a painter on a beach, and of anything he could ask the artist to paint, he asks for a picture of the house he planned to share with his lover with her sitting on a swing in the front yard hugging him so "she'll be his again." The Ken Mellons version is softer and sounds as though he is trying not to cry throughout, which will be a Tearjerker for some and Narm for others.
- Lonestar's "I'm Already There" was a sweet, sad song about a performer on the road missing his family. Then radio stations began mixing it with messages from family members to servicemen and women overseas, taking the tearjerking to 11.
- Patty Loveless has a couple:
- "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye": verse 1, a childhood move; verse 2, a death/divorce; verse 3, the mother sings the chorus as she's about to die. Dual-Meaning Chorus at its finest.
- "The Grandpa That I Know" (which has also been recorded by Shawn Camp and Joe Diffie). The singer contrasts the formality at grandfather's funeral with the simple man that he was.
"And they all say he looks so natural
But all I see is a cold dark hole
I won't commit this day to memory
That ain't the grandpa that I know..."
- Kathy Mattea:
- "Standing Knee Deep in a River (Dying of Thirst)". The song itself might make you tear up a little as you think of all the "could have been"s in your life, but the imagery in the video only helps to drive it home in a more tear-jerking fashion.
- "Where've You Been", a sweet story about two lovers who go from "where have you been all my life?" to her fearing for his life after he comes home late one stormy night… to the two of them, now elderly, in a nursing home. She has lost most of her memory, but at the very end of the song, seeing him triggers her to once again say "where've you been?"
- Jennette McCurdy has a couple:
- Go listen to "Not That Far Away" and think about when you moved away from home. Now try not to sob.
- Even better. Try listening to "Homeless Heart" after that song. It might be tough trying not to cry waterfalls.
- Martina McBride has plenty:
- Even many stoics find themselves deeply moved by "Concrete Angel". In addition to feeling heartbreaking sadness over the poor girl who was abused to death at the hands of her own mother, the thought of anyone doing that to their own children can make any compassionate person's blood boil. Perhaps the most gripping part of the music video is that the girl's only friend is her guardian angel and that her mother catching her talking to him is what throws her into the fit of rage that causes her death. The music video shows the funeral of the child being sung about and how she goes to a happier place with the other children with similar fates.
- Turned Up to Eleven when a few country stations under the Froggy brand played this a few days after the death of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen whose emotional abuse suffered at the hands of her parents drove her to suicide in December 2014, and dedicated it to her memory.
- Turned up even more when you realize that the young boy could've been with the little girl because he knew what was going to happen.
- "In My Daughter's Eyes". Enough said.
- The music video to "Independence Day".
- "God's Will." Her song about a kind-hearted disabled boy who may or may not live can bring tears to even a normally stoic person. His mother was told that they didn't think he would live when he was born. But every day shows her just how wrong they were.
- "This One's for the Girls" is a song that can be tear triggering to women who have either had body image problems and/or is about take on another stage of life. It may be more of a sentimental song, than truly a sad song — but may also, however, be considered Narm for others.
- Oh god, "A Broken Wing", a song about a woman whose abusive husband tells her she will never amount to anything, and then (possibly) commits suicide. "Man, you oughta see her fly..." Although, Word of God states that the last verse could also be interpreted as she left him, not that she jumped.
- Jason Meadows's 18 Video Tapes. A man learns he is terminally ill just as he and his wife are expecting a child. To ensure his son has all the knowledge he needs while growing, the man makes a series of tapes instructing the boy how to do certain things. The final tape tells the son to be there for his own children, even if he has to do it from beyond the grave too.
- "Something to Be Proud Of" by Montgomery Gentry. It starts with kids listening to their grandfather tell war stories, and leads into the narrator finding his wife and having a family, but he has a crummy job and they don't have much. He wonders if he's let his father down, and if he's ashamed of how things turned out. His dad tells him "If all you're really doing is the best you can, you did it, man. That's something to be proud of."
- John Michael Montgomery has a couple:
- "The Little Girl".
- The song "Letters From Home" is a tear jerker for anyone that has a family member in the Armed Forces, but the final verse is what may be the worst. The narrator's father, who hadn't spoken a word to him since his announcement to join the military, finally swallows his pride sends a letter to let his son know how proud of him he is. It actually makes the song's narrator cry.
- In Justin Moore's "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away", he uses rather vivid imagery to describe those who have passed on, and wishes that he could take a one-day trip to Heaven just to visit them all again.
- Craig Morgan has a couple:
- "Every Friday Afternoon". The narrator is horribly split over seeing his son after a divorce, because he really wants to be there but can't.
- "This Ain't Nothin'" can be rather tearjerking. It's about an old man who had his house destroyed by a tornado, but mentions that he's been through much worse in his life (like the death of his wife). While some of the lyrics (not to mention that the title is a double-negative) can make it Narmy to some, the way the singer delivers it makes it rather touching.
- Lorrie Morgan's "Dear Me", especially when you consider the song was released just after the death of her husband Keith Whitley.
- Willie Nelson has a couple:
- "A Couple More Years".
- Him performing "America the Beautiful" at the September 11 telethon, with everybody slowly joining in — including Muhammad Ali, who stood for most of it, despite his condition. And they sang all the verses.
- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has a couple:
- The version of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" on their second album of the same title is another one. The song is sad enough on its own (a child's experience of his mother's funeral and the family's sorrow), but this version is sung by a who's who of country stars, with the first two verses being sung by Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff, both of whom have passed away...that just compounds the sadness.
- "Dance, Little Jean", in which a cynical musician learns that the wedding party he's playing for is about a little girl's parents finally getting together. The moment it really hits you is when the singer's voice changes on the line "She was a happy little girl!"
- Jamie O'Neal's "Somebody's Hero"
- The song is tearjerking in a sentimental way - it's an age progression song that describes a mother as being a hero first to her infant daughter, then giving the daughter away to be married, and finally her daughter being her hero taking care of her in a nursing home. The way it is laid out, first listing extraordinary things the mother hasn't done (ranging from rescuing someone from a burning building to walking on the moon, to singing a sold out show) and then declaring that she's a hero anyway, is what makes it such a tearjerker.
- A quick line in the last verse is tearjerking in a more traditional way. Said line declares that the mother, now an old woman, is envied by the rest of the facility where she lives. Why? Because her daughter visits her each and every afternoon. Fridge Horror suggests she's envied because most of them don't get that pleasure.
- Dolly Parton has a few:
- "Coat of Many Colors" is just so childlike and sad you can't help but cry some.
- Whitney Houston's long since rocketed the song to Narm levels, but the original "I Will Always Love You" is heartbreaking, because the vulnerable, quiet way she sings it evokes the image of someone who's falling apart, but trying her damnedest to be gracious and leave with a smile.
- "Hard Candy Christmas" could count as well.
- Johnny Paycheck's "Old Violin". A dejected man compares himself to "an old violin / Soon to be put away and never played again". The song concludes with "And just like that it hit me / That old violin and I, we're just alike / We'd give our all to music / And soon we'll give our lives".
- Kellie Pickler has a couple:
- "I Wonder" can break the heart of anyone who has experienced Parental Abandonment, especially (if one has the same colour eyes as the parent who left) with the lines "'Cause I look in the mirror/And all I see/Are your brown eyes lookin' back at me".
- She herself burst out crying, as she sang that song at the CMA's.
- "My Angel" will make you cry if you've just lost a grandmother.
- "Feed Jake" by Pirates of the Mississippi.
Wino passed out on the sidewalk
Doesn't anybody care?
Some say, "He's worthless, just let him be"
I, for one, would have to disagree
And so would their mamas.
- Also notable for being a country song containing a Gay Aesop released in 1990.
- John Prine's "Sam Stone" is about a Shell-Shocked Veteran slowly killing himself with heroin. Which would be bad enough if it didn't have a bouncy, singalongable chorus shifting the story to his kids' POV and hinting that he's just passing his inability to deal with life on to them.
There's a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes
Jesus Christ died for nothin', I suppose
Li'l pitchers have big ears
Don't stop to count the years
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios...
- "Me and Emily" by Rachel Proctor. It gets you once the little girl starts asking if she has a daddy, then really drives home the point with "it would kill me if he ever raised his hand to her." Then you can hear the relief in her voice when she gets to the end: "it's a brand new day / it's a second chance / Yesterday is just a memory / For me and Emily."
- "Love, Me" by Collin Raye can make one tear up the last time through the chorus. Even though that chorus has already been heard once, the final verse changes the meaning of it completely. Very well done. (The credit should go to Skip Ewing, who wrote the song.)
- Raye was known for his tearjerking ballads, which alternatively celebrated the finding of true love, and mourned the loss of it. The latter are especially good at this.
- Austin Roberts' "Rocky," a 1975 tale about a young couple in their early 20s that, although having its narmish moments (such as a rambunctious kids' birthday party), has the tearjerker in full effect during the final verse. There, the young, beautiful (and we do mean beautiful) woman learns she has a terminal illness; in the final verse, it is revealed she has died ("Now it's back to two again, our baby girl and I/Sometimes she looks like her own sweet mother, sometimes it makes me cry"), and that he often has long periods of despair. Successfully covered that same year for the country market by singer-songwriter Dickey Lee.
- "She Misses Him" by Tim Rushlow, former lead singer for the group Little Texas, is another song about Alzheimer's. It's about a woman and her husband as he goes through Alzheimer's and how she deals with him forgetting her and their life together.
- "You Can Let Go" by Crystal Shawanda is an Age-Progression Song that starts out being sentimental... and then gets progressively more heart-wrenching. The first verse is about the singer learning to ride a bike; the second verse is about the singer getting married; the third verse is about the singer's father wasting away due to cancer. Definitely have a box of tissues handy.
- Blake Shelton has a couple:
- In "The Baby", the singer's mother is on her death bed, and her dying wish is to see her son one last time. He doesn't make it.
- "When Somebody Knows You That Well". He recalls sneaking a couple beers, getting sick and then getting yelled out by dad… then bottling up all his emotions towards said dad, who is now dead, until his wife encourages him to let it all out. Throughout, he realizes that he can't hide his emotions from those who know him so well.
- Sons of the Desert's "Leaving October", a great song about a lover who has died. The narrator is supported by his daughter, who says her third grade teacher looks like the lost love.
- Pick up a Doug Stone album and you'll find plenty of tear jerkers. He even launched his career with one: "I'd Be Better Off (In a Pine Box)", a song where he's so downtrodden by a broken heart that he wishes he were dead.
- George Strait's "You'll Be There", about a person who has died, and the desire to be in Heaven with them. The choir and swelling strings on the chorus really help:
I'll see you on the other side if I make it
It might be a long hard ride, but I'm gonna take it
Sometimes it seems that I don't have a prayer
I let the weather take me anywhere
But I know that I wanna go where the streets are gold
'Cause you'll be there
- Doug Supernaw's "I Don't Call Him Daddy" is a song in which a divorced man thinks about his son and the new father in his life. Anyone who's been on any end of the situation (child raised by mom and stepfather, divorced father, the stepfather) can surely identify.
- Chalee Tennison's "Go Back" is a Slice of Life song. In the first verse, a trucker and diner worker spend time chatting. He decides to drive away, but something tells him to "go back" to her. They eventually bond and marry. In verse two, he gets a call to "go back" home because his wife's just given birth. On the way back, he crashes and "slip[s] into the light", where the angels tell him "now is not your time / Go back, you've got somebody waiting…"
- Trent Tomlinson's "One Wing in the Fire" is about a drunkard of a father, in whom both the singer and his mother still have hope, knowing that he's a good person underneath it all. He pleads God to continue believing in his father, and prays that said father will be good enough to make it into Heaven.
- Randy Travis's "Three Wooden Crosses". A "farmer and a teacher, hooker and a preacher" are riding a bus. The preacher is trying to convince the hooker to repent before the bus crashes. She's the only survivor among the four, and the second verse reveals what the other two have left behind for their family. Then comes The Reveal that the hooker cleaned herself up and became the mother of the preacher who told the story to the narrator.
- Travis Tritt's "Tell Me I Was Dreaming". You might make it through the song if it's on the radio — but, if you're watching the video, tears will flow. (While the song is about a breakup, in the video it's a death.)
- "That's My Job" by Conway Twitty can bring anyone who's ever lost a father to tears.
- Pick a song by Townes Van Zandt. Any song.
- But maybe especially "Tecumseh Valley".
- The song "Nothin'" is another that often moves even extreme stoics to tears. It's made all the more poignant if you know that Townes suffered from heroin addiction for years.
Hey Momma, when you leave
Don't leave a thing behind
I don't want nothin'
Can't use nothin'
- "A Song For" on his last album is a suicide note set to music. Townes' own (failed) suicide note, to be precise. If the title looks weird, remember how songwriters are credited on record sleeves - "A Song For (Townes Van Zandt)"
My sky's getting far, the ground's gettin' close
My self goin crazy the way that it does
I'll lie on my pillow and sleep if I must
Too late to wish I'd been stronger
Too late to wish I'd been stronger
- Keith Urban's "Tonight I Wanna Cry," a ballad that is only voice and piano, describes a man at home alone after a wife or lover has left him and trying to just let his emotion out ("let it fall like rain from my eyes") can either be this turned Up to Eleven or Narm, depending on who you ask.
- Phil Vassar, "Don't Miss Your Life". The important message of not passing up those family opportunities that come only once can really hit home with anyone.
- Bryan White's "Tree of Hearts" chronicles a tree that a boyfriend and girlfriend (who later become husband and wife) carve a heart into for each year together. It follows sweet little vignettes in their life: first, the young boy and girl playing together, then their marriage under said tree in their 20s, then their children playing under the same tree, and in the final verse, both of them being buried under the tree.
- Chuck Wicks has a couple:
- "Man of the House" is another song about a loved one in the military. It's about a ten-year-old boy taking on the burden of being the titular man because his father's in the military. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxYBEfqIKkA). The worst part is when the little boy, Bobby, overhears a news report about the war, and then runs up to his room before he breaks down in tears — because he doesn't want his mother to see him cry.
- Also "Stealing Cinderella", in which a father comes to realize that the little girl his daughter had been in his eyes is now a woman, once the narrator asks for the daughter's hand in marriage.
- "Old Coyote Town" by Don Williams. If the poignant opening notes on the piano don't get you, the wistfully nostalgic lyrics about the slow death of the singer's home town will.
- If Mark Wills's "Don't Laugh at Me" doesn't have you crying in the first part, the second will get you with "I lost my wife and little boy/ someone crossed that yellow line/ the day we laid 'em in the ground /is the day i lost my mind/ right now I'm down to holding/ this little cardboard sign".
- Darryl Worley's "I Miss My Friend" is pretty straightforward, a song to a lost lover. Of course, the big tearjerker comes in the music video, where it's revealed that the singer is the one who's deceased, and reaches out to his loved one as she passes straight through him.
- "He Would Be Sixteen" by Michelle Wright (not the same person as Chely Wright). She wonders all about the son she had to put up for adoption, and laments having not known him. Powerful stuff.
- Dwight Yoakam is the champion at this. Just listen to "Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room (She Wore Red Dresses)" and try not to lose it. If this song doesn't make you want to hang yourself, nothing will.
- "Flowers", by Chris Young (originally by Billy Yates). Starts out somewhat generically, but you can hear the singer's pain as he sings to his ex-wife/girlfriend whom he had killed by driving drunk.