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September 24, 2009

What music makes you cry? And why?

marvin gaye

Do you ever listen to music and suddenly start to choke up?

I do.

Sometimes I can feel it coming, and sometimes it takes me by surprise. I get chills, choke up, and occasionally, cry. Depends on the song and my mood.

The first few times I heard Emmylou Harris' "Red Dirt Girl," I had to try hard not to cry. I know girls like the one in the song, and I'm from a place like the one Harris describes, so it really resonates with me.

A couple days ago, I choked up when I watched this clip of Marvin Gaye singing short, solo versions of the songs he used to do with Tammi Terrell. It's so sad, and so uplifting at the same time. And as always, Gaye makes singing from the heart seem effortless.

I almost had to turn off "On and On and On" by Wilco the first time I heard it ...

Another moment in music that kills me every time I hear it is in the middle of the medley on the B-side of "Abbey Road," at the end of "Carry That Weight," when the orchestra reprises "You Never Give Me Your Money." Oh, man. You can hear it around the 6:12 mark on this video.

I also remember listening to The Band's "It Makes No Difference" over and over again after a bad breakup in college and just bawling. Rick Danko's tortured vocals are brilliant. His voice always seems like it's about to break, but it never does.

A colleague of mine, Nick Madigan, said a song that made him choke up was "Emily" by Beth Nielsen Chapman. I've never heard it, but I'm going to have to track it down and listen asap.

Whew. All right, so, I've shared something intensely personal here, guys. Your turn.

What music makes you cry? And why?

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:14 PM | | Comments (57)
Categories: Random stuff


oh man. three songs that make me cry, every time:

Roberta Flack - First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Stevie Wonder - Lately
Barkenaked Ladies - Break Your Heart (live version)

these all resonated with me at different times in my marriage; the beginning, the beginning of the end, and while it ended. they still get me choked up, and sometimes i'll listen to them just to get to feeling that way.

Damned it all, I cannot listen to Pearl Jam's version of "Last Kiss" and Elliott Smith's "Fond Farewell" ever again after listening to them en route to a cemetery for a funeral.

Yeah. Tough ride.

"Casimir Pulaski Day" by Sufjan Stevens

Alice In Chains - Nutshell
Mazzy Star - Into Dust
Adam Ezra - Corn Song
Gary Jules - Mad World (cover)
Agalloch - The Misshapen Steed
Pearl Jam - Indifference
Tom Petty - Crawling Back To You
For Love Not Lisa - Travis Hoffman
OAR - I Feel Home
Toad The Wet Sprocket - All Right
Eric Johnson - Song For Lynette

Why? Because I'm weird I guess. And, looking back at the list, random as all hell.

I totally agree with you on the Band song "It makes no difference"

that song really does it for me

Admitting that you cry isn't manly.

I never cry.

Margo Timmons and Cowboy Junkies cover of One by U2. You can really feel the meaning of the song through the longing in her voice. It gets me every time.

Three Little Birds by Bob Marley It always seems to "appear" when I am at a low point in life to prop me back up.

Amazing Grace on bagpipes

Hello in There by John Prine

Plenty of others but that's a good start. I think the Avett Bros. get the award for newest band to pluck my heart strings.

Songbird by Eva Cassidy
It's so beautiful, poignant and it reminds me of my hubby! In fact, we (ok...I) chose it as our first dance. SIGH!

Jimmy, I was a freshman in college when Sept. 11 happened, and that night, we held a candlelight vigil outside the dorms. My roommate stood off in the distance and played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. I will never forget it.

Cheesy, but the first thing that came to mind was "Baby Girl" by Sugarland. My parents have done so much for me, and one day I was driving around and listened to it and realized how lucky I am, and started bawling. Now every time I hear it, I call or text my dad.

The song "Keep Me in Your Heart For a While" by Warren Zevon. This was on his album "The Wind", which he recorded in 2004 while dying of inoperable lung cancer.

I had a close friend of mine die in 2001 and he was the one that got me into Zevon back in high school, so a lot of this is tied up in memory of my buddy. It took my more than a month before I could listen to that cut without choking up.

Barber's Adagio for Strings.

If you want a huge sobfest, you should watch the BBC's Last Night at the Proms in Sept. 2001 when the orchestra plays it. Even they're crying.


What Sarah Said - Death Cab for Cutie

Great song but Warner took the video down due to copyright infringement. Here's a made up video.
Gibbard wrote this song after his female friend broke down in tears just thinking about how awful it's going to be when either she dies first and leaves her husband alone or he dies first and she's left alone. I had the same 'arguement' with my wife. She won. She will die first and I will mourn. Damn, we can't even have original fights!

Overcome - Live

I was listening to this song when 9/11 was happening. I don't listen to it very much now.

Black Love 0r Love Demo version - Greg Dulli
It's the closing credit song to Monument Ave. The song is on the Twilight Singers album although different.

Thanks Sam, I thoroughly bummed out now. Anyone for HAPPY HOUR!

"Candy Shop" - 50 Cent

I believe the song speaks for itself and I don't need to supply a reason.

When I found out what "Everything I Own" was about, I was really overwhelmed. I had always thought it was about a lost love -- a woman who left him. And I really loved the song.

But when I found out what it was really about... David Gates of Bread actually wrote it about the death of his father, I was a mess.

The song became all the more poignant. The lyrics about doing anything, giving everything you have just to have that person back, albeit for a brief moment, is something.

When I lost my grandmother and, a few years later, my sister, I couldn't hear the song without thinking of them and welling up.

"The finest years I ever knew / were all the years I had with you."

- "Touch Me in the Morning" by Diana Ross

- "All at Once" by Whitney Houston

- "Original Sin" by Elton John

- "My Love" by Paul McCartney

It's the music and lyrics on Diana Ross' song... The lyrics on Whitney's song... The strings on Elton's... And the music, in general, on McCartney's...

"Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland.

I know there are more, but those come to mind.

Ragoo - Kings of Leon
Delicate - Damien Rice

Angel from Montgomery - Bonnie Raitt

Some versions are better than others. But if you find a good one, you'll see what I mean.

Also, this is a little random, but right around 9/11 is when the "Everyday" DMB video came out, with that guy going around hugging everyone. The song, along with the video, and being a college freshman far from home made me break down.

Taps. As played on a Bugle. Don't even know if it has a genre (it was composed during the civil war) but it yanks my heart up into my throat whenever it hear it more than any other modern song.

Cmon - "Hallelujah" when performed by Jeff Buckley. That song would make a gladiator cry.

i get kind of choked up when i hear "in the living years" by mike & the mechanics.... makes me think about being young and fighting w/ my parents and what a jerk i was. thankfully we have a good relationship now but it just makes me appreciate them. sorry if its a cheesy song.

"Billy, Don't Be a Hero" because I am a pacifist.

"Love the One You're With" because I've been cheated on.

"Achy Breaky Heart" because it's so incredibly bad.

These songs make me want to cry -

"I Wonder" by Kellie Pickler

"Christmas Shoes"

"Concrete ANgel" by Martina McBride

I totally agree with "It Makes No Difference" - good call on that one. Another good/tear-inducing Band song is "Whispering Pines." Richard Manuel's voice on that one is just as beautifully mournful as Danko's, if not more so.

And "Weary Memory" by Iron & Wine is heartwrenching. It's about the singer's wife dying and him finding things of hers months afterward; a mitten, her rosary, a picture of their wedding day.

I agree about that Zevon song. Also, "Please Stay," on that same album gets me all choked up. Also...

"Tears in Heaven," because of why Clapton wrote that song

"Blood Bank," by Bon Iver, because I first heard that song at a very sad time in my life

"If This Must Be Goodbye," by Caleb Stine

I Do - Jude

Listen to the whole video about why he wrote the song and listen to the lyrics. BTW - it happened to me.

LS - This guy Jude covered Bread's Everything I Own. Check him out.

Austin - Blake Shelton
The Dance - Garth Brooks
Auld Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg

These days I can't hear MJ's "Man in the Mirror" without getting choked up.

"99 Problems" by J-Z because I wish I could claim the same. And anything with autotune

I agree with you completely on Emmylou's "Red Dirt Girl".
Antony's (from Antony & the Johnsons) cover of Leonard Cohen's "If It Be Your Will." Patty Griffin's "Top of the World."
Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt

I have to totally agree with AreUKidding -- on "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg and "The Dance" by Garth Brooks. Totally forgot about those two. Both incredible songs. And major weepers.

In "Lang Syne," when he sings "she would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn't like to lie" I get chills every time.

And Anonymouse, thanks so much for the tip on Jude. I'm going to check out his version of "Everything I Own" and "I Do." I've just been listening in the car to "Sid & Susie's" (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs) new CD -- and they do a cover of "Everything I Own." It's pretty good. Not amazing, but good.

This Woman's Work by Kate Bush

@Rich B: Agreed. I think if you don't tear up during Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah there is probably something deeply wrong with you as a human being.

"Danny Boy" always gets me, but then again, I come from a large Irish Catholic family so I've heard it (and will hear it) at every funeral I've ever been to.

Wow... this is a good subject. Interesting that dozens of pieces of music and songs have had the priviledge of turning on the chills/choke up for me, however "Danny Boy" (or anything else on bagpipes for that matter) isn't one of them. I absolutely detest that song as well as the instrument. I just figure how can anything be musical when one note is stuck on all the time? Bagpipes sound like a box of goats in heat. On the other hand, I do like accordions, which many people can't stand for some reason.

Let me think about this one a day or two. I'm sure I can come up with a few, but for some reason right now I can't think of one.

@johnnycat - you obviously didn't choke up when then-Admiral James Kirk eulogized Spock to the strains of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes before they shot him from the Enterprise. You, sir, may be dead inside!

Bagpipes usually make think of Policemen or Firemen's funerals.

It seems there about seven melodies they can play. Roy Wood used them in "Are You Ready To Rock"* and it just sounds like he adapted a march for that segment.

* an English hit for Roy Wood's Wizzard in the mid 70s.

Pink Floyd- "That Great Gig in the Sky"

Ron Sexsmith- "Strawberry Blonde"

Joe Henry- "Our Song"

Iris DeMent- "Sweet is the Melody"

Peter Gabriel- "Sky Blue"

Kathleen Edwards- "Goodnight California"

Neko Case- "At Last"

Passengers (U2 with Pavorotti)- "Miss Sarajevo"

Red House Painters- "Have You Forgotten?"

Brian Eno- "An Ending"

Joni Mitchell- "The Circle Game"

That was a river of biblical prorportions I just cried. Boo. And hoo.

Holy Shittake JTK... a scene that ridiculous really happened? I am a little proud to say I've never seen a Star Trek episode in my life. But then I've never tasted Coca-Cola either.

Ok I have one... That song "Drops of Jupiter". That one does it every time. In fact I dread it when I hear it in a restaurant or whatever for that very reason. Great song though, but I just can't take it. Another one is Oasis "Don't Look Back In Anger". Ugh, I'm getting goosebumpy just thinking about this. More to come.

Okay, just seeing the song titles mentioned in the comments are making me well up.

I thought of a few more that do me in:
"Fix You" by Coldplay (about the death of Gwyneth Paltrow's father)

"In the Sun," either Joseph Arthur's original or the Michael Stipe/Chris Martin cover

So much depends on the mood you’re in at the moment and can empathize with the lyrics.

Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman:
Joni Mitchell - The Circle Game:
Joni Mitchell - River:
Peter & Gordon - Morning’s Calling
David Bowie - Life On Mars?:
Brian Wilson - Love & Mercy:
Roy Orbison - Only the Lonely
Brian Eno - By This River:
John Lennon or Roxy Music - Jealous Guy:
Roxy Music - Dance Away:
Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe (who wrote it) -
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding:
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Let Me Alone:
David Bowie - Be My Wife:

Most of these can be found on YouTube

I could really relate to quite a few of those already mentioned! "Auld Lang " by Dan Fogelberg remains one of my favorite songs. Nd his new album has a song about leaving this life -"Birds". It is absolutely beautiful evoking such imagery! I haven't noted the song that had me crying so hard when I first heard it on the radio that I had to pull over,and let the the sobbing ebb..the live version of "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. I am truly moved by the powerful emotions written into those few stanzas.

Songs I like to hear when I'm really miserable:

Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
Beach Boys - Caroline, No
Pretenders – Stand By Me
Warren Zevon – Desperadoes Under the Eaves
Warren Zevon – Hasten Down the Wind
Several other Zevon songs

For an extra special cathartic experience, play some Zevon and watch the You Tube clips of Warren on Letterman about six months before he died where he talks about dying for half an hour and jokes around a lot. It's heart-breaking and inspiring. He's not being brave, he's just at peace.

Yes... what Owl said!

VH1 did a special on Zevon's recording of the album The Wind and it has some of the clips of Warren on the Letterman show. Especially poignant was, when asked what he'd learned, he said to "enjoy every sandwich."

That became the title of a CD of Zevon covers, and the VH1 special is available on DVD.

It was magnificent how all his music friends came back to chip in on the project, and to say goodbye. Bruce Springsteen in particular was an awesome presence in laying down the wild-ass guitar solos for "Disorder in the House." Upon finishing one blistering version, Zevon looks up and says, "You ARE him."

Letterman had a long relationship with Zevon. He filled in for Paul Schaeffer on numerous occasions. Dave is very loyal to his friends. Warren Zevon was the only guest on that show. You can see all of Zevon's appearance on three or four YouTube videos. It's amazing TV.

There There by Radiohead and Kate Bush's This Woman's Work were the first that came to mind.

I'm posting this as anonymous b/c too many people (Caleb included) will bust my chops, but the first time I heard Caleb Stine and the Brakemen sing that line from "Coyote" about "Going to the Great Dizzy Issie's and all of his friends will be there to meet me" made me bawl like a baby in the middle of Hampdenfest.

The 3 or 4 Resurrections may not have helped. Thank God for oversized sunglasses.

Almost forgot one of the greatest and saddest songs of recent years:

100 Years -- Five for Fighting

Wow, that song is really, really something. I cried the first time I heard it. And I've cried nearly every other time I've heard it since. John Ondrasik is one heck of a songwriter on this picture of the passage of a lifetime.

The line that particularly gets to me is the clincher at the end... and how it juxtaposes with the beginning of the song, while still having the same words.

I'm 15 for a moment /
Caught in between 10 and 20 /
And I'm just dreaming /
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 99 for a moment /
Dying for just another moment /
And I'm just dreaming /
Counting the ways to where you are

(I totally lose it when i hear that...)

"Do You Realize" by the Flaming Lips, but in the most cathartic of ways.

Buckley's "Hallelujah" is definitely in. I hate to call something haunting, but ...

Plenty of choices when it comes to Wilco and Elliott Smith.

Anything by The Death Set. Sigh.

Who's making a suicide playlist right now? Bring copies to the MS happy hour!!!

LS, I am with you. Music and poetry give fabric to our lives, but how much more poignant can it get than realizing nothing in your life matters as much as your departed father, the one who unselfishly shaped your life. My dad died over 20 years ago, but I still can't hear "Everything I Own" without tearing up. Gates' lyrics are so simple, so brief, but say it all perfectly. I have no idea how he could go on stage and sing the song without breaking up. Amazing.

Scott, thanks for the note about "Everything I Own." I'm so sorry about your dad. And I completely understand the song still moving you after 20 years. Good question about how Gates can sing it without getting emotional. And it is such a simple lyric, but packs such a punch. What a song.

Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin gets me every time. Makes me think of my relationship with my dad.

Auld Lang Syne by Dougie MacLean.

The Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young.

Amazing Grace and Danny Boy reminds me of funerals.

Danny's Song - Loggins & Messina

Some songs just hit me at the right time and get me choked up. Fire and Rain, Simple Man, etc

Medicine Hat by Son Volt

All I ever wanted by basshunter

this song made me cry cause of rejection
it is actually a really good song

and another one is
smile by Charlie Chaplin
it has soooo much emotion in it
two rearlly great songs

Forever Young - Audra Mae

Hallelujah - Performed by Jeff Buckley

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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