(Sad Songs & Waltzes is a recurring feature on Muzzle of Bees, where artists share their favorite sad songs. Previous contributors include Megafaun, Delta Spirit, Damien Jurado, Conrad Plymouth, Frontier Ruckus, and Roadside Graves.)
By Ben Weaver:
One morning my son said to me, “Dad, when you are sleeping you can see your dreams.” Sad things make me happy, and happy things make me cry, and crying does not always mean I am sad. So what is a sad song? When I was working in the restaurant, every Wednesday these inner city kids would come in and sell us produce from their garden. They grew beautiful stuff and I always got choked up when they came in. Their interest in growing food instead of playing xbox overwhelmed me. I prefer the notion that things can be beautiful without being pretty, and I can’t understand how a beautiful thing could be made up of anything less than equal parts of good and bad, pretty and ugly, happy and sad. In trying to think of what songs make me cry I realized that it is not always a sad song that makes me cry as much as it is a true song. So hear is my list of sad-true songs that have the potential to make me scream from the bridge as I ride my bike over the river in the middle of the night.
Chris Bell – “I Am The Cosmos” (listen)
I remember listening to this song driving around the neighborhood when I was growing up. We had this tree that we would hang out under especially in the fall. Smoking cigarettes and being tragic. Something about the idea, particularly in the fall, of telling ourselves stories and watching them go up in smoke while singing the line, “Every night I tell myself, I am the Cosmos,” compounded the invincibility into to perfect melancholy.
Doris Duke – “I Don’t Care Anymore” (listen)
“I met a man who treated me like he bought me by the pound.” From what I know she has disappeared and I heard something about her being a maid in a Toronto hotel. This song is from a record called, I’m a Loser and is by far one of my most treasured finds. Personally I think she puts Aretha to shame.
The Replacements – “Sadly Beautiful” (listen)
Again this takes me back to high school. Growing up in Minneapolis. Feeling like an adult in a teenager’s body. Swearing to god you had it all figured out. That the answer was somewhere out there in the dark and even though no one else believed it, at least Paul Westerberg did.
Jeff Mitchell – “Let’s Leave Her Here” (listen)
This is one of my favorite songs. In my mind its brilliance lies in the fact that he could be singing about a million different things and every one of them would be what the song was about. Each line has an individual story. I miss Jeff.
Neil Young – “On The Beach” (listen)
“I need a crowd of people, but I can’t face them day to day.” No one could sum it up better.
Randy Newman – “I Miss You” (listen)
Halfway through this song, when the drums come in I always start to loose my shit. I know the production leaves a lot to be desired and it’s a bit of a cliché to write someone a love song 20 years too late, but still something gets me every time. Maybe it’s that you can always hear New Orleans in every dam note he plays.
Roscoe Holcomb – “The Hills of Mexico” (listen)
When I hear his voice and banjo I have to stop doing whatever I’m doing. I don’t know what it is exactly, some ultimate truth, every needle in every haystack, the high and the low. It’s all there in his playing and singing.
Townes Van Zandt – “Marie” (listen)
“I got to get Marie some kind of coat, were heading down into fall.” This time of year that line enters my brain on a daily basis. The song speaks for itself.
Blaze Foley – “Clay Pigeons” (listen)
“Smoking cigarettes in the last seat, try and hide my sorrow from the people I meet and get along with it all.” I put these two back to back because Townes once said that Marie was not inspired directly by Blaze but that he did put a lot of Blaze’s derelict nature into the song. I guess Blaze favored sleeping under pool tables to a bed.