As I have previously mentioned, even as a young child I had an affinity for dark and depressing music. I find sad themes to be strangely uplifting in the hands of a skilled composer, as though the misery of others somehow makes my own troubles seem less serious, or that the expression of the powerful emotions associated with trauma and loss touches me in a way that other genres cannot.
Color me then melancholic.
Anyways, here is a short list of some of my favorite songs of death, in no particular order. Surely no life event is as disruptive and profound as the death of a loved one, and listed below are some songs that I think capture the pain, loneliness, and desolation associated with an unexpected death.
Feel free to chime in with your own pop dirges!
"Seasons in the Sun," Terry Jacks - Yeah, I know - this song has become something of a cliché for sappy sentimentality, but I have always loved this song, and the protagonist-as-foreteller-of-impending-death still works.
"Last Kiss," J. Frank Wilson - Later covered by Pearl Jam, the original sounds like it was recorded in a graveyard under a full moon, and set the standard for all future teen death sonic dramas. The octave-higher female backup singers also added an ethereal touch that still gives me shivers.
"Tears In Heaven," Eric Clapton - This song - written by Clapton after the tragic death of his 3-year-old son Connor - is like a punch to the gut, given its origin. You have to wonder how Clapton could even choke out the lyrics the first few times he tried to sing it, though the hopeful longing of reunion keeps this song from spiralling into abject misery.
"Ohio," Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - One of the angriest political songs in history, "Ohio" succinctly captured the collective outrage over the killings of unarmed protesters by National Guard troops at Kent State.
"Eleanor Rigby," The Beatles - Whether you view this as biting social commentary, or just a sad song about a lonely woman, "Eleanor Rigby" still digs at your soul, doesn't it? The innovative use of a double string quartet added a jarring, driving sound that sounded almost alien on the pop stations that played it in 1966.
"Alone Again (Naturally)," Gilbert O'Sullivan - In the span of 3:41, O'Sullivan sings of being jilted at the altar, the death of his parents, and of his own desire to throw himself from a tower. Yet this is a wry, somewhat understated, and highly literate examination of a bleak life that still resonates with me some 35 years after its release.
And your favorite death ditty is....