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Sometimes, a song can give us goose bumps, but then it can go one step further! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 songs that will make you cry.
For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on their success on the charts, their individual context, and their resonance with the listener. They can be happy or sad songs, as long as they’re tearjerkers.
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#10: “Wild Horses” (1971) The Rolling Stones
Exactly who our first entry was written for remains a mystery. Marianne Faithful’s the most likely, though it has also been linked to Bianca Jagger, and Keith Richards’ son, Marlon. What is clear is that with one quite simple hook, the Stones produced an ageless piece of music that has stood hairs on end for generations. Mick’s distinctive voice finds a perfect match, as this brooding, crooning, subdued song leaves the listener as lonely as the frontman.
#9: “The Sound of Silence” (1965) Simon & Garfunkel
The opening lines to our next track are amongst the most recognizable in all of modern music. Written shortly after the JFK assassination, this song also became an accompaniment to the Vietnam War. It welcomes darkness, and is perhaps most effective when it’s played within it. The combination of vocals and the high tones are as haunting today as they were half a century ago. It’s “our old friend,” and it tingles from start to finish!
#8: “Wish You Were Here” (1975) Pink Floyd
The title track to their 1975 album, “Wish You Were Here” was written for Pink Floyd founder member Syd Barrett in response to his alleged battle with schizophrenia. The whole album explores the theme of detachment, and David Gilmour’s vocals retain a curiously absent quality as he pines for his friend. The whole track comes across as an effortless piece of music —a train of thought that’s sad, and overwhelmingly simple.
#7: “One Sweet Day” (1995) Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men
One of the most commercially successful tracks to make our list, this collaboration reigned supreme on the U.S. Billboard charts for a colossal 16 weeks. Written and recorded in a matter of days, pop diva Mariah Carey meets R&B quartet Boyz II Men, and together they produce this tearful tune. Reminding us all of the impermanence of life, it’s an exercise in saying the things we wish we’d said, and in giving thanks for the lives that we have.
#6: “The Living Years” (1988) Mike + The Mechanics
A continuation of Mariah’s theme, this 80s ballad once again picks apart the question of life and death, and summarizes the conundrum in 6 short words: “It’s too late when we die.” Specifically about the bond between a boy and his father, the idea is applicable to just about any relationship that we could have—that’s why it gets us singing along—even if it is difficult to do that and not shed a tear!
#5: “Candle in the Wind” (1974) Elton John
Originally penned in memory of Marilyn Monroe, “Candle in the Wind” is also famously linked to Diana, Princess of Wales, after Elton played it at her funeral. Though the lives of its subjects have been tragically short-lived, the song itself has endured for generations—and rightly so! It’s emotional enough without context, but it’s a fitting tribute to two iconic women, and to celebrities in general, that die too young—an elegy of the highest order!
#4: “Hallelujah” (2007) Jeff Buckley
This song was powerful when Leonard Cohen sang it originally… but when Jeff Buckley caressed his vocals around the lyrics, hairs stood on end and lumps formed in throats. It’s love that’s gone stale—so it’s relatable for many of us. There’s also anguish in his voice that is impossible to fake—he isn’t just singing the words, he understands them. A talent that was lost too soon, this song is his legacy.
#3: “Everybody Hurts” (1993) R.E.M.
We defy anyone not to be moved by our first podium entry! “Everybody Hurts” has become a staple soundtrack to modern day life. Adopted by the Samaritans charity, it was originally written by the band for anyone that contemplates suicide. This song not only prompts tears, it saves lives! According to the lyrics, “we all cry,” and most of us do when we sing them! “Everybody hurts,” and after this song, everybody’s reaching for the tissues!
#2: “Hurt” (2003) Johnny Cash
Originally penned by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt” was taken on by the legendary Johnny Cash several years later. It brings the memories of his past under the cold, harsh spotlight of his present. Cash was very frail when recording the song, and he died seven months after its release. Relaying the unstoppable passing of time, its accompanying video is a memorial to one man, but something that we’ll all experience. It’s about as powerful as music can be.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “So Far Away” Avenged Sevenfold (2011)
- “Mockingbird” Eminem (2005)
- “I Will Remember You” Sarah McLachlan (1995)
- “Snuff” Slipknot (2009)
- “Yesterday” The Beatles (1965)
- “Dust in the Wind” Kansas (1977)
#1: “Tears in Heaven” (1992) Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton has taken the top spot of this deeply emotional list with an incredibly moving piece of music, inspired by great personal tragedy. When his 4-year-old son passed away, we’d have understood if Clapton never picked up a guitar again. But he did, and was able to produce a record that’s as terrific as it is teary! Reminding us all of anyone who has passed, “Tears in Heaven” verbalizes what everybody else would like to say. It’s a tear-jerking tune that gets us every time!
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favourite song to cry over? For more tear-jerking Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.