Country music can be happy, but it can also be melancholic—or even heartbreaking. If you’re looking for sad country songs when you need a good cry, these top 45 songs will pull at your heartstrings:
1. He Stopped Loving Her Today — George Jones
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” tells the story of an elderly man who pines for his lost lover. At the beginning of the song, he promises to love her until he dies, and she responds that he’ll soon forget her. It’s not clear whether their relationship ended or if she passed away, but the implication is that he held true to his word as he succumbed to dementia, and eventually, death.
2. I Fall to Pieces — Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline’s song “I Fall To Pieces” may have been released back in 1961, but the lyrics are still relatable today. The tune is a lament for unrequited love. The singer asks, “How can I be just your friend?” and describes how the person she loves keeps telling her to find someone else. But whenever she tries, she sees him again and the cycle starts anew.
3. Don’t Take The Girl — Tim McGraw
“Don’t Take The Girl” follows a couple from childhood all the way up to the birth of their first child. During their time together, the boy first doesn’t want her around. As their teenage romance blooms, he saves her from a mugging. The song ends with his prayer for her to be spared as she dies in childbirth just a few years later.
4. The Secret — David Nail
“The Secret” tells the story of losing a loved one who took a secret to the grave, literally. It isn’t clear who the woman was, but we know that she had a child with someone who was not her husband. It’s implied that the singer is the father, but that she decided to go back to her husband and pretend the baby was his. Now, he is left to grieve her and carry the burden of their secret all alone.
5. Believe — Brooks & Dunn
“Believe” is the story of Old Man Wrigley, an elderly neighbor. He lost both his wife and son and now lives all along. When asked how he manages to go on, he simply says that he knows he’ll die and see them soon. The song goes on to describe how the singer is told in passing of Old Man Wrigley’s death, and how they are the only ones to grieve for him.
6. Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) — Alan Jackson
“Where Were You” is a lament for the victims of September 11, 2001. Everyone who was old enough during that fateful day remembers exactly what they were doing. Alan Jackson describes the shock and grief of the whole nation, whether they were in New York or somewhere far away.
7. When I Call Your Name — Vince Gill
Vince Gill’s mournful song from 1989 is about a man who rushes home to his wife only to find that she has left him without saying goodbye. She left only a note saying that she had been lying about loving him. Meanwhile, he spent his entire day thinking about her and looking forward to seeing her again. The song is enough to bring tears to anyone’s eyes.
8. I Don’t Call Him Daddy — Doug Supernaw
“I Don’t Call Him Daddy” is written from the perspective of a father talking to his young son. He asks how things are at his mother’s house and inquires about her new boyfriend. His son says the new man in his life is nice but assures him that he will never replace his father.
9. Where do I Put Her Memory — Charley Pride
“Where Do I Put Her Memory” is a song about a man grieving his late wife. He cleans away all her things, puts her clothes in boxes, and takes down pictures of her. He has even picked up the hairpins that she dropped on the floor. But there is one thing he can’t tidy away—the memory of their time together. Instead, he says that it will follow him forever.
10. Life Turned Her That Way — Ricky Van Shelton
This old country song from 1987 is an ode to a woman who seems cruel and hard. The singer cautions that, instead of judging her, we should consider what happened to make her like that. She is unkind because her life has been full of suffering, and she has learned that kindness will only get her hurt. It’s a poignant reminder not to judge people who seem unfriendly because we never know what they’ve been through.
11. Whiskey Lullaby — Brad Paisley Featuring Alison Krauss
This haunting song tells the story of two lovers whose relationship falls apart. Both heartbroken, they each succumb to alcoholism and slowly drink themselves to death, trying to numb their pain. Their friends and families lay them to rest together beneath a willow tree while the angels sing them to sleep with a lullaby.
12. If We Make It Through December — Merle Haggard
“If We Make It Through December” follows a family suffering from poverty. They plan to move to California when spring comes, hoping that life will be kinder there. But their plans hinge on surviving the winter, which they know will bring no Christmas presents for their children—and might be too cold to bear.
13. Hurt — Johnny Cash
Despite the fact that it wasn’t his song, Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” was one of the most famous songs of his later career. It describes struggling through depression and drug addiction, as well as using self-harm to escape the numbness of life. The song was relevant to Cash’s own life, as he struggled with addiction for many years.
14. Rosewood Casket — Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris
“Rosewood Casket” is a cover by three queens of modern country, but the song is a reinterpretation of an old folk song. The haunting rendition describes a lost lover. It’s not entirely clear what happened, but his departure—either through infidelity or death—has turned the singer’s attention to her own death. She describes being buried with his ring on her finger.
15. Heaven’s Only Days Down The Road — Shelby Lynne
“Heaven’s Only Days Down The Road” is a heartbreaking song drawn from singer Shelby Lynne’s actual life. It tells the story of her father, who was an abusive alcoholic. Her mother tried to flee with Lynne and her sister, but her father found them before they could escape. The sisters witnessed him kill their mother and then himself, leaving them orphaned.
16. Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain — Willie Nelson
“Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” is a simple song, but its beautiful melody—along with Willie Nelson’s mournful performance—makes it a real tearjerker. It is dedicated to a former lover, remembering how they both cried as they said goodbye. They know that they won’t see one another again in this life, but look forward to walking together in heaven.
17. Travelin’ Soldier — The Chicks
The Chicks’ song “Travelin’ Soldier” might have been about the Vietnam War, but its release in 2002 made it highly relevant to modern audiences. It follows the story of a soldier and his girlfriend as they meet, fall in love, and exchange letters during his deployment. Sadly, he doesn’t make it back.
18. Hello Walls — Faron Young
“Hello Walls” is a lonely song about trying to move on after being abandoned by a lover. Left alone and grieving, the singer can only talk to the walls. Even these seem like symbols of his sadness, being blank and unresponsive. He even says that the rain on the windowpane reminds him of his own tears.
19. That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine — Gene Autry
Watching our parents age can be one of the hardest things we ever experience. “That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine” is about watching a father become older and more feeble and wishing to make him young once again. By the end of the song, it becomes clear that death is coming soon to reunite the father with his late wife.
20. Monday Morning Church — Alan Jackson
“Monday Morning Church” draws a comparison between grieving a loved one and being in an empty church on a weekday. Sometimes, sorrow just feels like emptiness. Left without the person we love, we feel empty and lost, without knowing what the next step is, but knowing it will be difficult.
21. The Long Black Veil — Lefty Frizzell
“The Long Black Veil” is a classic country song that has been covered many times, including by Johnny Cash. It tells the story of a man who is accused of murder. Even though he is innocent, his only alibi is his mistress, who happens to be his best friend’s wife. To protect her, he says nothing and is executed as a murderer.
22. Sing Me Back Home — Merle Haggard
“Sing Me Back Home” follows a prisoner who is approaching his own death by execution. As he heads to his end, he asks to be sung a gospel song that his mother sang to him when he was a child. With this, he will be sung back home to her. The somber tune is a beautiful example of classic country music storytelling.
23. Old Shep — Red Foley
Lost lovers and dying family members are sad enough, but nothing gets the tears flowing like the thought of losing a beloved pet. “Old Shep” tells the story of a faithful dog who is growing old. The owner knows that he has to put him down, but he can’t bear to do it. Instead, Shep simply lays his head on his lap and dies beside him in the woods.
24. Seven Spanish Angels — Willie Nelson And Ray Charles
Willie Nelson and Ray Charles perfectly combined blues and country in this early 80s song. The song tells the story of a woman who chooses to die with her lover after he is killed. As they say goodbye, she points an empty gun at the approaching soldiers, knowing that they will kill her without hesitation.
25. Concrete Angel — Martina McBride
“Concrete Angel” is about a young girl named Angela who is enduring physical abuse from her mother. Though the other adults in her life wonder if they should act on it, they do nothing. This leads to Angela’s mother killing her. The song ends with a description of heaven, where Angela is “loved more than she was on earth.”
26. She Thinks His Name Was John — Reba McEntire
“She Thinks His Name Was John” tells the story of a woman who had a one-night stand with a blue-eyed stranger and contracted AIDS as a result. Now when she thinks back on him and how meeting him ruined her life, she can’t even be sure of his name. But she does know that the disease has stolen her chance of getting married and having a family.
27. Waiting Around to Die — Townes Van Zandt
This 1968 song is a mournful tribute to a life wasted. The singer says that he is simply drifting through life gambling and drinking. He has been hurt by too many people to ever trust one again. Instead, he says his only friend is codeine. Together, they continue drifting aimlessly, just waiting around to die.
28. Sunday Morning Coming Down — Johnny Cash
“Sunday Morning Coming Down” is a cover of a 1970 song by Kris Kristofferson, but Johnny Cash’s version is by far more widely known. It is written from the point of view of an alcoholic who feels lonely and isolated from everyone. Even the sound of church bells ringing makes him feel worse, knowing that he should be in church with his family.
29. The Grand Tour — George Jones
“The Grand Tour” is a song about showing a guest around a house that belongs to a woman who recently died. Each part of the house holds a memory for her loved ones, making it more meaningful than just a room. It’s a beautiful tribute to the small moments in a good life.
30. Dawn From Dover — Dolly Parton
“Dawn From Dover” tells the story of a teenager who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Rejected by her family and her lover, she moves out on her own and delivers the baby without help. However, her child is stillborn, and her final hope of having a family is snuffed out.
31. Bring My Flowers Now — Tanya Tucker
“Bring My Flowers Now” is a modern country song about showing people love while they are still alive. The singer seems to know that she will die soon, but she begs her loved ones to cherish her while she’s still here. She says that their love will mean more to her now than it will at her funeral.
32. Go Rest High on That Mountain — Vince Gill
“Go Rest High On That Mountain” is a goodbye song for a loved one who is dying. Despite the sadness, it is also a hopeful song. The dying person had a good life, and now, it is time for them to go to their reward. Sometimes, everyone knows that it is time for their loved one to go—but that still doesn’t make it easy.
33. Skin (Sarabeth) — Rascal Flatts
This Rascal Flatts song tells the story of Sarabeth, a teen fighting cancer. Of all the things in her life, the thing she fears the most is going to the prom without hair. But then her date shows up with a shaved head, showing her that she isn’t alone.
34. Mercy Now — Mary Gauthier
“Mercy Now” is a tribute to loving broken people. We see them hurting themselves and the people around them and can only watch helplessly, hoping that they make the choice to change.
35. If Something Should Happen — Darryl Worley
Health issues are one of the most frightening things we face as we age. “If Something Should Happen” is written from the perspective of a man about to undergo a life-saving operation. He tells his childhood friend goodbye and begs them to look after his family if the surgery isn’t successful.
36. Feed Jake — Pirates of The Mississippi
“Feed Jake” tells the story of a man moving away to pursue his music career. He is forced to leave his beloved dog behind and worries that he might not make it back alive. As he says goodbye to his lover, he begs her to take care of Jake.
37. Chiseled in Stone — Vern Gosdin
“Chiseled In Stone” is a poignant reminder to be grateful for the people you have in your life. After a fight with his partner, a son goes to his father for advice. The father reminds him of how difficult it is to lose someone you love.
38. Sweet Old World — Lucinda Williams
“Sweet Old World” is a message to a person who has passed away, reflecting on all the things they affected during their life. Those things were changed by their death, even if they were small things. The song is a poignant reminder of the small footprint we leave behind.
39. Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way — LeAnn Rimes
In “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way,” LeAnn Rimes reflects on the bittersweet side of loss. When people leave our lives, we grieve them, but we also know that they changed our lives. We wouldn’t be who we are without them.
40. I Drive Your Truck — Lee Brice
“I Drive Your Truck” follows a man coping with the loss of his brother by driving his truck around town. He can’t bear to clean it out, leaving behind the small reminders of his brother’s presence. He can’t grieve at his grave, so he does it as he drives.
41. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry — Hank Williams
Elvis Presley famously called this song the saddest he had ever heard. Recorded in 1949, the song perfectly expresses the feeling of deep loneliness. The lyrics compare the feeling of the moon disappearing behind the clouds or hearing a melancholy train whistle through the dark. Though it has been many decades since it was recorded, we can all still relate to the feeling.
42. I Will Forever Hate Roses — Dolly Parton
“I Will Forever Hate Roses” looks back on a relationship and how the singer’s ex-lover used to send her bouquets to express his love. But then he sent one as a way of saying goodbye. Now, she says, she can never enjoy roses again.
43. I’m Not Gonna Miss You — Glen Campbell
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” might sound like a heartless title. But it is actually written from the point of view of a man who is slowly succumbing to dementia. He tells his wife goodbye, knowing that he will no longer remember her before long. But the one thing he has is that if he can’t remember her, he can’t miss her.
44. Holes in The Floor of Heaven — Steve Wariner
This song describes how we imagine our loved ones watching over us after they are gone. It follows a boy whose mother comforts him after his grandmother dies by telling him the rain is her tears. Later, on his daughter’s wedding day, he sees the rain as a sign that his late wife is watching over them as well.
45. Teddy Bear — Red Sovine
Red Sovine’s song is so sad, it might be overkill. But call it indulgent misery or not, it’s still a great song. It tells the story of a truck driver who is surprised to hear the voice of a little boy on his radio. The boy explains to him that he is disabled and his father, who also drove a truck, was dead.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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