The future of music

35 Best Sad Rock Songs of All Time (Saddest Rock Tracks)

November 3, 2023
sad rock songs

Feeling blue?

I’ve compiled the best sad rock songs to help you work through the heartache.

This poignant playlist features emotional classics and tearjerkers from rock legends.

These melancholic tunes capture feelings of loss, grief, and loneliness through powerful lyrics and melodies.

Table of Contents

Top picks of sad rock songs

  • “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
  • “Nutshell” by Alice In Chains
  • “My Immortal” by Evanescence
  • “Snuff” by Slipknot
  • “Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks
  • “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles
  • “In The Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
  • “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
  • “Rocky” by Austin Roberts
  • “Pictures Of You” by The Cure

1. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd 

Wish You Were Here” is arguably one of the saddest rock songs of all time.

It’s taken from the iconic Pink Floyd’s album of the same name, released in 1975.

The song is slow-paced and melancholic, and it has an iconic beginning so you can recognize it right away.

Plus, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll see what a thoughtful and melancholic this song actually is.

The song depicts an inability to deal with reality, but it also delves into feelings of fear, detachment, and longing. 

2. “Nutshell” by Alice In Chains 

In a way,“Nutshell” by Alice In Chains evokes similar feelings like “Wish You Were Here.”

However, these feelings are expressed through the somber instrumental rather than the lyrics.

Nevertheless, “Nutshell” is a very powerful and captivating song, and it deserves a spot among the top 10 sad rock songs.

It was released in 1994, and it remains one of the band’s most memorable tracks.

Don’t forget to pin this playlist for later!

A playlist of the 35 best sad rock songs of all time.

3. “My Immortal” by Evanescence 

If you’re searching for sad songs to cry to, this one’s for you. 

Without a doubt, “My Immortal” is one of the most depressing rock songs on this list.

That’s probably because of the combination of Amy Lee’s powerful vocals, sad piano-driven melody, and heart-wrenching lyrics.

The song tells a story of a spirit that haunts someone until they’re ready to let them go.

That being said, “My Immortal” is a song about grief and dealing with emotional pain. 

4. “Snuff” by Slipknot 

In 2008, Slipknot released one of their most painful rock songs.

Lyrically, it’s about how the protagonist’s soul is very dark, so they don’t let anyone get too close to them.

Some people categorize “Snuff” as an emo song, because it also has some verses that may refer to suicide and self-harm.

Nevertheless, the song is very powerful and impactful – there’s no doubt about it. 

5. “Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks 

“Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks is one of the best sad rock songs from the 70s.

Although the melody isn’t very melancholic or depressing, it has a very nostalgic tone to it.

And when you look at the lyrics, you realize how sad it actually is.

The song tells a story of a dying man who is saying goodbye to his loved ones.

Terry Jacks said he did a rework of the song because of his good friend who developed leukemia, and was given just six months to live.

6. “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles

“Eleanor Rigby” is probably the saddest Beatles song.

It has a gloomy atmosphere, but it’s also very captivating and somewhat mysterious.

And that makes it one of the most memorable Beatles classics.

It was written by Paul McCartney, and he said it was inspired by a real person.

He said it’s about ‘an old lady that he got on with very well.’

7. “In The Ghetto” by Elvis Presley 

“In The Ghetto” can sound hopeful or sad, depending on your current mood.

However, when you look at the lyrics, the song suddenly becomes very somber

The lyrics describe a child who turns to crime because he was born in poverty.

“In The Ghetto” was released in 1969 as a part of Presley’s comeback album, and it remains one of his most sentimental songs.

8. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

With sentimental melodies and heartfelt lyrics, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” is one of the songs that make you cry.

The song was written by Stevie Nicks for the band’s self-titled album, released in 1975.

Lyrically, it’s about changes and challenges we all face in life.

But the song is also very personal – Stevie Nicks said it’s also about Fleetwood Mac’s guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham and their romance and career struggles. 

9. “Rocky” by Austin Roberts

“Rocky” by Austin Roberts is a rather upbeat song.

But upbeat melodies paired with sad lyrics can make the saddest song that will make you cry.

We hope Austin Roberts’ 1975 track won’t make you cry, but it will certainly remind you to cherish everything you have.

It’s a song about love and loss, telling a story of a man and woman who fall in love, but the woman dies in the end.

10. “Pictures Of You” by The Cure 

When thinking about sad rock songs, The Cure immediately comes to mind.

Although it’s hard to pick their saddest song, “Pictures Of You” is definitely high on the list. 

They have more depressing melodies though, but there’s something very nostalgic in this melody.

The lyrics are also very melancholic, expressing the feelings of sadness and longing. 

11. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day

Without a doubt, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is one of the best sad alternative rock songs of all time.

The song starts as a gentle ballad, and transforms into an intense rock tune that will put you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

It was written by Billie Joe Armstrong, about the death of his father when he was 10.

The song became symbolic in the USA after hurricane Katrina, and it’s also often associated with the 9/11 attacks.

12. “How To Disappear Completely” by Radiohead

When it comes to sad alt rock songs, Radiohead has plenty to offer.

And many fans agree that “How To Disappear Completely” is their saddest song to date.

Characterized by a somber atmosphere and Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals, the song is undeniably impactful.

It’s taken from Radiohead’s iconic album Kid A in 2000. 

13. “Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton 

And “Tears In Heaven” is widely regarded as one of the saddest classic rock songs.

Released in 1992, “Tears In Heaven” became a chart-topping hit and Eric Clapton’s signature song.

The song is actually a heartbreaking tribute to his son, Conor, who tragically died when he was only 4 years old.

That being said, this is probably the most touching song on this list. 

14. “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica

“Nothing Else Matters” is one of Metallica’s most popular songs.

And it’s a masterpiece, characterized by powerful, atmospheric melodies and sentimental lyrics.

It was released on the band’s self-titled album in 1991, and has been one of the most beloved songs in the rock/metal genre ever since. 

The song can be interpreted in many ways, but for the most part, the lyrics express the idea of opening yourself up to someone and expressing your feelings.

15. “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses 

When talking about sad songs by bands that became an important part of music history, we can’t skip “November Rain.” 

Written by Axl Rose, “November Rain” is the band’s signature song, and one of the most prominent 90s rock songs in general.

Although Guns N’ Roses are known for energetic hard rock music, “November Rain” is more tender and downtempo – but it’s no less powerful and memorable. 

Lyrically, it’s about unrequited love, pain, and fear. 

16. “Hello” by Evanescence

Another Evanescence song that is often described as one of the saddest songs ever is “Hello.”

It’s about singer Amy Lee’s sister who passed away in 1987 of an unknown illness.

So the song is very personal and heartbreaking. 

However, in one of the interviews, Amy Lee said that her sister’s death reminded her how short life can be and inspired her to become an artist and achieve her goals.

17. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt 

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” perhaps isn’t a typical rock song, but it’s arguably one of the saddest love songs ever written.

The song tells a story of two people in a relationship but one of them is aware that the love is not reciprocated.

So in essence, it’s about an acknowledgment that you can’t control other people’s feelings, and Bonnie Raitt portrayed it beautifully.

Bon Iver also made a beautiful cover of the song. 

18. “Shallow” by Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper 

“Shallow” is also one of the popular sad love songs.

It’s the lead single from the soundtrack to the 2018 film A Star Is Born.

The song is emotional and powerful, emphasizing the importance of communication in a relationship.

And it wouldn’t be the same without Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – their voices and energies fit together perfectly. 

Their live performance on the Oscars also received a lot of praise. 

19. “It Can’t Rain All The Time” by Jane Siberry 

“It Can’t Rain All The Time” is featured in the 1994 movie The Crow

It’s a tender, melancholic song about faith and love. 

It conveys the message that no feeling is final – even the hard days will eventually end, because it can’t rain all the time. 

So if you’re feeling down, this song will encourage you to be patient and hold on. 

20. “Love Hurts” by Nazareth 

“Love Hurts” is an ultimate power ballad.

It talks about love and pain, and Nazareth’s 1974 rendition is powerful and touching.

The song was originally written by the American songwriter Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1960.

Besides Nazareth, many musicians did a cover version of “Love Hurts”, including Roy Orbison, Cher, and Joan Jett. 

21. “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi 

“Someone You Loved” is a piano-driven ballad, but Lewis Capaldi’s powerful voice could fit any rock song.

Also, “Someone You Loved” is probably one of the most popular sad songs of 2019.

And what makes this song stand out is the story behind it.

It’s not a song about past relationships as you might think at first – “Someone You Loved” is about the singer losing his grandmother. 

22. “The Drugs Don’t Work” by The Verve 

The Verve’s lead singer Richard Aschroft also has his share of sad rock songs.

He wrote “The Drugs Don’t Work” for The Verve’s 1997 album Urban Hymns.

The song is quite sad, both musically and lyrically. 

Ashcroft said he wrote it at the time when he felt like he wanted to escape his life, even for a moment.

23. “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye ft. Kimbra 

“Somebody That I Used To Know” is one of the saddest indie songs. 

Released in 2011, the song conveys raw emotions in a very unique way – it’s not too dramatic, yet it feels deeply sentimental.

It talks about the complexity of emotions you feel after breaking up with someone.

Gotye was allegedly inspired to write it after not going through a clean break up.

24. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash 

The song’s title that often comes about in conversation about the best sad songs of all time is “Hurt.” 

The song is deeply moving, and the fact that it was one of the legend’s final hits makes it even more sentimental. 

“Hurt” is one of Johnny Cash’s signature songs, but it was originally written and recorded by Nine Inch Nails.

Cash turned it into a completely different song, and made it one of the greatest cover songs of all time.

25. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin 

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is without a doubt one of the most memorable sad classic rock songs.

In essence, it’s a blues-rock song about sadness, love, and devotion.

Once again, Led Zeppelin managed to write a song that is at the same time powerful and sensual. 

They released it as a part of their third studio album Led Zeppelin III

26. “Black” by Pearl Jam 

“Black” is one of Pearl Jam’s greatest hits. 

It’s taken from the band’s iconic rock album Ten.

And what makes this song so emotionally intense is its powerful build-up, Eddie Vedder’s incredible vocals, and heartbreaking lyrics.

I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky, but why

Why, why can’t it be, oh can’t it be mine?

27. “Like a Stone” by Audioslave

If you’re looking for good songs to cry to, “Like A Stone” will most likely put you on an emotional roller coaster ride.

It’s energetic but very emotional and somber.

And Chris Cornell’s unforgettable voice makes everything more impactful.

The song is taken from Audioslave’s self-titled debut album, and it’s the band’s most successful song.

28. “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground

And if you prefer calm sad songs, you should add “Pale Blue Eyes” to your melancholy playlist.

After all, the song is composed by one of the most influential bands of all time.

Velvet Underground’s impact on the rock music scene is undeniable, and Lou Reed will always be remembered as one of the best songwriters of all time

And regarding “Pale Blue Eyes”, the song’s charm lies in its simplicity and honesty. 

29. “Drive Home” by Steven Wilson 

In his 2013 track “Drive Home”, Steven Wilson is singing about tragic events regarding a car accident.

He released it as a part of this album The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), consisting of songs based on stories of a supernatural.

Wilson created it with the help of Alan Parsons, who was previously a part of the team who created Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

30. “I Know It’s Over” by The Smiths 

Although they had their share of upbeat tunes, The Smiths are known for their songs about death, rejection, and sadness.

“I Know It’s Over” is a great example – it’s ultimately a song about loneliness and despair.

It was released in 1986 on their album The Queen Is Dead

And I know it’s over – still I cling

I don’t know where else I can go

Over and over and over and over…

31. “I’m Here Without You” by 3 Doors Down

In the early 2000s, “I’m Here Without You” was probably on every heartbreak playlist.

After its release, the song became the band’s biggest hits, climbing the charts around the world. 

Lyrically, “I’m Here Without You” is about loneliness and missing somebody – and you can feel that in the melody too.

The 3 Doors Down lead singer Ben Arnold said that the main inspiration for the song was his now-ex wife.

32. “Heartattack In A Lay By” by Porcupine Tree 

Porcupine Tree was formed by Steven Wilson in 1987, and became one of the most influential bands in the rock genre. 

Their music is mostly based on rock and progressive rock, although they also combine experimental elements.

Nevertheless, Porcupine Tree can help you process your thoughts and tough emotions, and “Heartattack In A Lay By” is a great example. 

This song will take you somewhere else – so turn the volume up, and let the music take you away. 

33. “About Today” by The National 

The National is another band that can help you get through tough times.

The majority of their songs are full of melancholy, but they’re also very sentimental and poetic.

“About Today” is hands down one of their most emotional songs – it’s tender, nostalgic, and captivating.

It was featured in the 2011 movie Warrior

34. “Lazarus” by David Bowie 

David Bowie’s final album Blackstar is a masterpiece – and it features several somber, melancholic songs. 

In “Lazarus”, he basically portrays and gets ready for his own death. 

It’s the so-called swan songs – according to ancient beliefs, swans perform a beautiful song just before their death.

So it’s fair to say that “Lazarus” is one of the saddest songs ever written.

It’s a self-epitaph that only a genius like David Bowie can come up with. 

35. “King’s Crossing” by Elliott Smith 

“King’s Crossing” is a heart-wrenching song released on Elliott Smith’s album From a Basement on a Hill.

In a way, the song is a cry for help, and that’s what makes it so heartbreaking.

However, listening to powerful songs like this one can make you feel better – sometimes you just need to cry your eyes out to make the sadness go away.

At the end of the day, no feeling is final, and if you’re feeling down, this too shall pass. 

Sad Rock Songs – Final Thoughts

Whether you’re going through some tough times or you simply enjoy listening to sad music, we hope you’ve found what you were looking for.

Our list is quite versatile, but there are so many more sad rock songs worth mentioning.

On the other hand, all of the songs we mentioned today are either popular or impactful in some way.

More importantly, we hope these songs provided you with the comfort you needed! 

Similar Articles:

Best Punk Songs

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

view profile

best 90s rappers
Previous Story

50 Best 90s Rappers (1990s Hip Hop Artists)

best emo songs
Next Story

55 Best Emo Songs of All Time (Classic Emo Anthems)

Latest from Entertainment & Playlists