The 70s are definitely known for music. I’m a big fan of songs from that era, in fact. There’s nothing better than settling in and listening to old songs that my parents grew up with and possibly conceived me to.
However, after listening to my archives, I noticed a consistent theme in 70s music: it’s really depressing. Not “oh, that’s sad” depressing. But “oh my god life is horrible my heart is shattering” depressing. And this list had to be narrowed down a bit, so figure that one out yourself.
In order to lessen my depression by sharing these songs with everyone else, I give you the Top 12 Most Depressing Songs of the 1970s. (Just a forewarning, listening to all of these songs in succession may be a bit wearing. Have some ice cream handy.)
12. All By Myself – Eric Carmen (1975)
We all know this one. Either the version sung here or the grating cover version by Celine Dion. (I bet some of you out there reading didn’t even know that was a cover, but I digress.) It’s a common form of depression. Loneliness is all it’s cracked up to be. This is pretty melodramatic, but it still rings true to a lot of us, so it’s a good fit for my number twelve spot.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Any death in a Disney movie.
11. Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain – Willie Nelson (1975)
This song gets me teary-eyed (if you’ll pardon the pun) but not for the reason you might be thinking. Sure, it’s a sad song, of course it is. But there’s something else I think of when I hear it that makes me cry even worse. Anybody who’s seen this show knows what I’m talking about.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Any "A Very Special Episode".
(Sadly, I don't have the exact clip of the scene I'm talking about, so here's a similar one.)
10. Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) – Looking Glass (1972)
This is a song about a girl who is a bartending waitress for a bunch of sailors, and everyone says she’s wonderful and they’d love to marry her but the sea is much more important, including the one she’s set her heart on. This is pretty much a big catchy ballad of the “nice girl” excuse, which we’ve all heard before. Maybe he’s just not that into you.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Depressing chick flick.
9. I’d Really Love to See You Tonight – England Dan and John Ford Coley (1976)
This is a song about two exes who meet up and decide to spend some time together. Which depending on what romantic comedy you’re in, either never goes well or at least gives you some very wacky hijinks. This one stands out because the guy is clearly trying to use any excuse to get the girl to spend time with him. “We could go for a walk, or a drive, or hey, if you just wanna watch television, which I can do alone anyways, that’s cool!” The desperation makes it cheesier, but that much more depressing, since you feel for the guy.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Anything sung at Lollapalooza in the 90s.
8. Fire and Rain – James Taylor (1970)
James Taylor is the king of depressing, bittersweet folk rock music. This song was written after James Taylor had spend some time in a mental institution and befriended a woman named Suzanne. After leaving the institution he found out the woman committed suicide, and wrote this song in her memory. (There’s an urban legend that he wrote it about his girlfriend who died in a plane crash, but that’s not the case.) This song holds some personal significance for me after losing a friend to suicide, so it never fails to make me stop and think.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Any movie where the dog dies. (Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Marley and Me, etc.)
7. Where are the Clowns? – Judy Collins (1975)
This song plays like a eulogy. It’s pretty much about some washed up old performer who nobody’s going to see anymore, and remembering and regretting a love that might have been. That combination certainly doesn’t do your tear ducts any favors.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Finding out you missed a guy you’ve been dying to see live when he came to town for a concert.
6. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight – James Taylor (1973)
Again, James Taylor is still the king of this. Anybody who’s ever had a friend with benefits solely for the purpose of having human contact knows how this feels. Not wanting them to stay but not wanting them to go either, it’s loneliness to the nth degree.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: M*A*S*H Series Finale.
5. On and On – Stephen Bishop (1977)
This song never fails to make me at least tear up. Just the way he sings it makes a difference in it, he’s pretty much singing that all these people are heartbroken and hiding it and it’s not something that should really be cared about. He sings it like it’s just a matter of course. I don’t know why that makes it sadder, but it does.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Dying scene in Charlotte’s Web.
4. Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels) – Jim Croce (1972)
If James Taylor is the kind of depressing, bittersweet music, Jim Croce is at least the duke. He’s very underrated, and didn’t gain any sort of musical popularity until after he died. But a lot of his songs and especially his lyrics are poetic and meaningful, and this one definitely stands out. About a man who’s trying to get in touch with a woman who ran away with his best friend, but eventually decides he doesn’t really want to talk.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Littlefoot’s Mom dying in The Land Before Time.
3. Vincent – Don McLean (1971)
Anybody who thinks of Don McLean as just “the guy who sings American Pie” needs to go out and find the rest of his music right now. He’s yet another underrated singer who comes up with poetic, meaningful lyrics without fail. That was eventually his downfall, as so many people came to his concerts just to hear American Pie, then left as soon as the song was over, he stopped playing the song at shows altogether, effectively killing his career. (Fun Fact: the song “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack was written about him.)
This song was naturally written about Vincent Van Gogh, and it’s very haunting and beautiful. This song gets to me even more than Fire and Rain does, again, due to personal significance.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Bambi’s Mom dying.
2. Rainy Days and Mondays/Goodbye To Love – The Carpenters (1971)
I know this looks like cheating, but this is technically a medley. The songs tie into each other. But to be fair, any Carpenters song could’ve gone on this list. They have so many depressing, heartbreaking, haunting melodies it was hard to narrow it down. But I picked this one because it’s the one where she pretty much flat out tells you “I’m giving up.”
Karen Carpenter has one of those voices you never forget, which makes her tragic young death from anorexia nervosa even more tragic. Nobody can make you tear through a box of tissues like she can.
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Sarah McLachlan Animal Abuse Commercial.
1. Alone Again (Naturally) – Gilbert O’Sullivan (1972)
No, seriously…holy crap.
Dude. Did you TRY to make this as soul-crushing as possible??
It was very easy to determine what the number one would be on this list. Seriously, this song makes you feel like you’re getting punched in the gut with how sad it is. I mean….DAMN.
Where’s my homemade Prozac?!
DEPRESSION LEVEL: Jim Henson's Funeral.