According to a new survey, a randomly queried set of Britons have identifed as the Saddest Song Ever REM's dirgelike "Everybody Hurts." I'm not convinced. The others named are really no better, taking in songs from the mawkish ("Candle in the Wind," for God's sake) to the bombastic ("My Way" - !) to the simply mystifying (are there really people who burst into tears when hearing "Seasons in the Sun"?). A few genuinely are misery-inducing ("Eleanor Rigby," for one, not to mention "Leavin' on a Jet Plane," which can still get me when the mood is just right), but on the whole, I think it's at best a highly incomplete sampling.
For example, not a single song by Janis Ian appears on the list, and that seems to me an egregious oversight. Making up for that, here we have a live rendition of her "Tea and Sympathy" (from an Israeli TV show a few decades ago, a number likely too lugubrious, I fear, for the definitely un-depressing Redundant Variety Hour...). Listening, keep in mind that this is probably not even one of Janis's top-ten tearfests - this is the woman, after all, who came up with "At Seventeen," "In the Winter," and "Breaking Silence," just to grab three titles from her woebegone catalogue.
Long ago and far away, I worked a Janis Ian show, and even then it was a surprise that she was actually a funny, feisty, and fairly completely non-lachrymose personage. More recent videos show that, even though she remains a master of sorrow (not to mention having become rather startlingly lesbo-matronly), this is still the case, which is somehow very nice to know - I would have to think that five decades of making people cry would get to you, somehow.
And to think we haven't even started on the hardcore stuff - "Strange Fruit," anybody? "Anyone who had a Heart"? And let's not even bring up "Puff the Magic Dragon"...