September 27, 2008 8:34 AM   Subscribe

What are some blues songs with genuinely depressing, ruin your mood lyrics/vocals?
posted by Pants! to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it qualifies as blues, but I've always found "My Funny Valentine" to be horribly depressing.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 8:58 AM on September 27, 2008

Billie Holiday's album Lady in Satin has some really dark songs of unrequited love such as "I'm a Fool to Love You" (self-explanatory) and one song that features lyrics like "I'll be around... no matter how you treat me now... I'll be around... when she's gone."

Abbey Lincoln has a song called Down Here Below that usually casts a shadow over any smile.
posted by prefpara at 9:01 AM on September 27, 2008

The point is often lost on white people (as famously illustrated by Steve Martin in "the Jerk"), but the purpose of the blues is to make you feel better, by sharing your problems or commiserating with someone else's.

That said, there is Pat Hare's I'm Gonna Murder My baby, not least because Pat Hare did indeed murder his baby, and died in jail.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:04 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's in Real Audio here, which is terrible, but Blind Willie Johnson's 'God Moves on the Water' is just about one of the most relentless, unforgiving and despondency-inducing songs I know in that genre.
posted by Haruspex at 9:16 AM on September 27, 2008

What are some blues songs with genuinely depressing, ruin your mood lyrics/vocals?

Ummm... all of 'em?

Seriously, though, you might check out Aretha Sings The Blues, in which Ms. Franklin (at about age 20!) impresses upon us just how much she has the blues.
posted by Rykey at 9:21 AM on September 27, 2008

Blendcrafters - Bad Luck Blues

You'll be singin'.... lonesome songs.... that love won't last you so very long...

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit (Jazz, really)
posted by phrontist at 9:29 AM on September 27, 2008

Missisippi Fred McDowell - Wished I Was in Heaven Sitting Down

Almeda Riddle - Poor Wayfaring Stranger
posted by phrontist at 9:32 AM on September 27, 2008

It doesn't get much more depressing/freaking awesome than this:

Son House : Death Letter
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:39 AM on September 27, 2008

Death don't have no mercy In This Land.
posted by sfenders at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2008

"I'll Never Get Out of these Blues Alive" -- John Lee Hooker
"I Feel Like Goin' Home" -- Muddy Waters
"Hell Hound on my Trail" -- Robert Johnson
"Cotton Field Blues" -- Lightnin' Hopkins
"Lonesome Road" -- Lightnin' Hopkins

I've always thought "John Henry" was a soul-crushingly sad elegy -- a solemn celebration of human endeavor in the face of implacable death. There's a million versions of "John Henry" out there.

(Also, while casting about for suggestions, I stumbled across this wonderful, soaring Booker White tune, "Poor Boy Long Way From Home". The lyrics are sad, but that National steel is singin' like an angel.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:58 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oops, I meant, of course "Bukka" White.....
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:59 AM on September 27, 2008

Blackbird by Nina Simone is the lowest, most hopeless song I've ever heard. Not strictly blues, but musically from the same African base as blues, and close enough in structure and presentation to fit. Blues if you squint.
posted by dong_resin at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2008

"Last Kind Word Blues" Geechie (sometimes spelled 'Geeshie') Wiley
"Love In Vain" Robert Johnson
posted by jonmc at 11:57 AM on September 27, 2008

St. James Infirmary. One version is at Mudcat Cafe, but seriously, go hear Doc Watson's recording from Third Generation Blues. If anything can beat seeing your sweet baby dying at the infirmary and then planning your own funeral, it just might be going down to Old Joe's Bar-room and finding that your friends don't care.
posted by eritain at 12:22 PM on September 27, 2008

"You Was Born To Die" by Blind Willie McTell

"Troubled About My Soul" there's a recording here sung by Lille Knox that I love.
posted by annathea at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2008

I think to really ruin your mood with a blues song you need something that reminds you of something in your own past that you feel really depressed about every time you think of it. Ideally for this purpose people would have the same names as people in the song, or events would have happened in a state or town named in the song.

You could plan ahead for this sort of thing by moving to a locale named in many blues songs (Mississippi? Chicago?), dating women who have names that are common in blues songs, eating foods that are mentioned in blues songs, gambling, and drinking a lot.

Try getting romantically involved with someone who writes blues songs, and create a horrible dramatic breakup, in hopes that they will write a song about how Pants! has wronged them. Then you can listen to it and feel depressed over what might have been. Not much rhymes with Pants!, so you might use a different name.
posted by yohko at 1:56 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Ballad of Hollis Brown" .. also the Nina Simone version ..
posted by citron at 2:51 PM on September 27, 2008

"You Better Run" by Junior Kimbrough

You better run
Don't let him get you
You better run
Don't let him get you
If he catch you, Babe
He gonna rape you
posted by JulianDay at 5:44 PM on September 27, 2008

I just don't really get depressed over any blues, I actually feel comforted, even very dark songs; don't ask why, I surely don't know. Maybe it resonates with the pieces of me that have also been black and blue, comforting to know that not everyone lives June Cleaver's life.

Izzy Cox (youtube myspace) is one of the coolest human beings I've ever met, she plays here in Austin some, I want to kiss her shoulders and so would you, she's lovely, she has that bright, neurotic gleam in her eyes that is to me by far the strongest love potion that ever could be, I want to marry her and we could ruin each others lives and stuff. She's a great musician (IMO) and, best I can tell, seems to live and/or has lived a lot of the life she sings and sways about. No, it's not blues probably but it's super fucking cool, and if this sort of thing makes you black and blue she'll ruin your day, maybe your life.

Hows about 'Murder Balleds' by Nick Cave? youtube If dark songs get you dark and blue, well, heck, the songs on this cd are pretty dang dark, though done really well. (IMO; ymmv)
posted by dancestoblue at 6:23 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Waiting Around to Die" by Townes van Zandt is the most depressing song ever written, for my money.
posted by Hildago at 6:28 PM on September 27, 2008

(Waiting Around to Die)
posted by Hildago at 6:30 PM on September 27, 2008

Strange Fruit, sung well, always makes me feel wretched. Angry, sad, and empty, all at the same time.
posted by robcorr at 4:37 AM on September 28, 2008

The Cowboy Junkies - music to play while writing your suicide note.
posted by megatherium at 9:43 AM on September 28, 2008

"Biloxi" by Ted Hawkins.
posted by jbickers at 7:58 AM on September 29, 2008

The Cowboy Junkies - music to play while writing your suicide note.
posted by megatherium at 11:43 AM on September 28 [+] [!]

I never did put a needle into my arm but I have and have had a lot of friends who were or are junkies and based upon their descriptions and their look of euphoria and buzzed down, drawn out faze, I've always thought that The Cowboy Junkies on a quiet misting urban November four am are the closest approximation I'm going to find to heroin in my arm. Though I guess heroin into an arm is writing a suicide note...
posted by dancestoblue at 2:11 PM on September 29, 2008

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