The world of music is rife with songs about crying. That’s no surprise because love and loss are perennial favorite sources of song inspiration.
But it would be disingenuous to say all songs about crying are sad. After all, there are always two sides to everything, even crying. We cry when we are hurt or in pain. And we also cry when we are happy.
Some songs about crying are hopeful and nostalgic, while others are expressions of empowerment. In other words, these songs are as varied as the people who write them. Get some tissues ready as we present to you 15 of the best songs about crying.
1. “Crying” By Ray Orbison
What better way to start our list than with a song with “crying” in the title? “Crying” is an emotional ballad co-written by Ray Orbison from his 1961 album. The song combines classic rock with bolero, a style of distinctive Cuban music.
In keeping with the title, the lyrics are melancholy. Here, the singer recounts a brief meeting with his ex-lover. She says hello before leaving, and he finds himself alone and crying again.
We discover that he had been crying over her since they parted ways. He still loves her, even more so now. But he struggles to process the fact that the woman no longer loves him.
2. “Cry Me A River” By Julie London
Another classic song about crying is Julie London’s “Cry Me A River.” Today the most recognizable version for young listeners comes from Justin Timberlake. But London’s version deserves a listen, too.
Here, the speaker doesn’t have time for the lingering feelings of an old flame. The message of this song is that saying something and meaning it is two different things. It’s one thing for a former lover to miss the speaker, but until they show it, preferably through tears, they won’t get much sympathy.
Besides, she’s done crying a river over him. The tables have turned, and now it’s his turn to cry her a river.
3. “Tears In Heaven” By Eric Clapton
Our next song, “Tears in Heaven,” doesn’t bear the word “crying” anywhere. However, the story behind it suggests the act. Eric Clapton co-wrote this song and it appeared on the soundtrack of Rush movie and his album Unplugged.
We can expect this song to draw some tears, especially since Clapton wrote it after the devastating loss of his young son. Through the lyrics, he explores themes of grief and the hereafter.
It makes him wonder whether his son will remember his name when they see each other in heaven. He implores his son to hold his hand and give him the strength to get through his grief.
4. “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” By Ella Fitzgerald
The 1944 song “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” was one of the hallmarks of young Ella Fitzgerald’s career. This was a duet with the pop vocal group The Ink Spots and Bill Kenny. Fitzgerald also included the song in her 1963 album Ella and Basie!
The song is one of the more poetic about crying on this list. Music is rife with songs encouraging you to see the bright side of life. “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” recognizes how challenging that can be.
Here, crying often gets referenced metaphorically in terms of tears and showers. But it’s evident from the lyrics that the singer struggles with feelings of sadness. She feels that she goes through sadness more than she should.
5. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” By Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons
It’s impossible to discuss songs with “crying” in the lyrics without mentioning “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons put the song on the musical map.
The song consists mainly of the line “Big girls don’t cry.” The backup vocals poke gentle fun at that by asking where the adage comes from. Several times, they even hint that this isn’t as true as the singer would have us believe. That is, even if the girl said goodbye to the singer.
Then the girl’s mama reveals the truth by saying that she cries in bed. This prompts the singer to tell her, “Shame on you, you told me lies.” Well, of course, big girls do cry. They’re no different from anyone else.
6. “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To)” By Lesley Gore
The American singer-songwriter Lesley Gore performed “It’s My Party” to tremendous success back in 1963. It peaked at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks.
In the lyrics, we find that the singer is celebrating her birthday party, which is supposed to be a joyous occasion. Her boyfriend, Johnny, leaves her party with Judy’s hand in his. When they return to her party, she’s surprised to see Judy wearing his ring.
The singer is reduced to crying and singing, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.” She further adds that anyone in that situation would cry, too.
7. “The Sky Is Crying” By Stevie Ray Vaughan
Up next is another song about crying that is predominantly poetic. It’s a rhythm and blues standard written by Elmore James and had been recorded by several artists, including Albert King. Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded his own version as a tribute to both James and King.
But what does the title mean? Of course, skies don’t weep the same way people do. Instead, it’s a poetic phrase that means it’s raining. It reflects the singer’s feelings of unhappiness as he goes about looking for his lover.
He sees her walking down the street and he is filled with an ominous feeling. The realization hits him that his lover doesn’t love him anymore.
8. “Cry Baby Cry” By The Beatles
Did you know that a nursery rhyme and a television commercial inspired The Beatles‘ John Lennon to write “Cry Baby Cry”? The phrase “Cry baby cry, make your mother buy” was from an advert compelling girls to cry so their mothers would buy their products.
Lennon took the line and spun it. “Cry Baby Cry” became a song about how we treat young girls.
To stop her mother from babying her, the young girl in the song cries. Not out of unhappiness but frustration at not being treated like the adult she became.
9. “Crying In The Rain” By The Everly Brothers
Crying and rain dovetail again in the next song on our list. The Everly Brothers recorded “Crying in the Rain” in 1962. The song reached #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
In “Crying In The Rain,” the singer keeps a stiff upper lip. He is grief-stricken after breaking up with his lover. His pride stops him from showing his true emotions even with the way his broken heart hurts.
And so he’s resolved to do his crying in the rain so that nobody knows how he feels. Under the rain, he can cry his heart out, though he also recognizes that it can’t wash away his misery.
10. “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep” By St Cecilia’s Singers
Here’s another moving and poetic song about crying. “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” was a poem written by Mary Elizabeth Frye and performed in the video above by St Cecilia’s Singers.
Losing someone brings so much pain and happiness. But the message of the song is like a blanket of comfort for the bereaved ones. The uses lyrical metaphors to describe how lost loved ones remain in the ephemeral and perpetual beauty of the natural world.
For instance, they are “a thousand wind that blows” or the sunlight that hits grains. They are the autumn rain or the stars at night. The song comforts grieving hearts as it encourages them to see their lost loved ones in the things around them.
11. “The Tracks Of My Tears” By Smokey Robinson
A smile can fool a lot of people. But if you look closely, you’ll know that some people hide their pain behind smiles. “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson leaves this message behind.
In the song, the singer is someone who laughs a lot and tells jokes. As such, people see him as a jolly guy. But no one knows that deep inside, he’s broken and hurting after his ex left him.
He implores his ex-lover to take a good look at him and she’ll see the sadness behind his smile. The song is appropriately melancholy to reflect the singer’s mood. If you weren’t crying when it started, you will be by the time it’s over.
12. “Don’t Cry” By Guns N’ Roses
The inspiration for “Don’t Cry” came from a love triangle between several Guns N’ Roses band members. It predated the group’s formation, making it safe writing material.
Despite this, the song beautifully captures the complication of the situation it describes. Here, the singer repeatedly calls on his lover not to cry as a way to console her after their breakup.
He knows how it feels because he’d been in the same situation before. Perhaps their relationship no longer serves them both and they must part ways. But he still loves her and lets her know everything will be all right.
13. “No Woman, No Cry” By Bob Marley And The Wailers
The Jamaican ska band Bob Marley and the Wailers recorded “No Woman, No Cry” in 1974. Its live recording made it to #37 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Some say that Marley contributed to the songwriting efforts based on the personal things that appeared in the song.
Don’t be confused by the title, though. It doesn’t mean, “If there is no woman, you have no reason to cry.” The title actually means, “Woman, don’t cry,” a line that he keeps repeating by the end of the song.
In the lyrics, Marley mentions sitting in the government yard in Trenchtown. This is a housing project where he grew up. He also mentions corn meal porridge, a popular breakfast in Jamaica.
14. “Pretty When You Cry” By Lana Del Rey
In 2014, American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey released “Pretty When You Cry.” The single came off her third studio album, Ultraviolence. The song follows a girl who is in an on-again, off-again relationship that’s becoming toxic.
As such, she is repeatedly reduced to tears by her lover. She doesn’t seem to be the one he needs, but she always waits for him. She loves him too much to move on to someone else.
It makes her think that crying suits her, so he keeps doing things to hurt her. She still wants to please him, even if he’s taking her for granted.
15. “Cry Your Heart Out” By Adele
Last but far from least is a song that mentions “crying” as a way to feel better. Adele‘s “Cry Your Heart Out” is one of the singles in her album 30.
Despite the title, it’s an optimistic note to end on—Adele numbers among those rare singers on this list who find crying healthy. Far from the mournful ballad the title suggests, the song is an empowering cry for people everywhere to reclaim their emotional health.
Adele’s lyrics talk about tears’ ability to wash you clean and promise a fresh start. Sometimes that new start can be painful, but it usually leaves you a stronger person.
Summing Up Our List Of Crying Songs
At a glance, the songs above sound like they will be inherently sorrowful. But they don’t have to be. Crying can be cathartic, and that’s never a bad thing. It can also be a sign of happiness.
The result of this variety is music that’s as nuanced as the feelings that lead to crying. Some songs are indeed sad. But others are hopeful, and a rare few stand as anthems of empowerment.
So, sit back, relax, and listen. And remember, if these songs leave you crying, that’s not always a bad thing.