10. Etta James — “I’d Rather Go Blind”
Something told me it was over / When I saw you and her talking
Something deep down in my soul said cry, girl / When I saw you and that girl walking around
The pain in James’s voice as she realizes her man’s been messing around is arresting. We also highly recommend this stunning live version with Dr. John.
9. Joy Division — “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
Why is the bedroom so cold? / Turned away on your side
Is my timing that flawed? / Our respect run so dry?
This song reflects the marital problems between lead singer Ian Curtis and his wife Deborah leading up to his tragic suicide. Deborah had the title carved onto Ian’s tombstone.
8. Sam Cooke, “Bring It On Home to Me”
If you ever change your mind / about leavin’, leavin’ me behind
Oh, oh, bring it to me / bring your sweet lovin’
Bring it on home to me
Cooke’s just not ready to let go of his ex on this track, as he pleads for her to reconsider leaving.
7. Elvis Costello, “Indoor Fireworks”
You were the spice of life, the gin in my vermouth
And though the sparks would fly, I thought our love was fireproof
Costello’s clever wordplay’s on full display here as he reminds us that often relationships break down quietly and privately and that “indoor fireworks can still burn your fingers.”
6. Patsy Cline — “I Fall To Pieces”
_You want me to act like we never kissed
You want me to forget, pretend like we’ve never met
And I’ve tried and I’ve tried but I haven’t yet
You walk by, and I fall to pieces_
Brokenhearted country fans have cried into their beer for years over this timeless classic about running into your ex.
5. Bon Iver — “Skinny Love”
Now all your love is wasted? / Then who the hell was I?
By now, For Emma, Forever Ago is the stuff of indie legend, proving that sometimes when a girl breaks your heart, you just need to hole yourself up in a cabin and write one of the best albums of the decade.
4. The Band — “It Makes No Difference”
It makes no difference where I turn
I can’t get over you and the flame still burns
The theme of this Northern Lights – Southern Cross track is nothing particularly new or groundbreaking (rainy skies, love lost, etc.), but the sheer emotion in Rick Danko’s voice makes this one a must for anyone hung up on the one who got away.
3. Wilco — “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
I’d always thought that if I held you tightly / you’d always love me like you did back then
Then I fell asleep and the city kept blinking / what was I thinking when I let you back in?
Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics are notoriously difficult to decipher, but anyone with a heart can glean some meaning from our all-time favorite Wilco song.
2. Otis Redding — “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”
With you my life has been so wonderful / I can’t stop now
This song also made our list of wedding dance songs, but it’s actually not such a happy track: Otis pleads for his lady to stay after she’s decided to bail.
1. Bob Dylan — “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”
Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try to make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin’ anyway
So don’t think twice, it’s alright
Dylan’s parting shot to girlfriend Suze Rotolo is everything you want a break-up song to be: gorgeous and comforting with just a hint of passive aggression. Sometimes things don’t work out; bust out those Bob Dylan records, and don’t give it a second thought.