This is part questioning blog post, and part movie review, because if you haven’t seen “Searching For Sugar Man” yet, you probably should.
The movie, which I referenced in podcast 009, is a touching look at art and commerce, even if it does play a little loose with the facts. It’s about Sixto Rodriguez, a sensitive songwriter, who’s two 70’s albums went bust in the US, only to have them find new life during the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. The funny thing was, Rodriguez had given up on his singing career and was a manual laborer in Detroit, struggling to raise his daughters. He never made a dime off his South African success, in fact, most of South Africa thought he was dead, having killed himself.
The saving grace of this documentary is Rodriguez’ s daughters, who tell harrowing tales of growing up in dire poverty, and yet, appear to have turned out wonderfully intelligent and well spoken. Their mom is never mentioned, which is odd, and Rodriguez himself adds to his own mystery with a bemused detachment to his tale, which makes him look both noble and zen-like.
I know I cry at the drop of a hat at movies, but if you don’t shed a tear when his oldest daughter tells of him dropping them off at the library while he went to work because he couldn’t afford day care, you may not be human.
In the movie, there’s a scene where one of the record executives who tried to launch his American career plays a piece of one of Rodriguez’s songs called “Cause”. The song starts with the line “‘Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas…” He declared it one of the saddest songs he ever heard. And it really is. It’s about being poor how the world doesn’t give a crap.
Which got me to thinking about sad songs. I’ve always loved a good sad song. I think the best ones are the ones that walk right up to the line of being glurge, but never go over the edge. Although I’ll admit it’s hard to know where that edge is.
So, wonderful internet, I ask you — what is the saddest song you’ve ever heard? Is there context which makes it sadder for you? (For instance, the Rodriguez song is extra sad for me, because I’ve seen how impoverished Detroit is, and how it seems like the rest of the world doesn’t care).
Here’s two of mine…
Don McLean “Oh My What A Shame”
McLean was the king of sad songs in the early 70’s. Even the rollicking sing along anthem “American Pie” has a poignant plot line: Music is dead, y’all. But this tragic twister will rip out your soul and spit it out as he recounts tragic story after tragic story of a world that just happens to tear your heart out time and time again.
Tori Amos “Winter”
Here’s one that hits a personal twinge for me. Tori sings of her relationship with her father, and all the conflicting emotions that brings, especially the difficulty he has communicating self esteem to her, saying, “When you gonna love you as much as I do”.
I can’t listen to this all the way through without crying. Ever. That’s why I rarely listen to it.