Country songs portray the unblinking truth of life and no wonder why there are so many sad country songs. This genre is greatly influenced by string-accompanied American popular music. It has a close connection with the folk music of the southeast and cowboy music of the west.
Country music is usually very simple in form and harmony. The lyrics are the main attraction here. At the same time, music with traditional instruments such as guitar, banjo, violin, ukulele, and harmonica can be very catchy.
A great country song can sometimes make you feel pain: a loss, a failure, or a sense of despondency. It is, of course, the story, but it is also more. It’s the instruments’ moans and the singer’s expressions. In this article, we have made a list of the top 20 sad country songs of all time.
Best Sad Country Songs Of All Time
1. He Stopped Loving Her Today – George Jones
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” is a sad country song about the love that we all want to experience, one that is so strong that even separation cannot tear it apart. The piece embodies the traits of country music while demonstrating its effectiveness. How would you feel emotionally? Get your tissues ready.
In addition to Jones’ chilling voice, there are several more reasons why this 1980 smash is the saddest country love song ever written. George Jones recalls and passionately expresses the story of a man whose love returns to him – at his funeral, in exquisite detail. He was a walking mess when he recorded “He Stopped Loving Her Today” more than forty years ago.
George Jones was addicted to both drugs and alcohol. He was lost. The producer, Billy Sherrill, somehow managed to pull a career-defining performance out of the erratic George Jones amidst the mess. The end outcome was a work of art for the country genre.
2. Concrete Angel – Martina McBride
“Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride is the final single from her “Greatest Hits” album. Stephanie Bentley and Rob Crosby wrote this sorrowful country song. Released in 2002, the song addresses a pressing social problem, child abuse. No one in country music has done more to bring attention to child abuse than Martina McBride.
In the video of the song, an alcoholic mother abuses her child. People like the child’s teacher ignore the signs of abuse. Another kid who’s the angel comforts the abused child.
According to McBride, the story behind the song is real, and it is about her niece. She was abused by her mother (McBride’s sister) and was murdered when she was only seven years old. “Concrete Angel” is one of the most sad country songs ever.
3. Whiskey Lullaby – Brad Paisley Feat. Alison Krauss
When Bill Anderson and Jon Randall wrote “Whiskey Lullaby,” Jon Randall was facing divorce. This incident played a role in the theme of this unhappy country song. The song appeared on Brad Paisley’s 2004 album “Mud on the Tires.”
The song “Whiskey Lullaby” is about betrayal, alcoholism, and how these impact people’s lives. It tells the story of a couple that gets separated suddenly and painfully, leading to alcoholism and death. At first, the man sees his wife having an affair with another man right after coming from war. This betrayal leads to the husband’s death from alcoholism. After his death, the wife was filled with remorse and couldn’t get over his memories. So she dies the same way her husband died from alcoholism. That’s quite sad!
4. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams
The song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” recorded in 1949, reflects Hank’s tortured sentiments for his first wife, Audrey Sheppard. This song has become a benchmark for all sad country songs lovers.
The song does not accomplish the desired impact by just sharing personal problems. Instead, Hank Williams absorbs the world around him and sings about his anguish and depression.
Williams initially wanted to make it a poem but then got persuaded to add a melody. Thankfully he did that now that the country song lovers got a gem of a song. Even Elvis Presley once said that it was the saddest song he has ever heard.
5. The Little Girl – John Michael Montgomery
John Michael Montgomery’s “The Little Girl” got released in 2000. It was the lead single off Montgomery’s “Brand New Me” album.
Written by the late songwriter Harley Allen, this sorrowful song is about a girl who is always ignored by her drug addict and alcoholic parents. But one night, when her father shot her mother and then himself, the small girl was found under the couch. When the girl is led to her first Sunday school, she recognizes a picture of a man on the wall. She doesn’t know who he is, but he was there when her parents died.
6. I Drive Your Truck – Lee Brice
“I Drive Your Truck” is singer-songwriter Lee Brice’s most emotional country song, one that will leave some with tears in their eyes. Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary wrote the lyrics after hearing an interview with a family who’d lost their 18-year-old son in the war.
The mother said she coped by driving his son’s truck. That’s where the name of the song came from. “I Drive Your Truck” illustrates how one tries to deal with sorrow.
7. Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) – Alan Jackson
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” is one of the most heartbreaking country songs ever composed following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Jackson began writing the song to process his emotions. When he finished writing it, Jackson released it to the public, both because of its very personal nature and because he didn’t want anybody to believe he was taking advantage of the horror.
8. Travelin’ Soldier – Dixie Chicks
After a friend was called up for action in the first Iraq war, Bruce Robison wrote “Travelin’ Soldier.” Robison released this touching song in the mid-90s, and then Dixie Chicks made it famous again in 2003.
The song follows a soldier’s long-distance love with a young woman through letters while he goes to war. Then on a Friday night at the football game, the soldier’s name is read over the loudspeaker as the crowd is asked to pray for the dead soldiers. This song is sorrowful for the people whose close ones died in a war.
9. Old Shep – Red Foley
This miserable sad country song will definitely touch your heart if you have ever lost a pet. Old Shep was composed in 1931 and is about a dog that Foley had as a kid.
Shep means German Shepherd. Foley called his dog Hoover. Hoover was poisoned by a neighbor and got ill. Hoover had to be put down to end his sufferings later. Elvis Presley performed the song when he was just 10 years old at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair in 1945.
10. For My Broken Heart – Reba Mcentire
The album “For My Broken Heart” was written following a horrific plane accident that took the lives of the majority of Reba’s bandmates including the tour manager on March 16, 1991. It was really hard for Reba McEntire and the family of the victims and the whole country music world.
The whole album of Reba McEntire is heartbreaking. “For My Broken Heart” is one of the most sad country songs about a couple dealing with separation.
11. If You’re Reading This – Tim McGraw
“If You’re Reading This” is a depressing country song inspired by an article on war casualties. Tim McGraw, Brad, and Brett Warren wrote this sad country song in 2007. The song’s lyrics portray a soldier’s goodbye message to his mother, father, and wife if he dies while fighting in the war. McGraw first performed the song in the ACM Awards of 2007, and he was joined onstage by military families.
12. When I Call Your Name – Vince Gill
“When I Call Your Name” is a classic country heartbreak song from 1990. This song is about a guy who arrives home and hears nothing when he calls his lover’s name. Instead, he receives a goodbye note. She left him after discovering that being with him was a deception.
Sometimes one in a relationship decides it’s not working out, and they move on. And it breaks the world apart from the other one. “When I Call Your Name” is a sad country song many people can relate to.
13. What Hurts The Most – Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts released “What Hurts The Most” in 2006. It’s a song about the pain of losing a loved one from a breakup, divorce, or even death. While many presume this is a love song, Jeffrey Steele was inspired to write this after his father’s death. It hurts to be close to someone and then lose that love and everything that comes with it.
14. Letting Go – Suzy Boggus
Letting Go’s about a mother’s conflicted feelings as her child leaves for college. She feels proud but her heart breaks. It’s not easy letting your child go away from you. The song shows as she sets her mindset like she’s excited to spend more time in the garden and read books, but actually, she’s not ready to see her child leave home. Suzy Bogguss’ husband, Doug Crider, wrote this song with Matt Rollings.
15. Go Rest High On That Mountain – Vince Gill
In 1995 Vince Gill released “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” The death of Keith Whitley was the inspiration to write this sad country song. The great country musician died because of alcoholism in 1989. Gill began writing the song after Whitley’s death, and he finished it following the death of his brother due to a heart attack in 1993.
16. Hurt – Johnny Cash
This melancholic country song was originally a Nine Inch Nails song. But the cover from Johnny Cash and the music video simply adds to its poignancy. Cash saw the lyrics as a guy nearing the end of his life.
“If I could start again / A million miles away / I would keep myself / I would find a way,” the experienced artist sings with his emotional voice, quivering with anguish.
Cash’s wife died three months after the video shoot of the song. Johnny Cash died on 12 September 2003, just under a year after the release of the album American IV. It makes the song more heartbreaking and sad.
17. Heaven’s Only Days Down The Road – Shelby Lynne
“Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road” was featured in the singer’s album “Revelation Road” from 2011. The song addressed a devastating trauma when her father murdered her mother before killing himself.
The incident took place in the driveway of their home in Alabama in 1986 when Lynne was only 17. Shelby and her older sister Allison Moorer were transferred to live with relatives. This sad country song will break your heart.
18. The Dance – Garth Brooks
“The Dance” was on Garth Brooks’ first album from 1989. This tragic country song was inspired by a moment from the movie Peggy Sue Got Married.
In that movie, the lead character Peggy Sue goes back in time and decides not to marry her husband since their marriage didn’t work out. When she made that choice, everything changed, and the photographs of her kids vanished from her locket.
19. Holes In The Floor Of Heaven – Steve Wariner
“Holes in the Floor of Heaven” was released in 1998 from his album “Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down.” This sad country song was written by Steve Wariner himself and Billy Kirsch. In the song, a man mourns the loss of his grandmother when he was eight, and then his young wife dies unexpectedly after giving birth to their child.
To find some peace from this loss, the man thinks whenever rain pours down, there are “holes in the floor of heaven, and her tears are pouring down. That’s how you know she’s watching, wishing she could be here now.”
20. Misery & Gin – Merle Haggard
“Misery and Gin” is from Merle Haggard’s album “Back to the Barrooms.” Released in 1980, this depressing country song talks about alcoholism and its downsides. Merle sings about how we think alcohol will just take everyone’s pain away. But it just makes us more vulnerable, and the painful memories never go away.
Let us know about your favorite sad country songs from the list above. Also, share with us if you have any personal favorites. You can also check our list of top 20 sad rock songs of all time. Thank you for reading this far.