Country music is a genre about real life, and with that comes good-time tunes and plenty of country love songs. But writing songs about real life also means writing songs about sad things like heartbreak, illness, abuse and death. The country genre is full heart-wrenching, tear-jerkers, and while some of them may be hard to listen to, they're part of what makes country music so real and relatable. While it's impossible to list every sad country song, here are 15 of the saddest country songs that are likely to cause the most straight-faced person have a good cry.
15. "Over You," Miranda Lambert
Some of country music's saddest songs are the ones that speak about death, and Miranda Lambert addresses that raw subject in her 2012 hit, "Over You." Written with ex-husband and fellow country star, Blake Shelton, "Over You" was inspired both by the death of Shelton's brother, Richie, and the death of a close friend to Lambert. In the tune, Lambert sings of the grief and loneliness one feels after losing a loved one, and concludes that she'll never "get over" the death of that person. The song was a huge hit for both artists and took home the Song of the Year award at both the CMA Awards and ACM Awards.
14. "Don't Take The Girl," Tim McGraw
In this 1994 hit, Tim McGraw tells the love story of a couple, which begins with the pair as children. The little boy's father takes the girl fishing with them, and the little boy begs his father, "Don't take the girl." The two children soon grow up and start dating, and one night, they are held up by a gunman. The boy in the song pleads with the gunman, again stating, "Don't take the girl." Then, in the third verse, the woman experiences complications while giving birth to their child, and the man prays to God, "Don't take the girl."
13. "Raymond," Brett Eldredge
Not only do sad country songs address the subject of death, but they also broach the subject of illness. Brett Eldredge sings about the debilitating disease of Alzheimer's in his 2010 debut single, "Raymond." In the song, the country artist plays the part of a nursing home worker whom a woman with dementia mistakenly believes is her son, Raymond. As Eldredge reveals in the song, Raymond actually died in war years earlier, so he allows the sweet woman to believe that he is her son. The song was a personal one for Eldredge, as he has revealed that his grandmother and aunt both suffered from Alzheimer's.
12. "Go Rest High On That Mountain," Vince Gill
Vince Gill's "Go Rest High On That Mountain" could be seen as a bittersweet song, as it is commemorating the passing of a loved one from one life to the next, but no matter how much one talks about Heaven, losing someone is never easy. Gill began writing the 1995 tune after the death of country legend Keith Whitley and finished it after the death of his brother. Gill has sung the ballad at the funerals of late country stars, and he put on an especially emotional performance at George Jones' funeral in 2013.
11. "I Drive Your Truck," Lee Brice
Lee Brice's heartbreaking song "I Drive Your Truck" is one that still brings tears to the eye nine years after its release. In the tune, Brice sets the scene of a truck with various belongings in it. "Eighty-nine cents in the ash tray / Half empty bottle of Gatorade rolling in the floorboard / That dirty Braves cap on the dash," he sings. The first verse sounds innocent enough, but it is soon revealed that the truck he sings about was owned by the singer's brother, who died in war, and driving the vehicle is his way of remembering him.
10. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," Hank Williams Sr.
When thinking about sad country songs, it's impossible not to mention one of the most classic sad country songs: Hank Williams Sr.'s "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Alongside rhythmic acoustic guitar and twangy steel guitar, a seemingly depressed Williams sings about how everything he sees and hears seems to be depressed right along with him. The song's lyric sheet is short, but it perfectly describes the blues in a way no song ever has. "Hear that lonesome whippoorwill / He sounds too blue to fly / The midnight train is whining low / I'm so lonesome I could cry," he sings.
9. "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)," Alan Jackson
Many poignant and patriotic country songs were written after the attacks of 9/11, but none quite match the emotion of Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)." Released about two months after the attacks, in November 2001, the song finds Jackson describing all the seemingly mundane things people around the country were doing when the world stopped and changed forever. The song took home accolades at the CMA Awards, ACM Awards and the Grammy's, and will forever memorialize that tragic day.
8. "Skin (Sarabeth)," Rascal Flatts
It seems the saddest country songs are the ones that slowly build a story and end with an emotional gut punch, and Rascal Flatts' "Skin (Sarabeth)" is one of those. In the song, the trio tells the heartbreaking story of a teenage girl named Sarabeth who is diagnosed with cancer. They chronicle her experience with chemotherapy, hair loss, and battling the terrible disease. The song also addresses her adolescent worries, such as her fear that no one will take her to the prom. But then, in a bittersweet ending, Sarabeth's prom date shows up to her door with his head shaved to look like her.
7. "Travelin' Soldier," The Chicks
Another sad country song sub-genre is songs about fallen soldiers. The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) sang about this tough subject in their 2002 song, "Travelin' Soldier." In the tune, the trio tells the story about a soldier and a young waitress who strike up a romance. The soldier soon goes off to war, and he and the girl send letters back and forth. The soldier's letters soon stop, however, and the girl doesn't know what happened to him. But then, while attending a high school football game, she hears her love's name read from a list of soldiers who died in Vietnam.
6. "Arlington," Trace Adkins
Another song that falls into the category of songs about fallen soldiers is Trace Adkins' "Arlington." This song is unique in that it finds Adkins singing from the perspective of a fallen soldier who was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The soldier speaks from the afterlife, describing the scene from the day they put him to rest and expressing his pride for being in the company of other fallen heroes. The soldier also describes his veteran grandfather welcoming him to the cemetery on the day he arrived. In the end, the soldier doesn't hold any ill will towards what contributed to his fate -- he is simply proud to have "made it to Arlington."
5. "I'll Wait For You," Joe Nichols
In 2006, Joe Nichols released "I'll Wait For You," which tells the story of one elderly couple's everlasting love. In the tune, the man in the story is trying to get back to his wife, who is in the hospital. He can't get a flight, so he rents a car and drives to her. He calls her to let her know his situation, and she says "I'll wait for you," and cites other times she has waited for her husband. The song turns sad when the husband finally makes it to the hospital and his wife has passed away. However, she leaves him a letter telling him, '"I'll Wait For You," at Heaven's gates. The song's music video only adds to the emotion, as it visually tells the story of the song.
4. "If You're Reading This," Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw surprised audiences with an incredibly poignant moment at the 2007 ACM Awards with the performance of an unheard song called "If You're Reading This." Similar to "Arlington," the song finds McGraw singing from the perspective of a fallen soldier, but the song's lyrics are the letter that the soldier wrote to his wife before he died. In the letter, the soldier confirms his demise to his wife and states that he won't be there for the birth of their child. He also assures his family that he made it to Heaven and asks to be put to rest in a field on the edge of town. And in a heartbreaking moment, the soldier also encourages his wife to love again.
3. "Concrete Angel," Martina McBride
Martina McBride confronts the impossibly sad subject of child abuse in her 2002 song, "Concrete Angel." In the tune, McBride tells the story of a little girl who is abused by her caretaker, and unfortunately passes away. However, the song also depicts the little girl becoming a "concrete angel," going to Heaven, and flying "to a place where she's loved."
2. "Whiskey Lullaby," Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss
Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss came together in 2004 for a history-making song, "Whiskey Lullaby." In the legendary duet, the pair sings about a couple who both drank themselves to death following a separation. Paisley takes the first verse and chorus, in which he sings about the heartbroken man who eventually passes away from his grief. Then, in the second verse, Krauss tells the woman's story, who also crumbles and eventually passes away after the guilt she feels from her former lover's death. The tragic story ends with both people gone and the angels singing a "Whiskey Lullaby."
1. "He Stopped Loving Her Today," George Jones
Perhaps one of the saddest songs in all of country music, George Jones' classic ballad, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," tops this list of sad country songs. This song was one of the first to employ the end-of-song revelation device that so many artists have imitated since its release. In this 1980 tune, Jones tells the story of a man who cannot get over his heartbreak, no matter how hard he tries. The man swore to his ex-love that he would love her until he died, and that statement turned out to be true, as death was the only thing that finally allowed the man to stop loving the subject of his affection. The song has become a classic in country music and will be remembered as one of Jones' signature songs.
Honorable Mentions: John Michael Montgomery's "Letters From Home, Steve Wariner's "Holes In The Floor Of Heaven," Reba McEntire's "He Gets That From Me," Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts The Most," Kenny Chesney's "While He Still Knows Who I Am," and Martina McBride's "God's Will."