Falling in love, or falling out of love, are probably the two most common topics for popular song lyrics over the past hundred years…and it’s likely there are more songs about breaking up.
From “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and “Stormy Weather” up to the present day, songs that express the feelings we experience when a relationship comes to an end are everywhere. Breakup songs generally come in two categories: songs of heartbreak, sung by the poor boy or girl who lost the supposed love of their life; and songs of bitter dismissal, spat out by the angry, betrayed victim.
While I’m partial to many great breakup songs from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, I have a couple of new favorites to add to my list. The first is by a great young R&B singer/songwriter named Mayer Hawthorne, who has had some success with a retro-soul sound on several LPs and singles since 2010. The song I’m referring to is an infectious dance tune called “The Walk,” in which the guy lusts after the gal but knows she’s trouble and tells her to leave. The “kiss off” lyrics go like this:
“Baby, what you doing now? You’re pissin’ me off,
But your hair is so luxurious and your lips are so soft,
Anyway you slice it, you’re doing me wrong,
But I love the way you walk now, and your legs are so long
Well your looks had me putty in your hand now,
But I took just as much as I can stand now,
And you can walk your long legs, baby, right out of my life…”
Another was a huge international #1 hit in 2012 by the Australian singer/songwriter who calls himself Gotye. The narrator can’t quite believe how cruel she was in the way she broke up with him, so he refers to her as “Somebody That I Used to Know“:
“You didn’t have to cut me off,
Make out like it never happened, and that we were nothing,
And I don’t even need your love,
But you treat me like a stranger, and that feels so rough,
No you didn’t have to stoop so low,
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number,
I guess that I don’t need that, though,
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know…”
My singer/songwriter daughter Emily wrote a song recently that hasn’t officially been released, but she has given me permission to include a section of the lyric, which cleverly takes stock of feelings that change in the arc of a romantic relationship:
“I like you too much to be honest with you, don’t wanna hear your heart hit the floor, /But I love you just enough to tell you I don’t love you anymore…”
For this blog, which will be Hack’s Back Pages Lyrics Quiz #10, I’ve chosen 25 classic tunes with lyrics that explore the anger, sadness or satisfaction that comes when you dump someone, or get dumped. Ruminate on these 25 lyrics, write down your guesses, and then scroll down to see how many you got right, and read a little about each song. Good luck!
1. “It’s a strange, sad affair, sometimes seems like we just don’t care, /Don’t waste time feeling hurt, we’ve been through hell together…”
2. “I beg of you, don’t say goodbye, can’t we give our love another try? /Come on, baby, let’s start anew…”
3. “No, I can’t forget tomorrow when I think of all my sorrows, when I had you there, but then I let you go…”
4. “Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right? /Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight…”
5. “Since you’ve gone, I’ve been lost without a trace, /I dream at night, I can only see your face, /I look around, but it’s you I can’t replace, /I feel so cold, and I long for your embrace, /I keep crying, baby, baby, please…”
6. “Oh, baby, give me one more chance to show you that I love you, /Won’t you please let me back in your heart?…”
7. “A love like ours is love that’s hard to find, how could we let it slip away? /We’ve come too far to leave it all behind, how could we end it all this way?…”
8. “There goes my baby with someone new, she sure looks happy, I sure am blue, /She was my baby ’til he stepped in, goodbye to romance that might have been…”
9. “There’ll be good times again for me and you, but we just can’t stay together, don’t you feel it too, /Still I’m glad for what we had, and how I once loved you…”
10. “I ain’t saying you treated me unkind, you could have done better but I don’t mind, /You just kinda wasted my precious time…”
11. “Go on now, go! Walk out the door, just turn around now ’cause you’re not welcome anymore, /Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye?…”
12. “Tearing yourself away from me now, you are free, and I am crying, /This does not mean I don’t love you, I do, that’s forever, yes and for always…”
13. “Get up in the morning, look in the mirror, /I’m worn as a toothbrush hanging in the stand, yeah, /My face ain’t looking any younger, /Now I can see, love’s taken a toll on me…”
14. “Now, you don’t care a thing about me, you’re just using me (ooh-ooh-ooh), /Go on, get out, get out of my life, and let me sleep at night…”
15. “I’ve given up, I’ve given up, I’ve given up on waiting any longer, /I’ve given up on this love getting stronger…”
16. “Sunshine, blue skies, please go away, my girl has found another and gone away, /With her went my future, my life is filled with gloom, so day after day, I stay locked up in my room…”
17. “Baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you, if you would only love me like you used to do, yeah, /We had a love, a love, a love you don’t find every day, so don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t let it slip away…”
18. “Loving you isn’t the right thing to do, how can I ever change things that I feel? /If I could, baby, I’d give you my world, how can I when you won’t take it from me?…”
19. “I don’t know how in the world to stop thinking of him ’cause I still love him so, /I end each day the way I start out, crying my heart out…”
20. “Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could have, And maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have, If I made you feel second best, girl, I’m sorry, I was blind…”
21. “I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad, /Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby that I ever had…”
22. “But it’s all right, I’m okay, how are you? /For what it’s worth, I must say I love you, /And in my bed late at night, I miss you, /Someone is gonna take my heart, but no one is going to break my heart again…”
23. “Since you left me, if you see me with another girl seeming like I’m having fun, /Although she may be cute, she’s just a substitute, because you’re the permanent one…”
24. “We could have been so good together, we could have lived this dance forever, /But now who’s gonna dance with me, please stay…”
25. “I know a man ain’t supposed to cry, but these tears I can’t hold inside, /Losin’ you would end my life, you see, ’cause you mean that much to me…”
1. “Can We Still Be Friends,” Todd Rundgren, 1978
Music and lyrics by Todd Rundgren. Reached #28 on Top 40 chart in 1978. From Rundgren’s “Hermit of Mink Hollow” album.
2. “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” Neil Sedaka, 1962
Music and lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1962; a slower version by Sedaka reached #8 in 1975. Original is from Sedaka’s “Neil Sedaka Sings His Greatest Hits” album.
3. “Without You,” Nilsson, 1971
Music and lyrics by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger. Nilsson’s version reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1972. From Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson” album.
4. “I’m Looking Through You,” The Beatles, 1965
Music and lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Was not released as a single. From The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” album.
5. “Every Breath You Take,” Police, 1983
Music and lyrics by Sting. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1983. From The Police’s “Synchronicity” album.
6. “I Want You Back,” Jackson 5, 1969
Music and lyrics by The Corporation (Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell and Deke Richards). Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1970. From The Jackson 5’s “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” album.
7. “If You Leave Me Now,” Chicago, 1976
Music and lyrics by Peter Cetera. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1976. From Chicago’s “Chicago X” album.
8. “Bye Bye Love,” The Everly Brothers, 1957
Music and lyrics by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. Reached #2 on Top 40 chart in 1957. From “The Everly Brothers” debut album.
9. “It’s Too Late,” Carole King, 1971
Music by Carole King, lyrics by Toni Stern. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1971. From King’s “Tapestry” album.
10. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” Bob Dylan, 1963
Music and lyrics by Bob Dylan. Did not chart as a single (but Peter, Paul & Mary’s version reached #9 on Top 40 chart in 1963). From Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album.
11. “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor, 1978
Music and lyrics by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1979. From Gaynor’s “Love Tracks” album.
12. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969
Music and lyrics by Stephen Stills. Reached #21 on Top 40 chart in 1969. From Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Crosby, Stills and Nash” album.
13. “She’s Gone,” Daryl Hall & John Oates, 1973
Music and lyrics by Daryl Hall and John Oates. Reached #7 on Top 40 chart in 1976. From Daryl Hall & John Oates’ “Abandoned Luncheonette” album.
14. “You Keep Me Hanging On,” The Supremes, 1966
Music and lyrics by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1966. From “The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland” album.
15. “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, 1985
Music and lyrics by Tom Petty. Reached #13 on Top 40 chart in 1985. From Petty’s “Southern Accents” album.
16. “I Wish It Would Rain,” Temptations, 1967
Music by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, lyrics by Rodger Penzabene. Reached #4 on the Top 40 chart in 1968. From “The Temptations Wish It Would Rain” LP.
17. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” The Righteous Brothers, 1964
Music and lyrics by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1965.
18. “Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac, 1977
Music and lyrics by Lindsey Buckingham. Reached #10 on Top 40 chart in 1977. From the “Rumours” album.
19. “One Less Bell to Answer,” 5th Dimension, 1970
Music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David. Reached #2 on Top 40 chart in 1970. From The 5th Dimension’s “Portrait” album.
20. “Always On My Mind,” Willie Nelson, 1982
Music and lyrics by Wayne Carson, Mark James and Johnny Christopher. Reached #5 on Top 40 chart in 1982. From Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” album.
21. “River,” Joni Mitchell, 1971
Music and lyrics by Joni Mitchell. Was not released as a single. From Mitchell’s “Blue” album.
22. “I Used to Be a King,” Graham Nash, 1971
Music and lyrics by Graham Nash. Was not released as a single. From Nash’s “Songs For Beginners” album.
23. “The Tracks of My Tears,” The Miracles, 1965
Music and lyrics by Smokey Robinson, Marv Tarplin and Pete Moore. Reached #16 on Top 40 chart in 1965. From The Miracles’ “Going to a Go-Go” album.
24. “Careless Whisper,” Wham!, 1984
Music and Lyrics by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1985. From Wham!’s “Make It Big” album.
25. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye, 1968
Music and lyrics by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1968. From Gaye’s “In the Groove” album.