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Top 21 Best Songs About Depression

Depression is a word that is used to describe a variety of states of mind. It is a common malady that affects millions of people all around the world.

Not surprising then that it has been a subject grasped by songwriters. We are going to look at the best songs about depression. But, before we do, let’s identify what we are talking about.

What Kind Of Depression?

Best Songs About Depression

Depression can be broadly placed into two distinct categories. It can be a profound feeling of sadness. This can be brought on by a variety of issues, the loss of a loved one, for example. It leaves you with a sense of worthlessness and often isolation. This is known as clinical depression.

The second form of depression can be described as “situational depression.” This might occur through the loss of your job, severe financial hardship, or being involved in stressful events. These are just a few of the situations that might trigger the feelings.

It Can Consume You

Depression can drain the very life force out of you. The apathy it creates can be all-consuming. It leaves you isolated from friends and family, the very people that might be able to help you.

And, when you reach your lowest point, some turn to addictive substances or even harm themselves. Some of the songwriters or those that sing the songs have experienced this firsthand for themselves. Let’s see what they have to say.

Top 21 Best Songs About Depression

Everybody Hurts by R.E.M

This is a song that was taken from their 1992 album, Automatic For The People. The single was released in 1993 and reached #7 in The UK and #29 in America. And it’s an ideal place to start this list of the best songs about depression.

The track utilizes a Univox drum machine rather than ‘real’ drums. The orchestral strings were composed and arranged by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. Who else?

A song packed full of emotion despite its simplicity… 

REM said that the song was kept simple and was aimed at teenagers. Especially those young fans of REM. The song was inspired by a Nazareth track from 1974, “Love Hurts.”

The lyrics are quite direct. It says when you are on your own, and it feels like it’s the end, then just hang on, don’t give up. Things will get better. And the message of the song is that we all suffer bad feelings, but eventually, they will pass. 

It suggests you trust and take comfort in your friends. The ‘real’ ones, not the ‘plastic’ social media ones. Irrespective of the importance of its message, it is also a great song about feeling hurt.

Already Gone by Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson is a rare breed. She is someone that came through one of those awful TV “talent” shows that has some real ability. 

This is a song that was co-written by her. It is the story of a particularly harsh breakup that is depressive, to say the least. She feels they were never meant to break up, which makes the situation worse and harder to let go of. 

It was taken from her fourth studio album, All I Ever Wanted. However, the song aside, in real life, there was enough surrounding this song to make you depressed anyway. 

Losing control…

Kelly accused her co-writer and musical arranger of lifting something from another song. She complained it would look bad on her if the song was released with the offending music included. Furthermore, she didn’t even want it included in the album. But, the record company released it not only on the album but as a single, which compounded her feelings about it. There were more disagreements about the content of the music video. 

Being controlled by others can plunge you into the sort of depression many experience. The song was a minor success by her standards, reaching #66 in the UK but doing better in America, reaching #13.

Blues Run the Game by Simon and Garfunkel

This is a song written by folk singer Jackson Frank. It was included in The Sound of Silence. It was also included on Frank’s first album, Jackson C. Frank.

It is a song that you could say was typical of the period for Simon and Garfunkel. The harmonies and the gentle style of the guitars encourage the thought of other songs they recorded from the period.

Filling the void…

This is a sad song that has all the hallmarks of someone who is suffering from depression. They have isolated themselves, but long for the pleasure of someone’s company. They fill the empty void by sending out to room service for alcohol in an attempt to ease the pain.

He then says it wouldn’t matter where in the world he was; he is still going to feel the same. It is how he is, “the blues run the game” and dictate to him. One of those situations where the person who is suffering has got to break this destructive chain of thought.

Space Oddity by David Bowie

Released in 1969, it was later included in Bowie’s self-named second studio album, David Bowie. Bowie must have considered himself very lucky to have attracted musicians like Rick Wakeman on Mellotron and Herbie Flowers on bass to play. 

Having them as session musicians is only going to improve the quality. And it certainly did.

Did Bowie Use The Space program?

Whether Bowie was writing this song about the effects and results of depression, I do not know. But, if he wasn’t, he certainly got the emotive feelings spot on. 

This is a track that has used space flight as a way of describing some of the symptoms. Interestingly, it was first released just nine days before Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon.

Considering Outcomes?

Perhaps Bowie was considering the effects on them and Michael Collins circling above them if something terrible happened. Let’s consider that. Could there be anything more helpless than being stranded up there? The isolation, the realization, and the fear that no rescue would be possible. All feelings that severe depression can cause.

And then you have the self-questioning. Are the people below interested in what you are doing? Or, as the song says, they are more interested in “what shirts Major Tom wears in space.”

Panic

The song is cleverly constructed lyrically to create the feeling of panic. That same feeling can occur when you are struggling mentally. 

It could be described as the feeling of being isolated and alone. Of people not interested in you, only interested in the trivial things in life, like what brand of shirts you wear.

Fade To Black by Metallica

Released in 1984, this is a power ballad from their album, Ride The Lightning. This could be the first power ballad produced by the band. It bears all the hallmarks of their later material, especially with the exaggerated overdriven guitar sound.

As you might imagine, the lyrics of the song have a very dark side that is emphasized by the overall Metallica sound. As a result, it’s one of the best Heavy Metal songs about depression.

Cliff Burton, the bass player, brought a new style to Metallica in that he began to get them to use a more theoretical style of writing. This, instead of just “thrashing” a song. It didn’t achieve a lot of apparent chart success, though, reaching only #87 on the UK album chart and #48 in America.

Lack of chart success or not…

It did demonstrate the evolving and developing way they were constructing their songs musically and lyrically. It got them a lucrative deal with Elektra records, and the album eventually sold over six million copies. Not too bad for an album that was considered to have not had too much success.

A Bad Place

It takes you to a bad place in a person’s mind who is fast losing the will to live. Portraying the hopeless feelings that accompany depression. The song speaks of becoming lost within themselves.

It paints a picture of the desperation that can be felt when gradually you lose feelings for anyone or anything. There is just an emptiness that cannot be filled. 

The song was written by James Hetfield when he was suffering himself. That was caused by the theft of the band’s equipment and some personal problems he had.

Fade to Black by Dire Straits

It might have the same title as the previous song, but it is light years away in terms of its style. This was a track from Dire Strait’s album, On Every Street, which was the follow-up to Brothers in Arms.

On Every Street was the last album the band made before Mark Knopfler went his own way. It reached #1 in the UK and #12 in America.

Getting out of a bad situation…

It is the story of a man looking back at a failed relationship. One where he did things he wouldn’t normally have done just to please her. He says, “I wish I’d never been tattooed.” He imagines her out on the town and reminds himself she took him to hell and back. It is a song about recovery from being in a bad place more than anything else. 

A positive slant on the effects of depression. Knopfler describes simply how he has come out of it. He realizes the experiences he had were “all for the best.”

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams 

It is not too hard to imagine that Country music has plenty of songs that talk about bad feelings. Relationships that have gone wrong and left one of the parties distraught. 

But, the music and lyrics are usually more gentle and subtle in their approach. This song by country music legend Hank Williams is a good example.

In Days Past

The mood of lyrics changed at some point in the 60s and had become quite descriptive by the 70s. The Beatles may well have been the ones who rewrote the songwriting book on lyric writing. They included lines and suggestions never heard before. Previous to that period, the songs that included subjects like the effect of depression were easier on the ears and the mind.

He mentions in the song about wanting to cry on his own because he feels so lonesome. A classic symptom of depression without saying it.

A Country Favorite

Released in 1949 as a B-side, it has become one of Country music’s favorite songs. And is one of the best Country songs about being depressed.

There is some confusion about who wrote it, though. Williams claimed authorship, but it later was established the song was written by a 19-year-old from Kentucky, Paul Gilley. 

He wrote some songs, and Williams bought them from him with a one-off payment so he could claim authorship. In 1949, the charts were not well organized, but it is listed as reaching #4 on the American Country music chart.

Rainy Days And Mondays by The Carpenters 

Even with a subject matter that is quite sad, as is the case here, Karen Carpenter makes the song sound somehow happy. Such was the quality of her voice.

This is a track from the album, The Carpenters, written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols. The single peaked at #2 in America but didn’t make the chart in the UK. On a subsequent re-release, it still only made #63 despite plenty of airplay.

As with the previous song… 

This has a very gentle approach to the symptoms people suffer with depression. It talks about feeling down, and feeling like you “want to quit because nothing ever seems to fit.”

She sings about walking around and feeling you don’t belong. But, she refers to having a friend to who she can always turn. For someone who is depressed, that is a vital part of overcoming those feelings of lack of self-worth.

Irony

The irony of this song only came to light after the death of Karen at the age of 32. For years she had struggled with the burdens of expectation laid upon her. Fame didn’t sit too easily with her, and she struggled to cope. 

That in itself can cause depression, and then we all react in different ways. Hers was to develop an eating disorder. That eventually became so severe her heart just gave out, and she collapsed and died at home.

A tragic tale of what can happen when these mental issues get a hold of you. And, of course, if they are not dealt with by those trained to do so. A tragic tale that surrounds one of the best songs about depression.

I Am, I Said by Neil Diamond

This is another song that has been written from personal experience. Neil Diamond is a very sensitive person, and as such, some things get to him. 

He has suffered for years from a guilt complex. We don’t need to go into why, but he blames himself for some things that may have been beyond his control. Add that on to a desperate need for love and, in contradiction, a need to feel lonely; then, you have a complex character.

Therapy Gave Him A Positive Outcome

He spent some time in therapy, and this song came from that experience and conversations with analysts. That at least provided a positive experience. Released in 1971, it reached #4 in the UK and America and has always been one of his fans’ favorites.

The lyrics are stark, and he opens up his innermost thoughts in the song. One particular line is revealing. When talking about his situation, he wrote, “I am, I said – To no one there – And no one heard at all – Not even the chair.”

This may be a great example of how he was able to open up about his problems. And maybe that was the best therapy of all. Additionally, as one of the best songs about depression, this track might help bring you back from the brink.

Help! by The Beatles

The title track of the fifth studio album of the same name by The Beatles was released in 1965. It reached #1 in the UK and America, and nine other countries. The album included the music from the accompanying full-length feature film. It also reached #1 in the UK and America, and other countries. To complete the package, the film was made into a DVD.

It is a simple enough song, almost lighthearted in its creation. The Beatles were still very much a Pop band at the time. The serious stuff was yet to come, but this was a serious enough subject for them at the time.

It might sound like a Pop song…

And it is made for only one thing. But, there is a serious subject inside. It is a song about someone struggling to cope and needs a friend around.

“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down – And I do appreciate you being ‘round – Help me get my feet back on the ground.”

This was written mainly by John with a little input from Paul. But, it was written at a time when the pressures of the lives they were forced to live were beginning to show. Maybe there is a little of that in John’s words.

Never Let Me Go by Florence And The Machine

This is a track from the British Indie rock band released in 2011. It was taken from their album, Ceremonials. The single reached #82 in the UK. The album was more successful and reached #1 in the UK and #6 in America.

When you suffer from depression, it can be a series of ups and downs. One day you may think that you are getting over it. The next, it kicks you back down again. This is a song that gives a great description of what can happen to you. And it includes a memorable line that is great advice for any suffering in this way. More on that in a minute.

The End Can Be Hard To Accept

In the vast majority of cases, when a relationship ends, one of the parties is left devastated. It can take some time to accept that the relationship is over. You might wait around, hoping they will change their mind. They rarely do.

And, all this time, you are blaming yourself and considering yourself worthless. That starts a cycle of isolation and a loss of respect for who you are. Let’s go back to a memorable line in the song that may have been written from a personal experience. She sings, “I’m going under – But I’m not giving up.”

Accepting its end, but committing to yourself, you will bounce back. Good advice. Now, let’s do something that I have never done in reviewing songs for specific subjects. Include the same song by two different artists.

Hurt by Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was known to have sung songs that initially would not have seemed suitable. But, when he decided to cover the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt,” it raised more than a few eyebrows. 

But, if anyone knows a thing or two about the subject matter, then it was the “Man in Black.” It turned out to be a masterstroke. His version affected many people deeply, and it has become one of the best songs about depression ever recorded.

Some could have remembered him as the young singer intent on conquering the world. In the video of this song, seeing him as an old and seemingly broken man was something they may not have been ready for. 

If You Have Suffered A Loss…

In that case, this is a song that will resonate with you. That loss can be just an emotional one, but the song highlights the pain that can transpire. If it is a loved one, then that pain can be much worse.

A different type of Johnny Cash is in view here. One that is in mourning for his life’s partner, June Carter Cash. His wife, musical partner, and life partner for thirty-five years, died suddenly in May 2003. Johnny Cash died a few months later, some say of a broken heart.

Hurt by Nine Inch Nails

So, let’s go from the Johnny Cash version to the original. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor wrote the song; it was released in 1995 and taken from their album, The Downward Spiral.

A different version, of course, to what Johnny Cash produced. In many ways, almost a different song, which is why they are both included.

People talk about being in a dark place sometimes. Especially when it comes to depression. This was true for Reznor concerning this song. At the time, he was recording and living in the house where Manson killed Sharon Tate. The word ‘pig’ could still be made out on the door.

Did that have something to do with his frame of mind?

The song includes references to being addicted to heroin and some other unfortunate what you might call “addictions.” For some people, it is nearly impossible to listen to. 

But, it should be remembered that the act of physically hurting oneself is often used to remove the internal hurting, which is often worse. The pain of depression is captured in this song, perhaps more violently here than in Johnny Cash’s version.

Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel 

In writing this song, did Peter Gabriel aim to create one of the most depressing songs ever? If so, there are a lot of people who think he may have succeeded. It is a track taken from his 1986 album, So.

The song is lyrically based on a self-confessional work by Anne Sexton. The music is partly inspired by an English folk tune with an interesting use of South American drums. It was never released as a single.

It is a typically sensitive work from Gabriel. And, it takes you a few times of listening to it to understand how sad it is. It is well-produced to give the song a haunting feel which only adds to the desperate mood.

Fire and Rain by James Taylor

Here is a man who writes this song from a position of having the experience of what depression can do to you. It was taken from his album, Sweet Baby James, released in 1970.

The verses cover a period of his life when he was struggling. He went from the highs of being signed to Apple records, which effectively was his first big break. He came to London to record, and while he was there, his best friend, Suzanne Schnerr, committed suicide. 

No One Told Him

No one told him until he got home. He found out six months after she had gone. “Just yesterday morning – they let me know you were gone.”

He was already depressed as it was, with the seeming collapse of a band he had put together called The Flying Machines. “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.”

The song carried on with its melancholy theme and refers to his drug addictions and depression. He finished the song while he was in rehab, trying to overcome the problems.

Fame And Fortune

These were other issues he struggled with, and those didn’t go away. He felt isolated with no one around him. People suffering from depression will relate to that. He included the line in “Fire and Rain” that mentioned, “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.”

His close friend, Carole King, wrote the song “You’ve Got A Friend” to him in response to her concern when he made that line in the song. She included it on her iconic album, Tapestry.

Friends will always help…

“When you’re down and troubled and need a helping hand – Close your eyes and think of me – Soon I will be there – To brighten up even your darkest night.”

Taylor himself recorded “You’ve Got a Friend,” and it gave him his first #1. “Fire and Rain” had reached #42 in the UK and #3 in America.

As I said, “Fire and Rain” was borne out of the experiences of someone who had to go through it all. But, he came out the other side. That is the best part of the story. And why it has to be included as one of the best songs about depression.

Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones

This is a song that was released by the Stones in 1966. With due respect to them, it came out at a time when The Beatles had established themselves as the best band in the world. And Lennon and McCartney were songwriters of the highest quality. 

If you track the Stones early career path, it is easy to hear they are always trying to follow in their footsteps. This is an example. The Beatles had been involved with Indian mystics and music. This has a serious Indian influence in its rhythms and a Sitar wailing away.

The Stones were still trying to establish their identity, and it was like nothing they had done before. However, it is lyrically well-written by Jagger and Richards and addresses the subject. It was taken from the album, Aftermath.

Darkness within…

The song uses some simple explanations that are very effective to describe the darkness of depression. “I Look Inside Myself – I see My heart is Black.” That is often how people feel when they suffer from depression. It reached #1 in the UK and America.

Breathe Me by Sia

This is a single from this Australian singer’s 2004 album, Colour The Small One. It was one of her first releases, a haunting song about coping with depression. It found success at first on alternative ‘Indie’ radio stations.

On the mainstream chart in the UK, it had its highest position at #71. It also made the mainstream chart in Denmark and France.

The Desperation

Depression can bring feelings of desperation. You feel you just need someone with you, so “you know that you’ve got a friend,” as Carole King wrote. The emotions generated by depression can be overwhelming, as we have already seen.

She talks about feeling broken and unsafe, which is a good description of the way you can feel. The words can be a comfort to those suffering similar feelings. They will tell you that you are not the only one going through it.

Black Eyed Dog by Nick Drake

We have looked at a variety of songs about depression and mental illness. In some cases, the songs have been written by people that have suffered but overcome it. This, unfortunately, is a song by someone that just couldn’t.

The song was released in 1986 and like much of his work, went largely unnoticed. He was a student at Cambridge University when he signed to Island Records. 

A uniquely talented singer-songwriter, his inability to cope with life gradually got worse, as is reflected in the lyrics of his songs. It can also be seen in the style. The first two albums he created were folky with strings and easy on the ear. His last album, Pink Moon, certainly wasn’t.

Simple And Repetitive

The lyrics are repetitive and very sad. He says he doesn’t want to grow old and just wants to go home. By home, it is thought he was using that word as a metaphor for dying.

A short time after recording this song, he retreated to his parent’s home and left recording and performing behind. He died, aged 26, after an overdose of antidepressant drugs he had been prescribed. It was never identified if it was an accident or deliberate.

If the song isn’t depressing enough, then the story doesn’t have a happy ending. But, from this, we can take a lesson that mental illness is real and needs to be treated. You can’t ignore it.

Torn by Natalie Imbruglia

This song had made three incarnations before Natalie Imbruglia released it as her debut single. The song was taken from her first album, Left Of The Middle, released in 1997.

The single became an instant success…

As of today is one of the top 100 selling singles of all time in the UK. It reached #2 in the UK and #42 in America. Furthermore, it’s one of the best Pop songs talking about depression.

The song concentrates on the effects of a messy breakup and the emotional damage it can cause. She thought she had found her ideal man, only to have all her dreams of the future shattered.

Probably not an uncommon story and one many have to deal with. And dealing with it is important. The beginnings of depression can begin from these situations. If you let the bad feelings take hold, it can become quite serious. 

But What Can You Do?

If you are riding a horse and fall off for whatever reason, what do you do? You get up, dust yourself down and get back in the saddle. That is the answer to a lot of post-relationship feelings that bring you down.

Behind Blue Eyes by The Who

Pete Townshend has been one of the most important songwriters of the last 60 years. He has been able to combine producing Pop songs with great Rock music as well as songs that make a social comment. This song falls into the last category.

It was released as a single in 1971 and was taken from the album, Who’s Next, often thought to be their finest. 

“Behind Blue Eyes” was considered for release as a single, but Townshend thought it out of step with the British music scene at the time. It was released in some European countries and in America, where it reached #34.

Semi-biographical…

Inspired by Townshend’s feelings of anger and resentment at all the pressure put on him. “No one bites back as hard on their anger – None of my pain and woe – Can show through.”

It is a song of two distinct sections. There is a quieter, more thoughtful part and a Rock part. Perhaps a reference to the two principal sides of Townshend’s character. 

It is essentially a song about controlling your emotions when they are about to swallow you up. A feeling often felt by those suffering from depression. A great track that allows Roger Daltrey to show he is still one of the best Rock singers around.

I Am a Rock by Simon & Garfunkel 

This is one of the all-time great Paul Simon songs. He spent a lot of time in the UK in the mid-60s, and this was a song he recorded that was only released there. It was on the album, The Paul Simon Songbook, released in the UK in 1965.

Simon and Garfunkel later released it as the final track on the Sounds Of Silence album in 1966, when it also came out as a single. It was released again in 1971. The single released in 1966 attained a chart position at #17 in the UK and #3 in America.

Like a stone…

The theme of “I Am A Rock” looks at emotional detachment and isolation of yourself. That isolation can be borne out of various personal issues. In some, it is a barrier, protection against being hurt by other people.

“I have no need of friendship – Friendship causes pain – Its laughter and its loving I disdain.” And, again referring to love, “I won’t disturb the slumber – Of feelings that have died – If I’d never loved I never would have cried.”

And finally, on isolating himself, “Hiding In My Room – Safe within my womb – I touch no one and no one touches me.”

Telling a painful story…

Paul Simon himself appears to have struggled with various issues. Perhaps the loss of ‘his’ Kathy. He remembered writing the songs for The Paul Simon Songbook and says he recognizes how important they were in his transition as a songwriter.

But, it is also painful to look back at something that tells a painful story. Especially when you realize the story was not about someone else, but about you. If it has been a while since you’ve heard this song, then take another listen. Genius, and from one who was so young at the time.

Looking for More Incredible Songs?

If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Silence, the Best Songs About Loneliness, the Best Songs About Missing Someone You Love, the Best Songs About Crying, and the Best Songs About Not Giving Up for more amazing song selections.

Of course, you need to hear them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones Under $200, and the Best JBL Wireless Headphones you can buy in 2023.

Best Songs About Depression – Final Thoughts

It isn’t just sad. Depression goes beyond that. Clinical depression leaves you feeling worthless, hopeless, and apathetic. There are some people like Nick Drake who had and have to deal with clinical depression for their whole life.

Situational depression is different but can be as bad. The loss of a loved one such as Johnny Cash, or even just the end of a long-term relationship leaves a very deep scar. It is a shock because you get feelings you are not used to or able to deal with. Sometimes, it causes other medical problems to deteriorate as it did with him.

Dealing With It

It is always best to deal with it through professionals. People trained to handle it. Self-medicating is not the answer, and addictions only add to the problems. Hurting yourself externally to cover up internal pain is a disaster waiting to happen.

Don’t Be Ashamed

Mental health issues are real. It doesn’t mean you are mad, it never did. It means you need a little help. We are not all able to overcome these feelings on our own. There is never any shame in seeking that help or just turning to friends. Or, maybe the words of some of these songs from some who have been there will help.

Until next time, take care of yourself.

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About Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is a freelance writer from Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Games and Simulation Design.

Her passions include guitar, bass, ukulele, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments she has been playing since at school. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, yoga, eating well, and spending time with her two cats, Rocky and Jasper.

Jennifer enjoys writing articles on all types of musical instruments and is always extending her understanding and appreciation of music. She also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories for various websites and hopes to get her first book published in the very near future.

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