Of all the human emotions we go through, loving someone who doesn’t reciprocate your feelings is one of the worst. It is an awful feeling, and try as you might; there is often nothing you can do.
Songwriters have produced a plethora of music about unrequited love. So, I’ve decided to take an in-depth look at some songs about unrequited love.
- You Are Not Alone
- And the Songs?
- Top 14 Songs About Unrequited Love
- Love Hurts by The Everly Brothers
- It Hurts To Be In Love by Gene Pitney
- I Need Your Love So Bad by Fleetwood Mac
- Just My Imagination by The Temptations
- Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel
- Never My Love by The Association
- Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic by The Police
- Catch the Wind by Donovan
- Thank You by Led Zeppelin
- Long Long Time by Linda Ronstadt
- Why Can’t This Be Love by Van Halen
- Keep on Loving You by REO Speedwagon
- True Love Ways by Buddy Holly
- Girl by The Beatles
- Looking For More Sentimental Songs?
- Songs About Unrequited Love – Conclusion
You Are Not Alone
Everyone goes through it. And, if you are going through it now, there are plenty of others that are as well. You are not alone, even though it might seem like you are. The problem with it is that the more they reject you, the more you seem to want them.
And the Songs?
For some people, they can help. Listening to songs about rejection or unrequited love might help. Sometimes, it can put it all into perspective. And, they are not all weepy ballads either, as we shall see. So, let’s take a look at some of the best unrequited love songs starting with…
Top 14 Songs About Unrequited Love
Love Hurts by The Everly Brothers
A song by Boudleaux Bryant, the Everly’s recorded and released it in 1960. It was included on their album, A Date with The Everly Brothers. There have been several cover versions, most notably by Roy Orbison, Nazareth, and Jim Capaldi.
I have chosen to include the album track by The Everly Brothers. It is a simple song about how love hurts.
It Hurts To Be In Love by Gene Pitney
And, talking about it hurts to be in love, that is the title of this 1964 song from Gene Pitney. He arrived on the scene in the UK with his inoffensive “college boy” looks. Every parent’s choice as a husband for their daughter.
The first single, “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa,” did well on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, it peaked at #17, but in the UK it went to #2. It wasn’t only The Beatles the girls screamed at in those days.
Over the years, he had some great songs and big hits. An interesting voice but a supremely professional attitude that won him many admirers in the music fraternity. “It Hurts To Be In Love” was always one of his most popular songs at his live concerts.
I Need Your Love So Bad by Fleetwood Mac
This is from back in the days before Fleetwood Mac became what some would call a pop band. In those days, they were one of the most respected blues bands in the UK. That was mainly due to the great Peter Green, of course.
This song was released in 1968 and taken from the album, Pious Bird of Good Omen. It was only a modest success, reaching #31 on the UK chart. The first version of the song by Little Willie John came out in 1955. It reached the charts and was usually included on any of his compilation albums.
Giving it some smoothness…
You will hear that the Fleetwood Mac version was much slower and had some added strings. Peter Green ditched his Les Paul for this track and played it on a Fender Strat.
BB King commented that Greeny had the sweetest tone he’d ever heard. “He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.” An honor indeed and not a silly hat or two hundred effects pedals in sight.
Just My Imagination by The Temptations
At the height of its glory years, Motown produced some great acts. But, for me, The Temptations were always the best of the bunch.
Yes, there was the “product of the times” dance moves and the shiny suits. But when you got past all that, there were some great songs and some very good vocal performances.
As time went on, they excelled themselves with tracks like “Cloud Nine.” And, possibly the best of the lot, “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.” As well as a song with a message that still resonates today, Ball Of Confusion.
Their catalog is littered with great songs and great performances…
“Just My Imagination” is a clever song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. It is about a man imagining he has found his dream girl. He knows it is all in his mind and is just his imagination, but he clings to the idea.
A great song that reached #8 in the UK and #1 in America. As far as the best songs about unrequited love, this one is a classic.
Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel
This was the third single taken from the album Bridge Over Troubled Water, released in 1970. It was always a catchy tune and tells the story of an unfaithful lover. There have been other interpretations, as there always will be. For Paul Simon, the lyrics he used were quite explicit for him.
The release of this track as a single was always something I could never understand. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was, of course, a natural single, as was “The Boxer.” But I wonder whose idea this was for a single. There were far better, more “Simon-Esque” tracks on the album that, in my view, would have been better.
It reached #4 in America but failed to chart in the UK, which was surprising considering Paul Simon’s status there. Still, a great song about love denied.
Never My Love by The Association
This is a song written by Don and Dick Addrisi, and if there is a better love song, then I don’t think I have heard it. It reached #2 in America.
There are a lot of people who may never have heard of The Association. Unfortunately, with their clean-cut Californian image, they were rejected by the 60s counter-culture. They just weren’t “far-out” enough.
This was a strange reaction because they were chosen to open the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. And their first big record was entitled Along Comes Mary, and we are well aware of the connotation there.
They were, in my opinion, probably the finest vocal group of the 60s and 70s and deserved more recognition than they ever received. “Never My Love” is a great example of the complex harmonies they achieved. Built around a great song with meaningful lyrics.
It wasn’t the only time they achieved such excellence with a great song. Take a listen to another outstanding effort, “Cherish.” Songs about unrequited love? Beat this one.
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic by The Police
After what you might call humble beginnings, The Police became one of the biggest bands in the world. They had a knack for producing good pop songs with interesting lyrics, and this song by Sting is a good example. It went to #1 in the UK and #3 in America.
He has written a song that has emotions and feelings many will be familiar with. I suppose that is one of the reasons for its success.
He Loses His Nerve
He wants to go to a girl and tell her how he feels about her. But, every time he plucks up the courage, he loses his nerve right at the last moment. He seems to be suffering from a ‘rejection’ complex. And, despite his infatuation with her can’t overcome it. Instead, thinking, “everything she does is magic.”
It touches a nerve with some, I am sure. He hasn’t been rejected by her, he is just frightened of the rejection. And that is what is stopping him.
The thought that if she does reject him, all is lost. Not knowing in his mind means there is still a chance. Have we all felt like that at one time?
Catch the Wind by Donovan
One of those simple, innocent 60s songs with no bad connotations. Just a sweet expression of love. He loves a girl but realizes he will not get her. He wants to let her know he loves her, but he may just as well try and catch the wind.
As we are running out of space, here are some “honorable mentions” for popular songs about loving someone who doesn’t love you:
- You’re Beautiful by James Blunt.
- Without You by Harry Nilsson.
- You Don’t Know Me by Ray Charles.
- You Were Always on My Mind by Willie Nelson.
- I Will by The Beatles.
Thank You by Led Zeppelin
Sometimes, you come across a song from a well-known band that seems to slip under the mainstream radar. This song by Jimmy Page is one of those. It is possibly the most underrated song they have ever done and was taken from Led Zeppelin II, possibly their best album.
It is an excellent ballad sung with plenty of emotion by Robert Plant. Plenty is going on sound-wise with Jimmy on 12-string and a nice melodic bass line from John Paul Jones. But it’s lifted to another level when John Paul Jones adds his Hammond organ part at the end for an interesting fade-out.
Long Long Time by Linda Ronstadt
Of all the female vocalists around in the 70s and 80s, Linda Ronstadt was always one of my favorites. A great voice with such a wide range allowed her to cross genres easily. This is a song written by Gary White, taken from her album, Silk Purse.
It is a tragic song about someone loving someone so much, but the feelings are just not reciprocated. She admits the situation and recognizes that it is going to hurt for a long time. An excellent song with touching lyrics. She does an excellent job and has some real emotion in her voice.
Don’t Know Much by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville
Let’s stay with Linda Ronstadt one more time. There have been some excellent duet ballads on the subject of unrequited love. Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross come to mind. But they didn’t beat this one.
This was originally going to be my top choice, but some others got in the way. Nevertheless, this is the best duet performance I have ever heard.
Honest and pure…
The great thing about the track is that there is no enforced histrionics for effect. Just two people singing a love song to each other. And Aaron Neville does a great job.
Interestingly, it was a cover version. It was written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Tom Snow. It reached #2 in the UK and America.
Why Can’t This Be Love by Van Halen
Let’s take a track from the second-best musician to come out of Amsterdam. What, I hear you say? Sorry, great as he was; there is one better on his instrument and half a dozen other instruments that he played as well.
Eddie did change the shape of rock music and the sound of the guitar with blinding technique. And he helped to create a masterpiece of an album in 5150. That is where this track comes from.
A familiar feeling…
It is quite cleverly written in that it seems to pose the question. Do we ever really know when we are in love? The lyrics also offer an element of confusion. One minute he is saying she is the greatest thing he’s met. The next that he won’t be tied down or “hung up on the line,” as he calls it.
Can’t have it both ways; make your mind up. Lyrics aside, a great track and full of what Eddie was going to give us in later years.
Keep on Loving You by REO Speedwagon
And still, the great tracks keep coming. You could have written five articles and still not included all that you wanted to.
“Keep On Loving You” was written by Kevin Cronin and was a different type of power ballad. It relied heavily on the quality of the song, the lyrics, and the power of the vocals rather than the volume of the band. A nice touch. I suppose you could refer to it as a “soft-rock power ballad.”
It was taken from their 1980 album, Hi Infidelity. It did well on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching #1 in America and #7 in the UK.
There were disagreements about whether the song was to be included on the album. Some members of the band thought it wasn’t their style. Cronin put his foot down, and it was included.
Good job. It has become one of the classic songs of the 80s and has been included in innumerable compilations.
True Love Ways by Buddy Holly
Some of the songs we have looked at have been very special. But, in terms of poignancy and meaning, this has to be one of the final tracks on the list.
Who knows how big Buddy Holly would have become. Bigger than Elvis? Certainly more talented musically than he was, so who knows.
A Parting Gift
This was a song he wrote with Norman Petty as a wedding gift to his wife, Maria. It was recorded three months before the plane crash. He played it on that last night in Iowa.
Girl by The Beatles
I am sure we all have a memory of our first love and a song that will remind us of them. This is mine. So spare me this indulgence.
Walking home from school every evening to have tea and biscuits with Carol. And listen to a Beatles album in her living room. We played that album over and over again. What album? Rubber Soul, of course.
The song was written by John Lennon. Of course, the other one tried to claim some semblance of input as he usually does, but it is John’s work.
Considering this was still early days, it is quite a complex song in its structure. It also has a melancholy feel about it, almost a sadness, as if the search for that “girl” would be fruitless. For John, of course, it wasn’t.
For Carol and I?
We seemed to be a great match, always together. But I, recently turned 15, was just starting to travel to play gigs. She didn’t like that or the stuff that went with it.
I heard she married an accountant some years later. C’est La Vie. But, every time I hear the song, I go back to that house, that is still there, and how it felt. I suppose that is what this list is all about, isn’t it?
Looking For More Sentimental Songs?
We have you covered. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Crying, the Best Songs About Cheating and Lying, the Best Songs About Loneliness, the Best Songs About Missing Someone You Love, and the Best Songs About Friendship for more great song selections.
Of course, you need to listen to those songs. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones Under $200, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best True Wireless Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Songs About Unrequited Love – Conclusion
This is a topic that has been central to songwriters for centuries, not just in the modern era. From today’s choices, we all have our favorites. Perhaps a song that has a special meaning.
The emotions they create are things that we have all been through. And they often go back to our early or mid-teens. Naturally, they bring forth memories, and we all love occasionally to just sit quietly and remember. It’s part of who we are.
Maybe there is one on that list that does that for you what it does for me.
Until next time, happy listening.