If you love sad Beatles songs, then this article is for you, as we dive deep into the discography of the Beatles to provide what we believe are some of the most emotionally moving songs by this beloved band.
Sad Beatles Songs You Will Love
Let’s begin with “For No One.”
10) “For No One” (1966)
We owe Paul McCartney thanks for this tune, as he wrote the entire thing himself. The theme of this track seems to be one that hints at a failing relationship. Lyrics like “she no longer needs you” and “no sign of love behind the tears” really drive this point home, and it makes listening to the track that much more painful.
The prevalent bass riff that plays throughout the course of the song seems to bring a deeper, more somber feel to the overall experience. A track like this resonates with anyone that has watched their partner fall out of love with them, and knowing that kind of pain personally makes listening to this song cut a little deeper.
9) “In My Life” (1965)
John Lennon primarily wrote this song, but with some help from Paul McCartney and George Martin. This track seems sweet on the surface, though gets sadder the more you look into it. In the song, Lennon remembers the people he has loved in his past, whether that be friends or family or lovers.
It is a nice remembrance of all of the people that have made an impact on his life, but it is also an acknowledgement that he will never see many of those people again, whether that is because of death or simply because they chose to go their separate ways.
I will say, the song veers toward a more light-hearted note in that Lennon acknowledges how beautiful the future will be as he continues to go about his life and meet new people. But the lingering feeling that this song leaves behind of missing those that you once loved but are now out of your life for good is unmistakable.
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8) “Julia” (1968)
John Lennon wrote and recorded this song solo, though it was still credited to the band as a whole. The lyrics seem to hint at a man who yearns for a woman that seems to stay just out of his reach. But Lennon revealed that he wrote the song as an indirect tribute to his deceased mother, Julia, which makes listening to the song that much sadder.
There is a certain sad loneliness in Lennon’s voice as he sings this song, especially when saying the name “Julia”. It makes it clear that he is truly feeling these emotions that he is singing about, and it makes a pit form in my stomach when I listen to it. I could not imagine my life without my mother in it, so hearing songs about losing your mom always hit me pretty hard.
But I do feel that many people do not fully appreciate the meaning behind this song since there are a fair number that do not know where it really comes from. But it is a masterpiece nonetheless, and there is a reason it ended up on this list.
7) “Hey Jude” (1968)
Paul McCartney wrote this song after John Lennon left his wife, Cynthia Powell, for Yoko Ono. McCartney directed it toward Lennon’s son, Julian, who was having to watch his parents go through a divorce. This was McCartney’s attempt to tell Julian not to fear love, even as he was watching his parents’ marriage disintegrate.
This track is arguably one of the band’s most well-known. Like many of the other songs on this list, it has an overwhelmingly somber feeling behind it, truly emphasized in McCartney’s vocals. While the song itself doesn’t sound too overwhelmingly sad on the surface, knowing the story behind it makes it that much more emotional.
I believe this song could serve as a tribute to any child of divorce, promising them of a love-filled future despite what they may have experienced in their own family. I absolutely adore this song.
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6) “Eleanor Rigby” (1966)
This is a song about loneliness. The two characters featured in the story within the lyrics, Eleanor and Father McKenzie, are isolated in their lives but ultimately come together after Eleanor’s death when the priest officiates her funeral that no one attends. This track is definitely dark, and a little morbid, but is still loved by many. After all, everyone recognizes the lyric “look at all the lonely people”.
Nobody wants to be alone, and this song forces the listener to witness a life that is, in fact, lived entirely alone. The instrumentals do have a darker feel to them, especially emphasized by the string instruments in the background, including the violins and cello (or possibly upright bass, I am not entirely sure which instrument it is). This song runs just over two minutes long, but it pulls you in from the very beginning and doesn’t let you go until the end.
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5) “She’s Leaving Home” (1967)
This song is one of a girl seemingly running away from home, running away from her parents. The sad part is, the track is told from the viewpoint of said parents, who are, of course, freaking out because their child is gone with nothing but a note left behind. The overwhelming sentiment is clear: with everything her parents have done for her, how could she just leave them?
The main instrument in this song is the harp, which almost adds a deceptively light-hearted feeling. It is one of those songs that, if you do not truly listen to the lyrics, you may not even realize how sad the song actually is. This is one that, I believe, would hit parents particularly hard. I could not imagine what it would feel like for a parent to lose their child like this, not knowing where they are going to go or if they are going to be safe. This is another track that honestly makes my stomach churn a little, just at the thought of experiencing something like this in real life.
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4) “Let it Be” (1970)
As Lennon wrote Julia as a tribute to his late mother, Let It Be was McCartney’s tribute to his own deceased mother, who died of cancer when McCartney was fourteen. He explained that he had a dream where his mother told him that “everything was going to be okay, just let it be”. This was also the last song McCartney wrote before leaving the band, making it that much sadder.
The piano chords and McCartney’s mellow voice drive the point of the song home that much more, even as it picks up with the electric guitar and increase in tempo later in the track. The context around this song being written is what makes it sad, but the lyrics itself are almost hopeful.
It’s okay to let certain things go, everything will end up fine in the end. Even if things are hard right now, everything will be fine. I find this song incredibly catchy for what it is, and it is one that I have listened to more times than I would really like to admit over the course of my life.
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3) “The Long and Winding Road” (1970)
This track is another that is credited to Paul McCartney’s genius writing ability. McCartney himself acknowledged that this was a particularly sad song, and that he liked writing sad songs because of the emotion behind them. He said the “road” in the song was symbolic of all things unattainable, the road that you can never get to the end of. It is an acknowledgment of the struggles of life and how even though there are certain things you may want so badly, you can’t quite achieve them.
Something about this song feels almost classical, whether that be the piano or the soft hi-hat tapping on the drum set. It just doesn’t quite sound like anything else the Beatles ever did, in a good way. This song sets itself apart from the rest. It resonates with the audience, because we have all had that road that we can’t quite make it to the end of. We all have a dream that, for whatever reason, we weren’t quite able to accomplish.
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2) “Blackbird” (1968)
I have so much respect for Paul McCartney for writing a song like this, and the band for recording it. It is a tribute to the civil rights movement that was happening in the 1960s in America, and was namely inspired by schools becoming desegregated in Little Rock, Arkansas around this time. This song is beautifully symbolic, even if the inspiration behind it is heartbreaking.
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night” is another undoubtedly legendary lyric from the band, one that most people recognize even if they do not necessarily know the song. This is one of the few songs from this band that I can remember hearing while still a young child. The acoustic guitar backing the lyrics is beautiful, and even the lyrics themselves, similarly to Let It Be, are almost cautiously hopeful.
I could not have imagined another band except for the Beatles releasing this track, and I think that’s what makes it so worthy of being on this list. It is truly inspirational, and is a song that has left its mark on both the music industry and the civil rights movement alike.
1) “Yesterday” (1965)
No one will ever be able to change my mind that this is one of the band’s best songs. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the last time I listened to it, the lyrics still randomly pop up in my head from time to time. Paul McCartney, of course, was the genius behind it, and he wasn’t even so sure of the track at first, but apparently he had woken up from a dream one day and the song in its entirety just came to him effortlessly.
Though he didn’t intend it to be when writing it originally, McCartney believes this was yet another tribute to his mother. She wasn’t specifically in his mind while writing the lyrics, but lines like “why she had to do, I don’t know” seem to hint that the track could be about her. Again, that just makes the song that much sadder. As I said in my commentary on Julia, I always have an emotionally hard time with songs that pertain to losing a mother.
This was one of the first pop songs of the time to feature a string quartet in the background, as was suggested by George Martin. McCartney hated the idea at first, but ended up loving the final product. I believe that was for the best. I do not think the song would have hit as hard as it did if it had had the band’s typical rock sound to it. Regardless, this song is a masterpiece through and through, and will be one that people continue to listen to for years to come.
The Beatles have written an incredible amount of amazing songs. And truthfully, even sad Beatles songs often have a hint of hope or something positive underlying them, as shown in this list. There’s a reason the band is often seen as one of the best of all time, as well as one of the most influential in the music industry.