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My Ten Favorite Break-up Songs of All Time

Updated on July 9, 2017
Sherry Hewins profile image

I love music of many genres. Attending concerts and festivals is one of my passions. Music brings a lot of joy to my life!

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Songs about lost love have been popular almost since songwriting began. This is a multi-genre list of some of my favorite break-up songs. I first wrote this as a countdown, so I will stick with that format, with #10 first, and counting down to my all-time favorite.

#10 – It’s a Heartache – Bonnie Tyler

This was sung by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler and released in 1978 on her second studio album, Natural. I love her raspy voice; it has been compared to Rod Stewart, he later covered the song on his 2006 album Still the Same… Great Rock Classics of Our Time.

#9 – I Heard it Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

This is a great song, no matter who sings it. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1966, it has been recorded by artists including Gladys Knight & the Pips, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. They are all good, but I prefer Marvin Gaye’s version.

#8 – Forget You – CeeLo Green

This song is literally all I know about CeeLo Green. CeeLo co-wrote and performed this song, this is the clean version; I think we all know what the title of the original version was. Either way, I think it’s pretty catchy. It was the first single off Green’s album “The Lady Killer,” released in 2010.

#7 – Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley

OK, they are coming fast and furious now.

This song was really a little before my time, in fact it was first recorded by Elvis Presley the year I was born, still I can’t think of break up songs without thinking of it. The song was written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.

"Heartbreak Hotel" was released as a single on January 27, 1956 with "I Was the One," on the B-side.

#6 – Every Breath You Take –The Police

I really like this song, even though it makes me feel a little claustrophobic. A lot of people love this song, and don't realizing it's about him stalking his ex. Being stalked by Sting might not seem that bad, but this sounds like the ex-boyfriend from hell to me. It made its debut on The Police’s 1983 album Synchronicity. It was written by Sting.

#5 – I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton

This song is indelibly linked with Whitney Houston. I can’t deny that her version is great, and it made the song wildly popular with a mainstream audience.

Still, Dolly wrote the song, and I loved her version long before Whitney’s came along. It still give me chills, and brings tears to my eyes to hear it. Dolly's voice is not as powerful as Whitney's, but is it so pretty and sweet.

Dolly released the song as a single in 1974. It was number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart not just once, but twice. The first time when it was new, and again when she re-recorded it for the soundtrack of the movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

So, as you can see, "I Will Always Love You" was a great success, even before Whitney Houston's popular rendition of it.

#4 – Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers

Written and sung by Bill Withers, this song was originally released in 1971 as the B-side to a song called "Harlem." Disc jockeys played "Ain't No Sunshine" instead of the A-side. That same year it was featured on his album his album Just As I Am. It became a huge hit.

Many artists have covered the song, including Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Isaac Hayes, Lionel Hampton, Prince, Sting, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones and Lighthouse Family. Rapper DMX also sample it for his for his 2001 song "No Sunshine."

#3 – Bring it on Home to Me – Sam Cooke

Written and originally sung by Sam Cooke, "Bring it on Home to Me" was first released in 1962 as the B side to “Having a Party.”

Various other artists including The Animals, Otis Redding, Rod Stewart, Dave Mason, Van Morrison, and Mickey Gilley have covered it.

#2 – Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain – Willie Nelson

This song was written by Fred Rose and originally recorded by Roy Acuff. Willie Nelson included it on his 1975 album Red Headed Stranger.

Willie had enjoyed some success as a songwriter before, but this is the album that put him on the map as a performer. It is a theme album. It tells the story of a preacher who kills his wife, and her lover, after she runs off with a man she loved before.

It’s a great album, worth listening to if you’ve never heard the whole thing. There was also a movie made of it, starring Willie himself as the preacher and Morgan Fairchild as his lost love. I’m afraid Willie is a better singer and songwriter than he is an actor though.

#1 – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright – Bob Dylan

I know this is an unusual choice, but I've always loved it.

"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" was first released on Dylan’s 1963 album Freewheelin'. Dylan wrote the song basing the melody on a traditional song “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chicken’s when I’m Gone. This was apparently a fairly common practice, as I have heard of many other folk and blues songs where the artist claimed authorship of a traditional song when the original composer was unknown.

Folksinger Paul Clayton, had also used the melody in his song "Who's Gonna Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone?" That song shares some phrases in common with Dylan’s song also.

The lyrics of the song are slightly passive aggressive. It’s alright, but they never did much talking, she’s not a woman but a child, she didn’t treat him unkind, but she could have done better, and she wasted his precious time. So, apparently he's over it.

Thanks you for listening. I hope you have enjoyed my list. You can probably guess what era I am from by my musical choices. What are your favorite break-up songs?

© 2017 Sherry Hewins

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