Ten All-Time Best Break-Up Songs

Updated on April 7, 2020
Sherry Hewins profile image

I grew up in the "classic rock" era, but I love music of every genre. I love sharing my old favorites while still discovering new artists.


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.

Ten Favorite Break-up Songs

#10. "It’s a Heartache" – Bonnie Tyler

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

#8. "Forget You" – Cee Lo Green

#7. "I'd Rather Go Blind" – Koko Taylor

#6. "Every Breath You Take" –The Police

#5. "I Will Always Love You" – Dolly Parton

#4. "Ain’t No Sunshine" – Bill Withers

#3. "It's Too Late" - Carol King

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

#1. "Picture" – Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow

#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" – Cee Lo Green

This song is literally all I know about Cee Lo Green. Cee Lo 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. "I'd Rather Go Blind" – Koko Taylor

This was a fabulous song sung written by Ellington Jordan, co-credited to Billy Foster, and first recorded by Etta James in 1967. I love Clarence Carter's rendition of the song, and lord knows there have been many fabulous versions of it recorded, including recent ones by Joe Bonamassa and Beyoncé Knowles.

Still, when all is said and done, this it the one that tugs the most at my heartstrings. It's the Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor.

#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 without realizing it's about him stalking his ex. Being stalked by Sting might not sound that bad, but this seems 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. "It's Too Late" - Carol King

Carol King was a prolific songwriter. She co-wrote wrote many hits of the 1960s and beyond. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," by the Shirelles, topped the American charts in 1960. It was the first hit for the songwriting team of King and Goffin, which consisted of Carol King and her then husband Gerry Goffin. Goffin wrote the lyrics and King wrote the music.

In the '70s she became a successful performer, singing her own songs and playing the piano. This song is off her 1971 hit album “Tapestry.” Toni Stern wrote the lyrics and King wrote the music.

#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 ran 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. "Picture" – Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow

"Picture" was written by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, it was released on November 12, 2002 as the fourth single from Kid Rock's 2001 album Cocky.

Kid Rock's label, Atlantic Records, could not get permission from Crow's label, A&M Records, to release that version as a single. Atlantic Records reworked the song using Allison Moorer.

Even though Atlantic Records didn't have the rights to release the original version as a single, mainstream, rock/alternative, and some country radio stations disregarded this and played the version featuring Sheryl Crow anyway.

I love this version, I'm so glad it's available to be heard. I think this is the most heart-wrenching break-up song ever!

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?

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Sherry Hewins


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      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        16 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        Thank you Glenn. I'm so happy that you took the time to read my article, and listen to my song selections.

      • Glenn Stok profile image

        Glenn Stok 

        16 months ago from Long Island, NY

        Sherry, I like your views on various things that I never thought about before. Such as how Bonnie Tyler and Rod Stewart both have raspy voices, but I love them too.

        Dolly Parton has always been my favorite for love songs, or breakup songs, as the case may be. I was wondering who sang “I Will Always Love You” first, Dolly or Whitney Houston. You answered that for me.

        I followed Carole King's career ever since she sang the little known reply to Neil Sedaka that she called “Oh, Neil!” Just started thinking about that when I listened to "It's Too Late" in your article.

        I enjoyed this entire article and listening to the videos.

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        2 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        I am familiar with it. It's a beautiful song.

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        If You Could Read My Mind -by Gordon Lightfoot

        Check it out, Sherry!


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