• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
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If I See You At All

CONGRATULATIONS To my most G client, William Todd Schultz on the publication of his new biography of Elliott Smith, TORMENT SAINT.

Here’s a spotify list: http://open.spotify.com/user/meg.ernst/playlist/6fpTyvd96SC2ZZ4pXUtYnk

Please tell every Elliott Smith fan you know. Or people interested in the Portland indie music scene. Or understanding the tragic lives of young, gifted artists who didn’t make it. Todd has also written books about two of my favorite artists, Diane Arbus and Truman Capote. Brilliant psychological portraits that don’t attempt to explain a person’s life or choices, but brings you in as close as possible to understanding the forces and obsessions that compelled each artist to do their work, and how their work failed to save them.

October 3, 2013,

Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times

Ten years ago this November singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, then 34, died in an Echo Park bungalow from two knife stabs to the chest. According to William Todd Schultz’s “Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith,” a clear-eyed and devastating new biography of the gifted and troubled artist, his death, likely a suicide, was inevitable. The only questions were how and when. read more…

http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/torment-saint-9781608199730/

What’s the saddest song you know?

38 Responses

  1. Yo La Tengo “Tears are in your eyes”

  2. This one. Always.

  3. Right now, “The One That Got Away” by the Civil Wars

    (http://youtu.be/MnkM_ebv9BI if I can’t get the embed to work)

  4. Maybe not the saddest, but it’ll do in a pinch:

    • Jesus Tetman, this one takes me back. That whole album fueled every fantasy and unrequited love and teen angst moment I had.

      • They were pretty good, those Eagles. They put out some enduring work and not just on this album. Then they went away for three years, came back, and released a half-cooked turkey the name of which will not be mentioned here. Sad end to a brilliant run.

  5. I only “discovered” Elliot Smith a couple of years ago. I immediately fired off an angry missive to my friends: “Why the fuck didn’t anyone tell me about this?”

    This isn’t the saddest song I’ve ever heard, but it makes me tear up every time, for the painful beauty of his voice, now silent.


  6. and

    Such a pretty house and such a pretty garden….

  7. So many sad songs…I could hardly pick…but this one always tugs at me (in case this doesn’t embed properly)

  8. This is the kind of book my mother would have loved. Whoever designed the cover should be applauded. The heart is perfect.

    • I say that keeping in mind that looking at a photograph of a young man who has died is very, very disturbing.

  9. “Marie” by Townes VanZandt.

  10. My oldest son is a big Elliott Smith fan. I will scoop this up for him. Thanks, and congratulations!

  11. a tower of windows opening onto our hearts and souls

    • Yes, and this will make a good sunny-day activity, listening to all these tunes (a rainy day might be too much)…

      • I haven’t listened to them all yet… but yesterday, just to see–or hear, as it was–what I would hear, I quickly went through and started all the YouTube viddies playing together, generating a sea of sounds that sounded like a countless number of forlorn voices trapped in an electronic jail.

  12. I was raised on show tunes, hence my tear-jerkers are:
    “Moon River”
    “Where is Love,” from Oliver.

    RIP E.S.

  13. First of all, listening to his last album(From a Basement on a Hill) is so heartbreaking because you know what’s coming. I’m glad to hear about this book and will be spreading the word. He was a huge influence on our own band. To that note, one of the saddest songs I know is from us–Coming Up Empty. Pardon the self promotion but have to include it:
    https://soundcloud.com/josie-diels-aka-bouva/coming-up-empty

    Also: second Johnny Cash’s rendition of Hurt (originally Nine Inch Nails), and No Surprises.

    And this one gets me every time:

    Tom Waits’ Take It With Me — not necessarily sad hopeless but sad beautiful, especially the last verse.

  14. Congratulations to Todd and to you Betsy, and thank you for another provocative post.

    A few years ago, John Michael Montgomery’s “Letters From Home” came over the car radio, and I wept. The song is simple, sappy, and country as a corn cob, but it touched a wound I didn’t know.

  15. Casting my vote for Zachary Richard’s Cap Enrage’. Haunting lyrics (albeit in Cajun) that are not good company on a long drive home.

  16. The Last Picasso by Neil Diamond. He gets points for the title, which can almost stand alone as the saddest three-word poem. And I don’t even like Picasso, not even a little bit. Picasso is proof that the difference between an artist making it and not is the slightest bit of good luck.

    • That was off one of my favorite ND albums. Yes, I know it’s cheesy to like Neil Diamond, but he could be pretty damn good. Another track off that album, “I’ve Been This Way Before,” is not sad. It still gives me goose bumps (I just checked). And ladies and gentlemen, here it is:

  17. The saddest song I know is “I Never Have Seen Snow” by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote.

  18. “Coolsville” Rickie Lee Jones

    You put the loss in a bag and carry it over your shoulder forever – when you’re the one who broke their hearts. Maybe Dickens knew this. Maybe that’s how that chain got built.

  19. Betsy, The saddest song I know is “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, by Hank Williams, Sr. Untainted, pure misery. When you are feeling low, sit down in a comfortable chair, in a dark room with a single light, a nice scotch, and listen to it two or three times. After your cry is over, dust yourself off and get ready for a new day—- because nothing could be worse than whatever Hank was feeling. Clyde

    Sent from my iPad

  20. Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect
    against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything
    I’ve worked hard on. Any tips?

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