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Sing a Sad Song

A summer meme is travelling the Italian blogosphere these days. Ignited by Luca Sofri, its purpose is to write a post the personal choice for the saddest song ever.

Mine is Tom Waits’ Martha – it is not really one of my favourites at all, as his best ones are in the late Eighties (let’s say, from Rain Dogs to Bone Machine). Its content has no extraordinary sadness in itself: it’s a phone call from an old chap to a never forgotten fiancé, after more than 40 years have passed since they last saw each other.

So what?

Well, it’s not about a love story. It was one of four or five tapes I brought with me during a month I spent in Ljubljana at a summer school, back in 1989. I was 18, I was temporarily (and knowlingly so) in love and I was immensely enjoying my first month abroad, knowing that similar experiences would possibly come again – but that specific one, with those unforgettable people and that peculiar socio-political environment, was unique. It came as a first realization of what growing up could mean on an emotional standpoint, with things being meaningful by themselves and not as an anticipation, a demonstration or an experiment of what will come "in real life". And I associated our address exchange frenzy and "let’s keep in touch" farewells to the pathetic attempt to get back to a girlfriend from 40 years earlier.

I have endured sadder events, but no songs attached…

Runner-ups and special prizes:

  • 2nd place (and a better song): Veronica Elvis Costello
  • sadness in essence: Brazilian party songs – V.A.
  • commoditized sadness (not very deep, but guaranteed to do the job): Canzone per un’amica – Francesco Guccini
  • analytical approach: La tristezza (Elio e le Storie Tese)
  • beyond sadness (so phony it’s funny): Last Christmas (Wham!)