There's no better remedy for heartbreak than music. For many talented songwriters and musicians, they've poured out their hurt, suffering and anger into enduring classics. No one is immune to the aftereffects of a broken heart, either; those include anger, wallowing in self-pity and closing down every bar on the block until the ugly lights come on. Even the great Hank Williams penned and/or recorded a bevy of defining hits about his aching, troubled heart. Throughout history, the lonesome ballad has become the vehicle from which singers like Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert and Garth Brooks have been able to cope and share their story with the world.
Read on for our picks of the greatest breakup songs in country music.
"He Stopped Loving Her Today," George Jones
This 1980 Jones classic is often cited as the greatest country song ever written, and rightfully so. Framed as a break-up song, the lyrics detail a love that only ever dies at death's doorstep.
"I Will Always Love You," Dolly Parton
A song played at nearly every wedding around the world, this sweeping ballad is actually about a break-up...and not of the romantic type at all--although the lyrics leave that pretty open-ended. In 1973, Parton wrote and recorded the song about leaving her partnership with Porter Wagoner, and it has since become one of the most covered songs ever. Parton re-recorded the song in 1982 for the feature film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Whitney Houston turned it into a massive pop hit in 1992.
"Always on My Mind," Willie Nelson
One of the leaders of the Outlaw Movement shows every layer of his heart on one of his most potent ballads. Here he reflects on the things he could have and should have done while in the relationship. "Little things I should have said and done, I just never took the time..." he concedes. "But you were always on my mind..."
"The Dance," Garth Brooks
Another song often misinterpreted as a straight-up love song, Brooks' signature hit "The Dance" sees the narrator reminiscing about that dance which set him and his lover down a path for love--only to be shocked with a goodbye years later. "I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end, the way it all would go," he wails.
"Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood
The best way to get revenge on a cheater? Destroy the thing s/he loves best: their car. At least, that's the advice Carrie Underwood gives on her 2006 smash. In the video, she slashes his tires and takes a Louisville Slugger to his taillights, his windshield and his fenders. You don't wanna mess around with a woman in six-inch high heels, that's for sure.
"Kerosene," Miranda Lambert
In similar fashion to her contemporary Carrie Underwood, Lambert is out to do some serious damage in her resolve to get revenge. But instead of just a little destruction to personal possessions, this independent woman is out to burn the bed...with the cheating sleaze ball and his mistress in it.
"Your Cheatin' Heart," Hank Williams
Williams rakes his cheating lover across the burning coals on this classic honky-tonk. "Your cheatin' heart will pine someday and crave the love you threw away" he laments. He doesn't mince his words, that's for sure. There is just enough bitter edge coloring the track but not to takeaway from the powerful message.
"Need You Now," Lady Antebellum
We've all had that moment when we've drunk texted an ex in a desperate attempt to get back together. More times than not, we regret it the next day, but those emotions are very real and very painful.
"D.I.V.O.R.C.E.," Tammy Wynette
"I can't spell away this hurt that's dripping down my cheek," sings one of country's leading ladies. In the song, she recounts how she spells out words she doesn't want her four-year-old to understand, including hurting words like divorce. The sheer cry in Wynette's voice will undoubtedly make you cry.
"Whiskey Lullaby," Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss
Frankly: this is one of the most heartbreaking country songs ever written and recorded. Dying from a broken heart is a very real thing. That weight of sorrow can lead someone to unimaginable extremes, from blind rage to binge-drinking the pain away. Here, the leading characters meet the blunt end of cheating and never recovering.