Music is what feelings sound like, and for some, those feelings revolve around divorce. Below are a few songs–some surprising, and some not so surprising–that epitomize the famous Hans Christian Andersen quote, “When words fail, music speaks.”
“D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” by Tammy Wynett
Perhaps the most obvious songs about divorce is “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” the 1968 single by Tammy Wynett off of the #1 album of the same name. This tearjerker of a song is the essence of Tammy’s traditional twang. It describes the emotions of a woman’s divorce through a reflection of its effect on her young son, in front of whom the couple spelled out words to protect him. The song was extremely popular, and was quickly covered by Dolly Parton, Dottie West, Duane Allman and the Hour Glass, and Alex Chilton. Wynett herself re-recorded the song in 1973, a version that was used in Brokeback Mountain.
In 1975, Scottish comedian and folk singer Billy Connolly parodied the song in a song called “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” that blames his dog for his divorce. The tune and concept was used by the comic folk singer duo Homer & Jethro in 1969 for their finge-picking song “B-A-C-O-N & E-G-G-S,” which talks about their pet hog who is so smart, she understands English.
“Everything is Awesome!!!,” by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island
This LEGO movie favorite takes on pretty heavy themes both in real life and in the movie. Its satirical lyrics and sardonic tone rose to the top out of many pages of music written by Shawn Patterson during a difficult divorce. Patterson admitted to The Independent that there are “definitely elements of darkness” and “heavy sarcasm” in the song, which lends itself nicely to its ironic placement in the movie. Lyrics like “everything is better when we stick together” and “everything is cool when you’re part of a team” do double duty as expressions of pain wrapped in passive aggressive sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek depictions of a cookie cutter society.
The song was recorded by pop/indie duo Tegan and Sara and musical comedy group The Lonely Island.
“Hey Jude,” by The Beatles
This 1968 hit was originally called “Hey Jules,” and was written to cheer up John Lennon’s son, Julian, during Lennon’s divorce from Cynthia Powell. Powell and Lennon met in a calligraphy class at the Liverpool College of Art.
“By the Grace of God,” by Katy Perry
Perry told Entertainment Weekly that a track from her 2013 album, Prism, called “By the Grace of God” is about her 2012 divorce from raunchy comedian Russell Brand. “The lyrics are very exact and autobiographical,” she said, but they are also about her finding her strength. That track is the only one on Prism that is exclusively about Brand.
“Train in the Distance,” by Paul Simon
The 1983 Heart and Bones number describes the trajectory of Paul Simon’s six-year marriage to his first wife, Peggy Harper. The couple had a son, Harper Simon, and divorced in 1975. Simon remarried eight years later. Harper Simon went on to write songs about Peggy, too. His whole first album, The Heavy Circles, “has a lot to do with her.”