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The Songs That Make Us Cry

The music that makes one of us emotional doesn't always make sense to others.
William Lovelace
Getty Images
The music that makes one of us emotional doesn't always make sense to others.

What song makes you cry? It could be "Adagio for Strings," but it could also be "Highway to Hell." As you'll learn on this week's All Songs Considered, the music that gets us weeping can have as much, or more, to do with association than with composition.

Last week we sent out a request for songs that make our listeners cry. After reading (and sniffling) through more than 7,000 responses, we've pulled ourselves together and are ready to share a few. As if that weren't enough crumpled tissues, we also asked musician Christopher Paul Stelling to jump into the studio moments after performing a Tiny Desk Concert to talk to us about his pick. The anecdotes we share range from humorous to heartbreaking: You'll hear about magic mushrooms, a funeral dead-set on not being typical, a sequel to one of the songs featured on our first show on this theme, back in 2011 and a pact between brothers and their best friend that gets devastatingly tested, and then, sooner than anyone could imagine, tested again.

Reading and listening to your stories, we learned that what makes us all cry is sometimes in the DNA of a song. Some music is clearly written as an avenue for expressing overwhelming emotion. But other picks surprised us — AC/DC? Really? — until we heard how they fit in the contexts of listeners' lives. Our biggest takeaway was this: Part of the magic of art is that we stitch meaning into everything we see and hear, whether artists leave us a needle and thread or not.

We could only pick a few of the stories we heard, of course. Check back on the ASC blog and our social media over the next week to hear more.

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Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.
In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.