The power of music to move a person to tears is a remarkable and sometimes unexpected quality of the medium. When coupled with a real-life event or a powerful cinematic depiction, music can enhance the moment. Although choosing the perfect song for a moment is difficult, the emotion achieved in the end makes it worth it. In some cases, the song may not be linked to a particular moment in time. It could just be a lovely string of notes. This business of music evoking emotion is personal, and certain prized songs mean nothing to others. Below I list some of the songs which have always moved me, whether it be hastening the pace of my heartbeat or drawing tears to my eyes. Enjoy.
Summertime (George Gershwin): Summertime may be my all-time favorite song. That damn Gershwin is too fucking good at pulling my heartstrings. Regardless of the version, the gorgeous, gorgeous melody transcends and always makes me tear up. Seriously. If I’m with you, I’ll pretend it doesn’t, but it does.
Moon River (Mercer and Mancini): The first few piano notes in a version by the Brad Mehldau trio always cause me to pause and well up immediately. The melody is beautiful, and the deliberate pauses between notes are just perfect.
In a Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington): Obviously the John Coltrane and Duke Ellington version is one of the best. The coupling of the powerful tenor saxophone with Duke’s light, almost trance-like riffs hovers between sadness and slight uplift.
Somewhere over the rainbow (Harold Arlen): Yep, love it. Almost any version. Cue emotion at “where.” (Admit it. You’re right there with me.)
Milestones (Miles Davis): The upbeat Miles Davis tune is delightful. I love how the sparse melody floats above the rhythm section. In particular, Bill Evans’ rendition on “Waltz for Debby” is great. I should add that I don’t cry because of this song—I get excited, and I flutter.
Lullaby of Broadway (Harry Warren): The Dianne Reeves version. I’m not alone. My parents heard it driving in their car, arrived at our house, and had their own “Driveway Moment.” If you EVER have the chance, see Dianne Reeves live. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
The Mooche (Duke Ellington): One of the first songs I truly connected to. Specifically, when I hear the clarinets bend their opening notes, I lose my breath and my heart skips a beat.
With or Without You (U2): I couldn’t have only jazz songs. Plus, it’s just great.
By all means, this list is not conclusive. What songs move you? And no, you don’t have to cry as a result.