Suicidal ‘70s Pop

Melancholy Music

When Winfred “Blue” Lovett gravely intones, “This has got to be the saddest day of my life,” in the intro to The Manhattan’s 1976 hit “Kiss and Say Goodbye,” you believe him. But compared to some of their contemporaries, the group might as well have been crooning “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The rampant introspection of the “me decade” helped make it a boom time for songs that filled the schedules of suicide hotline volunteers to overflowing. When somebody wasn’t dying in a ‘70s hit, like the protagonist in Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun,” the horse fancier and her steed in Michael Martin Murphey’s “Wildfire,” or a freakin’ dog in the Henry Gross hit “Shannon,” they were at least at the brink of oblivion. In retrospect, it’s amazing that Harry Nilsson made it to the end of “Without You” alive. The real masters of ‘70s melancholy managed to suck you in by making their songs sound deceptively cheery—check the opening flute riff of Albert Hammond’s angst fest “It Never Rains in Southern California” for proof—but by the time you get to the undeniably catchy chorus you’re hailing the nurse for your meds.