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Best Songs About Being Sorry: 10 Heartfelt Apologies
Peter Tsai Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

Best Songs About Being Sorry: 10 Heartfelt Apologies

Whether wallowing in melancholy or seeking moral guidance, the best songs about being sorry capture the ups and downs of human imperfection.

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No matter if it’s a romantic relationship coming to its end, a falling out with a friend, or facing up to a mistake that can’t be undone, we’ve all found ourselves in situations where a sincere apology is needed. Luckily for us, music has often steered us onto the right path, with the best songs about being sorry helping us to express remorse and ask for forgiveness.

From lovestruck soul songs to introspective piano ballads, these heartfelt apologies help us to make the right decisions in the here and now, thanks to raw, vulnerable lyrics that capture the complicated emotions of regret, guilt and the hope of making amends.

Here, then, is our list of the best songs about being sorry, each one giving listeners the strength to take responsibility for past mistakes and seek forgiveness wherever it’s due.

Best Songs About Being Sorry: 10 Heartfelt Apologies

10: Ramones: Swallow My Pride (1977)

Let’s face it: when you’ve messed up and need to apologise, you can do worse than take some words of advice from Ramones. Scootering along with typically punky get-up-and-go, the band’s 1977 single Swallow My Pride sees singer Johnny Ramone searching for a glimmer of optimism when facing up to his past difficulties (“Things were looking grim but they’re looking good again”) before urging himself to “swallow my pride” and do what exactly needs to be done. Whether he said sorry or not (and what for) is anyone’s guess, but don’t let that stop you from taking note.

9: Wilson Pickett: I’m Sorry About That (1967)

A vintage cut of Southern soul, Wilson Pickett’s I’m Sorry About That – originally issued as the B-side to his 1967 single Funky Broadway – stands the test of time as one of the best songs about being sorry. Desperately trying to charm his way back into an ex-lover’s affections, Pickett delivers a smoky vocal that positively aches with regret throughout, culminating in a valiant finale full of heartfelt promises (“I won’t never do you wrong no more darling/I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”).

8: Chicago: Hard To Say I’m Sorry (1982)

Sometimes it can indeed be hard to apologise, so it’s no surprise that listeners turned to Chicago’s US No.1 hit Hard To Say I’m Sorry for advice. Funnelling every ounce of remorse into one of the best power ballads of the 80s, vocalist Peter Cetera implores a lover to stay by his side, admitting that the extraordinary weight of an apology leans heavily on his mind (“It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry/I just want you to stay”).

7: Solomon Burke: I Said I Was Sorry (1962)

Produced by Atlantic Records’ legendary Jerry Wexler, this jaunty soul number by Solomon Burke makes the art of apologising a defiantly riotous affair. Released in 1962 as the B-side to Go On Back To Him, I Said I Was Sorry finds the “King Of Rock’n’Soul” yelping for forgiveness (“I know I made a big mistake/But now my heart’s just about to break”) before a sense of righteous indignation kicks in when his entreaty falls upon deaf ears (“I said I was sorry, what more can I say?”).

6: Elton John: Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (1976)

If you ever find yourself in the “sad, sad situation” of wanting to apologise but the other person isn’t willing to listen, Elton John’s masterful piano ballad Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is the perfect place to wallow. Released as a single in 1976, it remains one of the best songs about being sorry, John expressing the struggle we can all sometimes have with the difficulty of apologising after a relationship has run its course (“Why can’t we talk it over?/Oh it seems to me/That sorry seems to be the hardest word”).

5: Pet Shop Boys: Always On My Mind (1987)

Giving a country ballad made famous by Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley an electronic makeover, Pet Shop Boys’ 1987 cover of Always On My Mind easily sits on our list of the best songs about being sorry. Greeting the listener with synth-pop fanfares, this club-ready redux sees frontman Neil Tennant attempt to dance away the heartache with lyrics that literally beg for forgiveness as he scrambles around in the dark (“I’m so sorry I was blind/You were always on my mind”).

4: John Lennon: Jealous Guy (1971)

Scouring the depths of his soul with this highly emotional piano ballad, John Lennon faced up to the green-eyed monster wreaking havoc in his private life (“I didn’t mean to hurt you/I’m sorry that I made you cry/Oh no, I didn’t want to hurt you/I’m just a jealous guy”). Ranking highly among the best songs about being sorry, Jealous Guy offered insight into Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono, as the ex-Beatle laid his insecurities bare for all the world to see.

3: Prince: Purple Rain (1984)

As well as being one of the best breakup songs ever written, Prince’s 1984 hit single Purple Rain is also undoubtedly one of the best songs about being sorry (“I never meant to cause you any sorrow/I never meant to cause you any pain”). With the magenta heavens opening as the Purple One unleashes a divine guitar solo, it’s a power ballad for the ages that showers the listener with philosophical absolution. A tragic send-off to a relationship that even an apology cannot save, Purple Rain makes saying sorry sound rousingly poetic.

2: Nirvana: All Apologies (1993)

Released on Nirvana’s final studio album, In Utero, the sombre, stripped-back All Apologies finds Kurt Cobain making amends with his own sense of world-weariness. A dark and haunting acoustic wonder full of deliberately vague lyrics, the song stood in stark contrast to its parent album’s rawer, more abrasive tracks, with Cobain shrugging his shoulders at the thought of living up to society’s expectations (“What else should I be?/All apologies”).

1: R.E.M.: So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)

An awe-inspiringly melancholic gem from R.E.M.’s 1984 album, Reckoning, So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) is a beautifully crafted plea for forgiveness. Over Peter Buck’s gleaming jangle-pop guitars, frontman Michael Stipe cathartically expresses regret for a broken relationship, repeating his apology with plaintive anguish. Showcasing the group’s knack for merging cerebral lyrics with stirring melodicism, the song’s remorseful tone is made painfully clear, and that’s why it tops our list of the best songs about saying sorry.

Looking for more emotive uplifts? Check out the best inspirational songs.

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