Oh there are so many to choose from. Here are some to review:
- Walk the Line
- Friends in Low Places
- Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town
- Islands in the Stream
- After the Fire is Gone
- Stand By Your Man
- Ring of Fire
- Sweet Home Alabama
- Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy
- Mamma Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys
- On the Road Again
- Boy Named Sue
- You're Always on My Mind
- The Gambler
I think that you will have to wade through much with such a broad topic. Country music really deals with so much in terms of broken hearts and ruptured dreams that the titles can be so appropriate. Patsy Cline's "Crazy" helps to bring out the idea of being in love with an unattainable ideal. Another great and sad song, which is also quite misread, would be Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man." Hearing the lyrics could really bring out much in the complexity of the song. Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" helps to bring out the ethos of freedom that underscores so much of both America and the genre, while his rendition of "All of Me" stands as a classic of love and attempting to make sense of the results of love. Waylon Jennings' song "Defying Gravity" is an elusively powerful song, seen in an even more complex light with its use in the film about the murderer Gary Glimore, "The Executioner's Song."
Perhaps the greatest country song ever is Johnny Cash's 1956 hit "I Walk the Line." It's the highest ranking "country" song on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" issue. It is ranked #30.
The song is widely known because it was featured in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. The lyrics are simple yet metaphorical and spiritual:
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line
The song was written to Cash's first wife about his loneliness on the road away from her and the kids. The phrase has come to mean how artists walk a precarious path on the road, facing a life of constant temptation (drugs, women, alcohol, etc...). The phrase "tie that binds" is taken from a spiritual and is also the hymn sung in the greatest American play, Our Town ("Blessed be the Tie that Binds"), which deals with the eternal.
Even the younger generation knows Johnny Cash as he has crossed borders in genres, but yet remains classically country. For your title, what about "Sunday Morning Coming Down"? This is a very poingnant, yet dark song written by the great Kris Kristofferson, about a man whose tone is most melancholic; he has been attempting to drown his sorrows on Saturday night. On Sunday, he finds his "cleanest dirty shirt" and "stumbles down to face the day." He catches the
Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken. And, it took me back to somethin/That I lost somehow, somewhere along the way.
It's a lonesome song. So, if you want something more upbeat, perhaps you want to look at Shania Twain, etc. Another great poignant oldie is Willie Nelson. His "Angel Flying too Close to the Ground" is a beautifully tender song:
If you had not fallen/ I would not have found you/Angel flying too close to the ground/I patched up your broken wing/...I knew someday that you would fly away/For love's the greatest healer to be found....
This would depend a lot on what age of people we're talking about. And to some extent on what kind of country they like.
But I would think that just about anyone who knows country music right now would know about Taylor Swift. So maybe "Our Song" -- that's pretty well-known.
At least out here in my part of the country George Strait is still pretty popular even at his age. He's had a bunch of songs that everyone knows -- like "I Can Still Make Cheyenne" and "Baby's Gotten Good at Goodbye."
Other than that, maybe check out these links to see if any ring any bells with you.
Love Story by Taylor Swift