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In my time of dying
February 1, 2008 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Songs about dying

No, I'm not dying, nor is anyone I know on death's door. But yesterday I was listening to When They Ring the Golden Bells from Natalie Merchant's Ophelia. It is a syrupy sweet song about passing over to the other side. For some reason, I also thought of the Led Zeppelin cover of In my Time of Dying, another song about death. It occurs to me that I might enjoy a whole CD of songs that celebrate the passing into the next realm. I'm not looking for depressing suicidal songs, but rather, uplifting spirituals that talk about being greeted by angels and all that. Any further suggestions from the MeFite community? I'm not looking for hip-hop or classical cuts, but jazz, pop, rock, bluegrass and country are all fair game.
posted by Doohickie to Media & Arts (99 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of my very favorite songs about dying is a song by David Byrne called "Buck Naked." A beautiful little almost-gospelly song which, when I saw him perform it in concert, he claimed was about his aunt dying of cancer. "Buck naked now in the eyes of the Lord..." A very good image of death, and the shedding of all this personal matter that's so precious to us and so particular, if you ask me.
posted by koeselitz at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Almost Home sort of goes there.
posted by jquinby at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2008


There is a light that never goes out - The Smiths
posted by fire&wings at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2008


"Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet" by the Blood Oranges is an Alt-Country reworking of an old bluegrass song. It's about how angels come down from heaven to gather the finest flowers (souls) for a bouquet for God.
posted by essexjan at 2:56 PM on February 1, 2008


Yes, yes... excellent. Those are all exactly what I'm looking for. Keep 'em coming!
posted by Doohickie at 2:58 PM on February 1, 2008


Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door"
posted by partner at 2:58 PM on February 1, 2008


'Box of Rain' by the Grateful Dead....
posted by gnutron at 2:58 PM on February 1, 2008


Into the Mystic by Van Morrison.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:00 PM on February 1, 2008


R.E.M. "Try Not to Breathe" and "Sweetness Follows," both off of Automatic for the People.
posted by ALongDecember at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2008


the drugs don't work by the verve (ben harper does a great cover, too)
also, hold on by sarah mclachlan.
and i've always thought lucky old sun by louis armstrong kind of has that feel too.
posted by twistofrhyme at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2008


I'll Fly Away, by a whole bunch of people (but most recently recognizable from O Brother, Where Art Thou)
posted by stefanie at 3:06 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


What you want is the traditional Irish song "The Parting Glass", which is kind of sad and sweet. But what you really want is the Shaun Davey version that's on the soundtrack to Waking Ned Devine, which is just as sad but is also swelling and triumphant and TOTALLY EXCELLENT and will make you cry if you often cry when someone's playing the pipes.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:07 PM on February 1, 2008


Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" is a touching song about death.
posted by demiurge at 3:08 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't Fear the Reaper, of course! (Blue Oyster Cult)
posted by fogster at 3:11 PM on February 1, 2008


Muse - Thoughts Of A Dying Athiest
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:12 PM on February 1, 2008


been an atheist for some time now, but somehow i still almost jam to certain hymns that i grew up with in my good ol' southern baptist church. mostly for the sound, of course, not so much the content.

but anyway, When the Roll is Called up Yonder comes to mind.
posted by gcat at 3:12 PM on February 1, 2008


This may be a little darker than what you're looking for, but I don't find it suicidal or depressing, either. Lou Reed's Magic and Loss is an entire album about mortality that is frank, beautiful, and deeply moving. The title comes from his lyrical conclusion, "There's a bit of magic in everything and then some loss to even things out."
posted by after_hours at 3:13 PM on February 1, 2008


'Death is not the End', but the Nick Cave version, not the Dylan version.
posted by ComfySofa at 3:14 PM on February 1, 2008


Barnes and Barnes (the people who brought you Fish Heads):

When you die,
You stop drinking beer.
When you die,
You stop being here.
When you die, some people cry.
When you die, we say goodbye.
Yeah.

posted by jozxyqk at 3:15 PM on February 1, 2008


Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

Wasn't Warren Zevon's last album about his death? He knew he was going.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:17 PM on February 1, 2008


Flaming Lips' "Do you realize??" is certainly uplifting, and I've heard a lot of people say they want it played at their funeral.

"Danny Boy" and "Streets of Laredo" both fit this description to some extent. Johnny Cash does tear-jerking versions of both on his "American IV" album (his last released in his lifetime)

"Will the Circle be Unbroken" is probably the most famous gospel song along these lines. pretty much every country star of the 50s - 70s recorded it. I could say almost the same thing about "Peace in the Valley."
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:18 PM on February 1, 2008


Wasn't Warren Zevon's last album about his death?

yeah, mostly. Have a handkerchief handy if you listen to "Keep me in your heart."
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:19 PM on February 1, 2008


Reborn by Slayer is from the perspective of an occult devotee convicted and scheduled for execution. However, he looks gleefully forward to his execution and because he is certain he will rise again to wreak vengeance those that will execute him.
posted by ignignokt at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2008


I can't believe I missed the most obvious answer of all:

The Carter Family: "No Depression in Heaven."
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:24 PM on February 1, 2008


If I ever Leave this World Alive – Flogging Molly
O Valencia! – the Decemberists
Eli, the Barrow Boy – the Decemberists
How Fortunate the Man with none – Dead Can Dance
Pretend that we're dead – L7
This Could Be Love – Alkaline Trio (more about a happy murder than anything)
Neil Armstrong – BabyBird
Empty Box – Morphine
I must belong somewhere – Bright Eyes (more like a cycle-of-life sort of song)
Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man – Concrete Blonde (cover)
Sleeping with Ghosts – Placebo
posted by iamkimiam at 3:26 PM on February 1, 2008


Modest Mouse's "Ocean Breathes Salty" is a good one--though it might be more about treasuring this life rather than the next.
posted by eralclare at 3:28 PM on February 1, 2008


Just about every song on Bright Eyes' "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" is about death, and they run the gamut in terms of how depressing they are. The first song that came to mind when I read your question was "Arc of Time (Time Code)," and then "I believe in Symmetry," and "Light Pollution" (that ones less about death than about someone who died), but really, download the whole album.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:32 PM on February 1, 2008


Seconding I Will Follow You Into the Dark, but also check out What Sarah Said by Death Cab for Cutie.
posted by momzilla at 3:33 PM on February 1, 2008


Oh good god, how could I forget:

Saint James' Infirmary
{traditional}

I went down to St. James Infirmary
To see my baby there,
She was lyin' on a long white table,
So sweet, so cool, so fair.

Went up to see the doctor,
"She's very low," he said;
Went back to see my baby
Good God! She's lying there dead.

I went down to old Joe's barroom,
On the corner by the square
They were serving the drinks as usual,
And the usual crowd was there.

On my left stood old Joe McKennedy,
And his eyes were bloodshot red;
He turned to the crowd around him,
These are the words he said:

Let her go, let her go, God bless her;
Wherever she may be
She may search the wide world over
And never find a better man than me

Oh, when I die, please bury me
In my ten dollar Stetson hat;
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So my friends'll know I died standin' pat.

Get six gamblers to carry my coffin
Six chorus girls to sing me a song
Put a twenty-piece jazz band on my tail gate
To raise Hell as we go along

Now that's the end of my story
Let's have another round of booze
And if anyone should ask you just tell them
I've got the St. James Infirmary blues.


This is a fine old classic. I knew someone once who sought out many different versions; I have the sheet music myself somewhere, but nobody really seems to know who wrote it. It's a New Orleans classic, in any case. People nowadays will most likely know that version by the White Stripes; before then, however, the version done by Louis Armstrong was a classic. It's actually an incredible thing, that Louis Armstrong version, but my own favorite version is the one by Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, the very first country star and one of the greatest, back in the thirties. Just that guitar and his high, lonesome yodel... amazing song. Sends chills down my spine every time.
posted by koeselitz at 3:35 PM on February 1, 2008


But that kind of puts a different spin on it. No angels, no happy day, but a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain sounds pretty goddamned good.
posted by koeselitz at 3:38 PM on February 1, 2008


The Divine Comedy, "Tonight We Fly" -- it's more of a carpe diem song (and a gorgeous, soaring one at that), but I adore the final verse about dying: "and when we die / oh, will we be that disappointed or sad / If heaven doesn't exist? / What will we have missed? / This life is the best we've ever had..."
posted by scody at 3:43 PM on February 1, 2008


It's totally Christian, and I'm totally not, but "All My Tears" by Julie Miller is a really beautiful song about death and salvation. I think she'd probably be a little horrified that I love her song even though I'm totally ignoring the entire point, though!
posted by craichead at 3:43 PM on February 1, 2008


Terry Jacks - Seasons in the Sun.
posted by subtle-t at 3:45 PM on February 1, 2008


The Shortest Story by Harry Chapin

I am born today, the sun burns its promise in my eyes;
Mama strikes me and I draw a breath and cry.
Above me a cloud softly tumbles through the sky;
I am glad to be alive.

It is me seventh day, I taste the hunger and I cry;
my brother and sister cling to Mama's side.
She squeezes her breast, but it has nothing to provide;
someone weeps, I fall asleep.

It is twenty days today, Mama does not hold me anymore;
I open my mouth but I am too weak to cry.
Above me a bird slowly crawls across the sky;
why is there nothing now to do but die?

posted by Lokheed at 3:47 PM on February 1, 2008


"Not Only Human" by Heather Nova (Link to some you-tube mash-up with it playing in the background)
posted by -harlequin- at 3:48 PM on February 1, 2008


"O Death", in its assorted versions. I particularly like Camper Van Beethoven's, but Ralph Stanley is as close to standard as it gets for this.
posted by dilettante at 3:54 PM on February 1, 2008


The Islander
Princess in the tower, children in the fields -
Life gave him it all: an island of the universe.
Now his love's a memory, a ghost in the fog.
He sets the sails one last time saying farewell to the world.
Anchor to the water, seabed far below,
Grass still in his feet and a smile beneath his brow.

posted by Wolfdog at 3:55 PM on February 1, 2008


"Naked as we came" by Iron and wine is just beautiful.

She says "wake up, it's no use pretending"
I'll keep stealing, breathing her.
Birds are leaving over autumn's ending
One of us will die inside these arms
Eyes wide open, naked as we came
One will spread our ashes 'round the yard


Also, two great tracks on the new Malcolm Middleton album might be appropriate:
"we're all going to die"

When you can’t sleep at night and there’s no one to hold you
Remember I’m going through the same
You’ve got to laugh into the dark
We’re all one in a million
We’re alive, we existed, we took part, in the game.

We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die alone
We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die alone
We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die alone
All alone.


and "Death, Love, Depression"
Death, loving, in my life, nothing
I will leave behind, time is running
I will stay behind, now you’re my woman,
And we’ll both die
So we’ll have to change our minds
From the streets to the stars
To the fields from the bars
My love is a picture out the corner of my eye
your death is a number but I cannae count that high


He's a happy guy! (I know you said not depressing, but I find Malcolm Middleton strangely uplifting)
posted by twistedonion at 4:00 PM on February 1, 2008


If anyone has the version of "O Death" that's sung in Harlan County, USA please please let me know.

And back to the original question: "Tomorrow Wendy". Probably easiest to find a Concrete Blonde recording of it.
posted by dilettante at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2008


Pedro the Lion has a bunch of great stuff about death. One of my favorites is "Slow and Steady wins the Race".
posted by puddleglum at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2008


Weird - second time this week I've linked this song.

My Death, by Jacques Brel, as performed by David Bowie in 1973. On the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars Live.
posted by elendil71 at 4:10 PM on February 1, 2008


(Baby) I Love You (Baby) by Ass Ponys:

They removed the 81 per cent
What about the 19 they didn't get?

She comes to give me something for the pain
Slaps my arm to help her find a vein
I love you, i love you

As my habit forms the morphine drips
Lean on over here and read my lips

The shot that burns before it numbs it all
Preceded by the smell of alcohol
I love you, I love you

As my habit forms the morphine drips
Lean on over here and read my lips
I love you, I love you
posted by dobbs at 4:18 PM on February 1, 2008


Goodnight My Friend by Vertical Horizon
Lyrics
posted by mathlete at 4:21 PM on February 1, 2008


Fixin' to Die Blues – Bukka White
See That My Grave Is Kept Clean – Blind Lemon Jefferson
Goin' Down Slow – Howlin' Wolf
After Awhile – Otis Spann
Can the Circle Be Unbroken – The Carter Family
Brite Nightgown – Donald Fagen
Highway to Hell – AC/DC
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
And When I Die – Laura Nyro
posted by timeistight at 4:39 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


In Heaven there is no Beer by the best polka band ever, Brave Combo.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 4:47 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blow, Gabriel, Blow by Cole Porter and Get Happy by Harold Arlen are amazingly cheerful death songs. There's a great version of Get Happy on this CD, if you're looking for one (and my favorite version of Blow, Gabriel, Blow here).
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:00 PM on February 1, 2008


Ah, what you want is Blind Willie McTell's Atlanta Twelve String. "Dying Crapshooter's Blues" (mp3), "Pearly Gates," "On the Cooling Board," "I Got to Cross that River Jordan," and "You Got to Die." All excellent.

Johnny Cash's "25 Minutes to Go" (just audio) and "Green, Green Grass of Home."

Death Letter - Son House
posted by hippugeek at 5:01 PM on February 1, 2008


Kristin Hersh's Your Ghost - with it's dreamlike refrain, " I think last night / you were driving circles around me" - is about her dead dad.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:07 PM on February 1, 2008


"In the Aeroplane over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel (can't believe no one has mentioned that one yet!)
"I Can't Believe You Actually Died" by The Microphones
posted by kitty teeth at 5:12 PM on February 1, 2008


OK, you asked for it.

D.O.A. by Bloodrock.

DO NOT click the link unless you want to be repulsed by the lyrics of a pop song.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:17 PM on February 1, 2008


Also from Merchant, "My Beloved Wife" on the Tigerlily album is superlative.
posted by SlyBevel at 5:19 PM on February 1, 2008


"Teen Angel." There's actually a whole CD out on songs about dead teenagers, called Last Kiss: Songs of Teen Tragedy. Must've been a trend in the '50s or something.

On the complete opposite of the spectrum, there's also "The Show Must Go On," very poignant song by Queen about Freddy Mercury's impending demise.
posted by Melismata at 5:22 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree's Scarecrow Stuffing is a whole CD of wonderfully gothic Apallachian based death, murder, ghost songs and old Christian ballads. Great banjo, sorrowful, but not depressing.

Way cool.
posted by Vaike at 5:35 PM on February 1, 2008


lots of good ones, here's a few more:

Away Down the River - Allison Krauss
Not Dark Yet - Dylan
Lake Charles - Lucinda Wlliams
posted by Rain Man at 5:35 PM on February 1, 2008


Artist: John Prine
Album: Sweet Revenge
Year: 1973
Title: Please Don't Bury Me

"Woke up this morning
Put on my slippers
Walked in the kitchen and died...."
cover

The Pogues: Down in the ground, where the dead men go.
posted by Rumple at 5:36 PM on February 1, 2008


Also, I want to mention the great Gene Watson's "Farewell Party," an awesome song in which a guy imagines his own wake after he offs himself over a broken heart. Hard country, great tenor singer, beautiful song and extraordinary performance. Connoisseur's country.

In a related, and still excellent, mode, the much better known George Jones classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

And one of my fave's, Johnny Paycheck's "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone to Kill." A guy is telling a bartender as he finishes his beer that he's on his way home to kill his wife and lover, but not to bother calling the cops because by the time they get there he will also have offed himself.

And then, way deep in the archive (you can't get this song, don't even try) the great Fiddling Frenchie Burke's "Mama's Picture," told from the perspective of a man who is about to shoot himself because he has accidentally slept with his own estranged adult daughter because when he met her in a bar he did not recognize her, but he was attracted because she looked like his ex-wife. THe daughter has already killed herself, because when she woke up the morning after, she realized the man she had just slept with had her "Mama's Picture" on his wall.

Ice cold. Brrrr.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:36 PM on February 1, 2008


Hmmm...

"Videotape" by Radiohead?

When I'm at the pearly gates
This will be on my videotape, my videotape
Mephistopheles is just beneath
and he's reaching up to grab me

This is one for the good days
and i have it all here
In red, blue, green
Red, blue, green

You are my center
When i spin away
Out of control on videotape
On videotape
On videotape
On videotape

This is my way of saying goodbye
Because I can't do it face to face
I'm talking to you after it's too late
From my videotape

No matter what happens now
You shouldn't be afraid
Because I know today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen.

posted by Windigo at 5:52 PM on February 1, 2008


Go Rest High on That Mountain by Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and some other dude. Absolutely beautiful.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:16 PM on February 1, 2008


Your Long Journey, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on their newish album Raising Sand.
posted by robinpME at 6:24 PM on February 1, 2008


Wow. As I read the question I was listening to Thin Lizzy, "Spirit Slips Away"

some lyrics:
when your spirit, slips away, there's nothing you can do, there's nothing you can say.
may the angels, be watching over you, on that fateful day when your spirit slips away
.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:32 PM on February 1, 2008


and it's even on youtube. It's the second song here.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:36 PM on February 1, 2008


Well, someone already beat me to Warren Zevon's fantastic final album, The Wind and someone else noted the last track, "Keep Me in Your Heart" is fantastic but very sad.

No one, however, seems to have mentioned the very pretty "Prayer for the Dying" from Seal's second eponymous album (a/k/a Seal II or Seal (1994) (youtube)
posted by JMOZ at 6:44 PM on February 1, 2008


Dying by XTC on Skylarking. Creeps me out everytime I ti
e I hear it.
posted by mollweide at 6:51 PM on February 1, 2008


Well I'd say "Angel of Death" by Slayer has something to do with dying, but you probably don't want it on your compilation.

I'd say check out Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, and have a listen to

Endless Sea by Iggy Pop. It might be about suicide, I dunno. But it could possibly make your final selection.

A version of Danny Boy should definitely be on your CD. Preferably sung by a woman. Sinead O'Conner did a version that's quite lovely.
posted by Tixylix at 6:54 PM on February 1, 2008


To Canaan's land I'm on my way,
Where the soul of man never dies;
My darkest night will turn to day,
Where the soul of man never dies;


also
Swing low, sweet chariot
posted by melissam at 7:23 PM on February 1, 2008


all the songs from Snakefarm's Songs from my Funeral are about death and dying.
posted by shothotbot at 7:26 PM on February 1, 2008


Also, When You Walk On by Eliza Gilkyson


There's a long and winding river
from the darkness to the dawn
it will carry and deliver you
when you walk on

No one here can say for certain
what lies in the great beyond
you'll pass through that parted curtain
when you walk on
posted by melissam at 7:27 PM on February 1, 2008


Angel, by Sarah McLachlan
The Art of Dying, by George Harrison
Death Is Not The End, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Happy Phantom, by Tori Amos
Hold on, also by Sarah McLachlan (Nth-ing this because it is a FANTASTIC song)
I Know it's Over, by the Smiths
O Death, by Camper Van Beethoven
(Don't Fear) The Reaper, by Blue Öyster Cult
Shine a Light, by Wolf Parade
Wayfaring Stranger, by a slew of artists (Neko Case, Jack White, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, etc.)
When I Was Dead, by Robyn Hitchcock
posted by numinous at 7:29 PM on February 1, 2008


"Angel Band", by a whole bunch of people. I'm partial to the version by Old & In the Way.
posted by Flunkie at 7:39 PM on February 1, 2008


A few people have mentioned "O Death".

"O Death" is quite possibly exactly the opposite of what the questioner is asking for. It is not an "uplifting" song "about being greeted by angels and all that". It's a horrific image of a man begging the Grim Reaper to give him a little more time, and the Grim Reaper coldly and, well, grimly refusing.

There is nothing comforting about death in that song, and in fact a lot that's quite the opposite.
posted by Flunkie at 7:47 PM on February 1, 2008


I should be clear that I think that "O Death" is a great song. It's just not what the questioner is asking for - not by a long shot.
posted by Flunkie at 7:52 PM on February 1, 2008


Bone Bomb - Eno
Marooned - Wire
posted by Burhanistan at 7:55 PM on February 1, 2008


What Sarah Said by Deathcab for Cutie

Prayer for the Dying by Seal
posted by mynameismandab at 8:10 PM on February 1, 2008


The first song I thought of was Asleep by the Smiths.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:12 PM on February 1, 2008


Also, It is well with my soul is, IMO, like a synonym for uplifting songs about tragedy.

And Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley always make me think of dying.
posted by mynameismandab at 8:16 PM on February 1, 2008


Sufjian Stevens song Casimir Pulaski day is a very beautiful song about the death of a friend from cancer of the bone.
YouTube user kLafied does a really beautiful cover here that is just awesome. Everyone should watch it.
posted by extrabox at 8:55 PM on February 1, 2008


"Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie is apparently written for Ben Gibbard's late father.
posted by loiseau at 8:56 PM on February 1, 2008


(Soul Meets Body)
posted by loiseau at 9:00 PM on February 1, 2008


Brilliant everyone! I'd like to thank you all! I will compile this list as best I can and try to get copies of enough of the songs to fill a CD. Thanks again. Wonderful selection!
posted by Doohickie at 9:16 PM on February 1, 2008


Lynyrd Skynyrd, "That Smell"--caution WEIRD video thingy on YouTube.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:17 PM on February 1, 2008


I'd never considered the meaning of "When Soul Meets Body."

One of my favorite songs ever is "Hear You Me" by Jimmy Eat World. It's not uplifting per se: it's essentially a "I never got to say thank you" song. I listened to it a LOT when my cousin died unexpectedly (at age 19) last year. And yet, despite it being hard to not tear up every time I listen to it, it's strangely uplifting. You can never be quite sure that you'll wake up tomorrow, so make the best of every day in your life.
posted by fogster at 9:20 PM on February 1, 2008


Everyone who made a serious suggestion gets Best Answer, except for two:

Terry Jack's Seasons in the Sun made me gack as a middle schooler and I just can't bring myself to click "Best Answer" for anything related to that song. I appreciate the idea, but hate the song. (But you couldn't know that.)

Slayer's Reborn, because "he looks gleefully forward to his execution and because he is certain he will rise again to wreak vengeance those that will execute him" is SO far off anything I was looking for that I have to say FAIL on that one.

Don't Fear the Reaper, O Death, That Smell and any other suggestions along that vein, don't quite meet what I'm looking for for this CD, but maybe I'll make a "flip side" eventually and those songs (and other suggestions like them) are a great place to start. But I favorited them anyway. Great response; much, much more than I expected.
posted by Doohickie at 9:41 PM on February 1, 2008


I have found a new favorite version of "O Death"
posted by Flunkie at 9:42 PM on February 1, 2008


oh gosh, musical theatre!
from evita, don't cry for me argentina
from les miserables: a little fall of rain (eponine's death), come to me (fantine's death), and valjean's death (start around 2:25 on that video).
and from rent, there's tom collins' gorgeous reprise of i'll cover you.
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:50 PM on February 1, 2008


Oh gosh. Sorry Doohickie, I read carelessly--consider "Death Letter" and "On the Cooling Board" not what you want. "25 Minutes to Go" is about being executed, but remarkably cheerful about it...
posted by hippugeek at 10:00 PM on February 1, 2008


The Flaming Lips have made many devastatingly beautiful and human songs about life and death. I think the best one for your purposes would be "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," off the masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. It's an amazing musical and lyrical climax to the album.

Love in our life is just too valuable
Oh, to feel for even a second without it
But life without death is just impossible
Oh, to realize something is ending within us
Feeling yourself disintegrate
posted by after_hours at 10:53 PM on February 1, 2008


Lhasa de Sela "Soon This Space WIll Be Too Small".
posted by progosk at 11:15 PM on February 1, 2008


Turn Turn Turn - The Byrds

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
- Monty Python

Swing Low Sweet Chariot - Paul Robeson

1999 -Prince

(Don't Fear) The Reaper-Blue Oyster Cult...


Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Eve Cassidy

Stairway to heaven on harp

Death is Not the End - Nick Cave ...

the The - Love Is Stronger Than Death

Hope There's Someone

The Doors The End

The Doors - Break On Through

The Giant of Illinois

Pink Floyd - The Great Gig in the Sky

Oh Death By Ralph Stanley
posted by nickyskye at 11:53 PM on February 1, 2008


The only death-related song that doesn't depress me is "And when I die" from Blood Sweat and Tears.
posted by ahimsa at 3:12 AM on February 2, 2008


Late to the thread, but I just have to add a few:

Saint John the Gambler and Waiting Around to Die by Townes Van Zandt.

Also, Star Witness by Neko Case.
posted by otolith at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2008


My two favorites that haven't yet been mentioned are When I'm Gone by Phil Ochs (there covered by Ani) and Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum.

I heartily second Hope There's Someone by Antony and the Johnsons.
posted by rmless at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2008


Spirit in the Sky
It's pretty jesus-y, but I'm a sucker for anything catchy.
posted by nuclear_soup at 9:12 AM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm obviously guilty of reading every comment but the last one in the thread.

I thought of another one: Working on Leaving the Livin
posted by nuclear_soup at 9:24 AM on February 2, 2008


One more that I really love, Returning to the Fold by the Thermals.
posted by otolith at 12:41 PM on February 2, 2008


Ceremony, by Joy Division

'Oh, Ill break them down, no mercy shown,
Heaven knows, its got to be this time,
Watching her, these things she said,
The times she cried,
Too frail to wake this time...'
posted by heartofglass at 3:10 PM on February 2, 2008


Opeth - Closure
posted by Demogorgon at 8:40 PM on February 2, 2008


"Death Came A-Knockin' (Travellin' Shoes)" as performed by Ruthie Foster.
posted by winston at 9:06 PM on February 2, 2008


One of the most beautiful songs I can think of, and heartbreaking:

"Cheat Death" by Dirty on Purpose (Download)

Old Sasha was there already
With his bag of tricks
You're a sweet small shivering body
With nothing left
And I begged him to steal just one more life
From the nine God gave you
He said the miracles were through

The cabin shook and listed
When you screamed
I found some whiskey in the kitchen
And poured it in your tea
I tried to calm you
I kissed your neck and I cooled your forehead
And the telephone went dead

Oh my God and oh my Dear
The shades are drawn
Well I guess our time is here
We were never as lucky as we'd like
Oh my God and oh my Love
The doctor's gone, well I guess our time is up
Break the fever and cheat death one more time

The trees were as still as iceberges
And green with Spring
My knuckles popped and chattered
Like wind-up teeth
With my nerves as tight as tension wires
And searchlights in the mist
I bit my lip, I bit yours in it (?)

Oh my God and oh my Dear
The shades are drawn
Well I guess our time is here
We were never as lucky as we'd like
Oh my God and oh my Love
The cop's outside, well I guess our time is up
Break the fever and cheat death one more time

posted by sprocket87 at 12:49 PM on February 5, 2008


Wow, this must be the most Best Answers ever in a single thread. Amazing.
posted by SlyBevel at 8:22 AM on February 22, 2008


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