What funeral songs are you hearing?
April 6, 2010 9:19 PM   Subscribe

What songs have you heard commonly and uncommonly at funerals and were they selected by the deceased or the friends and family?

My mother passed away recently and we chose songs for her funeral. I chose "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers.

I was wondering what songs you have selected or heard at funerals. If you know, were they planned by the deceased or were they planned by the family and friends after the fact.

Angel by Sarah Mclachlin is one that I under stand, but almost every funeral I have been to in the past few years have all played this as part of their mui.
posted by slavlin to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
These are the songs chosen by my father, sister and me for my mother's funeral. Her death was unexpected and we just chose songs that she loved. Also, we are Christians, so these songs reflect that.

Jesus, You Are Welcome Here
Blessed Be the Name of the Lord
Sweet, Sweet Spirit

(I do like your pick of the Bill Withers song.)

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by heathergirl at 9:32 PM on April 6, 2010

I was thinking that I would want Come On Up to the House played at my funeral. So you can put that in the planned by the "deceased" column.
posted by cali59 at 9:34 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

At my friend Marty's wake, a friend sang the Johnny Thunders song "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" accompanied by other friends on guitar, stand-up bass, and harmonica. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:51 PM on April 6, 2010

An acquaintance of mine in college passed away and his parents chose "One Tree Hill" by U2 for the funeral (this was 1995-ish).
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:57 PM on April 6, 2010

I was at a funeral where they played How Great Thou Art for the recessional, and it was really, really powerful (and I'm not religious).
posted by sallybrown at 10:11 PM on April 6, 2010

At my mother's funeral, we had a sing along to 'Mercedez Benz' by Janis Joplin.

We also played some John Coltrane and Bob Dylan.

The friends and family loved it, but the funeral director seemed perplexed.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:32 PM on April 6, 2010

I know someone who played "The Lark Ascending" at their mother's funeral... it was her favorite piece of music.
posted by OolooKitty at 10:53 PM on April 6, 2010

Monty Python's "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life"
Johnny Cash's take on "We'll Meet Again"
Various takes on "Don't Fear The Reaper" + "Will the Circle be Unbroken"
Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
Frank Sinatra's "That's Life"
Blood Sweat + Tears "And When I Die"
posted by philip-random at 11:02 PM on April 6, 2010

Ms B was 87 when she died and these are some of the songs chosen by her family.

Raindrops keep falling on my head
Everybody loves somebody (Dean Martin - her favourite singer)
We'll meet again (Vera Lynn)
Unforgettable (Nat King Cole)
posted by b33j at 11:11 PM on April 6, 2010

My dad really loved rock music. When he died, a really close friend of his made a mix cd to be played at his funeral. It started with Stairway to Heaven and also included songs like Freeze Frame by the J. Geils Band, which was my parents' song, and Running with the Devil by Van Halen, because it had some special significance for my dad and his friend. We also played Seasons of Love from the musical RENT.

Obviously, a lot of these wouldn't be common choices, but I thought I ought to share since you asked for personal experiences!
posted by you zombitch at 11:15 PM on April 6, 2010

I'll Be Seeing You
Amazing Grace
What a Wonderful World

The last two chosen before the event, the first one chosen by family.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:36 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

A very dear friend planned her own funeral, including requests for specific friends to sing/play songs that she had enjoyed them performing. These where her favourite songs that reminded her of the good times in her life and were meaningful to her friends and family, and not at all funerally.

At my son's funeral we chose Ben Harper's 'Walk Away', specifically because the song's opening lines were meaningful to us at the time.
posted by harmless at 12:39 AM on April 7, 2010

When my uncle died in his 40s, we ended the funeral with Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" - it was over ten years ago and I still can't hear it without getting teary.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 1:33 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jimmy Cliff's Many Rivers to Cross. Just something about that song feels appropriate.
posted by platinum at 1:40 AM on April 7, 2010

When my friend's brother died (young) his family chose Come Sail Away as sung by Eric Cartman for the funeral. On the face of it that sounds wrong but in fact it was the perfect choice and anyone who knew him couldn't help but smile when it started playing.
posted by jonnyploy at 1:55 AM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

'You'll Never Walk Alone' by Jerry and the Pacemakers.

I must say that despite being a well-adjusted person, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about this kind of stuff.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:02 AM on April 7, 2010

Sinatra singing "My Way," selected by an alcoholic asshole co-worker for his own funeral.
We laughed inappropriately at the "regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention" line.
posted by Floydd at 2:29 AM on April 7, 2010

The chorus to "I Try" (Macy Gray) always seemed like it'd lend itself perfectly to a funeral. I was alerted to that by a kid in my high school ceramics class, and I still agree with him.

The other parts of the song are a little inappropriate for the circumstance, though :(
posted by the NATURAL at 3:08 AM on April 7, 2010

I'm so very sorry about your mother. Ain't No Sunshine sounds like a beautiful choice.

My father became seriously ill when I was twelve, and we put each other in charge of the music that would play at our funerals. We talked about it rather a lot, partly just to be morbid, partly to comfort ourselves with the pretense that we were equally likely to die - that it was just a matter of an anvil falling out of the sky onto one of us at random.

At his funeral five years later, I simply made an enormous playlist of all the songs he liked, so that he could force everyone to listen to them one last time. I opened with the Mighty Sparrow calypso, Simpson (The Funeral Agency Man), then shuffled up, among many other things, the nine Beethoven symphonies, dirty chansons by Georges Brassens, and essentially every Frank Sinatra song except My Way. I think Daddy would have had a good time.

At the other funerals I've been to in the last few years, all for older people, there has been no music played, only hymns sung. I'm not familiar enough with hymns to name them (I'm one of those people going "mumblemumblemumbleLORD"), but something that goes "All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you" seems to be popular.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:07 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

My husband's grandmother recently died at a ripe old age, but her later years were marred by being in a wheelchair following an accident. Her daughter is the choir director at their Friends Meetinghouse, and many other family members were also in the choir. The daughter talked about how Gram had always loved old spirituals, and then they let loose with a fantastic song that practically tore the roof off. I can't find the lyrics, but the chorus was "Ain't that a good thing" and was a song about how wonderful it is to leave this world and go to heaven.
posted by saffry at 4:10 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and when I was eleven, one of my classmates died in a car accident and they played Friends Forever by Vitamin C at his funeral. While I didn't know him well at all, I thought he wouldn't have liked that. That's what's made me think about this so much.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:13 AM on April 7, 2010

My college girlfriend's grandfather selected University of Wisconsin fight songs to be played at his funeral. He also had requested that everyone dress in red and white instead of black.

Obviously, your mother would have to be a big college sports fan for something like this to be even remotely appropriate.
posted by HeroZero at 4:28 AM on April 7, 2010

When my uncles passed away we played DRS Gangsta Lean and Every Breath You Take - P. Diddy Remix of course. This was obviously in the 90's. And I think these were played during the drive to the burial. And I don't remember music being played at any other funerals...
posted by mokeydraws at 5:21 AM on April 7, 2010

I want "Into the West" by Annie Lennox played at my funeral.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:38 AM on April 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

For my Mum's funeral, I used this. I hope it finds you comfort.

A song with lyrics by Clive James and music by Pete Atkin, 1974.
Track 10 from the CD “Secret Drinker”
(1’ 56” A gentle and slow ballad with voice, acoustic guitar, double-bass and piano)

I need new things to tell her
That won’t seem so awkwardly shy
I’m pretending to be strong and silent
So hard that it’s violent
And plainly a lie

I need new words to fight with
That win me far more than a smile
The sentence that glitters and dances
For my steely glances
Miss out by a mile

I hear the wits’ winning ways all around me
Sweet nothings that ring the right bell
But their ease with a phrase is beyond me
Nipped in the bud, dried in the well

I need a gift to give her
That talks for me when I’m not there
And explains how the poems that start out
By eating my heart out
Are lost on the air
posted by JtJ at 5:43 AM on April 7, 2010

I am sorry to hear of your mother's passing.

At my grandmother's funeral, "Don't Fence Me In" was played, by her request.
posted by trip and a half at 5:56 AM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

My grandfather died in 2000, and was buried in his hometown, Soltau, Germany, with a population of about 15,000 (and that's counting every last sheep).

The day of the funeral, it was sleet-raining, just above freezing, with a wind chill of about 20 (f).

During the sermon, everyone was bleary-eyed and weeping, even in this typically stoic family and community.

Then, the back doors of our little grey stone chapel were flung open, and in marched six pallbearers, large woolen tricorn hats, heavy trenchcoats, and dour expressions.

From the back of the room, his lawyer pressed "play" on the CD player, and with a roar, Glen Miller's "In the Mood" began playing.

Everybody cracked up laughing. Then we went and had a party, telling stories about Opa.
posted by Seeba at 6:54 AM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Somewhere Over The Rainbow ... the Israel Kamakawiwo ukelele version.
posted by lpsguy at 7:08 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just before my best friend died of AIDS-related cancer in 1999, he said he wanted Madonna's Like a Virgin played at his funeral. Which was massively ironic. We played it. Everyone laughed. Great moment.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:18 AM on April 7, 2010

A few I've heard recently:

Go Rest High on that Mountain by Vince Gill
I'll Fly Away by the Dixie Chicks
Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
posted by tamitang at 7:31 AM on April 7, 2010

I've had two relatives request that I sing "Amazing Grace" at their funerals, and one "How Great Thou Art." (And I've sung at two of the funerals already.)
posted by ocherdraco at 7:58 AM on April 7, 2010

One of my first experiences with a friend dying was in high school. He was a funny little rude boy kid who loved ska and punk music, like, really loved it, it was his whole reason for being.

His parents played "Wind Beneath My Wings" at his funeral and I was pretty upset by that. It was like they'd never met him. I know funerals are for the living and all, but damn.

I immediately went home and made a list of songs I would want at my funeral and gave it to my mom, who tucked it away and promised my passing would be Midler-free. I can't remember exactly what's on there and I should probably update it, lest my mother insist to everyone that my dying wish was to have a bunch of Depeche Mode played by my grave.
posted by padraigin at 8:25 AM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

At my brother's funeral a group of his friends (they were all musical theatre kids) sang "Seasons of Love" from Rent. It was really powerful.

At my funeral, I want "Sleep" by the Smiths played.
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:25 AM on April 7, 2010

I'll Fly Away from the O'Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack was played at a funeral recessional as we prepared to leave for graveside burial. She loved movies and her last days were choosing the music to be played at her funeral.
posted by jadepearl at 8:38 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

A guy I knew died suddenly in his late 30's a few months ago. The pastors helping his stunned wife plan the memorial service asked one of his (very young) sons what his favorite hymn was. We closed his funeral singing Lord of the Dance. It was very moving and surprisingly fun.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:01 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dan and John spent one afternoon on the beach talking and the subject of their deaths came up. It was one of those conversations that good friends have sometimes. They were listening to a tape by the Ventures "2000-pound bee." The song was full of hard sounding guitars and it was the kind of music that was popular in the 60's with just a touch of punk. Aykroyd had one favor to ask of John. "You got to promise me something, " Aykroyd said. "If I die before you do, you have to play this tape at my funeral....because its..." Dan laughs..."Wouldn't it be great to lay this noisy, heavy tape on a church full of people!"

"Sure," John replied, "and you do the same for me." He was serious.

"Absolutely," Aykroyd promised. "Absolutely."
posted by banshee at 10:08 AM on April 7, 2010

During my grandmother's slide show: "Has Anybody Seen My Girl?" It was generationally appropriate and made me think of her as a young wife and mother instead of just thinking of the last years of her blessed life.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2010

Alexi Murdoch - Orange Sky

Although if I heard that at a funeral, I think I'd dehydrate from all the tears.
posted by yeti at 11:16 AM on April 7, 2010

I'd like Chopin's funeral march played at mine, I think. The cliche one from cartoons. (It's actually a really pretty march.)
posted by ctmf at 3:03 PM on April 7, 2010

I'm sorry to hear about the passing of your mom.

When my uncle passed away a year or so ago, he and his family chose songs that they wanted playing during his funeral and the meal afterwards, and music was a part of the whole ceremony. He was a huge music fan, especially The Beatles and the Grateful Dead. His best friend brought a Box of Rain up with him while giving his eulogy, and we all wore tie-dye shirts (some of them were from his collection). Some of his favorite songs were played, including "All You Need Is Love" "Across the Universe" " Brokedown Palace" among others. I remember music playing almost constantly during his shiva the days after his funeral. It was sweet, in that I knew it was something he loved, but now some people in my family (including myself) can hardly hear some of these songs without tearing up. For me, Brokedown Palace gets me every time:

Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
To rock my soul
posted by inertia at 7:50 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Best way to display/honour/care for a decades-old...   |   I'm so bad with death. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.