Losing someone close to you is, without a doubt, the most stressful experience you will ever have. Not only is there a deep sense of loss, but it brings into clear perspective our mortality.
One of the things we may have to be involved in is arranging the funeral service. That will almost certainly involve music. And choosing appropriate funeral music will be important. It is a very special way of remembering them.
There are many ways you can do this, but it is a service for them. So, considering who they were is important. It may help to take a look at some of the best funeral songs.
- What Is Best?
- Top 33 Best Funeral Songs
- My Immortal by Evanescence
- I’ll Follow The Sun by The Beatles
- Songbird by Fleetwood Mac
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- My Way by Frank Sinatra
- Unforgettable by Nat King Cole
- Photograph by Ringo Starr
- Memories by Within Temptation
- Always On My Mind by Willie Nelson
- How Do I Live by LeAnn Rimes
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland
- I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
- Time To Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli
- You Can Close Your Eyes by James Taylor
- Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
- As Tears Go By by Marianne Faithfull
- Forever Young by Bob Dylan
- Amazing Grace by Judy Collins
- I’ll Be Seeing You by Billie Holiday
- We’ll Meet Again by Dame Vera Lynn
- Abide with Me
- Ave Maria – Piano (Franz Schubert)
- Nimrod From Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar
- Air On A G String by Johann Sebastian Bach
- Largo from Xerxes by George Frederic Handel
- Cavalleria Rusticana – Intermezzo Sinfonico by Pietro Mascagni
- And Now, For Something Completely Different
- What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
- Bring Me Sunshine by Morecambe and Wise
- Look On The Bright Side Of Life from “The Life Of Brian” Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- In My Life by The Beatles
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles
- Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits
- I’ll See You In My Dreams by Joe Brown
- Looking for Songs that Fit a Certain Mood?
- The Best Funeral Songs – Final Thoughts
What Is Best?
When we say best, what do we mean? Best for who? This is where it becomes a little difficult because there may be underlying reasons for the choices you make. Those choices can be grouped into categories. Let’s just briefly consider what they might be.
There may be a particular song or piece of music that will bring back a specific memory of them. That is always nice, but there is something to consider. How many people in attendance will understand the significance and relevance of the music?
Their Favorite Song
They may have had a favorite song or piece of music, and that is always a good inclusion. That could be extended to choosing something from a favorite band or singer. Even a TV show or film.
You may have something to say that might be lost on everyone else. There was something left between you that wasn’t resolved. Or possibly something you should have done or said, but didn’t.
A Religious Reason
If the person was deeply religious, then a sacred song may be important to include. That will be a very personal choice.
Celebrating Their Life
It is a sad occasion, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate their life with a happy song. If it is relevant and respectful, and if it reflects their sense of humor, there is nothing wrong with that.
It is an important occasion, and the music will play an important role in the service. Let’s consider a few options for songs to play at a funeral. This might help you find the best funeral songs for that special someone you’re saying goodbye to.
Top 33 Best Funeral Songs
My Immortal by Evanescence
This is a song that might not suit everyone’s taste in terms of genre, but the message is very powerful. Evanescence was an American band that was usually a cross between Metal and Gothic. But, they also had a softer side.
This song is still very much a power ballad. Written by singer Amy Lee, guitarist Ben Moody, and David Hodges, it was released on their first album in 2003, Fallen.
The song says…
Even though the person has gone, they have taken a piece of you with them in their memory. And, just like you have memories of them, they had memories of you. This gives your relationship an immortal connection.
Of course, there is a lot of truth in that sentiment. Memories will always remain of the person that is gone. In that respect, they will always be with us.
I’ll Follow The Sun by The Beatles
This song was released in 1964 on the band’s Beatles for Sale album. However, it was written by Lennon and McCartney at the latter’s home in Liverpool in about 1959. The early composition is evident by the almost endearing simplicity of the words and the music.
It might have a certain simplicity, but it is a typical Beatles composition that allows a bit of freedom in its understanding. To some, the song has come to mean that we are all traveling a different path. And, sometimes, that path just cannot be shared no matter how much we want to. Separation is inevitable.
Somehow, even in those early songs, The Beatles were able to create sad lyrics but still surround them with positive musical elements. In this case, there is sadness in the words whilst sharing a positive musical feel.
Songbird by Fleetwood Mac
Some people just fly. Their presence lifts our spirits, and for the brief time we know them, we can soar through the sky with them. If the person you honor is one of those, then this is an ideal funeral song as a way to remember them.
Whilst it is not a song that references a funeral, it is about the person you are saying goodbye to. In a way, just saying, “Fly free, off you go; you are in my memories.” It was a track from the Rumours album released in 1977.
The song was written by Christine McVie and, for many years, was used as the closing song for Fleetwood Mac concerts.
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Possibly not a song associated with funerals. But, the sentiment of the song is described perfectly by the title. The first two lines of the song set the tone of the loss and trying to make sense of it all. And that is often the most difficult part. Why them? It is a question often asked.
There have been several interpretations of the song. There always are with Pink Floyd. But, the most credible is that it refers to founding member Sid Barrett. The song might have been a gentle reminder that they all still miss having him around.
It was released in 1975 and remains one of their less popular works. However, the quality of the songs on the album cannot be denied. In some ways, Floyd were still finding their feet.
My Way by Frank Sinatra
A song often used at funerals, especially for those with very strong-willed characters. It is a song that is specifically linked to Sinatra, but it was originally a French song. It was first released in 1967 by Claude Francois.
The first English lyrics were credited to David Bowie, of all people. There was a recording made, but never published. Paul Anka wrote the lyrics for the song specifically for Sinatra, and his version came out in 1969. It reached #5 in the UK and #27 in America.
More than one version…
It has been covered by many people, including Welsh singer Dorothy Squires, and Elvis Presley. But, it is Sinatra who will forever be associated with it.
The title can be applied relevantly to life in many situations, not just to the rich and famous ones. That is what makes this such a popular song for a funeral.
Unforgettable by Nat King Cole
Whilst we are talking about crooners, let’s include one of the greatest voices of the 50s and 60s. This was a song released in 1951 from his album of the same name. It sends a simple message to your loved one.
The words are appropriate to explain your feelings, and his voice adds to the softness of the moment. A great choice for those that want to convey some personal feelings. And it is one of the best funeral songs that many people can easily relate to.
Photograph by Ringo Starr
Ringo co-wrote this song with George Harrison. It had plenty of success in various countries and reached #8 in the UK and #31 in America. And it was also released on Ringo’s compilation albums, such as Photograph: The Very Best Of Ringo, and became somewhat of a signature tune.
The lyrics, even at the time, were quite poignant. They talk about a long-lost love, missing someone, and only having a photograph to remind them.
Things always change…
At the concert for George at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002, Ringo came on stage to a standing ovation that lasted minutes. He introduced the song and turned to a large picture of George over the stage.
He simply said, “The meaning has changed a bit from when we wrote it.” But, of course, the sentiment was the same.
A particularly relevant song for a funeral. The person has gone, and the only thing we have left are the photographs that bring back the memories.
Memories by Within Temptation
Speaking about memories as we were for the last track, this is a great song from the Dutch Symphonic Rock band, Within Temptation. The song is about loving and missing, in this case, though, not a person. Although, it can easily have that meaning.
The music video shows singer Sharon den Adel as an old lady visiting a large derelict house that was once hers. As she goes inside, she reverts to the young lady she was, and the house returns to its former glory. As she leaves, it returns to its derelict state.
The song was taken from their third studio album, The Silent Force. Being such a good song and an outstanding production allows it to have a big impact. The message that comes across in the song is about memories of the past. An apt subject for a funeral.
Always On My Mind by Willie Nelson
This is a great song that has plenty of deep sentiments in it. It has been covered by plenty of people, but I have decided to include the Willie Nelson version. This fits in a unique position in a funeral service and offers something that few other of the best funeral songs can.
Sometimes, we take people’s existence for granted. We just assume they are always going to be there. And then, one day, they are gone. It brings two things into perspective.
No Turning The Clock Back
First, how vulnerable we are and how our very existence can change in a split second. But second, it makes us think of all the things we should and could have said to them while they were with us. We wish we could turn the clock back and tell them, but we can’t do that.
This is a song that does that. It isn’t the same as telling them, of course, and possibly this song is for you as much as them. But, if you just wish you could have said some things while they were with us, then this is a great song for a funeral.
How Do I Live by LeAnn Rimes
This is a power ballad released in 1997 and written by Diane Warren. It was a big success reaching #7 in the UK and #2 in America.
It was written as a love song for a partner who has left and a relationship that has broken up. However, it works very well for a song at a funeral.
It expresses the sentiment of how much you will miss them. And how life is going to be a struggle without them there. That is certainly a feeling that some may be experiencing at the time.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland
A song that just about everyone will know, comes from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” It was written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.
Since the film, it has become a much-loved song. Amazingly, it was almost dropped from the final edit. Film Executives thought it slowed the film down. Nearly another catastrophic mistake by the “suits.” Wouldn’t be the first, would it?
The song itself has a message that can go a bit deeper than just Dorothy singing to her dog Toto. It is a song about wishing that there is a better place. Somewhere, where there is peace and happiness. Somewhere far away. When you are saying goodbye to a loved one, that is an apt sentiment.
I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
This is also a song that is well known and is usually associated with Whitney Houston. I have included Dolly Parton’s version here for two reasons. First, it has more of a gentle feel which would lend itself better to the occasion.
But second, because I have always thought it was the better of the two versions anyway. For me, it is a song that stands on its own without too much in the way of histrionics.
Dolly Parton wrote it as a way of saying goodbye to her business partner, Porter Waggoner, when she decided a change was necessary. It has other connotations and can be a very special addition to a funeral for someone close.
If you are lost for words to express your feelings, or maybe the emotion of the occasion will just get to you, let this song say it for you. It just about says it all.
Time To Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli
Released in 1977, this is a collaboration between two great singers. It is a version of the music by Andrea Bocelli called “Con te partirò.”
This song has a powerful message and is very emotional. The message is in the title, of course. It is certainly going to have an effect at a funeral.
If you want the emotions to run deep, then this is one of the best funeral songs to do just that. However, if you plan a lighter event, then it might be a little too much.
You Can Close Your Eyes by James Taylor
For those who prefer their music gentle and easy to listen to, this is a great song from James Taylor. In some ways, this is one of Taylor’s finest early compositions. It was taken from the album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon.
Many critics call this a lullaby, and they wouldn’t be far wrong. It is soft and gentle and, of course, it is acoustic. It has a theme of farewell or parting. That makes it very suitable for those wanting a more modern but gentle song to include in the music at a funeral.
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
Here is a song with a backstory you could write a book about. Suffice to say that Cohen produced over 150 versions and took five years to write the song. That resulted in the finished version being rejected by his record company. It finally came out in 1984 on his album, Various Positions.
Cohen always described the song as a joyous celebration of life and having lived. He said he wanted to celebrate life. Not necessarily in a religious way, just to be happy to have had it.
In his lifetime…
The song never reached the charts in any significant way. It was only after he had died that the song became a near anthem in some circles. It has become one of the most covered songs ever, with the Jeff Buckley version being the standout, in my opinion.
If you want a song that celebrates life and the experiences we have, then this is the song that will do that for you.
As Tears Go By by Marianne Faithfull
This is a song going back to 1964 written by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Andrew Loog Oldham. It featured Jimmy Page on a 12-string guitar.
This is a song about someone reminiscing and remembering happier times. That makes it relevant for a funeral service.
Forever Young by Bob Dylan
In some ways, this is a slightly different Bob Dylan song. It carries the usual great lyrics and meaningful comments. But, it also feels like he has gone back a bit in time with his use of the organ. It comes from his album, Planet Waves.
This song is particularly relevant to someone who has died when young and had their whole life still before them. It happens, of course, too often.
But, if it is a son or a daughter, then the song affirms they will also be “forever young.” They will still be that child they knew and loved, and that is how they will be remembered.
Amazing Grace by Judy Collins
This is a song that has been traditionally used at funerals because the message is very clear. The song became famous in the mid-80s with Judy Collins’s release in 1975. But, to Christians, it has been part of their lives for a long time.
The song goes back hundreds of years. However, the words were added in 1772 by John Newton, an English Anglican poet.
It is a song for a funeral that is particularly relevant to Christians and religious people. The message is one of peace and salvation coming after death. The final parts of the song speak about the afterlife.
This will be seen by devout people as a comfort to those who they are mourning at the passing of a loved one. It isn’t necessarily a sad song as the message is positive, and it can be uplifting when sung by a congregation.
I’ll Be Seeing You by Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was one of the greatest female singers of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Often known for her jazz and blues styles, this was a different type of song for the lady known as “Lady Day.” A song with a huge history.
It was originally written for the musical “Right This Way” in 1938 by Sammy Fain and Irving Fahal. In the 40s, it took on another significance.
British and Commonwealth, and then American soldiers went off to fight in the Second World War. It became a goodbye song. And, for far too many, a permanent one.
A Song With A Meaning…
Bing Crosby had a hit with the song. But, it was Billie Holiday’s version recorded with the Eddy Heywood Orchestra that is probably the best known. It was a song with a deep meaning.
In the UK, it is forever associated with Liberace, who used it as the closing piece for his 1950s TV show. Something still remembered by those old enough with some fondness.
A Song About Being Reunited
For people who believe in an afterlife and being reunited with loved ones after death, it holds special significance. From that perspective, it is more of a “see you later” song than a goodbye. A sentiment that brings a lot of comfort to some.
We’ll Meet Again by Dame Vera Lynn
Staying with the theme of being reunited is this timeless classic from Dame Vera Lynn. The song was released in 1939 and was written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles.
Just as Billie Holiday’s song may have been better known in America, this was the song that resonated in the UK. A song that helped a lot of people in those dark 1940s days, especially the 1940-42 period.
Once again, for those people that believe in being reunited after death, it is an excellent song for a funeral. Especially for the older generation who might have lived through those days. Even if only as children.
Time to include some religious music. There will be those who are devout in their faith and will want music that reflects that. “Abide With Me” is one of those hymns.
This is a hymn with words written by a Scottish Anglican, Henry Lyte. The words are sung to the tune of “Eventide,” which was written by William Monk, an English church organist. Lyte is alleged to have written the words as he lay dying from tuberculosis in 1847.
Lyrically, it is almost a prayer to receive comfort. Both in the last throes of life and the death to come. The last words of the hymn are, “In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.” It might not be the happiest of hymns, but it is so well known and loved as a song that any sadness is usually overlooked.
Born in 1797 in Vienna, Franz Schubert only lived for 31 years. But, during that time, he created some memorable music. When he died, he was buried near his hero Beethoven, at whose funeral he had contributed just one year before.
The piece was originally composed for a work by Sir Walter Scott. But, it has become an essential song in its own right. Musically, its construction is very delicate, soft, and relaxing in its context.
It is often used at funerals due to its emotional depth and sensitivity, which is very profound. Certainly, a piece of music to consider if you are thinking of having a reflective period during the funeral service.
Nimrod From Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar
Edward Elgar’s masterpiece “Enigma Variations” supplies this adagio. In popular classical music, this piece is one of the most well-known and is much-loved.
This applies especially to those with links to the Armed Forces. You will hear this music played not only at funerals but also at remembrance events.
It was composed to honor his great friend and confidant, Augustus J. Jaeger. Jaeger was his support when he fell into a deep depression and was one of the reasons he recovered. He dedicated “Nimrod” to him.
A beautiful melody and stirring finale with the swelling orchestra that would grace any funeral service.
Air On A G String by Johann Sebastian Bach
One of the most popular works by this great Baroque period composer. He wrote the piece as part of a suite for his patron and sponsor, Prince Leopold of Anhalt. We do not have an exact date for the composition. But, we do know it was written sometime in the six years between 1717 and 1723.
As with most of Bach’s compositions, there is a simplicity that hides the technical genius behind the music. The melody sounds simple and is typical of Bach’s beauty in writing. But, everything else going on around it makes the piece spectacular.
It is slow, and some might say somber. But, in a quiet period of contemplation, it is one of the best funeral songs you can play.
Largo from Xerxes by George Frederic Handel
Taken from the opera “Xerxes,” this aria is a slow, somber affair. But, in many ways, it is a fitting piece of music for a funeral. If you are considering a classic piece to be played when the mourners are arriving, this would be an excellent choice.
He wrote the music in 1738, although it did not have a very auspicious start. The opera closed after just five performances, and the aria lay undisturbed for over a hundred years. It received a revival in the late 1800s and has been popular ever since.
It has proven to be a popular and appropriate piece of music for funerals because of the respectful atmosphere it creates.
Cavalleria Rusticana – Intermezzo Sinfonico by Pietro Mascagni
Let’s close this look at some classical music to set the mood for a funeral with this piece. This is a wonderful piece of music taken from Mascagni’s one-act opera from 1890. It is a piece of music that creates an atmosphere.
Considered by some to be one of the finest intermezzos ever written. The rise and fall of the music build, and then, finally, falls as it reaches its delicate end. A piece of music that is something very special.
And Now, For Something Completely Different
There will be those who want to celebrate the life of the deceased rather than have a mournful occasion. You might want to have an uplifting service. Some songs will do that for you.
What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
Armstrong’s iconic song reminds us of everything good around us. It throws a very positive light on life and sees it as a celebration.
If the person you honor at the funeral had a positive attitude, maybe loved nature and life itself, then this is a great song. It is a reminder of what they thought about their surroundings and what they gave to those around them. In that way, it will bring you closer to them.
Bring Me Sunshine by Morecambe and Wise
This next song isn’t necessarily a specific suggestion; it is more of an idea. Did they have a favorite TV program, one they would always sit and enjoy?
If so, then playing that theme tune at the funeral can bring a smile to everyone’s face. That can be a great way to remember someone in happier times. This song was just an idea, as I said. And there are dozens of other options that might fit the bill.
Consider the individual who you are about to honor at their funeral. Did they have a “wicked” sense of humor? Enjoyed having a good laugh, even at their own expense?
Did they not mind a bit of what some might see as irreverence? If so, then this is going to send them off with a smile and laugh.
Look On The Bright Side Of Life from “The Life Of Brian” Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
If they were one of those people we just mentioned, there’s no better way to have a final giggle together than this song, even at their funeral.
In My Life by The Beatles
Let’s get a little more up-to-date and a little more serious with this classic from John Lennon. A funeral for a loved one is a very personal thing. You might desperately want to express in words what they meant to you. But, there are other people there, and it can make you feel awkward.
If you want to express those feelings, then this is a song that will do it for you. It is a song that expresses a very personal emotion. It is saying that after all the experiences and loves you knew, they were always the most important.
The one you “loved more”…
John Lennon is often remembered as either a Rock n Roller or a man intent on changing the world. But, he also had a softer side which enabled him to write songs as great as this.
For me, “In My Life” is undoubtedly one of The Beatles’ finest songs. And, it’s perfect for expressing your feelings at a funeral for that person who was closest to you.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles
Let’s stay with The Beatles for this song written by George Harrison. Some think that George didn’t get a fair crack of the whip in getting his songs included on albums or as singles.
It was only in the last period, when the break up of the band was inevitable, that we started to hear more of him. This track is one of his finest and is taken from the iconic The White Album.
It is a song that is very eloquent about the state of the world and his dismay at our inability to see sense and reason. It is often used at funeral services for those with like opinions. And, today, there are plenty that would agree with him.
Unusual, but it has its place…
It is not going to suit everyone’s taste at a funeral, having a rather “Rock feel” and with the guitar solos. But, if the person you are honoring was a Beatles fan, then there is hardly a better song to use for a funeral.
Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits
As we move towards the end of this list, we include something very special. This is one of the greatest songs from what some call one of the greatest albums ever made. This song was written by Mark Knopfler in 1982 about the Falklands War. It was included on the album of the same name.
It’s often used at funerals because of the melancholy feeling of loss so evident in the music, especially in his guitar playing. It is also relevant because of some of the lines he wrote in the song.
He talks about how they now inhabit different worlds with the lyrics, “And we have just one world/But we live in different ones.” And, of course, the final farewell, “Let me bid you farewell/Every man has to die.”
Not Just For Service Men and Women
It is, of course, particularly relevant to service men and women killed while involved in yet another futile war. That goes without saying. But, it can also be applied to those not so involved. The song is just a very sad and poignant goodbye, whatever the circumstances.
I’ll See You In My Dreams by Joe Brown
Sometimes, a song can be brought out of nowhere that suddenly becomes so relevant. This song was one of those occasions.
‘A Year To The Day’
The Royal Albert Hall in London in November 2002. It had been a great concert in honor of George Harrison on the first anniversary of his death. We had heard some great music and performances, but then rather unexpectedly, came this.
Get Out The Handkerchiefs
If you visited George’s house, either Kinfaus in Esher or Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, there was a surprise. A ukulele was often thrust into your hands, and it was time to play. He loved the uke and had dozens of them.
How fitting then that this concert was ended by Joe Brown’s simple solo rendition of “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” Not a dry eye in the Royal Albert Hall as he sang it for his friend. A beautiful memory of a lovely person.
What a great way to remember someone who departed with such a sentiment. A fitting way to end this list and a great way to remember a close friend at their final farewell.
Looking for Songs that Fit a Certain Mood?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Anxiety, the Best Songs About Loneliness, the Best Songs About Pain & Suffering, the Best Songs About Hope, and the Best Songs About Silence for more incredible song selections.
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The Best Funeral Songs – Final Thoughts
I have talked about this being a difficult time and how important it is to get music that is relevant and appropriate. But, it is a little more than just that.
In reality, this will be the last communication you have with the person. Although they might not be there, it is your parting gift. Your parting show of love and appreciation. When viewed in that light, its importance takes on a whole new meaning.
People are going to remember the funeral in the years to come. Getting the best music for a funeral becomes an important part of that memory.
Until next time, sorry for your loss, and hopefully, you can have some happy listening.