It seems a bit of an oxymoron to have a list containing the best songs about death, but there can be such a thing. Death is an inevitable part of life, and it’s something we all have to learn to accept and even embrace.
Songs can undoubtedly help with this process and show us how to have less fear about this entirely natural event. So, let’s get to it and take a look at the first song about death.
- Top 115 Best Songs About Death
- 1 Funeral for a Friend by Elton John
- 2 If I Should Go Before You by Dallas Green
- 3 Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
- 4 Emma by Hot Chocolate
- 5 Fire and Rain by James Taylor
- 6 Hurt by Johnny Cash
- 7 Thinking About You by Norah Jones
- 8 7 Years by Lukas Graham
- 9 Time by Pink Floyd
- 10 My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
- 11 Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.
- 12 American Pie by Don Mclean
- 13 Let it Be by The Beatles
- 14 Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
- 15 I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley
- 16 Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
- 17 The Funeral by Band of Horses
- 18 Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix
- 19 Down by the River by Neil Young
- 20 Children by Robert Miles
- 21 Say You Love Me by Fleetwood Mac,
- 22 I’ll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans & 112,
- 23 Gone Too Soon by Michael Jackson,
- 24 Angel by Sarah McLachlan,
- 25 Into the Mystic by Van Morrison,
- 26 I Will Remember by Toto,
- 27 Gloomy Sunday by Billie Holiday,
- 28 Last Kiss by Pearl Jam,
- 29 One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men,
- 30 The Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics,
- 31 Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd,
- 32 November Rain by Guns N’ Roses,
- 33 Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinéad O’Connor,
- 34 Tears of Heaven by Eric Clapton,
- 35 Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) by Green Day,
- 36 Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel,
- 37 When I’m Gone by 3 Doors Down,
- 38 Angels by Robbie Williams,
- 39 Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds,
- 40 You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile by Sia,
- 41 My Heart Is Broken by Evanescence,
- 42 I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith,
- 43 Say Goodbye by Chris Brown,
- 44 Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden,
- 45 Heaven Was Needing a Hero by Jo Dee Messina,
- 46 The End of the World by Skeeter Davis,
- 47 Every Breath You Take by The Police,
- 48 The Rose by Bette Midler,
- 49 The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles.
- 50 The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel,
- More 65 Best Songs About Death
- Searching for Songs with Sentiment?
- Best Songs About Death – Final Thoughts
Top 115 Best Songs About Death
Funeral for a Friend by Elton John
I can remember first hearing this as if it was yesterday, though sadly, it wasn’t. It was in the summer of 1973, and the song had just been released as the first track on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
The track flowed straight into “Love Lies Bleeding” and was eleven minutes of some of the best music I’d ever heard.
The listening experience was a real occasion…
I was cycling with a friend, and we were staying in a hostel by the river on a converted barge. After dinner, the hostel manager opened the turntable lid, took the album from the sleeve, and ten of us crowded around to listen.
For the next hour and twenty minutes, we sat transfixed as we listened to the entire double album in silence.
When the album finished playing, it was time for bed, and we all climbed into our bunks and lay in silence, trying to make sense of what we’d heard. The haunting synthesized keyboards of the first track kept running through my mind.
I can still recall its unearthly sound…
I had no context or knowledge about it, but I instinctively knew it was about death. To this day, I can still recall the emotions of that moment in an instant. It’s incredibly powerful and emotional, yet at times gentle and subtle.
I didn’t know it then, but I now know through my friend, Mr. Google, that Elton John wrote the music as something he would like to be played at his funeral. I sincerely hope that this is what they play for him when his time comes.
The track was never released as a single…
Although, it still received a lot of airplay and much critical acclaim. It might not be a song you’re familiar with, but if I tell you, it’s on the same album that gave us “Candle in the Wind,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” I’m sure these are all songs you’re familiar with.
The album ultimately went on to sell 20 million copies and is regarded by many as his finest work. Listening to it was one of my life’s most memorable musical experiences.
If I Should Go Before You by Dallas Green
Dallas Green is a Canadian singer-songwriter. He predominantly writes Folk-style songs, and most are played with no other accompaniment other than his acoustic guitar. His style is very reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Neil Young.
He also goes by the name of City and Colour…
“If I Should Go Before You” was released in 2015. It is the fourth track on the album of the same name, but sadly, it has never been released separately as a single. The album went platinum in Canada and also made it to #26 in the US and #47 in the UK.
The song is a sad but beautiful love song for the singer’s significant other. He is reassuring his partner that in the event of his death, before his partner’s, he’ll still be with her and watching over her.
However, at the same time…
He reassures her that she should be free to move on with her life and pursue happiness. He urges her strongly to live her life because when the time comes, they will be reunited again for eternity.
The song is given an extra layer of beauty with Dallas Greens’ incredible high and clear voice. The song is sung with his trademark acoustic guitar playing with the gentlest of piano accompaniment in the background. A truly touching song talking about death.
Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
I don’t know how Eric Clapton was able to bring himself to write this. It can’t have been an easy thing to do. And, to be able to perform it live and hold yourself together is frankly remarkable.
So, what’s the song about?
Tragically, in 1991, his son Connor died in an accident. He fell from a 53rd-floor window that had been left open in his New York home. “Tears in Heaven” is a tribute to his son.
Some say that it could also be a song referencing the death of friends who died in a short seven-month period. A closer examination of the lyrics, I feel, dispels this theory.
Because he anticipates a long separation before his death. So, he wonders if the person would have the capacity to remember him when he dies. This is a doubt you’d have for a young child rather than an adult.
Another point is that he asks if the person that passed would also hold his hand. You’d routinely do this with your young child and not with your adult friends. Therefore, I conclude that the song is definitely about his son.
You might be surprised to know…
The song was written purposefully to feature in the 1982 movie, “Rush.” It was a track on the “Rush: Movie Soundtrack.” “Tears in Heaven” was also released as a single and went platinum in the US and Japan.
The soundtrack features electric guitars and orchestral instruments. However, a more popular version is the Unplugged version with just Eric Clapton and his acoustic guitar.
It’s an extremely sad song about someone dying and touches on a subject that all of us parents dread ever facing. In turn, it’s one of the best songs about death ever recorded.
Emma by Hot Chocolate
Hot Chocolate is a British Soul band who were formed in 1968. They were most active and enjoyed the highest amount of commercial success under the leadership of their frontman, Errol Brown. He left the band in 1986, and with his departure, the hits pretty much dried up.
“Emma” was co-written by Errol Brown and Ton Wilson. It was written, recorded, and released in 1974 from the album Cicero Park. The song went to #3 in the UK and #8 in the US.
The song was a tribute to Errol Brown’s recently deceased mother. Although it’s a song dealing with the subject of death and grief, Errol Brown, who wrote the lyrics, took a different route to cover the subject.
Rather than write the song from his perspective…
He chose to write it from the viewpoint of a recently bereaved young husband. “Emma” retells the life of the main character, Emmaline.
The song begins…
By describing her childhood as a young girl. It then goes on to describe her marriage and her desire for stardom, which she ultimately felt she was unable to achieve. Her lack of success eventually leads her to take her own life.
The fallout leaves the husband distraught and devastated. Errol Brown does a wonderful job of expressing the emotions, both lyrically and through a heartfelt and sorrowful vocal performance.
A toned-down beat and tempo help to perfectly present the song. Errol Brown sadly passed away in 2016.
Fire and Rain by James Taylor
I’ve just listened to this for the first time in a while, and I honestly got goosebumps. I haven’t listened to James Taylor for frankly too long, and hearing this again makes me realize what a great musician he is.
James Taylor is a singer-songwriter who was born in 1948 and was playing guitar and performing before he even left the maternity ward.
He’s a wonderful lyricist, but his guitar playing is otherworldly. He plays in a hybrid Folk/Country fingerpicking style that’s both captivating and beautiful.
He still plays today…
And he is one of the most influential acoustic guitar players in the industry. Guitar players like Taylor Swift frequently reference him as an important influence.
“Fire and Rain” is the very best of James Taylor and features the very best of his guitar playing. The song was released in 1970 from the album Sweet Baby James. The single and album both made it to #3 in the US. The album also went triple-platinum in the US.
So, what’s it about?
The song recounts the death of a longtime childhood friend, Suzanne Schnerr. She’d sadly taken her own life, but at the time, he had moved to London, so was not aware of it. His parents took the decision not to tell him immediately because they didn’t want to distract him from his career.
The suicide happened whilst James Taylor was recording his first album, James Taylor. During this period, he was suffering from depression and also had slipped into regular drug use. His parents were probably aware of him having problems.
Rather than them not wanting to take his focus away from his career, as is often cited, his parents could well have been more worried about their son’s mental health.
“Fire and Rain” recounts him finding out about her death and subsequently dealing with the feelings and emotions. It also openly explains his battles with depression, drug taking, and fame. These personal issues and problems are something that many can relate to and explains the song’s enduring popularity as one of the best songs about death.
Hurt by Johnny Cash
The song has multiple layers to it, and that is probably why it’s so popular. It was originally written by Trent Reznor, who is the lead singer for the Hard Rock/Metal band Nine Inch Nails.
In many ways, it’s strange that a song from an intense Rock/Metal band found its way into the hands of Country legend Johnny Cash.
“Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails can be interpreted quite differently from Johnny Cash’s version. This seems quite strange, given that the lyrics are the same. However, given the very different ages and dynamics of the singers, it does make sense.
The original version…
Is primarily about dealing with depression and issues around drug taking. It’s about these struggles and thoughts of suicide and death.
Johnny Cash released his version of “Hurt” in March 2003. It was his last song and video to be released before his death. So, rather than a suicide note, it’s a farewell to life due to old age. The problems he thinks about are reflected in the video.
Cash primarily reflects on life with his family…
He regrets that he didn’t spend more time with them and regrets having spent so much time on his musical career and fame. Additionally, he displays his sadness at the passing of his wife.
The video that goes with Johnny Cash’s cover won a Grammy, and the song was also voted as the second-best cover by the British public. These are great accolades and truly deserved. I honestly think the song and video were the best of his career.
An incredible achievement when considering his huge catalog of amazing songs. Johnny Cash died on September 12th, 2003. But he left us with one of the most memorable songs about death.
Thinking About You by Norah Jones
When you think about Norah Jones, it’s unlikely that you’d ever associate her with singing about death. And you’d be right. Her silky-smooth sultry voice and beautiful Smooth Jazz songs are much more likely to deal with subjects relating to love and relationships.
However, “Thinking About You” is a little different…
Whilst musically, it sounds the same, lyrically, it isn’t. This unusual combination of lyrics and the soothing nature of the music makes it possibly one of the best songs about death on the list.
It came out in 2006 as a single from the album, Not Too Late. Both the song and album sold well, although the album sold better. As well as charting at #1 in the US and UK, it sold a cool five million copies.
“Thinking About You” has a delicious lazy Jazz feel that, at first glance, concerns the fond and sentimental recollection of a previous relationship.
When you dig a little deeper, this is not necessarily the case. The lyrics, though somewhat ambiguous, do refer to someone reaching the other side safely. It’s a clear reference to death and a strong indication that the song is more likely to be about death than a past relationship. Of course, it could be about either, and the lyrics are vague enough for this to be the case.
But death is undoubtedly, and unexpectedly, the main theme. We’ll never know the exact meaning. But it’s a beautiful song, regardless.
7 Years by Lukas Graham
The song was released in 2012. Many think that the singer is called Lukas Graham. But that’s the name of the band. The lead singer and lyricist are Lukas Forchhammer.
When the song was released…
It received a lot of airplay and was seemingly played by just about every guy in every bar with a guitar. The high exposure pushed it to the top of the charts in both the US and the UK. Since the band is Danish, it’s also hardly a surprise that they got to the top of the charts in Denmark too.
“7 Years” was taken from the studio album Lukas Graham. The lyrics are a real standout and, in many ways, remind me of “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. This is more to do with the style than the subject matter, as the two songs differ considerably.
One of the “7 Years” main themes revolves around Lukas as he was growing up from the age of seven. It illustrates beautifully the changes in his life from childhood to adulthood. Part of this journey also focuses on his relationships as well as the effect of fame and music on his life.
Another central theme concerns the death of people in these years…
These deaths included friends, but crucially, also included his father, whom he lost at the young age of 16. “7 Years” feels highly cathartic for Lukas, and it is obvious that the song is also a tribute to his late father.
It’s very moving and powerful. I can’t honestly think of a better way to remember someone so close.
Time by Pink Floyd
“Time” was released in 1974 as a track from their record-breaking studio album, Dark side of the Moon, which was released in 1973. The single didn’t chart or sell particularly well, which is hardly a surprise since Pink Floyd is known more for their albums.
Moreover, they are known for their concept albums which often make singles appear somewhat out of context when stood alone. So, if “Time” was popular as a single, what about “Dark Side of the Moon”?
This was very much a different prospect. Sales hit 45 million copies, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. It also remained on the US Billboard albums chart for a crazy 14 years.
So, what is “Time” all about?
It’s a song that is as much about life as it is about death. It reflects on life from birth to death. It examines how fleeting life is and how it can pass us by without even realizing it. But the end of the song is a somber reminder of what waits for us all.
The words, “The tolling of the iron bell… brings the faithful to their knees,” leave us under no illusions as to our fate. The lyrics were written by Roger Waters and are probably the finest of anything he’s ever written. He’s one of, if not the, greatest lyricist ever, so this is mighty praise.
The song is also Psychedelic Rock at its finest, with David Gilmour adding a beautiful solo to complete the package. It’s a haunting but beautiful song that is one of Pink Floyd’s best.
My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
This track was featured as the main song for the movie “Titanic.” For the very few of you that don’t know, “Titanic” was released in 1997 and is based on the real-life tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic.
It was largely centered around the romantic relationship between two passengers of different social statuses, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
The movie was a phenomenal success…
And at the time, was the highest-grossing movie in history. To this day, it’s still #3 on the list, with a total of 2.2 billion dollars of box office receipts to its name.
“My Heart Will Go On” no doubt both fueled and benefited from the success of the movie. The song was also a big hit. It was sung by Canadian singer Celine Dion and was included on her album, Let’s Talk About Love, as well as on the Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack.
The single and both the albums sold like crazy…
They reached #1 in more countries than you can name. I think the only place they didn’t get a #1 hit was Tibet and North Korea. Sales were mental. The single sold 18 million copies globally. Both of the albums sold over 30 million copies… each!
“My Heart Will Go On” is a story of a love cut down due to tragedy. The singer is devastated by the loss of her soul mate and pledges to carry on with her life as a tribute to his.
Frankly, I think she should have dug just a little deeper and helped him up onto the raft. Just my opinion!
Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.
R.E.M. was formed in 1980 as a Progressive and Alternative Rock band. They released “Everybody Hurts” in 1983 when they were already thirteen years into their career. And, a very successful one it had been.
The single was taken from the album, Automatic for the People. This went on to sell 14 million copies and was only beaten for commercial success by their previous album, Out of Time, which was released two years earlier in 1991.
The single was a little different from some of their other songs…
It made use of a drum machine rather than utilizing the undoubted talents of drummer Bill Berry. Incidentally, although the whole band is credited with writing the song, it’s widely acknowledged that Bill Berry wrote the lion’s share of it.
The song also featured uncharacteristic dramatic strings. This change of arrangement was an attempt to appeal to the heartstrings of a younger generation. The lyrics mainly consist of an open plea for teenagers to think twice and not commit suicide.
The whole song was constructed in such a way as to appeal to this community. It was an admirable cause and one we all should applaud.
The song was a clear message to drive people away from death…
In 2010, “Everybody Hurts” was resurrected by Simon Cowell as a charity song to raise funds for the victims of an earthquake in Haiti. It was released around the world, with R.E.M. signing away all royalties. It sold well and raised a considerable amount for the relief efforts.
How successful the song has been for potential suicide victims and the people of Haiti will never be known. However, we can be reasonably sure that, to some degree, it’s saved lives. I commend R.E.M. for all their efforts.
American Pie by Don Mclean
“American Pie” is a folk song released in 1971 from the album of the same name. The single went to #1 in the US and #2 in the UK. It went triple-platinum in the US and Gold in the UK.
Interestingly, at the time, “American Pie” was the longest song to reach the top spot in the UK. The two parts of the song together came to just under nine minutes. In this era, it was unheard of for a song of this length to be released as a single, so it was remarkable that it got to #1.
It was over 50 years before a song longer would break the record. It was eventually broken by our friend Taylor Swift in 2021 with her ten-minute version of “All too Well.” Let’s get back to “American Pie,” one of the best songs about death.
So, what was the song about?
At first glance, it was a song about the death of three musicians killed in an air crash in 1959. These were Rich Valens, The Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly. The crash was seen as the symbolic ending of the Rock N’ Roll era. However, there was much more going on in the lyrics than just this.
Don McLean was also making a commentary on what he saw as the deterioration of society and the change of traditional values in America. The country was still involved in the Vietnam War and had come through a decade that was synonymous with drugs and free love.
“American Pie” is symbolic of the traditional values of America. Hence the words “Bye-bye Miss America Pie” as a reference to a lost time and values. It’s a very powerful Folk song dealing with death on several levels.
Let it Be by The Beatles
“Let it Be” was released as a single from the same-titled album in 1970. It was one of the last songs released by the band and came from their twelfth and final studio album. It’s probably one of their finest songs from a music and lyrical standpoint, and the fans seemed to agree.
The single went to #1 in the US and sold over three million copies globally. The album enjoyed similar success selling over four million copies in the US alone.
The song was predominantly written by Paul McCarney and has a sad but beautiful melody. Given the subject matter, I am not surprised. The slow tempo and gentle arrangement, I feel, showcase the talent of The Beatles much better than more Pop-based songs like “Twist and Shout.”
The lyrics of “Let it Be”…
They were written by Paul McCartney following a dream he had in which his mother appeared. She had died of cancer over a decade earlier, in 1956. Some interpret the words as referring literally to ‘Mother Mary’ being the mother of Jesus.
Although Paul McCartney maintains that this is open to interpretation, the rest of the song makes this seem unlikely. The appearance of his mother in the dream was presented as a thing of comfort and happiness.
But it was more than that…
It was also an opportunity to spend more time with her. Plus, a chance to process the experience of loss to better come to terms with it.
“Let It Be” is this process of acceptance of the death of a loved one. As any who’s lost a parent will know, it can be a very long road to get to this point. Paul McCartney expresses these emotions and feeling so well in a touching and beautiful song.
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
The song was released in 1973 and was specifically written for the movie soundtrack “Pat Garret & Billy the Kid.” It received a mediocre response when it was released. But, subsequently, it has been covered by multiple artists and become much more popular, which we’ll look at later.
The song undoubtedly makes more sense in the context of the “Pat Garret & Billy the Kid” movie. The song was played over the scene where there is a shootout resulting in the death of the Sheriff, Colin Baker.
As he’s lying on the floor…
His wife runs over to him, and the song starts to play in the background. It’s now certain that the sheriff is facing his death, and the line, “Mama, take this badge from me,” refers to the conversation he’s having with his wife.
He calls his wife “Mama” throughout the movie, so this makes sense. The lyrics are, therefore, a deep insight into a man facing his death in the line of duty whilst being comforted by his wife.
It’s a wonderful song and one that many fellow artists have chosen to cover. These include rock legends like Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and Nick Cave. However, possibly the most famous cover was by an insanely successful Hard Rock group.
Enter Guns N’ Roses…
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Guns N’ Roses was originally released in 1990 as part of the movie “Days of Thunder.” This was later rearranged and included in the 1991 album, Use Your Illusion II.
It stands apart from most the other covers for its intensity. It has also been the most popular cover. Whichever version of the song you choose to listen to, this is a true classic. And it is easily one of the best songs about death.
I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley
Here’s another song about death and killing a Sheriff in the line of duty. The song was originally written by Bob Marley, which may come as a surprise to many of you.
No doubt, a lot of people will associate this with Eric Clapton’s cover, which was released in 1974. Alternatively, there was also the popular 1997 Hip-Hop version released by Warren G.
So, what about the original song?
It’s a Reggae-style tune that tackles the issues of overzealous policing and the right to self-defense. Understandably, it’s a highly-contentious issue to even hint at violence toward the police, so it was quite surprising that it wasn’t banned.
However, the reason it possibly escaped censure is that Bob Marley cleverly changed the word “police” to “sheriff.” The subtle change kind of made it feel like a song referencing the Wild West in the past rather than contemporary life in Jamaica.
“I Shot the Sheriff” was a Reggae song and was released off the Bob Marley and the Wailers album, Burnin’. The album also contained other civil rights protest songs, including most famously, “Get Up, Stand Up.”
I can remember both the original and Eric Clapton’s cover perfectly…
Although I confess, I’ve never heard Warren G’s efforts. When I compare the Bob Marley original to Eric Clapton’s cover, it feels that there’s a stark difference in interpretation despite the lyrics being the same.
Bob Marley’s version feels grittier. The genuine fear of death and persecution is upfront and central. Eric Clapton’s cover feels kind of detached from the issues Marley was trying to convey. The more I listen to these songs, the more I’m convinced that the original song is by far superior.
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
This song was released in 1980, was written by bassist John Deacon, and was a single taken from the studio album, The Game. At this point in their career, Queen was flying high and seemingly couldn’t put a foot wrong.
The single and album both got to #1 in the US and went multi-platinum. Moreover, the single sold a staggering seven million copies globally, making it their best-selling song.
“Another One Bites the Dust” was written after John Deacon watched a documentary on a mass shooting and massacre on St. Valentine’s Day. The futility of the tragic event stuck with him, and he wrote the song.
You can hear a slow build-up in the song that eventually crescendos…
This represents and mirrors the shooting and fits in perfectly with the lyrics. Leading up to the shooting, there is a slow constant bass beat that mimics someone walking. The tension continues to build until the gunman opens fire, killing everyone in his path.
The lyrics portray a man who is bent on revenge for being scorned by his love interest. He goes in search of her and doesn’t care whom he kills or if he faces death himself. He just wants to make people suffer for what has been done to him.
It’s a powerful song and shows how emotions, when concerned with love, can overrule logical thinking.
The Funeral by Band of Horses
This is a very moving song by a bunch of highly underrated musicians. “The Funeral” was a track on their debut album, Everything All The Time. It was never released as a single, but these guys must have made a fortune out of it.
Because it has appeared on 13 TV shows and 14 movies, plus a handful of video games, too, the royalties from these sources alone must have been worth a good amount of cash. Good, for them, I say. The album also didn’t do so badly. It went Gold in the US and was a good start to their careers.
“The Funeral” can be interpreted in a few different ways, but the most common interpretation is of someone waiting for the death of a loved one. More precisely, waiting for the inevitable death of a partner or relative with a resigned acceptance.
Many think it’s about a concerned partner watching their significant other slowly kill themselves with drugs. Waiting for the day that they go to wake them only to find that they’ve overdosed. Others see it similarly but possibly a death through suicide.
Either of these may or may not be accurate…
But it’s fair to say it’s a song that deals with people coming to terms with death. This is probably the death of another party, although it could be inferred that an acceptance of their death as well. It’s a delicate and well-sung Folk/Rock song.
Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix
“Hey Joe” is a song that will forever be linked with Jimi Hendrix. Most people wrongly believe he wrote it, but that is not the case. The writer of the song is credited to Billy Roberts. Although the full story is a little more complicated, we haven’t time to look at it more carefully right now.
The first version of the song was sung by The Leaves in 1965. Then in 1988, The Byrds put their spin on it before Jimi Hendrix released his cover later in the same year.
The Jimi Hendrix version is highly significant. It was the first single he ever released with his new band. In the UK, it charted at #6, but unbelievably, it didn’t even chart in the US.
For such an iconic song, it seems hard to believe…
Happily, his follow-up song, “Purple Haze,” fared a little better and managed to scrape in at #65 on the US Billboard charts.
Both “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze” didn’t appear on the UK and international version of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album, Are You Experienced? However, both were included on the American release.
I don’t understand why they were omitted from the UK and international release, as they were two of his best-ever songs.
So, what was “Hey Joe” all about?
It’s a song about a man who killed his wife and is on the run. He killed her after finding out that she’d been unfaithful.
He’s now on the run to Mexico, where he hopes to escape the authorities and the death sentence. He shows absolutely no remorse for killing her, and his only objective is to evade capture.
I can understand his anger, but couldn’t he have just slapped her and forgotten about it?
Down by the River by Neil Young
This is about another guy who also had some difficulty controlling himself. The song, like many of Neil Young’s, could be taken literally, in which case, this is another song about murder.
It’s possible that, like the last song, “Hey Joe,” our storyteller is also enraged and has lost his mind because of his wife’s infidelity. As a result, he lures her down to the river, where he shoots her dead.
An alternative explanation…
This is all to do with drug taking and heroin in particular. The shooting, in this instance, is from a syringe rather than a gun. Further, the reference to death is just a reference to having finished the drugs.
Some of the lyrics that refer to being dragged over the rainbow, and the madness, seem to back up the drug-taking theory. The only way to know for sure is to ask Neil Young. But sadly, I appear to have lost his number.
“Down by the River” was released in 1969 from the album, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. It’s a nine-minute song and became one of his most popular. It’s also a common inclusion on his setlist when playing live.
Children by Robert Miles
This is an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) track. It was released in 1995 from the album, Dreamland. Unless you were into clubbing, it’s very possible that this song passed you by.
Despite receiving little airplay on mainstream radio stations, it still managed to sell five million copies which makes it one of the biggest and most successful EDM songs ever.
I think it’s fair to say that you don’t necessarily need to have been into European House/EDM music to appreciate the track. It features a beautiful piano intro with a slow build-up to an eventual explosive crescendo. It’s highly musical and a lot less heavy than many other club-orientated tracks.
Like most House and EDM tracks, there are no lyrics…
Consequently, the analysis is through interviews with Robert Miles in which he gives his reasons and motivations for writing this deeply moving song.
Unknown to many, during the early 90s, there was widespread carnage happening every weekend to the youngsters of Italy. The unnecessary deaths were the result of huge numbers of traffic accidents following raves and club visits.
The youngsters, or “children,” as Robert Miles put it, were simply too high on drugs and alcohol to drive safely.
In the space of just five years…
2000 young Italians needlessly lost their lives. The track was written to draw attention to these pointless deaths and to warn club-goers of the huge dangers of driving when impaired.
It’s a dark and powerful song that, despite this, still manages to feel essentially uplifting.
Say You Love Me by Fleetwood Mac,
I’ll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans & 112,
Gone Too Soon by Michael Jackson,
Angel by Sarah McLachlan,
Into the Mystic by Van Morrison,
I Will Remember by Toto,
Gloomy Sunday by Billie Holiday,
Last Kiss by Pearl Jam,
One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men,
The Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics,
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd,
November Rain by Guns N’ Roses,
Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinéad O’Connor,
Tears of Heaven by Eric Clapton,
Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) by Green Day,
Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel,
When I’m Gone by 3 Doors Down,
Angels by Robbie Williams,
Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds,
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile by Sia,
My Heart Is Broken by Evanescence,
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith,
Say Goodbye by Chris Brown,
Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden,
Heaven Was Needing a Hero by Jo Dee Messina,
The End of the World by Skeeter Davis,
Every Breath You Take by The Police,
The Rose by Bette Midler,
The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles.
The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel,
More 65 Best Songs About Death
- Blackbird by The Beatles
- Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie
- The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd
- When I’m Gone by Eminem
- In Loving Memory by Alter Bridge
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Guns N’ Roses
- Keep Me in Your Heart by Warren Zevon
- Hurt by Nine Inch Nails
- If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot
- Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo
- Goodbye Blue Sky by Pink Floyd
- Gone Away by The Offspring
- I’ll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans
- Fade to Black by Metallica
- Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones
- Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt
- Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica
- Dust in the Wind by Kansas
- I’m Already There by Lonestar
- Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
- Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks
- The Last Song by Elton John
- The Green Fields of France by Dropkick Murphys
- The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore by The Walker Brothers
- Lights Out by Lisa Marie Presley
- Numb by Linkin Park
- Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds
- End of the Road by Boyz II Men
- River of Tears by Eric Clapton
- Who Wants to Live Forever by Queen
- Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance
- The Scientist by Coldplay
- Behind Blue Eyes by The Who
- The Day That Never Comes by Metallica
- Asleep by The Smiths.
- O Death by Ralph Stanley
- Angel of Death by Slayer
- Cemetery Gates by Pantera
- Dead and Gone by T.I. (feat. Justin Timberlake)
- Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve
- Cemetery by Silverchair
- The End by The Doors
- Far Behind by Candlebox
- Only Time by Enya
- Death or Glory by The Clash
- Aenima by Tool
- Unforgiven by Metallica
- Cemetery Song by The Samples
- Not Afraid by Eminem
- How to Disappear Completely by Radiohead
- Fade Away by Breaking Benjamin
- Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins
- Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads
- God’s Plan by Drake
- The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance
- Somewhere Out There by Our Lady Peace
- Going Under by Evanescence
- Time of Your Life by Green Day
- I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
- Nothing Else Matters by Metallica
- I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt
- The Circle of Life by Elton John
- You’re Not Alone by Michael Jackson
- Everybody’s Changing by Keane
Searching for Songs with Sentiment?
Well, have a look at our detailed articles on the Top Songs About Unrequited Love, the Best Goodbye Songs, the Top Songs About Letting Go of Someone You Love, the Best Songs About Crying, and the Top Songs about Regret for more song selections to suit your mood.
Of course, you’ll need to hear those tunes. Well, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Best iPhone Earbuds, the Best Headphones for Music, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
Also, don’t miss our reviews of the Best Tailgate Speakers, the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Wireless Outdoor Speakers, and the Best Smart Speakers currently on the market.
Best Songs About Death – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it. Death is something that is frequently not talked about despite being part of the cycle of life.
It’s something that we all see differently and something that the best death songs reflect very well. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking through my list, if that’s not too much of a strange thing.
Until next time, happy listening.