One of the most traumatic experiences we can ever face is losing someone close to us. It can be through a relationship that has irretrievably broken down, or it could be worse when someone passes away.
It is a subject that has been addressed by poets and songwriters. So, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the best songs about losing someone.
Losing someone to a broken relationship is hard enough, but there might be some comfort in the knowledge they are still here. A death, either in the family or of a close friend, is final. That is a feeling we have to come to terms with.
- Does Music Help?
- They Don’t Always Have To Be Somber
- Top 11 Songs About Losing Someone
- My Immortal by Evanescence
- There You’ll Be by Faith Hill
- Without You by Harry Nilsson
- Before You Go by Lewis Capaldi
- How Do I Live By LeAnn Rimes
- My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
- Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers
- (I Know) I’m Losing You by The Temptations
- Fire and Rain by James Taylor
- We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn
- I’ll See You In My Dreams by Joe Brown
- Need More Sentimental Songs?
- Songs About Losing Someone – Final Thoughts
Does Music Help?
It can. That is why at a funeral service music is used to convey emotions and feelings in a public setting. Privately, it can be an emotional release. Or, in some cases, it can stimulate memories of things that have been long forgotten.
They Don’t Always Have To Be Somber
It is a sad and sensitive subject, but the music doesn’t have to be mournful. Some songs about losing a special person celebrate life and can be positive. They can even bring a smile to our faces as we remember the person and something that they had done.
Some years ago, I went to the funeral of an acquaintance. They weren’t that close to me, but I knew them reasonably well and had worked with them occasionally. He had died very young, and his wife decided that she wanted him to be remembered how he would want to be remembered.
That is, with a smile and a laugh. She used “Look On The Bright Side Of Life” from his favorite film, the Life Of Brian, as we all walked in for the service.
And, the result?
The sadness was lifted as people smiled and spoke about him in positive ways. A celebration of his short life. All made possible by the music and a little smile, and his wife’s recognition of his wicked sense of humor.
That isn’t everybody’s way, of course. For some, it will be a somber occasion. But, I use the example to show what effect music can have. So, let’s take a look at what some songwriters have said, sometimes from personal experiences.
Top 11 Songs About Losing Someone
My Immortal by Evanescence
This was a song released in 2003 and taken from their first album, Fallen. The album was outstanding, and this was the third single. It was written by band members Amy Lee, keyboard player David Hodges, and guitarist Ben Moody.
This is a song about the loss of a loved one and how she deals with it. But, there are two rather interesting stages in how she handles her grief. Initially, she finds comfort in imagining that the spirit of the person is close to her. She gets used to that and almost relies on it.
But that feeling passes as she realizes that he has gone and he is not coming back. However, she imagines she can still feel his presence, and now she wants it to leave her alone.
A cross between Gothic and Metal…
This song is very much in that mode and was critically acclaimed. The piano part especially sets the mood, and when the rest of the band comes in, the emotion level rises.
The great use of a piano finish with strings at the end makes this an outstanding track. And a great place to start my rundown of songs about losing someone.
There You’ll Be by Faith Hill
I am tempted to ask, “Without looking, guess who wrote this song?” Of course, it was Diane Warren. Who else during this period produced dramatic power ballads like she did?
The song was written and appeared as the featured track in the film Pearl Harbor. It also appeared later on Faith Hill’s album, The Hits.
Faith Hill has always been an enigma to me…
Labeled as a country singer, I don’t see it. This song isn’t, and neither are any of the tracks on the album, Cry. Why do we need to put singers in genre boxes?
“There You’ll Be” was appropriate for the film. It’s a song about trying to move on after someone dies. Quite often, we carry a memory of them with us for a long time, sometimes forever. That can help to ease the loss.
As she sings, “I’ll keep a part of you with me – And everywhere I am, there you’ll be.” There is positivity about this song, though, as she looks to a future without him. It reached #3 in the UK and #10 in America.
Without You by Harry Nilsson
Moving on now to a song that has always been a bit of a tearjerker. Harry Nillson was an interesting character. An excellent songwriter and singer with a tenor range of three and a half octaves.
But he was unique in other ways. He achieved a lot of success without undertaking a tour or performing major concerts. He came from a poor family in New York and moved to Los Angeles. While there, he wrote songs for other people, including The Monkees.
His first major success was the album Nilsson Schmilsson from 1971. Though he had previously written the theme, “Everybody’s Talkin’,” for the film Midnight Cowboy in 1968, it was the album that followed that made him an international artist. “Without You” was taken from that album.
Harry didn’t write the song…
It was written by the hugely talented Welsh singer and guitarist of the British band Badfinger, Pete Ham, along with fellow band member Tom Evans. They released the song first in 1970. Badfinger was one of the first bands signed by The Beatles’ label, Apple.
Nilsson’s version had international success and reached #1 in the UK and America. It is often used for funerals and is sometimes a song that people reach for in the immediate aftermath of the loss of a loved one.
Interestingly then that both songwriters, Pete Ham and Tom Evans, both committed suicide not too long after. Evans because of arguments over the royalties for “Without You.”
Before You Go by Lewis Capaldi
If you don’t know Lewis Capaldi, he is a Scottish singer-songwriter that hasn’t been around all that long. He had some immediate success with a song, “Someone You Loved,” which went to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Before You Go” is a very personal track. He wrote it about losing his aunt to suicide when he was very young. When you are writing about personal experiences, the right words can often be hard to find.
However, in this song, he balances the feeling of the loss with not understanding why it happened quite well. He wonders if there was anything he could have done when he sings, “Was there something I could’ve said?” But, of course, at such a young age, there probably wasn’t.
How Do I Live By LeAnn Rimes
Another song by Diane Warren, which she wrote for the film Con Air. We won’t discuss the film, but the song is excellent. However, LeAnn Rimes’s version wasn’t included in the film. That’s because she was considered too young when she recorded it being only 14 at the time.
In the film, the song is sung by Trisha Yearwood. Rimes’ version was released later. It reached #7 in the UK and #2 in America and was more successful chart-wise than the Yearwood version.
It’s a song that can be applied to either the death of a loved one or the break up of a relationship. It is a typical Diane Warren song with plenty of emotion and a good hook.
It was aimed directly at the Pop world…
But, it still carries a strong message that most will understand if they have lost someone close. How do I live without you is the feeling some have. A wonderfully sentimental song about the loss of someone.
My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
Despite the criticisms aimed at this song, some of them justified, I have decided to include it on this list of songs about losing someone anyway. If only because it deals with the subject matter at hand. The song is the main theme from the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic.
A true story, but as usual, it’s a bit wide of the historical mark in accuracy. But it is Hollywood, so that’s only to be expected. As we know, it tells the story of a fictitious young love and the loss the female character feels at her lover’s death.
A power ballad in every sense of the word, Celine Dion does a good job vocally. It went to #1 around the world. The song was written by James Horner and Will Jennings and does capture the feeling of loss, even if it is a bit sugar-coated.
Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers
Back in time a little now, for a song that was composed by Alex North and Hy Zaret and first released in 1955. It was originally written for the film, Unchained. In the UK, it went to #1 for Jimmy Young in the same year.
However, the most well-known version is by The Righteous Brothers in 1965. That reached #14 in the UK and #4 in America. It was revived in 1990 for the film Ghost, where it played an important role. That gave the song a second impetus. This time it went to #1 in the UK and #19 in America.
It is a song that could apply to either of the scenarios we are considering. It has understated lyrics that could be about either losing someone or about them passing away. Whichever you choose, it is a song filled with grief and heartache and is often used at funerals.
(I Know) I’m Losing You by The Temptations
Let’s go back to the theme of losing someone through a broken relationship with this track from The Temptations. It was taken from the album With A Lot O’ Soul released in 1966. In my opinion, probably the best singing group Motown had to offer through the 60s.
This was a classic song written by Eddie Holland, Cornelius Grant, and Norman Whitfield. It featured David Ruffin on the lead vocal and reached #19 in the UK and #8 in America. This is a song about a man who is desperately trying to keep his relationship with his girl together.
But inside, he knows he is slowly losing her…
A classic piece of songwriting and a typically excellent performance from The Temptations. You can feel the anguish in the voice, “Girl, I can feel it in my bones – Any day you’ll be gone – Oh, baby, I’m losing you.”
Fire and Rain by James Taylor
The 60s were a time of change. It was a time when things we had not been allowed to talk about were spoken, and emotions we weren’t supposed to feel came to the surface. And the 60s brought us great songwriters who expressed their innermost feelings. Dylan was one, James Taylor another.
They produced some classic songs, and “Fire and Rain” was one of them. This track was taken from his album Sweet Baby James.
Just from the sadness in the tone of his voice…
You sensed there was something wrong. Taylor is a private person, so it would have been hard to write this song. And, even harder to record and then sing it. The song talks about life-changing events for him, and each verse is dedicated to one of them.
Off to London
He had come to record his first album in London for Apple. His childhood friend and close confidant Suzanne Scherr took her own life while he was there.
His friends thought it would cause him to come home and didn’t tell him. It was months before he found out. “Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone – Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you.”
The first verse of “Fire and Rain” deals with that heartbreaking situation. When they eventually told him, he sat down and wrote the song. “I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song – I just can’t remember who to send it to.”
As death can do to many of us…
It left him in despair, and in the song, he also wrote the lines, “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.”
His dear friend, Carole King, responded to that worrying line with a song written especially for Taylor, “You’ve Got a Friend.” She included that on her album Tapestry.
“Fire and Rain” was released in 1970, but a then-unknown James Taylor only reached #42 in the UK. In America, it reached #3.
We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn
What message in a song can you give to a young soldier, sailor, or airman going into battle? What message can you possibly give to a family who knows someone will not be returning home?
There is very little you can say…
But this song did seem to say something and caught the hearts of a nation and beyond. It sends the message that if they are lost on the battlefield, it is just a temporary separation, “We’ll meet again – Don’t know where, don’t know when – But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”
Whether people believe those sentiments or not, it had a marked effect. Certainly more than any rousing speech from a general who would be 30 miles behind the lines when the fighting started.
Released in 1939, it had that typically British idea of “we will get through this somehow.” It remains a well-known song about losing people we love. Even today, it is often sung at military functions, especially funerals for old soldiers.
I’ll See You In My Dreams by Joe Brown
Joe Brown had been one of the early 50s British Rock n Roll artists. Even before Cliff Richard had curled up his lip and greased back his hair. In all those years, I had never seen him perform. He was just always around with his cheeky grin.
My first experience with him was in the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2002. The concert was called “A Year To The Day,” which was a year to the day since the death of George Harrison.
It was a wonderful show dedicated to George…
The first half was just Indian music with Ravi Shankar and his daughter. And the second half was a band of his friends playing some of his songs.
Even Monty Python turned up and did the “Lumberjack Song,” much to everyone’s delight. McCartney and Ringo turned up, which in the case of the former, was somewhat ironic.
“I’ll See You In My Dreams” was the last song of the evening…
Just Joe, his ukulele, and in parts, a string orchestra. And, as flowers fell from the ceiling, an awful lot of Kleenex tissues. George loved the ukulele, and visitors to his house would often be given one for a quick jam.
A fitting way to end the evening as we paid tribute, it was the final track on the subsequent album, Concert For George. A simple enough song but with a powerful sentiment, especially in the loss of somebody. “They will light – My lonely way tonight – I’ll see you in my dreams.”
Need More Sentimental Songs?
If so, check out our thoughts on the Best Songs About Memories, the Top Songs About Letting Go of Someone You Love, the Best Songs About Crying, the Best Songs About Pain & Suffering, and the Best Sad Songs for more heartfelt song selections.
And you’ll need to listen to them. So, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best True Wireless Earbuds, and the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
Songs About Losing Someone – Final Thoughts
People often explain death as “just a part of life” and as something that cannot be avoided. Neither can the heartbreak of losing someone from a relationship. In both cases, we become vulnerable and unsure.
Sometimes, it can help just to listen to something that explains our loss or at least helps us to deal with it and understand it. Emotions will rule how we view the people concerned.
And, whether we want to mourn them, remember them, or join in a little laugh, we will all handle it differently. Sometimes, music can be just the help we need.
Until next time, let the music play.