Every funeral is personal to that person and their family. A way to make the funeral that bit more personal is the choice of music. We hear on a daily basis songs from such a wide variety of different genres. Classical, Rock, Soul, Swing in fact you name it I’ve heard it.
Of course there are your popular choices like My Way – Frank Sinatra or Unforgettable – Nat King Cole which from our local areas are two of the most popular tracks. But what really intrigues me is the story behind every piece and the meaning of each choice of song.
When arranging a funeral we are privileged to get to know families who “most of the time” are talking such lovely words of their loved ones and we hear so many heart wrenching stories about their lives and the music behind them.
“Oh Mum really loved that track – but we can’t have that, it wouldn’t be appropriate” I reply to families saying that the music and service is their choice so please go with what would be right for their loved one.
Over the years music has become more popular and a really important part of the service. I remember starting my professional life with my Dad telling me that most families are happy to go with whatever is at the crematorium. Wow! how things have changed in such a short period of time, well seventeen years :-). Now we are downloading different tracks everyday, most I haven’t heard of and if I haven’t then my Dad definitely hasn’t.
I think what’s changed the industry was the mp3 player. Having the ability to download any track and know that it’s going to play rather than the hit or miss scenario we used to have with CD’s.
We’ve always had a rule of having the music at least 3 days before the funeral whether being CD’s or downloads, so that we can check the tracks will work.
When using CD’s, our system was far from foolproof as I remember on numerous occasions cd’s working one day and not the next!
I feel a quick story coming on:
I was a young funeral conductor, 17 to be exact, everyday I would pester my cousin Andrew and my Dad to give me a chance when one day Andrew said to me “your up” :-). I was slightly nervous but anyone who knows me, knows that I’m pretty confident so was full of belief that I could do my family proud. So not long into my conducting career I had my very own music mishap – I had told family prior to the funeral that the copied CD definitely worked as I had tried it in our CD player. Only to realise at the end of a service with their loved one waiting to be carried out to a special track which I cannot recall ( probably because I want to erase this memory ) and simply did not play. I was standing at the the front of a Church praying for the track to start. Around 200 people staring at me probably thinking this young lad doesn’t know what he’s doing while I’m going bright red. After many taps on the machine and a little bit of patience the song eventually started and I had learned my lesson on copied cd’s. Many people commented after the funeral that they felt for me but the only thing I cared about was that the family and their loved one got what they wanted and although they had to wait they did in the end.
Here are a small selection of popular music arranged in different categories to reflect sad or happy funeral songs; songs for mum or dad; comforting songs or traditional tunes; modern and unusual songs; as well as the all time top 5 songs of music that is regularly played at funerals:-
Sad funeral songs
Over the Rainbow – Eva Cassidy
Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
Nothing Compares to You – Sinead O’Connor
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
Happy funeral songs
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life– Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Bring Me Sunshine – Morecambe and Wise
Don’t Worry. Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder
Funeral songs for Mum
Like a River – Carly Simon
You Raise Me Up – Josh Groban
Mama – Il Divo
Goodbye’s the Saddest Word – Celine Dion
One Sweet Day – Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men
Funeral songs for Dad
Thank You for Being My Dad – Jon Barker
In the Living Years – Mike & the Mechanics
My Father’s Eyes – Eric Clapton
Dance With My Father – Luther Vandross
Hero – Mariah Carey
Funeral songs for a friend
Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds
Smile – Nat King Cole
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Judy Garland / Gerry and the Pacemakers
Perfect Day – Lou Reed
TV themes popular as funeral songs
Only Fools and Horses
Match of the Day
Great British Bake Off
Test Match Special – Booker T & the MGs ‘Soul Limbo’
Comforting funeral songs
We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn
I’ll See You Again – Westlife
You Are Not Alone – Michael Jackson
Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx
Classical funeral songs
Ave Maria – Schubert
Nessum Dorma – Puccini
Amazing Grace – Various artists
Pie Jesu – Faure
Song for Athene – Sir John Tavener
Funny funeral songs
Highway to Hell – ACDC
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead – Bon Jovi
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
Ding Dong the Witch is Dead – From Wizard of Oz
Going Underground – The Jam
Modern funeral songs
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day
Lay Me Down – Sam Smith
Someone Like You – Adele
My Immortal – Evanescence
5 all-time favourite funeral songs
My Way – Frank Sinatra/Shirley Bassey
Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler/Celine Dion
Time to Say Goodbye – Sarah Brightman/Andrea Bocelli
Angels – Robbie Williams
Over the Rainbow – Eva Cassidy
Unusual funeral songs
Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum/Doctor and the Medics
Dancing Queen – Abba
We Are the Champions – Queen
Celebration – Kool and the Gang
I’m Still Standing – Elton John
Until next time.