For as long as artists have been making music, there have been songs released about death. Whether these songs center around losing a loved one or losing your dog, music is typically an outlet for these artists to express their sadness. So without further ado, here are ten country songs about death that will fill you with a wide array of emotions.
Country Songs About Death That Will Move You
Let’s begin with a Randy Travis song.
10) “Three Wooden Crosses” by Randy Travis (2002)
This is a song I’ve known since I was young, but as a younger kid, I had no idea what it meant. The meaning got more real and much sadder as I got older. It’s a song about an unlikely group of people getting into a car accident, and the one that most people would not expect to survive, does.
This track is one of Randy’s best-known, and for good reason. For being what it is, I find it almost upsettingly catchy and it is a song I believe I will always know all of the words to.
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9) “See You Again” by Carrie Underwood (2012)
I knew I wanted to include a song on this list that would be at least a little more light-hearted than the rest. In this track, Underwood talks about the pain of losing someone but the hope of knowing you’ll see them again in the afterlife.
The song is melodic, haunting in a good way, and incredibly memorable. Between the captivating piano notes and Underwood’s always incredible vocals, this song is truly a work of art. It resonates with anyone who has lost someone.
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8) “Drink a Beer” by Luke Bryan (2013)
This song was actually written by famous artist Chris Stapleton and songwriter Jim Beavers. But it was given to Bryan, who added a whole other level of emotion and pain to it, considering he had just lost two of his siblings around the time this song was made. Knowing the story behind this track makes it that much more painful, and especially hard on anyone who has siblings they are close to.
This is another song I’ve known since childhood but never fully grasped the meaning of. I grew up with three older siblings who babysat me when my parents were at work, so I spent a lot of time with them and have always been very close to them. I could not imagine the pain Bryan went through losing his siblings, as I don’t even know what I would do if I lost mine. This song is personal, almost hard to listen to, but draws you in and doesn’t let go until it’s over.
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7) “Who You’d Be Today” by Kenny Chesney (2005)
The message behind this one is one I believe anybody who has lost someone important to them can relate to. On this track, Chesney wonders what kind of person someone who died young would be today if they had had the chance to grow older. This was the artist’s best-performing song at the time of its release, and is one that has stayed in the hearts of many.
I strongly believe this is a song that anyone who grew up listening to country music knows, even if they do not recognize the title. I believe that, because it happened to me. I didn’t realize what song this was until I listened to it for the sake of writing this article. But as Chesney’s incredible voice chimed in over the heart-wrenching guitar chords, I knew immediately I had heard this before. That’s just the kind of effect this song has on people. It’s memorable, even if you don’t realize it.
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6) “Sissy’s Song” by Alan Jackson (2008)
I wanted to include a song like this to show that not every song about death specifically relates to a family member or a loved one. Jackson wrote this song as a dedication to a woman that had worked for his family taking care of their house- with the nickname “Sissy”- who died in a motorcycle accident. He explained in following interviews how it was weird for him to accept that the woman he saw around his house every day just wasn’t going to be there anymore.
This song is mellow, and the emotion is clear even before Jackson starts singing. His line about “flying up to heaven on the wings of angels” is especially difficult to hear. You almost don’t want to listen to the entire song because of how heart wrenching it is, but you can’t close out of it at the same time. It’s a classic, and absolutely one of Jackson’s best, in my opinion. It is sad, but pleasant at the same time, knowing someone he cared about is being well taken care of in heaven.
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5) “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” by Justin Moore (2011)
In this song, Moore sings about how he would take his kids up to heaven to visit all of his past loved ones, like his grandfather, if it wasn’t so far away. This is one that I think anyone who lost someone when they were young and then grew up to have kids can relate to. Anyone who lost a parent that their grandkids will now never be able to meet.
This song is sad, just as most others on this list, but I also think there’s just something undeniably charming about the track. Moore lays out all of his emotions in his lyrics, and the listener can easily tell that he is really feeling what he is singing. It makes you empathize with him over how his kids will never meet his grandfather, and makes you sad over a family that you are not even related to.
But it almost brings a sense of peace and relief knowing that those that have passed have gone to heaven, and will live the rest of their afterlives at peace. Even if it is unfortunate for the rest of us.
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4) “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones (1980)
This song is pretty legendary in the country music genre. It is arguably Jones’ best-known track, and has easily gone down in history in the genre. I wanted to include this song because, similarly to how Underwood’s See You Again took a different view on death, this one does too. Just reading the title, you would not even know what the song was actually about.
But in all reality, it is a melody about a man who loved a woman so much, he loved her until the day he died. Thus, the only reason he stopped was because death got in the way (but who knows, all of these other songs say there’s an afterlife, if there really is he probably still loves her even there).
So even though this song does qualify to be on this list, as it is ultimately about death, it is also an incredibly romantic love song. It’s the kind of love that we all want. We want someone to love us so much that not even death could stop them. This song really does put a pit in your stomach when you hear it, but it has also firmly placed itself in the hearts of many. It is not one that anyone is going to forget anytime soon.
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3) “Whiskey Lullaby” by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss (2003)
I used to ugly cry to this song as a kid. I have vivid memories of hearing my mom sing it whenever it would pop up on her playlist while she was cleaning. This track is heavy, revolving around the themes of separation, alcoholism, and suicide. It’s almost a Romeo and Juliet story in a way. The man kills himself, the woman does the same as a result, and they are buried next to each other.
It actually took awhile for the song to be recorded. Songwriters Bill Anderson and Jon Randall couldn’t get anyone to record something so harsh and depressing. The first music artists to put it on hold was famous country band The Dixie Chicks. But then they separated before they had the chance to record it, and that was how it fell into the laps of Paisley and Krauss.
The guitar chords in this song are beautifully haunting. Paisley’s and Krauss’ vocals are legendary together. I genuinely could not imagine anyone else singing this song together. I truly have been fond of this song since childhood. I think it is one of Paisley’s best, even if it is not necessarily his most well-known.
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2) “You Can Let Go Now, Daddy” by Crystal Shawanda (2008)
I may have ugly cried to Whiskey Lullaby as a child, but I entirely broke down sobbing listening to this song while writing this article. As someone with an aging father, a track like this is especially heartbreaking.
In this track, Shawanda tells a story of a little girl growing up with her father, from riding her bike, to walking down the aisle on her wedding day, to the day of his death. At each of these checkpoints, the girl tells her father the same thing: “you can let go now, daddy.”
This song is painful from start to finish. It is so beautiful, and yet hurts so much. I especially have a hard time with the lyric “you know he’s only hanging on for you” in the last verse when a nurse says this to the girl about her dying father. The bond between a parent and their child is incredible, and this truly highlights that. I will admit I do not know many other songs by Shawanda, but I absolutely adore her in this one.
I genuinely do not know if I can even put into words the emotional reaction I have to this song. It makes my heart ache and my stomach hurt. I love it deeply, but it hurts to listen to it. It is unfortunately a shocking reminder of how limited the time that we have with others is, especially our parents who are much older than us.
It is difficult to listen to something like that where this reality is so harshly thrown on you, but the fact that I had such an emotional reaction to it (as I am sure others have also had) I knew there was no way it wasn’t going on this list.
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1) “Travelin’ Soldier” by The Dixie Chicks (2002)
I will scream this song at the top of my lungs any day of the week, even if I have tears streaming down my face and my throat is trying to close up while I’m doing it. The story of this track is simple: a teenage girl is waiting on a young Army soldier that she barely even knows (but cares about nonetheless) to return home, and he doesn’t.
As someone that grew up with two older brothers in the Army and a father that was in the Air Force, I used to wonder every day how my life would change if they never came home. That’s why this song hits me so hard.
Songwriter Bruce Robinson wrote this about a Vietnam War soldier, but The Dixie Chicks recorded this at a time when the U.S. was sending troops into Afghanistan. We all know that was a scary time in our history, for parents, siblings, family, and lovers of soldiers alike. This song very well captures the feelings that came along with knowing that someone you love puts themselves in front of danger every day, while you are left at home wondering what is going on.
No one besides The Dixie Chicks could have given this song the voice it deserved. With the melodic vocals and perfect complimentary instrumentals, I genuinely do not think there is a single flaw in this entire song. It will always bring tears to my eyes and make my heart hurt in the best way.
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Musical artists may write songs about death for any number of reasons, about any variety of people. While these songs can often be difficult to listen to, their message is often one that countless people can relate to and ultimately emotionally connect with.
Many of the songs on this list are well-known in the entire country genre, and likely will stay that way. With all of that said, this was my list of the best country songs about death.
This article was written by Angela and edited by Michael.