As hard as it is to deal with, we’re all going to experience death at some point. It’s certainly a tough subject to wrap our arms around, which is why it can be quite comforting to listen to songs about death, as artists have the ability to use music as a creative art form to discuss the scary and unknown aspects of life.
Songs About Death and Dying to Help You Heal
Let’s begin with a song by Jay Chou.
Nocturne (夜曲) by Jay Chou (2005)
Nocturne is a really notable song about dying, as it reads like a poem. You really will want to check out all the lyrics from this song because it’s truly like a work of art. The lyrics talk about the loss of a woman he loved. You can see this further shown through the music video.
A group of bloodthirsty ants are attracted to rotten flesh
With an expressionless face
I watch the lonely scenery
Love and hate start to become clear
What else is there to care about?
When a dove no longer symbolizes peace
I’m eventually reminded
That they are vultures feeding in the public square
When you lose someone, everything becomes tainted with memories of them. Even things that were once good before become distorted; you don’t know how to live without them. Jay Chou perfectly captures that feeling in this song. A true masterpiece. So if you’re looking for moving songs about the death of a loved one, this might be the song for you.
- You Might Like: Songs About Losing Someone
Empty Chairs and Empty Tables from Les Misérables (1985)
As we move onto number two on this list, we now enter the realm of songs about the death of a friend. On this track, the character Marius sings this song after he loses all of his friends during a battle. He goes back to where they used to meet, and is reminded of all the times they shared together. It’s truly painful to hear (and to watch!).
What’s more, he is the survivor, and he has to live with this guilt for the rest of his days.
Oh my friends, my friends forgive me
That I live and you are gone
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
The song is quite calm, almost held-back, compared to the rest of the musical – until it gets to the climax of the song. At that point, there’s a burst of energy where Marius is almost shouting. But then he calms down again, almost like he’s hopelessly accepted the fate of his friends. It’s honestly really impactful, even if you’re not too familiar with the musical.
- You Might Like: Songs About Losing a Friend
Hello by Evanescence (2003)
“Fallen” is my favorite Evanescence album, so I remember listening to this a lot growing up – but it was always painful every time. For starters, the lyrics hit hard right from the very beginning.
Playground school bell rings again
Rain clouds come to play again
Has no one told you she’s not breathing?
Hello, I’m your mind giving you someone to talk to
Not only that, but the tune is so slow and haunting to listen to. It’s almost eerily silent compared to most other Evanescence tracks – and it’s that sudden silence that makes it hurt all the more. Perfect for anyone who has ever experienced loss in their life.
This song is allegedly based on Amy Lee’s own experience of loss. When Amy was six years old, her younger sister passed away – I’d always heard that this song was written based on this experience, but Amy has never stated this explicitly.
- You Might Like: Songs About Losing Your Mom
If I Die Young by The Band Perry (2010)
This one is pretty well-known. It was even covered on Glee by the late Naya Rivera as a tribute to her co-star, Cory Monteith, who had passed away. I’m sure that you’ll be able to recognize it just from the chorus.
If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
Although it’s been pretty overplayed at this point, it’s still a powerful one. It talks about – unsurprisingly – dying young. The singer imagines what she would want to happen to her if she died at a young age. It’s sort of like an instruction manual for those left behind. Really great!
Everybody Dies by Billie Eilish (2021)
Everybody Dies is about coping with your own mortality. Billie’s voice sounds a lot like she’s just talking to you in this – like you’re a friend who’s gone to her for comfort. And her honesty is surprisingly comforting. She doesn’t lie to you in this; she hits you with the truth, but also reminds you that you’re loved.
You oughta know
That even when it’s time, you might not wanna go
But it’s okay to cry and it’s alright to fold
But you are not alone
You are not unknown
The track is simple, and barely-there, which allows both the voice of Billie Eilish and the meaning behind the lyrics really shine through.
- You Might Like: Songs About Losing Your Dad
Lazarus by David Bowie (2015)
The song Lazarus was released shortly before David Bowie’s death in early 2016. His death was heartbreaking and surprising to a lot of people – I know I cried a lot when it happened. He meant a lot to people. This song is all the more powerful, as he sings about a man who died for four days and came back to life.
And oh, how that very first line hits:
Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
Powerful, powerful, powerful. It makes you almost want to believe that he isn’t really gone. And perhaps in some ways he isn’t – his music will stay here with us forever.
Born to Die by Lana Del Rey (2011)
An iconic Lana Del Rey song, Born to Die comes with a lot of possible meanings, including the most obvious—we are all going to die (and in the case of Del Rey, believes we are “born to die”). But the whole song, oddly enough, mostly focuses on a wild relationship.
Come and take a walk on the wild side
Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain
You like your girls insane (“Louder!”, “Alright!”)
Choose your last words, this is the last time
‘Cause you and I—we were born to die
What does she mean by that phrase? Is she implying the relationship is doomed? Is she trying to justify doing risky things because we’re all going to die regardless? In any case, it’s a brilliant song that really showcases Lana’s lower range.
Who Wants to Live Forever by Queen (1986)
Who Wants to Live Forever touches on immortality – which automatically makes you also think of mortality and death. It’s a really powerful, classic Queen song with some amazing vocals. Quite honestly, it’s the type of song that could easily bring you to tears.
Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever? Ooh
Who dares to love forever
Oh, when love must die?
Fun fact about this song: it was included on the soundtrack for the film Highlander.
Il galeone by Belgrado Pedrini (1967)
This is an impactful Italian anti-war song that’s been covered numerous times. Here is a great version by Ronin released in 2007. Given that the song protests war, there are numerous mentions of blood and death.
We’re the crew anemic,
of an infamous prison
on which the quick death
rages with slow hunger.
The tune is hauntingly catchy – you’ll find yourself humming along despite the darkness of the lyrics.
Ghost by Justin Bieber (2021)
This is another song about the death of a loved one. In this case, Justin talks about losing his grandmother. It has some unexpectedly powerful lyrics that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a Justin Bieber song.
That if I can’t be close to you, I’ll settle for the ghost of you
I miss you more than life (More than life)
And if you can’t be next to me, your memory is ecstasy
I miss you more than life, I miss you more than life
Even if you’re not typically a fan of his music, you won’t be able to deny how well these lyrics capture the feeling of loss.
You Said You’d Grow Old With Me by Michael Schulte (2012)
This song talks about being left behind when someone you care about passes away. The thing that hits the hardest here is the idea that that person will never age. They’re forever at the age they were when they died, but you’ll keep on getting older without them.
Thought we had the time, had our lives
Now you’ll never get older, older
Didn’t say goodbye, now I’m frozen in time
Getting colder, colder
One last word
One last moment
To ask you why you left me here behind
You said you’d grow old with me
The song itself starts off with some simple piano, but you can tell from the very beginning that it’s going to be a sad one. There’s very little editing done to the singer’s voice, which makes it sound so raw and emotional. It’s really worth checking out.
- You Might Like: Songs for Funerals
Little Star by Hyunjin (2020)
Little Star is a brilliant self-composed song by Stray Kids’ Hwang Hyunjin. In the lyrics, he talks about the loss of his dog, Komi, who passed away very young. Pets are part of the family too, but losing them is often dismissed as being “not that bad” and there aren’t that many songs that talk about the subject. But in this song, Hyunjin talks about his late pet with such love and emotion; it’s sad, but really refreshing to see.
The stars embroidered in the sky
I try to draw you from the window
You who used to be so little
Must be the shiniest now
I wish a song like this had been around when I lost my childhood pet. It’s truly a beautiful one.
- You Might Like: Songs About Losing Your Dog
marjorie by Taylor Swift (2020)
Named after Taylor Swift’s own grandmother, marjorie is a beautiful tribute to her late grandmother. It’s just so powerful and hits so close to home; when I listened to it the first time, it reminded me of my own grandmother.
The lyrics give us hope that death doesn’t quite mean the end. Regardless of your beliefs about what happens after death, there are things that remain even after death: a song that was sung, a book that was written, or even just the memories that you shared with that person.
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, you’re alive in my head
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, so alive
It’s just so heartbreaking, but also so uplifting at the same time. Don’t miss out on this underrated Taylor Swift song!
There are a lot of songs about death. From songs about coping with the loss of a loved one to dealing with your own mortality, there’s something out there for whatever kind of death-related feeling you’re having. I hope that these songs have brought you some kind of comfort and made you feel less alone.
This article was written by Ayla and edited by Michael.