12 Songs for Funerals – Uplifting Modern and Older Songs
Choosing what songs to play at a funeral is a difficult and emotionally grueling task. You might want songs that capture the magnitude of the loss you’ve just experienced, but you might also want songs that celebrate that person’s life. Hopefully, some of these songs for funerals can help you figure out what music would be the best choice for your particular circumstance.
Songs For Funerals You Will Appreciate
Let’s begin with a Kate Havnevik song.
1) Grace by Kate Havnevik
When you lose someone, the grief that forms in their absence can take many shapes. This song is about taking hold of that grief and trying to let the joy of having known the person and the love that you felt for them guide you.
The repeating line “turn my grief to grace” becomes a mantra throughout the song, which just might be the message that grieving family members need to hear.
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2) Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
If you want a song that pretty much everyone will know, but that can’t ever truly feel overplayed, this song would be a good choice. The song’s sad melody and intense (but nearly incomprehensible) lyrics capture a seemingly universal feeling of grief.
Because the lyrics are so rich with imagery, everyone who listens to them can interpret them slightly differently. It’s a song that might spark different emotional reactions in different people, but in the best way possible.
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3) I’ll Cover You (Reprise) by Jesse L. Martin and Rent Original Broadway Cast
This song from the 1996 Broadway musical Rent takes place during a funeral for one of the main characters. Her bereaved lover sings a reprise of their love song from act one, this time standing alone, holding the coat that she bought for him. The slow, sad piano, paired with Martin’s intense vocals, make this song a potentially fitting track to play at funerals in the real world, too.
The driving metaphor of the song hinges on the idea that love isn’t something you can buy, but is something you can rent—meaning that you can’t ever keep it for good, only enjoy it while you have it. But rather than being bitter about this, the song is an expression of gratitude for having experienced the love at all.
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4) Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
If played at a funeral, this song would focus on the kindness that the person brought to the world rather than the pain brought by their absence. This song is about one person promising another person that they will be there for them no matter what, laying themselves down “like a bridge over troubled water” to help the other person however they need.
Maybe this song makes you think of how the person you lost was always there for you, or maybe it speaks to how much everyone loved them. Regardless, this is a song that encourages people to focus on the love, not the loss itself.
5) Iris Rose by Orville Peck
This song was written by Peck after his grandmother’s death, as a tribute to everything she meant to him. And while it’s a song that definitely shows how much he misses her, the bittersweet melody places more emphasis on what she meant to him.
He says in the lyrics that he wishes she could have lived forever, but repeats “that’s how she goes, yeah / Iris Rose.” Even though he lost her, he’s able to take comfort in her memory, and to be grateful for how long he was able to have her in his life. If you want a song about grief that simultaneously gives people the emotional space to life themselves out of grief, this song would be a great pick.
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6) I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie
For some people, music that grapples with mortality and thinks about seeing the person again in the afterlife can be the most comforting thing. Death Cab for Cutie wrote this song about the inevitability of loss, and so it seems very fitting to be played at a funeral. This song emphasizes the inevitable reunification of someone and their loved one after death, elevating that reunion above even questions of eternal salvation or damnation.
Death is referred to as “the dark” in this song, but it isn’t a scary thing, but rather an ever-present and almost comforting inevitability. If the people in attendance for the funeral you’re choosing music for will take comfort at the idea of being reunited with their loved one, this song might be a good choice.
7) Pillar Of Salt by Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus wrote this song about being with her grandmother on her deathbed. In the song, she refers to her grandmother as “a pillar of truth turned into dust.” But as the song progresses, it goes from slow, sad grief to an intense and uplifting melody.
Even though she knows she will miss her grandmother, Dacus realizes that her grandmother’s life was one well-lived, and that she is loved even in death. It takes the grief that she feels at losing her grandmother and turns it into a compelling tribute to her life.
8) Angel’s Son by Sevendust
Lots of songs played at funerals tend to be sweet, slow ballads with lots of piano and string instruments. However, that style of music doesn’t necessarily fit every funeral. This song was written as part of a tribute album for Lynn Strait, a musician who was close friends with all the members of Sevendust. The driving guitar and raspy vocals set it apart from many popular picks for funeral songs, but the melody and the lyrics are sweet, nostalgic, and sad.
It’s a song about trying to figure out how to go on without someone that you love, and the song itself being written as part of a communal act of grieving is something that might encourage listeners to talk to and connect with each other.
8) I Grieve by Peter Gabriel
This song functions in two main parts. The first part is slow, sad, and focuses on grieving the loss, and the second part moves into a more upbeat tune. It encourages people to continue on with their lives, and to carry the memory of the person they lost with them. If you’re looking for a song that both expresses grief and encourages people to find ways to continue to find meaning in their lives, this song is a perfect choice.
The song ends with the same words as the title: “I grieve.” This implies that grief isn’t a linear journey, and it isn’t something that can ever truly be left behind. Regardless, this song encourages people to continue living their lives even as they grieve.
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9) The Wonder Of You by Elvis Presley
Sometimes, the best songs to play at a funeral weren’t written with funerals in mind at all. If you want a song that focuses purely on how much the person was loved and adored, this song is a great choice.
It’s a love song that is an absolute celebration of someone, and of all the love they’ve brought to the world. Playing this song at the funeral might allow the grieving people to feel like they’re once again basking in the presence of the person that they lost.
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10) Visiting Hours by Ed Sheeran
This song is another take on the idea of an afterlife. In the lyrics, Sheeran theorizes that grief wouldn’t be so difficult if heaven had visiting hours. He sings about a hypothetical world where he can still see and interact with the person he is missing, and can still receive advice from them.
It’s a desire that many people have, and a heartbreaking (but seemingly inevitable) thought experiment to entertain. Rather than shy away from it, Sheeran writes through it. If played at a funeral, it would encourage the funeral attendees to do the same.
11) Just One Life by Brian May
Brian May wrote this song as a tribute to late Queen singer Freddie Mercury. As part of the first album Brian released post-Queen as a solo artist, this song made it clear that his choice to continue his music career was in no way him leaving Freddie’s memory behind. Losing someone you’re close to can make you think about your own life differently, about its finality and about how numbered your days are.
In this track, Brian does just that. Although the song is sad, the message that the audience is left with is one that motivates them to take hold of their own lives and live them to the fullest.
12) One Sweet Day by Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey
If you’re looking for great R&B songs for funerals, I think this classic by Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey is a beautiful song choice. It’s certainly an emotional song to listen to, as it’s a song about losing someone you love, being worried about living life without them, but eventually realizing that they are always with you no matter where you go.
You can never go wrong with Boyz II Men or Mariah Carey, so when they all collaborate to give us one of the most moving songs from the 1990s, you know you’re going to listen to a piece of music that will touch your heart. Again, it’s not the easiest song to hear, but in the end, it does have an uplifting and hopeful message.
Hopefully, some of these songs for funerals have given you an idea of what music you want to play at the funeral of your loved one. If you want to add a personal touch to the funeral, maybe also consider playing one of the person’s favorite songs. Choosing the music for a funeral is a difficult but important decision. Hopefully, undertaking this task can be cathartic for you, and can even help you to grieve.
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