Funeral tunes

A large cemetery and crematorium in Adelaide, Australia reports that Frank Sinatra's "My Way" has become the most-played funeral song. Second on the charts is "Wonderful World" sung by Louis Armstrong. Only two traditional Christian hymns are in the top 10. From the Associated Press:
"Some of the more unusual songs we hear actually work very well within the service because they represent the person's character," Centennial Park chief executive Bryan Elliott said.

Among other less conventional choices were "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by the Monty Python comedy team, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," "Hit the Road Jack," "Another One Bites the Dust" and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."
Funeral songs (Yahoo!)


  1. I was thinking that The 6ths song “The Only Quickly” would do nicely:

    “It would be swell/to see some folks burn in hell/but when they go/it’s just as pleasant to know/that the dead only quickly decay …”

  2. QUOTE “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”
    I sure hope that was humor on the deceased part. Otherwise why bother paying for that funeral at all lol.. oh wait inheritance clause lmao

  3. Instead of “Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong, it should be the “Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World” ukulele mashup performed by Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole.

    But how about Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”?

    Or the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (for “Big Chill” fans, as boomers start shuffling off this mortal coil)?

  4. I’m going for Jessica by the Allmans, happy tune & no lyrics to get misinterpreted!

    My other choice would be the Dead’s Truckin’- “lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it’s bee.”

  5. the theme to FAME? “I’m gonna live forever…”

    no, seriously…”Soulfinger” by the Bar-Kays.

  6. Well I was going to play Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life but now it’s unoriginal and I can’t do it :(

  7. i’m hoping perhaps they will play “wish you were here”. it’ll probably be more like “dead man’s party” tho…

  8. Ha! My grandfather’s funeral was held at that cemetery, and we played ‘What a Wonderful World.’

    The article also says that the most popular traditional hymn is ‘Amazing Grace.’ The reason for that is simple — it’s about the only hymn tune (bar none) 95% of people with an Anglo-Saxon background are likely to be familiar with. If folks want a religious service with a hymn, that’s a pretty safe bet.

    I’ve conducted my fair share of funerals in my time. It’s not uncommon for the family to want to sing the late Aunt Betty’s favourite hymn. With all respect, I tend to discourage it. There’s nothing makes a funeral drag on than seven verses of a song nobody (bar me and the guest of honour) has a clue how to sing. Seriously, most people come away wishing they were in the casket.

  9. I dunno if I would want a song played but I do know at random intervals an audio recording of DeForest Kelly as Bones on Star Trek saying “He’s Dead Jim” would be pretty sweet.

  10. what about “bury me deep” by poi dog pondering? that’s the most life-affirming song about being dead that i can think of.

  11. when they wheeled my aunt out, my mother had the organist play “Take Me Out To the Ball Game.”

    my aunt was a season ticket holder for 30 years for our professional baseball club here.

    that was a pretty surreal moment.

  12. With apologies to Humph and the teams (not forgetting Samantha):

    • Champion the Wonder Hearse
    • Some Embalming Evening
    • I’m Getting Buried in the Morning
    • (I Dig It) My Way
    • I Can’t Get No Putrefaction
    • Please Deep Freeze Me
    • You’re Just My Jack in the Box
    • Top Hat and Nails
    • Hey You (Get Off My Shroud)
    • I Bereave
    • Laid Out in Red
    • Yes (We Have No Embalmers)
    • I Wanna Hold Your Handle
    • Where Have All the Flowers Come From?
    • Return To Sender
    • Come On Baby, Light My Pyre
    • clue

  13. My wife likes to tell a story of hearing “My Way” at the funeral of her mother’s therapist-turned-boyfriend (seriously) who committed suicide. Kind of undermined the appropriateness of the song, eh?

    She (my wife) has subsequently made me promise to play “Is That All There Is?” at her funeral if she goes first.

  14. “Hell” by the Squirrel Nut Zippers would be good.

    My in-laws have a piano roll from a funeral home that plays “Hearts and Flowers music”. (The evil sounding stuff they played in funeral homes in the 20s and 30s.) I would love to get it translated to MIDI and converted to popcicle truck-style music for my funeral.

  15. I think most of these sound like they’re for funerals of people you didn’t like. Variations on Paul Williams’ The Hell of It:

    Good for nothin’ bad in bed
    Nobody likes you and you’re better off dead
    Goodbye – We’ve all come to say goodbye
    Born defeated died in vain
    Super destruction you were hooked on pain
    And though your music lingers on
    All of us are glad you’re gone

  16. Dammit! I thought I’d be first in with Motörhead.
    Well…um, yeah. What Contrasoma said.

  17. Better Grateful Dead funeral tunes: He’s Gone, Cryptical Envelopment, Black Peter…

  18. Tom Waits just seems so appropriate. Either “Dirt In The Ground” or “Flower’s Grave”.

    #11 or perhaps Funeral Pyre?

  19. As a pastor and a former military chaplain, I’ve encountered a few odd requests….

    Here in SW Oklahoma, Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” gets a lot of play at funerals.

    One funeral for a guardsman I did had as its musical numbers:

    Led Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven” (full version, with the funeral director back in the sound booth doing air guitar)
    “Nearer My God To Thee”
    Four Non-Blondes’ “What’s Going On?”

    The greatgrandma passed out during the last one and had to be rolled out by the EMTs.

  20. Those that survive me can play whatever they like as long as it’s turned up loud enough to be heard over the wood chipper I’m being lowered into.

    Not a Fargo reference, this is something I’ve threatened my family with for two decades.

    “I’m not leaving anyone anything except $200 to rent a decent wood chipper and $200 to pay a guy to clean it out afterward.”

    #17: love that song. Damn, now I’ll have set aside another $200 for a dj to play it (while I’m being lowered into the chipper).

  21. #25: I think you might have to pay more than $200 for someone to clean you out of a wood chipper. Urgh.

    I think I’d go with something interactive like the Hokey Pokey. I’d love to see my klutzy family gathered around my grave hole sticking their right foot in and their right foot out – at least one of them’s gonna fall in. Ha ha ha ha.

  22. I’ve been planning to have Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead played at my funeral for a very long time….

  23. Four Non-Blondes’ “What’s Going On?”

    Even though the lyrics are “What’s going on?”, the song is actually called “What’s Up”. I seem to remember it was called that to avoid confusion with other songs called “What’s Going On”

    Other good funeral songs: At My Funeral by the Crash Test Dummies and You’ll Have Time by William Shatner

  24. A friend of a friend asked for Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” to be played at her funeral. It was a nice thought, but apparently didn’t work so well in practice – lots of people breaking down into tears while trying to sing a cheery song.

    Perhaps the old New Orleans funeral marches have the right idea – first a sad part to cry to, then a joyous part to remind you the world’s still there.

  25. I had “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” pencilled in for my secular funeral, after I went to a funeral of a friend of friend where there was some gruesome god-toadying going on (well, it was gruesome to me, and I don’t think the decedent would have appreciated it either). But thinking about it, I believe you’re right, Teapot7, there should be a good opportunity for a cry before something more upbeat. Anybody have any suggestions for a downbeat secular song that’s easy to sing or is at least likely to be familiar?

  26. I was playing taps for a bit, so I’ve been to my share of funerals. The music is so tacky so often. And if I hear “Wind Beneath My Wings” ever again…

  27. I love this thread! Margaret Hamilton (schoolmarm / character actress best known for her roles as Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West in the film “Wizard of Oz”) herself requested that “Ding, Dong! The Witch is Dead” be played / sung at her funeral. Sadly, her request was not honored.

    Re: #4 (Usual Suspect) When my ex-fiancee’s father passed away, one of the many songs played at his open-casket service was “Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World” ukulele mashup performed by Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole. His wife & daughters joined in. His wife picked that one. Oddly enough, she didn’t request it for her own funeral just over a year later. Then again, she’d been deathly ill for so long she probably figured she’d survive this hospital visit too…

    The only time I’ve found “Amazing Grace” tolerable is at Spock’s funeral in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” It’s probably Scotty’s Highland pipes segueing into James Horner’s orchestration that does it. Unless my remains are being jettisoned into space, though, I really wouldn’t want it at my service.

    One piece I always thought would be perfect for my own funeral, however, is Robert Schumann’s lieder “Widmung.” It’s actually a love song, set to a then-popular poem. However, the music always conveyed this “sailing into the great unknown” quality to me, especially in Liszt’s rather lush transcription for solo piano. Interestingly enough, I’m not the only one in my family to have connected this love song with funerals! It was played at the mingling of my Grandma’s ashes with those of her husband (who’d died a number of years previously), and I believe both of my parents have agreed that it would be a nice piece to play at their funerals.

    And, yes, I love how they do funerals in New Orleans! As a “Star Trek” fan, I greatly enjoy the bit in the TNG episode “The Next Phase” in which Cmdr. la Forge and Ensign Ro enter Ten-Forward to attend their own memorial service — to find a party in full swing, complete with jazz combo! When I first saw it, I found myself saying “No, it’s perfect!” right along with Geordi.

  28. @ #33 Ndollak: Jim Henson’s memorial back in 1990 ended with a New Orleans-style funeral march, I believe at his request. I always thought that was so amazingly classy.

    I have, at times, thought about what might be the playlist of my funeral mix CD. (Yeah, I’m greedy, but it’d be a nice keepsake for the attendees.) Among other choices I know a definite track would be “The Day I Tried to Live” by Soundgarden.

    I’m surprised Sia’s “Breathe Me” isn’t more prevalent with its brilliant use in the series finale of Six Feet Under.

    One of the saddest funeral songs I’ve ever seen was at that of a three year old boy who’d drowned in a pool while unattended, from his favorite movie: “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail.

  29. I’ve only been in two funerals (in México city), and there was no music. I think it would have been considered very inappropriated.

  30. I think I’d like some psy-trance with just enough vocal samples to confuse everyone.

    Bust a Move by Infected Mushroom is a great tune, but perhaps a bit of an obvious choice (“Aliens – they infected us, about time we infected them” – I just wish I could be there to see the confused looks).

  31. Ooo! Ooo! Check out The Noodle Maker, by Ma Jian.

    I love the “swooners.” One of the narrators runs a, uh, low budget crematorium and takes great pride in discerning what music will transport the clientelle into a nice farewell swoon.

    Bonus points for the book: An erudite three-legged dog.

    (Caution: actual number of dog legs may vary due to the inevitable passage of time effects on the poster(tick tock tick tock).

  32. @12 TheMindFantastic & 26 JenJen

    Your comments made me laugh out loud. That’s hilarious.

  33. For my Mum’s funeral we had ‘Roulette’ by Russ Conway, which is a terrible piece of plinky plonky piano from the 60s, but it was something that she loved, so we felt it was apt.

    Like many other latethirtysomethings with a dark view of the world I’ve requested ‘Atmosphere’ by Joy Division. I’m sure I’m not going to be alone in that.

  34. At my funeral, what I want to not hear is David Byrne singing:

    Heaven is a place
    A place where nothing
    Nothing ever happens

    …but I do not expect my wishes to count for much at that point.

    NDOLLAK – Great Margaret Hamilton story.

  35. Now I really want to have “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” played at my funeral.

    I’ve long thought that the piano version of Bad Religion’s “Cease” would be a gorgeous song for an atheist/secular funeral — especially the third verse. “It evokes such pain and signficance / What was once is reduced to remembrance. / And the generations pass without recompense…. / What pretension, everlasting peace. Everything must cease.” Nelson C., maybe you should check it out. It’s really a gorgeous song.

  36. Also, Toolbag @25, I hope you’re planning to donate all useful organs before being chipped! I hate to sound preachy but I’m going to do it anyway — people need your organs, and if you’re not using them anymore it’s nice to share. While we’re making funeral plans, consider putting that in your health care advance directives.

  37. Being somewhat overweight, I toyed briefly with the idea of requesting “they’ll need a crane” by They might be Giants…

    Currently I favor Stevie wonder’s “Higher Ground”

  38. i’ve had a list going for several years…

    My Bloody Valentine- When You Sleep
    Motorhead- Killed By Death
    Fugazi- Last Chance For A Slow Dance
    Los Lobos- When the Circus Comes
    Bad Brains- Jah Calling
    Sex Pistols- Frigging In The Rigging
    Twin Peaks Sdtrk- Sycamore Trees
    and lastly, Johnny Thunders- You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory

    serious business. you wouldn’t want to offend the dead by playing some cheesy crap they never liked.

  39. The Pogues, “Worms”

    The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out
    The ones that crawl in are lean and thin
    The ones that crawl out are fat and stout
    Your eyes fall in and your teeth fall out
    Your brains come tumbling down your snout
    Be merry, my friends
    Be merry.

  40. I want Russell Watson’s version of “Faith of the Heart” at my memorial service (y’know, from “Enterprise”). The one they used the first two seasons, not the lively one that kinda sucked.

    My mom sings at a lot of funerals; she did “My Way” at one fellow’s and it was considered so appropriate for the deceased that she was asked to do it again later in the service.

  41. @ #6 (Mozcom)

    “Well I was going to play Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life but now it’s unoriginal and I can’t do it :(”

    Meh, It kinda depends on your (sub)culture. I’m from the whole Christian USA conservative (mostly) subculture, born in the middle of the 80s. So if I die, say, before my parents do, playing said song would definitely be a first-time-ever-even-hearing-it for a lot of people present. But if I die old, said song might be passe.

  42. my wife of 17 years and the love of my life has a devastating paraneoplastic syndrome associated with breast cancer and wont be with me long so i have a list of songs i will be playing at her funeral.

    Enya – If I Could Be Where You Are
    Faye Wong – Eyes On Me
    Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    Natalie Merchant – Beloved Wife
    R.E.M. Everybody hurts
    Joe Cocker – You Are So Beautiful
    Sarah Mclachlan – In the Arms of the Angels
    Unchained Melody – Righteous Brothers

    i feel these really drive home a message. i completly fall apart listening to them, so i may never hear them again….afterwards.

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