A recent study found that 45% of people would choose not to have hymns played at their funeral. For World Music Day, we have compiled a list of some of the most popular song choices, from the traditional to more unusual, requested at funerals, together with an explanation as to why they may have been chosen as the soundtrack for a send-off.
We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn
Always a popular and somewhat traditional choice, and often featured on lists of favoured funeral songs.
This 1939 song from Britain’s sweetheart, Vera Lynn, is wonderfully moving. The lyrics are a comforting reminder that although a person may be gone they are not forgotten and our memories will provide us much joy long term that lives on after a service.
Candle in the Wind – Elton John
Famous for being written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, and then rewritten in 1997 after the Princess of Wales passed away, Elton John’s Candle in the Wind is extremely appropriate for a memorial service owing to its lyrics. The song, a familiar story of big personalities taken from the world long before their time, is a message that resonates with many families experiencing their own loss.
When I’m Gone – Eminem
Rap music might not seem like the most obvious choice for a funeral, but Eminem was the bestselling artist of the noughties and has legions of devoted fans or ‘stans’. The song ‘When I’m Gone’ focuses on the performers struggle with identity and his tumultuous lifestyle. The chorus, familiar to many, is what makes the song so suited to a memorial service. It is a reminder that after the death of a loved one, it is important to continue with our lives and honour their memory through our strength and resilience.
Happy – Pharrell Williams
It may seem as though an upbeat song about being happy simply isn’t appropriate for a sombre occasion. However, our research last year suggested that 42% wanted their funeral to be a “celebratory affair”. Some people live their life never letting anything remove the smile from their face and Pharrell singing at their funeral could be the most relevant testament to that.
Blue is the colour – Chelsea Football Club
Only 48% of the UK population consider themselves religious, others devote their weekends to other pastimes and hobbies, football being one. We regularly receive requests for various football related memorabilia at funerals, from club badges on orders of service to club coloured flowers and of course the clubs famous music. With Chelsea taking the top prize in English football in 2017 it is no surprise that this 1972 version of the club song, sung by members of the team, has been requested regularly recently.
Dr Who Theme Song
Much like football, people often have strong interests in other things. Television is a medium that has created some of the most iconic pieces of music of our times, as people are reminded fondly of their favourite shows at hearing a single bar of the theme tunes. Dr Who is a British institution, having dominated television and related media for the best part of 50 years, and this theme tune is the best way to remember any would be time-lord.
Goodbye Song – Bear in the Big Blue House
Sadly, death is not choosy and touches both the young and the old. This song from children’s Television show “Bear in the Big Blue house” has been used as exit music for funerals of younger people. This song, sung at the end of each episode by the “Bear” and the “Moon” bids farewell to the audience but reminds them that it won’t be long until they are able to have fun together again, a sentiment shared at many services across the world.
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables – Les Misérables
Much like television, the theatre is hugely popular, with just over 240 theatres in London alone. “Les Misérables” has captivated audiences in the West End for the last 32 years and has toured in countless cities worldwide since its premiere in 1980. This song, sung by Marius after a difficult battle where he lost a number of his friends, sums up his grief for those who have passed. It is heart wrenchingly beautiful when sung by Michael Ball from the original soundtrack and expresses a deep and unforgiving sorrow.
Always On My Mind – Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley was a musical powerhouse. He wrote and performed some of the greatest love songs of all time and we receive countless requests for his songs to be played at funerals. “Always On My Mind” is a tale of regrets, for all the times the singer did not act when he could have or spoken when he should have. The songs silver lining is how he always thought of his love and how she would remain with him forever. It is easy to see why people ask us to play this song for them at the memorial of their loved ones.
Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is an almost like for like swap for many hymns, not due to the religious origins of the title, but because of its 12/8 timescale that aligns it with gospel music and the strong choral vocals in the chorus. “Hallelujah” which translates from Hebrew to “praise you” can be used in a memorial service to honour the memory of the deceased and for those in attendance to show their devotion. It is a soft, slow and soothing song that has been re-recorded by various singers, and many of these versions are regularly requested.