Music is the language of emotions, and it can impact the entire tone of an event. When it comes to planning a memorial service, it’s only natural to choose songs that speak to someone’s legacy. The American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan is one of the most popular picks for funeral playlists and with good reason.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Sad or Sorrowful Bob Dylan Songs for a Funeral
- Uplifting Bob Dylan Songs for a Funeral
- Bob Dylan Songs for a Parent’s Funeral
- Bob Dylan Songs for a Child or Adult Child’s Funeral
Often considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Bob Dylan’s hits make up some of the best funeral songs. Whether you’re creating a memorial slideshow, reception playlist, or special tribute to someone you’ve lost, it’s not always easy to find the Bob Dylan song that speaks to the occasion. Often covering topics like change, grief, and relationships, his work encompasses the span of human experience.
In this guide, we explore Bob Dylan’s extensive discography to determine the best songs for a funeral. These are songs that capture a variety of emotions, from sad to uplifting. Above all, these are songs about hope and remembrance.
Sad or Sorrowful Bob Dylan Songs for a Funeral
Whether you’re creating a funeral slideshow or a special musical tribute, sometimes you want to share your sadness and sorrow with others. This sets the tone for a funeral service, giving guests a safe space to grieve together. These sorrowful Bob Dylan songs are perfect for any funeral or memorial.
1. “Girl from the North Country” from Nashville Skyline
Often regarded as one of the most noteworthy Bob Dylan songs, “Girl from the North Country” is hauntingly beautiful. The version with Johnny Cash is a particularly memorable lament for lost love. Leaving behind people you love is never easy, and this song reaches out with warm empathy.
2. “Blowin’ in the Wind” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Though “Blowin’ in the Wind” is an intentionally ambiguous song, it’s considered one of the greatest songs of all time. Above all, this song asks the hard questions about life, death, and everything in between. Though these questions are hard to answer, Dylan hints you can find what you’re looking for “in the wind.”
3. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” from Bringing It All Back Home
“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is a ballad to change. The narrator sings about a woman’s mindset after a breakup, encouraging her to “leave now, something calls for you.” Though this is an ending, it’s also a new beginning.
4. “Lay, Lady, Lay” from Nashville Skyline
A romantic song written for the infamous Barbara Streisand, “Lay, Lady, Lay” is an ode to a lover. Above all, this is a song about love and cherishing the special moments in life as they pass you by.
5. “I Threw It All Away” from Nashville Skyline
“I Threw It All Away” is another ballad about a lost love by Bob Dylan. The artist sings about a love he lost through his own anger. Though the romance ended, the narrator takes full responsibility for his choices.
6. “Simple Twist of Fate” from Blood On The Tracks
Though seemingly about a brief relationship, this is a song about commitment and the role of fate. While we can spend eternity waiting for a “simple twist of fate,” sometimes we have to take action to accomplish what we want.
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Uplifting Bob Dylan Songs for a Funeral
Funeral songs don’t have to be sorrowful to carry meaning. In fact, some of the best rock funeral songs are uplifting and motivational. Try these Bob Dylan songs on for size to see where they take you.
7. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
The title of this song might have you thinking it’s full of sorrow. In reality, it’s a tribute to the fleeting nature of life. Life is something that ends, but this doesn’t have to be scary.
8. “Like a Rolling Stone” from Highway 61 Revisited
“Like a Rolling Stone” doesn’t actually relate to the band of the same name. Instead, its meaning comes from the proverb, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Upbeat and catchy, “Like a Rolling Stone” shares the story of someone who wanders without a home, finally falling into loneliness.
9. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Though often thought of as a love song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is a song about finding your own light in the darkness. Effortlessly sweet, this poignant song cuts right to the heart. Bob Dylan says it best: “Goodbye’s too good a word, babe, so I’ll just say fare thee well.”
10. “Mr. Tambourine Man” from Bringing It All Back Home
This dream-like song evokes magical imagery, asking for a mysterious Mr. Tambourine man to play the childlike instrument. An analogy for youthfulness and nostalgia, this song frequently references the passing of time.
11. “Tangled up in Blue” from Blood On the Tracks
“Tangled up in Blue” is a song about remembering the past. Though things might change, you’ll always be “tangled up” in the memories of the past. Though these memories will never leave you, it’s important to keep moving forward.
12. “When the Ship Comes In” from The Times They Are A-Changin’
Finally, “When the Ships Come In” is an uplifting, motivational song about change. The “ship” in this song is a symbol of change. Once the ship arrives, “the morning will be a-breakin.’” Change is a part of life, and it’s okay to find hope in the future.
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Bob Dylan Songs for a Parent’s Funeral
Losing a parent is never easy. Listening to songs about loss and grief help the bereaved find peace after the passing of a beloved parent.
13. “The Times They Are A-Changin’” from The Times They Are A-Changin’
Few songs are as recognizable as “The Times They Are A-Changin.’” This anthem of change is about accepting what’s to come—whatever it may be. If you don’t change, you might get hurt.
14. “Most of the Time” from Oh Mercy
“Most of the Time” is a moving song about remembrance. Though the narrator tries to convince himself that he’s free from the memories of his lost love, he only succeeds “most of the time.” If you peek below the surface, you’ll discover he’s completely head-over-heels enraptured by this woman in his memories.
15. “Restless Farewell” from The Times They Are A-Changin’
Saying goodbye is never easy, and “Restless Farewell” captures this sentiment. This song is about how to bid farewell to friends, lovers, and family. At the end of the day, the clock always runs out of time.
16. “I Shall Be Free” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s songs aren’t afraid to poke humor at serious situations. This fictional story about a drunk who’s asked by the president how to make the country better outlines some outrageous suggestions, but it’s a reminder to always have fun.
17. “One More Cup of Coffee” from Desire
Next, “One More Cup of Coffee” is a tale of a woman and a man who must leave her to enter the “valley below.” As the man prepares to leave, he asks for just one more cup of coffee for the road.
18. “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” from Nashville Skyline
Though written about a drifter who never stays in one place for long, the narrator promises he’ll stay just one more night. As he says, “Throw my troubles out the door, I don’t need them anymore.”
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Bob Dylan Songs for a Child or Adult Child’s Funeral
Losing a child, regardless of his or her age, is heartbreaking. Honoring their memory is a way to make their legacy count. These Bob Dylan songs for a child or adult child’s funeral will bring peace to any memorial.
19. “Forever Young” from Forever Young
Written for Bob Dylan’s son, this is a prayer that the listener finds kindness, honesty, truth, and courage. Considered a blessing more than a song, this is the perfect tribute to any child.
20. “Not Dark Yet” from Time Out of Mind
A staggeringly beautiful song, “Not Dark Yet” is a reminder that you don’t need to rage at the end of one’s life. Everyone faces death at some point, but it’s not “dark yet” so make the most of the time you have.
21. “Lord Protect My Child” from Springtime in New York
Another song for Bob Dylan’s son, “Lord Protect My Child” is a gorgeous song about a child’s formative years. Though the world might be tough, those we love are always there to protect us.
22. “Corinna, Corinna” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Though simple, don’t underestimate the beauty of “Corinna, Corinna.” This is a song about a girl who still hasn’t come home. Though the narrator has a lot of things, he wants to be home with Corinna most of all.
23. “River Theme” from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
This instrumental song was written in the 1970s for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack. Slow and relaxing, this instrumental tune often feels like a lullaby meant to lull someone into a restful sleep.
24. “Queen Jane Approximately” from Highway 61 Revisited
Finally, “Queen Jane Approximately” is a song about finding comfort in others. Though people often try to get in the way, you can always turn to those closest to you for help.
Find Peace Through Bob Dylan’s Music
Ultimately, it’s easy to see why Bob Dylan has brought joy and wonder to many. Considered to be one of the greatest musical talents of the 20th century, his work continues to inspire and evoke change. Music is more than a collection of lyrics. It’s a way to connect with your inner experiences and emotions.
These songs above are the perfect way to say goodbye to a loved one. Whether played in the background of a funeral or as the focus of a memorial event, you’ll find a world of meaning in Bob Dylan’s work.