Coping mechanisms usually drive people to purchase books on grief to understand and manage both death and grief better. Music and even Broadway music, to be more specific, is an excellent place to seek solace for those feelings.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Sad Broadway Songs About Death
- Funny Broadway Songs About Death
- Broadway Songs Fit for a Funeral or Memorial Service
Indeed, some of the best funeral songs have been sung for audiences far and wide, beginning on Broadway. Scroll below for some of the most famous and heartfelt songs that can help you find an authentic space for all the feelings that death generates.
Sad Broadway Songs About Death
From real stories to fiction that hits just the same, Broadway's sad songs are even more heartbreaking when understood in full context.
1. “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar
Claire Ryann Crosby was three years old when she sang and recorded the song "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar. Many original singer-actors are discoverable online, but Claire's version is ever so sweet and charming.
2. “Some Things are Meant to Be” from Little Women
The heartbreak of sweet Beth’s death brings nothing but heartache to the March sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But they power through, knowing that the future doesn’t wait for them and that sometimes what you want most in the world can happen.
3. “Alabanza” from In the Heights
“Alabanza” is about Abuela Claudia’s unexpected death, which is uniquely tragic for her surrogate grandson, Usnavi, the Bodega owner in Washington Heights.
She and Usnavi had only just decided to move to the Dominican Republic to open a bar. Instead of moving, Usnavi stays on and tells the tale of the beloved community matriarch.
4. “There is a Fountain/It Don’t Make Sense” from Parade
Parade is based on a true and barbaric story of a Jewish man who was lynched after being wrongly accused of an employee’s death. Although the play draws attention to the tragedy, what’s missing is the life his widow was forced to live without the man she loved.
5. “Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden
Surprisingly, Karimloo (London’s West End) and Jackson’s (Broadway, film, and television) performance of “Lily’s Eyes” generally receives rave reviews. But when it’s sung inside the play, there’s not a dry eye in the audience.
6. “Epilogue: In Every Age (Reprise)/Finale” from Titanic
There’s no chance for a spoiler on how the play version of Titanic ends, but here’s an excerpt:
Fare thee well
May the Lord who watches all
Watch over thee
May God's heaven be your blanket
As you softly sleep...
There's a sailing metaphor that'll queue up reminders of Frodo sailing to the Undying Lands in the Lord of the Rings and the poem "Gone from My Sight" by Reverend Luther F. Beecher.
7. "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita
The play, Evita, is based on the real-life story of María Eva Duarte de Perón, a poor girl who would become the wife of Juan Perón, president of Argentina.
She gains esteem from the working class and a rivalry of the wealthy, which thrusts them into a revolutionary spotlight. Right before Perón dies, she says a final goodbye to her life, love, and her country.
Funny Broadway Songs About Death
Death and grief are solemn subjects, but some people look for the humor in life to cope with the devastation of loss. Scroll down to see how Broadway fits the bill in the following funny songs about death.
8. “All You Have to Do Is Wait” from City of Angels
City of Angels is about money, women, misgivings, and a lot of troublesome mischievous characters.
Check out this excerpt:
They will strap you in a chair
And for once you'll be polite
You'll say gov'nor "pardon me"
But he's sure to disagree
Cause the case I've made is tight
It's the people versus Stone
And my money is on the state
Who says dreams do not come true
You will get what you are due
All ya have to do is wait…
9. “Now (It’s Just the Gas)” from Little Shop of Horrors
The Little Shop of Horrors has seen a transition or two in its life on Broadway and cinema. It first debuted in 1960 as a low-budget movie. Later, it became a hit on Broadway.
When it hit the movie screen a second time, this time it starred Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene and included a few prized cameos from Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, and John Candy. It became an instant classic.
10. “A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd
Queue the first song in this list about cannibalism. And it’s a gleeful one at that! Check it out:
Seems an awful waste
Such a nice plump frame
What's his name has… had… has
Nor he can't be traced
Business needs a lift
Debts to be erased
Think of it as thrift
As a gift
If you get my drift
Seems an awful waste
I mean, with the price of meat
What it is
When you get it
If you get it...
11. “Death is Such an Odd Thing” from The Dance of Vampires
If you're from Germany, you'll hate the American version of The Dance of Vampires as it drastically strays from the vision of Roman Polanksi. Unfortunately, the show received biting commentary and was stiffly rebuked as a disaster in too many eyes for it to be a hit.
Still, the song works for anyone seeking humor with vampires and death on the same bill.
12. “Snuff That Girl” from Urinetown
Raucous is the first word that will come to mind when you listen to "Snuff That Girl." In it, people have grown weary of Caldwell B, the local lawmaker. His laws about urinating have upset the townspeople, so they decide to kill his daughter as a response. This song outlines their scheme.
13. “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” from Tomfoolery
Tomfoolery was produced in the West End and Off-Broadway in 1980 and 1981, respectively.
Here’s an excerpt from the morbid/comedic song, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”:
So if Sunday you're free
Why don't you come with me
And we'll poison the pigeons in the park
And maybe we'll do
In a squirrel or two
While we're poisoning pigeons in the park…
Broadway Songs Fit for a Funeral or Memorial Service
The songs that follow work for funeral and memorial services, but a few might resonate with your loved one’s personal experiences more than others.
14. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel
Playwright Ferenc Molnár of Budapest, Hungary, wrote Liliom in 1909 and was adapted into the Broadway play Carousel in 1945. The play was also the second musical attributed to the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The song "You'll Never Walk Alone" has become an anthem of medical personnel support worldwide.
15. “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific
Here's another immensely popular and award-winning 1958 classic from Rodgers and Hammerstein. The themes of South Pacific center around love and race issues during World War II.
Listen to Brian Stokes Mitchell's baritone, and you'll intimately hear the sounds of regret.
16. “Sunrise Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof
Themes of love, life, and meaning in the small town of Anatevka, Russia, fill the stage in Joseph Stein's play, Fiddler on the Roof.
Notably, television Hall of Famer and former US Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, Bea Arthur (Golden Girls, Mame, and Maude), shined brightly playing Yente, the Matchmaker.
17. “What Would I Do” from Falsettos
Tony award-winning Michael Rupert played Marvin in William Finn's March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland. His song "What Would I Do" encompasses grief, life changes, and the devastation that follows the choices you know you need to make.
18. “Not a Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along
At the heart of the play (and this song) is the understanding that when one chooses money and fame over family and friends, you can wind up alone—filled with regret. Unfortunately, it’s more familiar than an unfamiliar theme for so many.
19. “Time Heals Everything” from Mack and Mabel
Some plays run for years on Broadway, while others have such a depressing tone that it’s impossible to fall in love with them no matter how great the script or actor. So, while the play itself was a flop, “Time Heals Everything” is nonetheless incredible.
20. “Epilogue: Valjean’s Death” from Les Misérables
Speaking of depressing. The difference between Mack and Mabel and Les Misérables falls squarely in the redemptive qualities lacking in the former. Instead, love and salvation come to Valjean after a life of relentless suffering.
21. “Goodbye” from Rent
HIV ravaged people, friends, and families in the 1980s (and still does today). But the play Rent embraces the topic with raw emotion while leaving no subject untouched.
The song "Goodbye" remarks on several kinds of endings, including the funeral, the friend group, but the worst, the fight to live.
Broadway Music Bolsters Authenticity
Turn to Broadway music next time you’re in search of something palpable or real when dealing with grief and death. The artistry and song offer great redemptive qualities by peering into the authenticity of life and death, fictional or based in reality.
- Abuela Claudia. (2021). in-the-heights.fandom.com/wiki/Abuela_Claudia
- Crosby, C. (2016). Gethsemane. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWIx24J00Wc
- Keen, R. (2020). "Leo may have been killed, but she served a life sentence..." historyatlanta.com/lucille-frank/
- Stage Agent. (2021). Theatre Education, Audition Prep & Networking. stageagent.com/
- Stephen Sondheim (Ft. Angela Lansbury & Len Cariou) – A Little Priest. (1979). genius.com/Stephen-sondheim-a-little-priest-lyrics
- YouTube. (2009). All You Have to Do Is Wait. www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4brKEHDlok
- YouTube. (2017). Lily's Eyes - Ramin Karimloo & Cheyenne Jackson - DGF Gala. www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-iXmjoQRQg
- YouTube. (2014). Urinetown: The Musical - Full Show - Studio Playhouse - George Adamo as Bobby Strong. www.youtube.com/watch?v=etsEa7TZwEQ