For some, a celebration of life ceremony may be a better take on a traditional funeral. Rather than focusing on how they died, the event centers on how they lived. As such, it may feel harder to create the perfect soundtrack for a celebration of life.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Best Upbeat Celebration of Life Songs
- Best Sad Celebration of Life Songs
- Best Celebration of Life Songs for Mom and Dad
Wistful, sorrowful tunes are excellent choices for a funeral. But what if you want to highlight their life of adventure? Or their twisted sense of humor? What about their favorite musical genre? Choosing the perfect song—upbeat or sad, humorous, or an homage—is hard. No matter whether the deceased loved Led Zeppelin or upbeat pop songs, we’ve got you covered.
Tip: Creating a playlist for a celebration of life might be just a small part of your post-death responsibilities. If you need helping sorting it all out, check out our post-loss checklist.
Best Upbeat Celebration of Life Songs
Upbeat songs are a great way to transform the mood. If the deceased, like many people, loathed the somber mood of funerals, this is a perfect choice to honor them.
1. “Best Day Of My Life” by American Authors
What was the best day of your loved one’s life? Maybe you don’t know. No matter what it was, this song pays homage to a day full of adventure and joy.
2. “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
A nostalgic oldie, this is a classic celebration-of-life song. It confirms certainty about where they’ll go when they die, straight to the spirit in the sky.
3. “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC
This is perfect for an old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll soul in your life—someone with a twisted sense of humor.
4. “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” by Frank Sinatra
Making the most of every day you’re alive distinguishes people. Like Frank Sinatra, your loved one lived each day with relish.
5. “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen
The title and upbeat bass make it another option for those with a twisted sense of humor. It will get a few laughs, too!
6. “Maybe IDK” by Jon Bellion
This song is a nod to those who didn’t know what their life was going to be like the next day— and they’re okay with that.
7. “Right Here Right Now” by American Authors
Was your loved one the type to snag a last-minute flight to Paris? Or climb an unclimbable mountain because they thought they could? This song celebrates that spirit of adventure.
8. “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)” by Al Jonson
This might hark back to the days of a budding romance. If so, it may spark sweet memories with your spouse.
9. “Dancing in the Minefields” by Andrew Peterson
“Dancing in the Minefields” is an ode to a marriage that’s weathered impossible times, with two people that are still in love. It’s a joy-centered ode to play at a spouse’s service.
10. “Dear Theodosia” by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Written from a father to his daughter, this song is a promise to make the world a better place because of them.
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Best Sad Celebration of Life Songs
Depending on the situation, upbeat songs may not be appropriate. If that’s the case, try these out.
11. “Who Wants to Live Forever” by Queen
This song was composed as Freddie Mercury was dying of AIDS. As an ode to their bandmate, this song was one of their great collaborations.
12. “Goodbye My Lover” by James Blunt
This song is a heart-wrenching goodbye to the center of your universe. If you play this song, be sure to bring tissues.
13. “Bruises” by Lewis Capaldi
Have you ever felt like you ‘should’ heal from a loved one’s death quickly? Sometimes, you cling to good and bad memories to keep them with you.
14. “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi
What do you do when the person who comforted you the best is the one who is dead? This song is about feeling lonely and helpless, even though they were a great person to have in your life.
15. “See You Soon” by Jukebox the Ghost
Remember the times when a goodbye was temporary? This song remembers what it was like to have a loved one present for all the small things.
16. “Home” by Philip Phillips
Some people have relationships that no matter where they are, they still feel at home if their special someone is with them.
17. “God Only Knows” by for King & Country
This song is a great one for someone who had a hard life, as it memorialized strength and perseverance.
18. “Never Enough” by Kelly Clarkson
Piles of money, a fancy car, a huge house--is it ever enough? This song demonstrates the fact that it never will be unless your hand is in theirs.
19. “Wake Me Up” by Avicii
Sometimes, it’s easy to feel lost in your youth. This song is about waking up when you’re older and wiser, even though that day may never come.
20. “Neverland” by Van Hof
This is a nostalgic ode to a childlike spirit of adventure and innocence. Van Hof wishes for days where you could go to Neverland together.
Best Celebration of Life Songs for Mom and Dad
Commemorating your parents is always hard. Browsing through these selections, from oldies to newer songs, might help. If you're looking for more, check out our picks for the best funeral songs for dad and the best funeral songs for mom.
21. “My Way” by Frank Sinatra
This song is perfect for someone who lived with gusto and force.
22. “The Benediction” by The Dirty Guv’nahs
This is a ‘blessing’ of sorts between you and your loved one. It wishes that you’ll never be lonely, that you’ll never want for people to love and comfort you.
23. “Arms Open” by The Script
No matter what you’re going through, no matter who you’ve lost, there will always be someone to comfort you.
24. “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
Did you and your parents have a great, supportive relationship? If so, they enabled you to fly higher than you ever could have alone.
25. “Hero” by Mariah Carey
The best parents allow you to uncover the hero lying in yourself. How did they do that? By being heroes themselves.
26. “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross
It’s easy to wish for times gone by. What would you give for one more moment or one more dance with your parents?
27. “Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson
This song is from a parent to a child. It’s an ode to a parent that notices and feels what their child feels.
28. “You’re Missing” by Bruce Springsteen
Going home to your parents’ empty house feels all wrong. It’s waiting for them, but they’ll never come back.
29. “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins
No matter what happens, or how they died, your parents will always be in your heart.
30. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
This is one of the best classic rock songs of all time. If your mom or dad was a rock ‘n’ roller at heart, this is a perfect tribute.
31. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
Struggling with loss is one of the most challenging emotions you will experience. Whether you’ve lost a bandmate or your parent has died, Pink Floyd expresses it.
32. “The Show Must Go On” by Queen
No matter what happens, life continues. This song acknowledges that it’s a sorrowful, scary experience that is fulfilling.
33. “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” by Guns ‘n’ Roses
This song has been covered and remixed many times. It asks: what do you do when it feels like you’re knocking on a door that doesn’t open?
34. “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” by Oasis
Sometimes, grief makes it feel like the stars have gone out, and the whole world is upside down. Oasis promises that it won’t last forever.
35. “Everything I Own” by Bread
What would you give to get a loved one back? This song muses over that question.
Celebrating Life with Music
Celebrating the life of someone close to you is one of the most special experiences. At such a sad time, it’s easy to focus on their death. Think of their memorial service as a gift. Commemorating their legacy and how they chose to live is a much greater gift.
When trying to arrange a celebration of life ceremony, consider what mattered most to them. What defined them? What would they want? Were they the type of person to laugh if you suggested playing Another One Bites the Dust? Go for it! Perhaps they were more of a traditionalist, though. They preferred somber, respectful events that focused on legacy and family. If so, a sad instrumental pick would be suitable.
Organizing this type of event is never easy. If you didn’t know someone very well, it might be even harder to guess what they would want. The most important part of this ceremony, though, is the heart and empathy you put into it. If you have that, the ceremony will be perfect no matter how it goes.