10 Dolly Parton Songs Fit for a Funeral Service

Updated

Planning a funeral often involves making key choices to ensure the service reflects the unique qualities and passions of someone who’s passed on. For example, when putting together a funeral slideshow for a loved one’s service, you may want to include a song from an artist they loved. Even if you’re not working on a slideshow, you could find another time during their funeral when it’s appropriate to play their favorite artist’s music.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Perhaps you’re planning the funeral of someone who was a Dolly Parton fan. If you’re looking for Dolly Parton funeral songs to play during the service, consider the following options.

Some are uplifting and joyful. Some are sorrowful. All, however, may be perfect choices for a respectful service that celebrates your loved one’s passion for the music of one of our most iconic artists.

Happy Dolly Parton Songs for a Funeral

Funeral songs don’t need to be sad. Often, it’s a good idea to play music during a funeral that can help mourners find a sense of peace or even hope.

If that’s the type of Dolly Parton funeral song you’d like to play, these are just a few examples worth keeping in mind.

1. “Let Her Fly” from Honky Tonk Angels

“Let Her Fly” is among the most popular Dolly Parton funeral songs. It also doesn’t shy away from the sadness loved ones experience in the aftermath of a passing, describing mourners gathering in “sorrow and tears” at a funeral.

However, the song is ultimately uplifting. It states that, while we may miss our lost loved ones now, we’ll reunite in Heaven. The lyrics also paint death in a positive light, explaining that those we’ve lost are angels, and we must let them fly to the afterlife, even when we’d like to keep them here.

2. “I Will Always Love You” from Jolene

“I Will Always Love You” isn’t literally about death and mourning. Dolly Parton wrote it as a tribute to her former partner Porter Wagoner when she decided to go out on her own as a solo artist. It’s since become one of the most recognizable love songs in the world.

That said, even if it’s not strictly about death, “I Will Always Love You” is still an ideal choice if you’re trying to pick a hopeful Dolly Parton funeral song. Anyone could easily hear it as an expression of the way love can endure even after someone we love has passed on. In fact, in a 2014 interview, Parton herself stated she believes those who plan her eventual funeral will likely include this song.

3. “Shine On” from Hungry Again

“Shine On” is another song that didn’t start out as a common choice for funerals but has become one ever since Dolly Parton delivered a moving performance of the tune at the 1998 memorial for fellow country artist Tammy Wynette.

The song offers an inspirational message that some may like to believe their deceased loved ones would share: life is God’s greatest gift, and we should cherish it by always striving to share our love with others.

4. “When I Get to Where I’m Going” from Time Well Wasted

“When I Get to Where I’m Going” isn’t strictly a Dolly Parton song. It’s actually a Brad Paisley song featuring Parton.

However, it earns a spot on this list thanks to its uplifting message. Like many hopeful country funeral songs, “When I Get to Where I’m Going” draws on religious beliefs to describe how dying simply allows someone to escape the pains of human life and spend eternity in a happy afterlife, where they can once again be with those who passed on before them.

5. “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” from New Harvest… First Gathering

“Light of a Clear Blue Morning” is another song about Dolly Parton’s split with Porter Wagoner. That said, its lyrics are general enough that it can certainly work as a powerful funeral song.

They describe how, after experiencing pain and struggle, a person can still come out on the other side of a difficult time in their lives with a renewed sense of hope. That’s a message many would appreciate hearing after a loved one’s passing.

6. “My Tennessee Mountain Home” from My Tennessee Mountain Home

Of all the songs on this list, this one may have the least direct relationship with death and mourning. Its lyrics describe a simple, happy life in a rural home, surrounded by nature and loved ones.

Such lyrics might not seem to justify using this as a Dolly Parton funeral song at first. However, considering how calm and joyful the life they describe seems to be, someone could interpret them as coming from the perspective of a loved one trying to explain how they’re now at peace in Heaven.

Sad Dolly Parton Songs for a Funeral

While uplifting Dolly Parton funeral songs have their purpose, sometimes, those in mourning don’t want to shy away from their feelings. They’d rather play funeral songs that openly address their sorrow. This can help others at the funeral remember they’re not alone in their pain.

Examples of sad Dolly Parton songs to play at a funeral include the following.

7. “We Used To” from Dolly

Many of the best funeral songs have relatively simple lyrics. They describe relatable human experiences in stark terms, making it possible for many attending a funeral to appreciate the emotions being conveyed.

Consider the example of “We Used To.” In this song, Parton sings about looking back on a time when she and her lover were together, expressing heartache over the fact that they’re now gone, leaving her with nothing but memories of happier days.

Like many of the saddest Dolly Parton songs, this is likely about the end of a romantic relationship. But its lyrics also capture the emotions many feel after loved ones pass.

8. “Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark” from A Real Live Dolly

This song, featuring Porter Wagoner with Parton, is one of the most devastating songs she ever composed. Its lyrics feature two perspectives: a mother’s and a father’s.

They tell the story of their daughter Jeannie, who used to be afraid of the dark at night. One day, when visiting a cemetery to place flowers on old family graves, Jeannie realized it must be very dark underground and asked her parents not to bury her if she dies, as she’d be too scared.

The lyrics then describe how Jeannie, the couple’s only child, did suddenly pass one night. Naturally, this is a song that may be appropriate to play at a funeral when parents are mourning the tragic loss of a child. 

However, while it’s absolutely very sad, the song does end on a hopeful note with the lines, “But on Jeannie's grave we placed an eternal flame that glows and never loses its spark, and on the darkest night, there's always a light, ‘cause Jeannie's afraid of the dark.”

9. “Me and Little Andy” from Live at the Bottom Line 1977

Not all Dolly Parton funeral songs need to be for a human’s service! For example, “Me and Little Andy” describes an encounter a woman has with a neglected little girl who arrives at her doorstep with her dog Andy asking if they could stay with her for the night.

The woman lets them in, but sadly, both the girl and her dog pass away in the night. While this may make the song a possible choice for a child’s funeral, because the dog’s death is such an important part of the story the lyrics tell, it might be better suited to a service for a beloved pet.

10. “I’m Gonna Miss You”  from For God and Country

“I’m Gonna Miss You” may be an ideal Dolly Parton funeral song for a veteran. In many ways, it’s a positive track, describing how mourners are proud of the sacrifice a loved one made for their country.

That said, this is still a primarily sad song. The lyrics acknowledge that being proud of a loved one who died in service of their ideals isn’t necessarily enough to erase the sadness those left behind feel after their passing.

The song’s character describes how they’ll miss the person they’ve lost throughout various moments of every single day, and they’ll mourn the future memories they’ll never get to share.

Dolly Parton Funeral Songs: Healing Through Music

Whether you’re choosing funeral songs for a dad, mom, child, or anyone else who loved Dolly Parton, these are all tracks worth considering. They exemplify how Dolly Parton has a unique talent for expressing some of the most complex emotions in remarkably universal ways.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.