Many families choose to display photographs of their loved ones at a visitation or a funeral, but some families like to make it a bit more entertaining.
Instead of placing faded family photos in old frames on a cardboard table, some families create a funeral slideshow with music or host virtual funerals with custom playlists. This can be easily accomplished with presentation software and a digital music account.
Tip: Creating a funeral slideshow is just one task you might be undertaking for the first time after losing a loved one. For help with everything else and a guide throughout the process, check out our post-loss checklist.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Best Upbeat Family Slideshow Songs
- Best Sentimental Family Slideshow Songs
- Best Instrumental Music for a Family Slideshow
The hardest part of creating a family slideshow or tribute video for some might not be the actual making of the video. In fact, the most challenging part of this task may probably be choosing music that will appeal to everyone in the family.
While you might be looking to set a specific tone with the slideshow and music, make sure to double-check with the immediate family of the deceased. Consider asking a family member or two about your music choice to ensure it is appropriate for the type of funeral or memorial being held.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, make sure to test your audio beforehand so online and in-person guests can enjoy the songs together during the service.
Best Upbeat Family Slideshow Songs
Do you need a perfect song to accompany your family photos of dad sleeping in his favorite chair at Thanksgiving or your brother flexing his biceps in front of the Grand Canyon? While some are songs about family, others are generally happy, upbeat songs that will make your family vacation to Wally World seem better than it really was.
1. “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang
It may be overused, but “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang has probably been the accompanying music for thousands of slide shows depicting grandma blowing out 80 candles on her birthday cake and Aunt Barbara dancing at your cousin’s wedding. Go ahead and use the song in your slideshow too. It’s overused because everyone loves it.
2. “Holiday Road” by Lindsay Buckingham
“Holiday Road” was made famous in the movie “Vacation.” Now, you probably can’t hear the song without thinking of Chevy Chase punching a moose or eating a sandwich covered with dog urine. In fact, those might be the memories you want to evoke by using this song in your family photo slideshow.
3. “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas
The song’s lyrics provide some upbeat chants and a steady beat that can accompany a variety of family photos. Who doesn’t like to sing out, “Tonight’s the night? Let’s live it up!”
4. “I Feel Good” by James Brown
The Godfather of Soul’s signature song, “I Feel Good” was released in 1964. Since it has been around for decades, it may appeal to cross-generational audiences.
5. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
You may turn up this song whenever it comes up on your playlist, but did you know it was initially made to be the lead single for the movie Trolls? This would be excellent background music for a series of photos of happy people.
6. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
It seems as if some of the most upbeat, happy songs were written for kids’ movies. “Happy” was featured on the soundtrack for Despicable Me 2.
7. “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
A favorite at wedding dances, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, would be perfect to accompany your family photos of your cousins forming a human pyramid and your aunts gossiping while sitting on the porch.
8. “Home” by Phillip Phillips
Phillip Phillips wrote this song after winning season 11 of American Idol. The line, “Just know you’re not alone, ‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home” can be particularly touching for those who may be missing a loved one.
9. “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” by Travis Tritt
Does your family like to celebrate the simple things in life, such as homemade soup or taking a Harley Davidson motorcycle out for a three-day cruise? This feel-good song can accompany the family slide show of country-music lovers.
10. “Just Another Day in Paradise” Phil Vassar
Leave it to country music singers to celebrate broken washing machines and sour milk. “Just Another Day in Paradise” can accompany photos showing everyday life, like the family working together on a home remodeling project or dad making pancakes for breakfast.
Best Sentimental Songs for Slideshows
Are you making a presentation to remember a family member who recently died? Even if most of the photos show that family member smiling and having a good time, accompanying them with happy, upbeat songs may not feel right. Here are some sentimental songs to consider for your presentation.
11. “Yesterday” by The Beatles
There might be a tune by The Beatles that could fit almost any mood, but “Yesterday” may have the right tone and lyrics to go with your photos of the loved one you lost.
12. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds
Even though you are in mourning over the loss of a family member, it is important to realize that death is merely a season of life. As there is a time to be born, there is also a time to die. The lyrics for this song were based on verses found in the book of Ecclesiastes.
13. “Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson
If you listen carefully, this song is more about a failed relationship than a death, but most people may focus instead on the chorus. The chorus of this song can help remind your family members that your loved one will be forever in their hearts.
14. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones
This song would undoubtedly win a contest as the saddest song ever written. Only use this song on your slideshow if you want people to break down in tears.
15. “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
This song is perfect for many sentimental occasions, from graduations to funerals.
16. “The Dance” by Garth Brooks
This song begins, “looking back on the memory of the dance we shared ‘neath the stars above.” It can cause many to shed a tear.
17. “I’ll Be There” by Jackson 5
If ever there was a song about the promise of relationships, this song by the Jackson 5 is it. The lyric, “I’ll be there to protect you. With unselfish love that respects you” can hit home for anyone who misses their loved one.
18. “Teach Your Children Well” by Crosby Stills, Nash and Young
Do you have photos of your loved one sharing moments with their children or great-grandchildren? This song would be the perfect choice as background music for those poignant moments.
19. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
Made famous by the movie Titanic, this smash-hit reminds us that love doesn’t die, even when the one you love freezes in the North Atlantic Ocean.
20. “Country Roads” by John Denver
Are you looking for a song to pair with images of the family farm? What better song is there than “Country Roads?”
Tip: If you're putting together a tribute playlist for a loved one, you can share it along with Spotify gift cards as a special present for family members to enjoy even after the presentation.
Best Instrumental Music for a Family Slideshow
It’s hard to find a song that says exactly what you want. Some love songs imply that the relationship was troubled or rocky. Other songs may have a few lyrics that describe a romantic relationship instead of a familial one. That’s why you may want to use instrumental versions of songs if you are concerned about what message you are sending when you make a memorial video.
Here are some classics to consider.
21. "Canon in D Minor” by Pachelbel
Even though this song is often used in weddings and commercials for wineries, it can also be used for any special occasion. The first part of the piece has a slow tempo that would be appropriate for memorial videos.
22. “Die Walkure” by Wagner
Although not appropriate for a memorial video, adding this music to photographs that show slight turmoil can add comedic relief to your family slideshow.
23. “The Cradle” by George Winston
George Winston is your go-to guy for any type of modern piano music. Winston describes his style as folk piano. No matter what emotion you are trying to evoke, there is a song in his repertoire that would be appropriate.
24. “Fur Elise” by Beethoven
One of the most recognized pieces of classical music, “Fur Elise” would be perfect background music because it doesn’t evoke any particularly strong emotions.
25. “Suite No. 1 in G major” by Bach
This beautiful cello solo is recognizable as well as beautiful.
What Songs Did We Leave Off Our List?
Coming up with a list of songs that covers a wide variety of emotions is a tricky business. Of course, not all of these songs will fit for every occasion.
Choosing music to accompany your family photos would be a rather simple task. Besides picking family favorites, you could also choose ones that coordinate well with the photographs. It’s incredible how pairing the right photos with the right music can create an emotional experience.
Looking for more ideas? Read our list of the best modern songs for memorial or funeral slideshows.