Music often accompanies funerals and memorial services. Believe it or not, the Grateful Dead created numerous songs that people can use for life celebrations, memorial services, and funeral services. Most of the time, only deceased Grateful Dead fans might have wanted the band’s songs at their funeral but you might find a song or two in the mix that can be used for nearly anyone.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Uplifting Grateful Dead Funeral Songs
- Sad Grateful Dead Funeral Songs
- Other Grateful Dead Funeral Songs
When choosing songs for your loved one’s funeral, focus on what you think your loved one would like to have in addition to choosing songs that add a sense of meaning to the service.
Tip: Creating a funeral playlist may be just one of the tasks you're undertaking for the very first time after the loss of a loved one. Our post-loss checklist can help you navigate the intricacies of loss.
Uplifting Grateful Dead Funeral Songs
If you’re looking for upbeat songs that speak about the beauty of life, evoke memories of your loved one, and leave everyone feeling reminiscent, choose one of these nostalgic songs.
1. “Attics of My Life” from “American Beauty”
This song is loved by countless fans of the Grateful Dead for its deep meaning, positive message, and endless interpretations. “I have spent my life seeking all that’s still unsung. Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see” can speak to life’s accomplishments and a final understanding of the transition to life after death.
2. “And We Bid You Goodnight” from “Dick’s Picks, Volume 4: Fillmore East 2/13-14/70”
This traditional funeral song is almost reminiscent of African spirituals with its repeating lyrics and methodical timing. The song says goodbye to the deceased, still has an upbeat tune, and evokes a feeling of community when sung by a group of people.
3. “I Will Take You Home” from “Built to Last”
This is a song that speaks of the uncertainty of what lies ahead after death as well as an assurance that the singer will be with his daughter. Despite the questions, you find a sense of hope in the lyrics: “Your daddy’s gonna be right here beside you.”
4. “Box of Rain” from “American Beauty”
“Box of Rain” is a classic Dead song that speaks about navigating through life on earth. Some portions can even be applied to a person’s final moments on earth with lyrics such as, “Walk into splintered sunlight/ Inch your way through dead dreams to another land/ Maybe you're tired and broken/ Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken/ And thoughts unclear.”
In the end, however, the song is upbeat and speaks of a relationship between the dying and the singer. Many devoted fans of the Grateful Dead choose this song to play at their funerals and some consider it one of the best funeral songs from the Dead.
5. “The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion” from “The Golden Road 1965-1973”
Though not funeral-specific, many fans enjoy this song for its emphasis on living life and living it well. This can be played at a funeral for a young person who lived life to the full and held nothing back in their joy and enjoyment of the life they lived.
6. “Bird Song” from “Reckoning (Live)”
This is a beautiful, classic song written about a loved one who “sang a little while and then flew on.” It was originally written for Janis Joplin and many resonate with the lyrics. Even though life is short, each of us can sing a song for those around us to hear.
7. “Ripple” from “American Beauty”
The theme of this song is the “ripple” that each life has on the world. We all impact those around us and even when we’re gone, the ripple effect can be felt and seen.
8. “So Many Roads” from “So Many Roads (1965-1995)”
The lyrics of this song talk about the road of life, the choices we make, and the decisions we’re all responsible for. Whether someone has a hard life or an easy one, choices reflect on who we are and what we become.
9. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” from “Almost Acoustic”
This is the Dead’s cover of a timeless African American spiritual. Heartfelt, deep with meaning, and a song that everyone understands, it’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for a Grateful Dead song to use a backing track for a loved one’s funeral slideshow.
10. “The Music Never Stopped” from “Blues for Allah”
This is a whimsical take on life and how the music never stops no matter what happens. We all go through ups and downs in life but the music keeps on playing. Our lives continue on just like a song we sing or play.
Sad Grateful Dead Funeral Songs
While there are plenty of upbeat funeral songs, sometimes the mood calls for a more somber tone. If you’re looking for somber yet modern funeral songs, these ones by the Grateful Dead certainly qualify.
11. “Brokedown Palace” from “American Beauty”
This song exquisitely expresses the sense of sorrow and loss we feel when a loved one passes away. Slightly reminiscent of an African spiritual, this song is a classic and played at funerals of many who were fans of the Grateful Dead and their haunting songs.
12. “Black Muddy River” from “In the Dark”
“Black Muddy River” speaks of death and dying more expressively than perhaps any other of the Grateful Dead’s songs. In it, the singer speaks of no longer being able to feel the sun’s warmth, a fading of their natural ability to feel and hear, and a sense of their impending departure from the world.
Though deeply sad, it is incredibly expressive of a person’s final moments and can provide a sense of closure for friends and family members of the deceased.
13. “Franklin’s Tower” from “Blues for Allah”
A haunting tune, many fans appreciate the deep lyrics that point to a time after life on earth when “the four winds blow you safely home.” Though this song isn’t for everyone, at the right person’s funeral, it could provide just the sentiment and sense of solace you’re looking to provide.
14. “Uncle John’s Band” from “Workingman’s Dead”
This is a favorite song of many Grateful Dead fans and is often played at memorial services and funerals. Though the entire song speaks to the nature of life, one line in particular sticks out: “Where does the time go?”
It often seems like life goes too quickly and fades too fast. If that’s the sense you want to contribute through song, this is the perfect choice for a funeral.
15. “Unbroken Chain” from “From the Mars Hotel”
Though sad, this song is fitting if you want to place the focus on our interconnectedness as a human race. The final line, “Unbroken chain of you and me” speaks about the universal human experience of interconnectedness.
16. “Sing Me Back Home” from “So Many Roads (1965-1995)”
The lyrics in this song are about a man who will soon pass away and requests that a friend sing a familiar song before he goes home. Many people choose Grateful Dead funeral songs as a final musical tribute to “sing them back home.”
Though not for everyone, this is certainly appropriate if the deceased enjoyed Grateful Dead music and would have wanted one of their songs to be the music for their final moments.
17. “To Lay Me Down” from “Reckoning (Live)”
This song is especially appropriate for the funeral of a husband or wife who wants to spend just a little more time with the love of his or her life. The song is a sad one — in the end, they know all they will do is lay down one more time during their final day of rest when they pass away from life on earth.
18. “Mission in the Rain” from “‘76 Live Radio Broadcast”
This song is decidedly sad in tone and lyrics and speaks of a lack of fulfilled vision, dreams, and goals. Though certainly not for everyone’s funeral, you may want to play it if the deceased felt like he didn’t get to accomplish everything in life.
19. “He’s Gone” from “Europe ‘72”
The title of this song speaks for itself and many Grateful Dead fans want this played at their funerals. The overarching theme speaks to the fact that once a person is gone, their memories might be present but they can’t come back.
Other Grateful Dead Funeral Songs
20. “Scarlet Begonias” from “The Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel”
Though this song has much more to do about life than death, many love this beautiful song. If you’re looking for a funeral song that honors a life well-lived, use this song.
21. “Cassidy” from “Reckoning (Live)”
If you need a classic Grateful Dead song, this song fits the bill. The lyrics speak of life, love, and loss.
Musical Odes to Life
Music can often express what words alone cannot convey. Choose songs that your loved one enjoyed and ones that add to the meaning and memories of their funeral or memorial service.
Virtual funeral tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, ask your online guests to request songs that remind you of your deceased loved one, then play them during the virtual reception. Make a digital playlist of the requested songs and send the playlist's link out with your funeral thank you cards.