Songs often give voice to the emotions we feel but can’t express. Motown is no exception to that rule. In fact, the genre is possibly one of the most musically expressive of all, dealing with sweeping experiences of rapturous love and heartbreaking loss.
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Because this genre tends to capture deeply felt emotions, you might find that hits from this era make excellent funeral songs. Whether you’re planning for a loved one’s funeral or memorial service or putting together a tribute or slideshow, one of the songs on this list might be just what you’re looking for.
Uplifting or Happy Motown Songs for a Funeral
Like many R&B funeral songs, Motown has a wide selection to choose from whether you’re looking for happy songs or songs that are more on the sober side. Motown songs are particularly known for their heartfelt lyrics, sweeping movements, and the ability to express in words what you feel.
If you’re looking for some of the best funeral songs to play for the funeral of a loved one and Motown music connects with their life, then one of these songs might be just the one to choose.
1. “My Guy” by Mary Wells
If you’ve only heard one Motown song, this is probably it. The sweet lyrics share a woman’s devotion to her man and emphasize that nothing can make her walk away from the love of her life.
Though death will certainly separate a couple from each other, it doesn’t have to stop the love they share.
2. “My Girl” by The Temptations
My Girl is the answer to My Guy. In the song, the singer shares how he doesn’t need “money, fortune, or fame” all because of the love he and his girl share. As long as he is talking about his girl, he is happy and content because of their love.
3. “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston
If ever there was a song that perfectly encapsulates the dynamics of a relationship built on love, teamwork, and respect, it’s “It Takes Two” by Gaye and Weston. This classic duet talks about all that is possible when two people live together with lyrics like, “One can wish upon a star, two can make that wish come true. One can stand alone in the dark, two can make the light shine through.”
4. “Guess I’ll Always Love You” by The Isley Brothers
Though this song was originally talking about a breakup, the lyrics perfectly express how it feels to lose the one you love. You may feel like even though they’re gone, you’ll always love them and keep their memory close as you learn to live without them.
5. “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder
This hit by Stevie Wonder can be played as a tribute to the deceased or to represent the way a spouse feels in their absence. The lyrics talk about a relationship of love and, even though the person is no longer present, their love won’t end.
6. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Another hit Motown-era song, renditions of this have been played the world around. In it, the singer shares how nothing can take them away from the one they love. There isn’t a mountain too high or a valley too low that can separate them.
This is a perfect tribute song for those who shared a particularly close relationship.
7. “Heaven Must Have Sent You” by The Elgins
This song is a testament to the way a person can make a positive impact in the life of another. This is a perfect tribute song for a funeral or memorial service with lyrics that state,
“Wanna thank you for the joy you brought me
Thank you for the things you taught me
Thank you for holding me close
When I needed you the most.”
8. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” by The Four Tops
This classic song remarks on the highs and lows of relationships. The most difficult part of a relationship, the singer states, is when they are faced with the absence of the one they love and can’t have them back in their life.
9. “Baby I Need Your Loving” by The Four Tops
Like many Motown songs, this one talks about a relationship. However, the lyrics are poignant and can easily apply to missing someone due to separation because of their death. Lines like these are especially meaningful: “Although you're never near, your voice I often hear. Another day, another night. I long to hold you tight, cause I'm so lonely.”
Sad or Sorrowful Motown Songs for a Funeral
Though many Motown songs we think about are often happy, upbeat, record-setting hits, the genre produced a record number of sorrowful songs, as well. These songs express sentiments that we often feel but struggle to put into words.
10. “Just My Imagination” by The Temptations
This song is about a man who pines away for a woman he loves. In the song, he feels like he’s the luckiest guy in the world because she belongs to him. Unfortunately, he’s just using his imagination.
This song can work well for a funeral when a spouse wishes to express that they want their wife back with them to live life together.
11. “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross and The Supremes
Diana Ross sang this song as a tribute to her group, The Supremes, just before she left to begin her solo career. Fitting for Ross’s occasion, it can also be perfect for a funeral or memorial service for families who believe that they will be together again.
12. “Distant Lover” by Marvin Gaye
The lyrics of this song are filled with the kind of anguish experienced by someone who is left by another due to a relationship break or death. The lyrics are incredibly fitting for a funeral with lines like,
“Distant lover, lover
So many miles away
Heaven knows that I long for you
Every night, every night
And sometimes I yearn
Through the day.”
13. “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5
The lyrics of this song talk about a relationship that can never be broken due to time or distance. Though you may be missing the one you love, you can still keep them close and hold their memory near as you learn to live with the new normal of their absence.
14. “Reflections” by Diana Ross and The Supremes
This song talks about the reflections of memories we can think about and dwell on when missing a person we loved. Though the song was originally meant to talk about a breakup, the lyrics can be applied to the loss felt after a death.
15. “The Tracks of My Tears” by The Miracles
This song can apply to someone who fought a battle with depression or to share how a grieving person feels. The singer states that though, on the outside, they look like they’re doing fine and smiling, if someone looks closely, they should be able to see the tracks of tears.
16. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
The lyrics of this song portray a heart-wrenching emotion that is known to people who suffer heartbreak and loss. The song poignantly asks, “What becomes of the brokenhearted who had love that's now departed? I know I've got to find some kind of peace of mind.”
17. “Hurt a Little Everyday” by Brenda Holloway
This song speaks eloquently of the process of mourning with lyrics that ask, “How do you live with a broken heart and only a memory?” If you find yourself asking this question, the song also provides an answer – you’ll hurt a little every day.
Like many people who lose a loved one experience, however, though the pain lessens, it may never completely go away.
18. “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” by Stevie Wonder
This song can be used for a young person’s funeral or the funeral of someone whose death was untimely or unexpected. The song’s repeated statement “Never dreamed you’d leave in summer” is especially fitting when life had been going well before an unexpected death.
The singer goes on to say that their “quiet nights will be spent alone,” which is how many who lost a loved one feel.
Expressing What You Can’t Put to Words
All music has the capability of helping us express what we feel yet struggle to say. Motown, in particular, focused on sharing heartfelt emotions from the highs of life to the lows of loss. Whether your loved one enjoyed the genre or a song sticks out because of how perfectly it reminds you of their life, we’re sure you’ll pick a perfect song or two to play in their honor.