There’s no lack of funeral songs available. Whether they’re funeral-themed or not, picking songs might be the easy part.
A favorite song, a sad one...there’s so many options. But some famous songs for funerals can have religious overtones that might not be right for your loved one. If your loved one wasn’t religious, or if you’re planning an atheist funeral or humanist funeral service, what songs should you play?
Funerals can be sad, uplifting, emotional, and almost any other emotion under the sun. Many artists have written and produced songs that can cover any range of feelings, and can be apt for use in memorial services and the like. Here are just some to provide inspiration for you to include in a funeral.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, test your audio before the ceremony, so you can anticipate any day-of-funeral issues. And, make sure to create a unique playlist for the digital reception, wake, or other gatherings.
1. "Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
This is a sad funeral song about how much you loved someone. If you love someone, you’ll do almost anything to make their life easier.
It’s a testament to the love you and the deceased shared. You’ll dry their tears, make them smile, and be a bridge over troubled waters.
2. "Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor
Saying goodbye to a loved one is hard. You don’t want to let them go. And even if you think you can, it might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done! Gaynor sings about saying goodbye. Then, as she walks away, she turns around to express her love again.
3. "You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book” by The Drifters
Funeral songs can span a wide variety of topics, tastes, and genres. This song is about how much someone meant to you. It’s the perfect song to play for your spouse. If you’re a fan of 1970s R&B music, you may have even danced to it before.
4. "Albatross” by Fleetwood Mac
This song represents some of the best Fleetwood Mac has to offer. There’s an instrumental version that would be a good background option, but the lyrics are vibrant as well and could be a great song to play for any strong woman in your life, such as a wife.
The song is about a woman that means more to you than anyone else in the world.
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5. "Smile” by Nat King Cole
When you’re grieving, hope is all you have. Nat King Cole insists that smiling is the way through loss and pain. If you do, you’ll find better times on the other side.
6. "Imagine” by John Lennon
John Lennon was a revolutionary artist that protested injustice and violence. This song encapsulated his mission to imagine a world where brotherhood and fairness reign. Perhaps this is a world your loved one deserved, too.
7. "Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
Some people are the best role models you could ask for. And they don’t even know what they meant to you. Sometimes, they’re your hero. They teach you everything by example, without ever saying a word.
8. "My Way” by Frank Sinatra
This is one of the top funeral songs of all time. It’s usually recommended for people with a larger-than-life personality. Sinatra’s tune is a great one to commemorate anyone who lived their life to the max, every single day.
9. "My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
This song was made famous by the Titanic soundtrack. It’s an ode to the perseverance of the human heart. Love lasts for a lifetime, even after someone is dead.
10. "What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
Some people approach life with a sense of wonder. Even after they’re gone, their way of looking at things impacts you. This is a great reminder of how beautiful the world truly is, even through loss.
11. "The Power of Love” by Jennifer Rush
This is a great song for a wife to play for her husband. It’s about testing the limits of love. Some people know how love works in this life. It takes a great loss to understand how it continues to the next.
12. "Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi
Coping with the loss of a loved one feels insurmountable. And if you spent decades with them, it can feel like half of you is gone.
13. "Best of Wives and Best of Women” from the Original Broadway Soundtrack for Hamilton
If your loved one was a fan of musicals, this is a great ode to their taste. In the song, Hamilton’s wife is trying to talk him into staying with her.
He leaves anyway to go to a duel. He still takes time to acknowledge what she means to him, though--the best wife he could have.
14. "I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Love is eternal. It’s the only thing that makes you think of someone every single day. Memories, and wishing good things for your loved ones, is all you can do.
Take a look at our picks for the best R&B funeral songs if you'd like more.
15. "Over the Rainbow” by Eva Cassidy
Judy Garland’s version of this song may be the most famous one. Due to the popularity of her take on The Wizard of Oz, there’s good reason for it. But this song envisions a bright future, where loved ones reunite again.
16. "Fields of Gold” by Eva Cassidy
This song pictures an idealistic future. Even though the singer has made mistakes in the past, she promises better days ahead.
17. "Yesterday” by The Beatles
One day, your entire world changes. All you want is to go back before it happened. The Beatles sang about the end of a relationship with a girl, but this song encapsulates the feeling of a sudden loss.
Check out our picks for the best Beatles funeral songs, too.
18. "He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by The Hollies
This song pays homage to the eternal bond of siblings. No matter how long the road is, the singer will still carry his brother forward.
19. "Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” by Ella Fitzgerald
When some people are around, the world seems brighter. The sun is warmer and the birds sing more sweetly. When they leave, though, everything changes.
20. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be” by Doris Day
This is one of Day’s most famous songs. It’s a testament to the future. There’s no way you can predict it or prepare for it.
21. "In My Life” by Johnny Cash
Cash wasn’t the original author of this song. It’s actually attributed to The Beatles. No matter which version you prefer, this is still a great song. No matter how many memories the singer builds up, he’ll always love one person most.
Looking for more? We picked the greatest Johnny Cash songs to play at a funeral, too.
22. "The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel
This is one of the most classic songs to come from Simon & Garfunkel’s era. It may have been one of your loved one’s favorites.
23. "Make You Feel My Love” by Adele
This song is about doing anything to express how much you love someone. Even if they’ve passed on, love is still eternal.
24. "Goodbye My Lover” by James Blunt
Blunt’s song is a wrenching goodbye to the person who mattered most in his life.
25. "Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS
The strongest kind of love is something that circumstances can’t change. The band sings about how their love would last, even if they lived a thousand years.
26. "Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith
Sometimes, there are no words for how much you’re missing someone. Smith sings about how hard it is to find meaning in life, without the person he loves.
27. "Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak” by Edvard Grieg
This lengthy track is a great choice if you prefer instrumental music.
28. "Dead March” by Handel
Handel was one of the greatest musical geniuses of his age. This instrumental song is a perfect selection for someone who loved classical music.
29. “I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash
Many covers of this song do it justice. One is by Halsey if you prefer a more modern flavor. Either way, this is a great song for your spouse.
30. "Words Across The Sky” by Keiran Goss
When you’re grieving, you want everything to stop. It’s hard to watch the sunrise and the tide shift like nothing changed.
31. "Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel
This is a humorous song for someone who loved Billy Joel. It’s a celebration of living your life wildly while you’re young.
32. "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye
Some might recognize this song from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. But this song spans generations of awe for Marvin Gaye as he sings about how no obstacle can stop his love.
33. "Back Home Again” by John Denver
Sometimes, a place can feel like home. This can comfort you because of the memories you have there.
34. "Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon
This is a great song to play for your child’s funeral. As a father, Lennon knew exactly how you feel.
35. "Blackbird” by The Beatles
Grief can feel like a trap. It takes time to soar freely again.
36. "Blowin’ In the Wind” by Bob Dylan
Dylan sings about how sometimes, there are no real answers.
37. "Hey Jude” by The Beatles
This song was famously written for a child affected by divorce. This loving ode still works for a funeral, too.
38. "In My Life” by The Beatles
As your life goes on, you’ll make new memories. None will replace the ones with your special person, though.
39. "Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
Van Morrison sings about how he wants things to be like ‘the days of old’.
40. "Candle in the Wind” by Elton John
This song was originally written as a posthumous homage to Marilyn Monroe. You may be familiar with it, though, from Princess Diana’s funeral.
Creating a Soundtrack for Life
You don’t have to pick one song. If you want, create an entire playlist. You can play select songs at different points of the service. Afterward, you can play the soundtrack while people mingle or eat. This provides a nice background for conversations and reminiscing.