The song or songs you choose for a funeral service carry a lot of meaning. With so many best funeral songs to choose from, it’s important to identify music that means something to you, your family, and the deceased. This isn’t always one-size-fits-all.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Funeral Songs From the 1940s
- Funeral Songs From the 1950s
- Funeral Songs From the 1960s
- Funeral Songs From the 1970s
For those who loved the oldies, there’s something nostalgic and beautiful about choosing a song from another time. There’s a magic to nostalgic songs, and they help us experience memories long forgotten. In this guide, we’ll share 40+ of the top oldies songs for a funeral service.
Tip: Creating a funeral playlist might 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.
Funeral Songs From the 1940s
The 1940s was a big time for music. This was when jazz, swing, and even country music began dominating popular culture. These songs below are the perfect funeral songs for grandma or grandpa, and they offer a taste of an innovative time.
1. “I’ll Never Smile Again” by Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, and the Pied Pipers
This is a song about finding your true love and never knowing true happiness after that moment. As these well-known artists sing, “I know I would never start to smile again until I smile at you.”
2. “Only Forever” by Bing Crosby
In this Crosby classic, the narrator reminds his love that he’ll remember them, not just today and not just tomorrow, but forever. While forever might not seem like that long of a time, it’s all they have.
3. “Green Eyes” by Jimmy Dorsey
Perfect to honor anyone with striking green eyes, this Dorsey song is a lover remembering how his partner’s green eyes meant the world to him.
4. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glenn Miller
This song opens with a sweeping sound like a train leaving a station. The lyrics are in the form of a dialog between a passenger and a shoeshine boy on the train to Chattanooga.
5. “Sleepy Lagoon” by Harry James
Inspired by the views of West Sussex, England, this slow waltz is an elegant ode to peacefulness and happiness. Classic and memorable, this is the perfect backdrop for any funeral service.
6. “You’ll Never Know” by Dick Haymes
Based on a poem written by an Oklahoma bride, it’s a song about missing someone who’s gone. When the young bride’s love “went away,” a part of her heart went with him.
6. “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Bing Crosby
“I’ll Be Seeing You” is a well-known song about grief. After losing someone, we often continue to see them in our daily lives. We see them in the small cafe, in the moon, and in the morning sun. It’s through these memories that we find peace.
7. “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time” by Doris Day
This Doris Day classic recounts a dream which seems to be getting better each night. Though she only remembers her lover in bits and fragments, these mean everything to her.
8. “Till the End of Time” by Perry Como
In this Perry Como song, the narrator will love their loved one until the end of time. As long as there are spring days and a “bird to sing,” their love stays strong no matter what challenges come his way.
9. “Near You” by Roger Williams
This piano rendition is both uplifting and thoughtful at the same time. It’s the kind of happy memory you want to look back on again and again, so it’s the perfect tribute for someone no longer with you.
10. “Some Enchanted Evening” by Perry Como
“Some Enchanted Evening” is a show tune from a 1940s musical. In the song, a male character describes seeing a stranger across the room and knowing that she’ll soon be by his side again.
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Funeral Songs From the 1950s
The 1950s was a time for turning music up a notch. Departing from the jazz roots of the 40s, the 50s was all about rock ‘n roll and finding new ways to express yourself.
11. “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra
“Come Fly With Me” is a glamorous travelogue, describing the narrator bringing a lover across the world to his favorite places. Together, we can always “fly away” somewhere magical and new.
12. “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash
This Johnny Cash song is a devotion to Cash’s wife after their marriage. Intended as a slow ballad, it became a hit when it had a faster arrangement. Cash sings of finding a better version of himself with the one he loves.
13. “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley
Written for the movie Love Me Tender, which takes place during the Civil War, this song uses the melody from the classic 1861 song “Aura Lee.” The ultimate love ballad, this is a song about true love that lasts.
14. “When I Fall In Love” by Nat King Cole
This popular song cover with Nat King Cole and his daughter is about falling in love for the first and last time.
15. Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) by The Penguins
“Earth Angel” is an upbeat, happy song about asking a lover to be yours. We’re all really just fools in love.
16. “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” by Paul Anka
Though life is complicated, few things are as simple as putting your head on a lover’s shoulder. When you’re in your loved one’s arms, everything makes sense.
17. “Volare (Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blue)” by Dean Martin
“Volare” is an Italian ballad in which the singer describes the feeling of flying when he’s in love. Together, they’ll find rainbows and better days when they leave it all behind.
18. “All I Have to Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers
Whenever life gets you down, all you need to do is dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming your life away, especially when it means feeling closer to those you love,
19. “Always” by Ella Fitzgerald
Though days might always be fair, and some things won’t go according to plan, you’ll have your love always. Ella Fitzgerald’s shining, gorgeous voice is as memorable as the lyrics of this song.
20. “Loving You” by Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley is the king of rock and pop, but he’s also the king of love songs. “Loving You” is about spending your entire life loving someone special.
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Funeral Songs From the 1960s
Rock ‘n roll evolved in the 1960s to welcome pop-rock, the blues, and folk music. With favorite bands like The Who and The Beatles, this is a time for exploration.
21. “At Last” by Etta James
Etta James sings of finally finding peace knowing your love is reciprocated. “At last,” she sings. “Here we are in Heaven.”
22. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by The Walker Brothers
When you’re without love, it’s like the sun doesn’t shine anymore. The moon won’t rise in the sky, and everything will feel a bit harder.
23. “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan
This Bob Dylan song is an anthem for change. He wanted to write a simple song about progress and moving forward amidst a time of unrest.
24. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary
Saying goodbye is never easy, and this song captures the feeling of having to say goodbye to someone you love for good.
25. “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin
Living without a loved one is never easy. By saying a little prayer for them each day, we can feel closer to their memory.
26. “The Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
Though the song title is ominous, this is a song about falling in love. Sometimes, love hurts like a “ring of fire.”
27. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones
Unfortunately, we can’t always get what we want in life. Sometimes things don’t go our way, but the Rolling Stones argues this isn’t a reason to be sad. If you try, you might actually “get what you need.”
28. “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who
Written from the perspective of a villain, this is a song about looking deeper to understand how pain and loss takes a toll on everyone.
29. “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles
This is an anthem for love and peace in a time of crisis. Written by John Lennon, this is a call for love, for putting flowers in guns.
30. “America” by Simun & Garfunkel
Inspired by Paul Simon’s trip hitchhiking across America with his longtime girlfriend, this is a song about searching for something you can’t seem to find. Sometimes, it’s in the lack of understanding that we make our own meaning.
Funeral Songs From the 1970s
The 1970s were about more than disco. With popular genres like rock, soul, funk, and pop, this is a time that went down in music history. These songs are perfect for a funeral slideshow or service.
31. “My. Blue Sky” by Electric Lights Orchestra
Undeniably upbeat, this song is about how nice the sky shines when the sky shines bright. It’s a beacon of hope for the future and blue skies ahead.
32. “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers
In “Lovely Day,” when a lover sees his love’s eyes, he knows the day is going to be alright. NO matter what life throws their way, they’ll make it through.
33. “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley
Though this song is about the breakdown of a relationship, this is a ballad to love. Though the love might be lost, it was always worth having.
34. “Heroes” by David Bowie
David Bowie’s famous song “Heroes” tells the story of two lovers kissing by the Berlin Wall. Though they might not be able to be together, they can be “heroes” for just one day.
35. “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas
This song is all about going on a spiritual journey, even if that path leads you far from home. It might seem difficult now, but there will always be peace in the future.
36. “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac
“The Chain” is a subtle song about resilience even when life seems to be falling apart. When the band comes together, they can overcome anything.
37. “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel
Written about Billy Joel’s high school crush, this is a song about forgetting what you’re told and following your heart.
38. “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver
One of the most nostalgic songs ever written, John Denver describes a beautiful place he’s never visited.
39. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
Ideal for someone who always marched to the beat of their own drum, “Born to Run” is about two lovers who want to run away and never come back, ultimately finding their own freedom.
40. “Piano Man” by Billy Joel
Describing a man’s lonely experience at a bar, “Piano Man” shows the power of music to bring people together.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
These songs evoke more than nostalgia. They’re a trip down memory lane, reminding us that music can bring us back to a time, place, and feeling. These oldie picks are perfect for a funeral, memorial, slideshow, or just to think of your loved ones who are no longer with you.
What story will you tell? Music is about legacy just as much as it’s about sound. When we give in to the lyrics, we see just how far they can take us.