R&B is a diverse genre that has many beautiful songs that are ideal for funerals. Its smooth, mellow sound ensures that most of the music is easy on the ears and works well during solemn occasions.
For more funeral planning tips and a complete list of tasks that need to be taken care of after a death, review our post-loss checklist.
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Lyrically, there is often a heavy gospel influence that makes R&B songs suited for churches. formal services, or virtual funeral ceremonies. Some songs are somber, while others are upbeat or even uplifting.
Make sure to listen to these tracks beforehand or check out our list of best songs about death to ensure that you maintain the appropriate tone.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, test your audio before the service so you can solve any day-of-funeral audio issues.
R&B Funeral Songs for Mom
Here are 10 examples of R&B songs written especially for mothers. Some describe the process of going through a loss in detail and others are tributes to the remarkable mothers of the artists themselves. Head over to our picks for the best funeral songs for mom if you need more ideas.
1. “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” from Boyz II Men
This a capella rendition of the song, which was originally made for the Cooley High soundtrack in 1975, is a timeless classic from the 90s Motown era. You’ll feel nostalgic when you hear this song at a mother’s funeral.
2. “Isn't She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder
Released on his acclaimed album “Songs in the Key of Life”, this track celebrates the birth of Stevie Wonder’s daughter, Aisha. The lyrics are general enough to also be appropriate to honor a woman who’s at the end of her life.
3. “Hero” from Mariah Carey
Many people’s parents are their heroes. This classic mid-tempo ballad by Mariah Carey was originally written for the film “Hero,” which starred Dustin Hoffman and Geena Davis, but she decided to release it on her own instead. It remains one of her best-selling singles to date.
4. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Originally written by Dolly Parton in 1973, this Whitney Houston cover version of the song eventually became one of the best-selling singles of all time. It’s featured on the soundtrack to the film “The Bodyguard,” which was also a hit. The lyrics describe an everlasting love, which makes the song appropriate for different types of relationships.
5. “I Miss You” by Beyoncé
Written by Beyoncé and Frank Ocean, the vocal style and arrangement of the song take inspiration from the ballads of the 1980s. The lyrics are about the longing associated with missing someone who is no longer living.
6. “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday
An oldie but a goodie, this song, which was recorded in 1944, rose to popularity during WWII, when thousands of people worldwide were dealing with lost loved ones. The timeless lyrics and pitch-perfect singing are sure to endure as long as people listen to music.
7. “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
A beautiful and heartfelt collaboration from the greatest R&B artists of all time, this song tells the story of seeing someone you lost in heaven. The message was particularly poignant during the time of its release because of the AIDS epidemic. It was played at the memorial for Princess Diana.
8. “Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith
“Lay Me Down” is a powerful song about the desire to see someone who has passed away. The somber tone is evident even in the music video, which takes place at a funeral. Smith’s earnest lyrics can pierce your heart.
9. “Wind Beneath My Wings” from Gerald Levert
This classic Motown-inspired version of the song is especially touching since Gerald sings it as a duet with his son Eddie Levert. They slowed the track down from the original, which gives the chorus a smooth and somber tone. The love between father and son is evident as you listen to the song.
10. “That’s How Strong My Love Is” from Otis Redding
This cover of the song by Otis Redding reached No.18 on the Billboard charts in 1965. It’s another example of a song that can work at a funeral for either parent. The singer uses comparisons from nature to show how strong his love is.
Find out the most popular songs chosen by the 10,000+ people that have planned with us.
R&B Funeral Songs for Dad
Here are 10 R&B songs written just for fathers. Many of them focus on the complex relationship between father and son. Others focus on specific memories and lessons learned from childhood. Want more suggestions for dad? Check out our selections of the best funeral songs for fathers.
11. “Color Him Father” from The Winstons
The lyrics of this classic Winstons song describe the admiration a boy feels toward his stepfather. The implication is that the boy’s father has died in a war and a stepfather steps in to take care of him and his mother. The song’s upbeat mood was a great relief to many families who lost fathers during Vietnam.
12. “Dance With My Father” from Luther Vandross
This classic describes the happy memories that Luther had as a young boy — mainly dancing with his father and mother to old records in their small house. Luther’s voice is as deep and affecting as ever. The track earned a Grammy for Song of the Year in 2004.
13. “Footprints in the Sand” by Leona Lewis
Leona shows off her vocal range in this chart-topping gospel ballad. A church choir sings the background vocals and gives the track a subtle religious feeling. Many compare her performance in this song to Mariah Carey’s vocal ability.
14. “Unforgettable” from Natalie and Nat King Cole
Natalie created this track by recording over an older version of her dad singing the song. This collaboration was a way for her to connect to and honor her father’s memory. The song was a huge hit on its release and won four Grammy awards.
15. “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” from Alicia Keys
The title says it all. This ballad is about appreciating each moment in life as if it’s the last.
The bold and powerful track hit number one on the Billboard charts and was the second single from her third album As I Am.
16. “Miss You” from Aaliyah
This song by Aaliyah is the single from her album I Care 4 U, which came out posthumously after she died in a plane crash. The track highlights the parent/child relationship since the lyrics describe missing someone who goes away to college.
17. “Daddy’s Lessons” from Beyoncé
This song speaks with reverence about the lessons taught to a daughter from her father after his death. Beyoncé didn’t write the song (her father is still alive) but she captures the emotion and meaning of the words in a way that many will relate to.
18. “I’ll Be Missing You” from Puff Daddy, Faith Evans and 112
“I’ll Be Missing You” was written and performed in remembrance of the rapper Biggie Smalls by his wife and two of his best friends. The song builds upon a sample from the Police song “Every Breath You Take.” The single was a number one hit on the Billboard charts for 11 weeks.
19. “Bye Bye” from Mariah Carey
A deeply personal track from her 1998 album E=MC², Carey has said in interviews that she cried while she wrote it. The words describe her estranged father who she developed a brief but meaningful relationship with after his terminal diagnosis. This heart-wrenching ballad delivered over a sparse piano and bass creates a feeling that is solemn but hopeful.
20. “Missing You” from Diana Ross
This song features a stand-out performance by Diana Ross with lyrics written by Lionel Richie. The story in the verses relates how both artists deeply miss their mutual friend and collaborator Marvin Gaye after his untimely demise.
Modern R&B Funeral Songs
Every day singers and producers add new songs to the already-extensive catalog of R&B music in this always-relevant genre.
Here are some more recent music options for your funeral service. If you're looking for more contemporary suggestions, head over to our picks for the best modern funeral songs.
21. “Spirit” from Beyoncé
The piece is from the soundtrack of the recent animated Disney film, The Lion King. There’s a distinct African influence on the song. The Swahili phrase chanted by the two men in the intro translates into “Long live the king.” This touching tune relates the afterlife in a way even children can understand.
22. “Know” from Mary J. Blige
Blige uses biblical references in this slow jam and sings about the struggles she and other women go through in life. It’s a strong and inspiring song.
23. “My Bad” from Khalid
The lyrics in “My Bad” are about communicating with someone important and later regretting this decision. This song is from Khalid’s Free Spirit album, which continues to receive critical acclaim.
24. “Exhale” from Sabrina Carpenter
Carpenter describes this second single from her recent album as “her most personal song yet.” The lyrics are somber and talk about the need to recharge and take a rest from the stresses of your career. This message also serves as a reminder that it’s okay to take a break from your grief.
25. “Sparrow” from Emeli Sandé
A military drum roll and Sandé’s soaring vocals accentuate this evocative and touching ballad. There is a distinct gospel influence in the lyrics. The London Symphony Orchestra contributes to its pristine-sounding string sections.
26. “Show You” from Baby Rose
Baby Rose's deep voice gives this track a sense of maturity. The singing is emotional and inspiring. The lyrics are about wanting to express something but not being able to with words.
27. “Cranes In The Sky” from Solange
This mellow and melancholy track from Solange’s album “A Seat At The Table” is about wanting to distract yourself from painful feelings by keeping busy with other activities. It’s not specifically a song about loss but the lyrics encourage you to feel sorrow so that you can eventually move on from it.
28. “Love Me Now” from John Legend
“Who’s gonna love me when you’re gone?” are the lyrics from this soul song from John Legend’s 2016 album “Darkness and Light.” The concept of the song is, “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but we should hold the ones we love close to us now.” This sentiment makes it an appropriate song for anyone who is mourning.
29. “Pink + White” from Frank Ocean
This is an upbeat and soulful medley about a relationship where the singer learns lessons from an unnamed person. A feeling of loss and redemption comes through in the lyrics. The song was co-written by Pharell Williams.
30. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” from Sampha
Much as the title suggests, the song is a ballad and Sampha sings over a piano. The lyrics are an earnest exploration into the past. The subdued tone and piercing beauty of the song make it a wonderful choice for any funeral.
31. “River” from Leon Bridges
Leon draws inspiration from the American spiritual song “Down to the River to Pray” in this masterful recording — the river represents redemption. This song found a wide audience after it appeared in the HBO show Big Little Lies.
32. “Changes” from Charles Bradley
Charles Bradley’s version of the tune is slower and more soulful than the one originally written by Black Sabbath. This is the title track from Charles Bradley’s album of the same name, which came out in April of 2016.
33. “Slow Up” from Jacob Banks
Jacob creates a mood that is both somber and meditative on this slow song off his album “Village.” The longing in the lyrics will connect to anyone who’s suffering a loss.
34. “Can’t Get Close” from Sampha
The sparse and powerful medley is all about wanting to be around someone you’ve lost, but not being able to get close. Sampha’s father passed away when he was nine, and he dedicates this song to his memory.
35. “Overgrown” from James Blake
This song is darkly beautiful and soulful. Blake repeats the phrase, “Time passes in a constant state” — he took the words from a poem and sings them in a soft but serious tone.
One Last Time
R&B is a rich and timeless genre that is perfect for relaxing mourners or helping them connect with deep emotions. This list will help you find a song or two that fits your occasion and even eases your grief.
Don’t forget to check out our list of best funeral songs of all time if you’re still looking for more options.