Originating in Jamaica in the late 1960s, reggae is a popular music style that’s spread throughout the globe. Particularly popular in the United States, reggae is based on Jamaican popular music, using rhythm driven by drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, and a scraper. Though you might not think of reggae when you think of final sendoffs, reggae music makes some of the best funeral songs.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Reggae Funeral Songs for Mom or Grandma
- Reggae Funeral Songs for Dad or Grandpa
- Reggae Funeral Songs for a Sibling
- Reggae Funeral Songs for a Spouse or Partner
- Reggae Funeral Songs for a Friend
Considered to be the music of the free thinkers, reggae artists aren’t afraid to make big statements with their work. With lyrics that address complex emotions, grief, and freedom, this was more than a cultural force. In this guide, we’ll share the best reggae songs for a funeral or memorial service to honor a loved one.
Reggae Funeral Songs for Mom or Grandma
One of the most inventive musical genres in the world, reggae songs often serve as tributes for loved ones. Saying goodbye to a mom or grandmother is never easy. Our first caregivers, these are the people who stay close in our hearts.
1. “A Place Called Africa” by Junior Byles
First, “A Place Called Africa” is a narrative song. It shares the experience of the artist learning about his roots in Africa. He goes on to question how he ended up in Jamaica, and what it means to belong to a place.
2. “Black Woman” by Judy Mowatt
This song draws a strong line between the struggles of Black women today, slaves of the past, and those who fought for survival in ancient times. However, this is no sad song. It’s a proud testament to the strength of Black women to find light and courage.
3. “One Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Perhaps the most well-known reggae song of all time, “One Love” is a megahit. All about bringing people together, enjoying the simple things, and loving each other, this song is an ode to hope.
4. “Cherry Oh Baby” by Eric Donaldson
This is the perfect Jamaican love song for serenading a special lady. Though simple, this is a song about trust and togetherness.
5. “Santeria” by Sublime
Though technically categorized as ska-punk, this Subline song deserved a spot on this list. Merging traditional and modern reggae sounds, this is a song about a woman who leaves her man. Through black magic, he gets her back.
Reggae Funeral Songs for Dad or Grandpa
Reggae isn’t afraid to honor the relationships that matter to us the most. Our fathers and grandfathers are always there, whether lending a shoulder to cry on or offering wisdom. These reggae funeral songs honor dad or grandpa.
6. “Blackheart Man” by Bunny Wailer
In Jamaica, children are taught to avoid Rastas. They were sometimes treated as outlandish “boogeymen,” and that’s the idea that comes to life in “Blackheart Man.”
7. “Life” by Bob Andy
A philosophical songwriter, this soulful song urges listeners to be creative and to live life to the fullest. Though he seems to know what he’s talking about, he still encourages listeners to “heed [his] foolish words” and think for themselves.
8. “Patience” by Damian Marley
This 2010 hit from Damian Marley and Nas explores how people are portrayed in the media. A song about spirituality, politics, and the way humans have lost touch with what’s most important, this is a call to action.
9. “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Considered Bob Marley’s final song, “Redemption Song” is a goodbye to the world. Reggae at its absolute best, this is a story of one’s upbringing, freeing your mind, and not fearing your own fate.
10. “Many Rivers to Cross” by Jimmy Cliff
Written about the artist's struggle to break into the music industry, we all go through our own challenges. The only thing that keeps you alive is your will, but you can’t give up hope in tomorrow.
Reggae Funeral Songs for a Sibling
For the best funeral songs for a brother or sister, reggae has many great choices. Perfect for honoring a free-thinker and party-starter, these songs prove that there is still hope in the world.
11. “Slavery Days” by Burning Spear
One of Burning Spear’s most well-known songs, “Slavery Days” is a reminder of the suffering felt by Black people in the West. Though they suffered, this is a song that celebrates the unyielding soul of the people.
12. “Book of Rules” by The Heptones
No matter what you’re from, we all have the same tools at the end of the day. In “Book of Rules,” commanders and commoners alike are builders in their own lives. What will you do with the time you have?
13. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
If there was one lyric from reggae that everyone knows, it’s this one: “Don’t worry about a thing cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.” Inspired by nature and the wildlife around his home, this is a song about stopping to smell the roses.
14. “Pressure Drop” by Toots and the Maytals
This is a song you can’t help but tap your foot along to. About someone who is so special they make the “pressure drop,” this is an upbeat way to say goodbye.
15. “Rivers of Babylon” by The Melodians
The lyrics to this final song were adapted from the Hebrew Bible. No matter your religion, this song will have you bobbing your head along.
Reggae Funeral Songs for a Spouse or Partner
If you’re saying goodbye to a spouse or partner for the last time, it’s hard to find the right words. Reggae beats and lyrics bridge these gaps in emotion so you can find your own peace and comfort through a difficult time.
16. “Sweet and Dandy” by Toots & The Maytals
Love can be one of the most intoxicating emotions, and it comes alive in “Sweet and Dandy.” This song is about ordinary country folk living and loving in the Isle of Springs. This story of a wedding is full of fun and excitement, bringing you back to your own days of romance.
17. “Loving Pauper, AKA I Am Alright” by Dobby Dobson
One of Jamaica’s most beloved love songs, this narrative follows a poor protagonist who can’t compete with a rich man for his lover. However, if you want true love, you’ll find it with him.
18. “Hold Me Tight” by Johnny Nash
This love song is about looking forward to the future. Even if you make mistakes, love will always find you in the end.
19. “Talk About Love” by Pat Kelly
There’s always a daily grace, and we all have to focus on love. If we want to live life to the fullest, we need to be willing to talk about love above all.
20. “Red Red Wine” by UB40
This sentimental ballad is about forgetting one’s love troubles with a bottle of wine on the surface. Dig a bit deeper and find an upbeat tribute to falling in love slowly every day.
Reggae Funeral Songs for a Friend
Finally, reggae is largely a genre about togetherness. Friendship is an experience that transcends borders, and it even expands beyond the grave.
21. “One in 10” by UB40
Suffering is one of the experiences that bonds humans together. As the UB40 band describes, sometimes it feels like the world “doesn’t care” about your suffering.
22. “Satta Massagana” by The Abyssinians
The term “Satta Massagana” means to sit down and give thanks. This song is sung with religious energy, promising a form of devotion for all life has to offer.
23. “The Tide Is High” by The Paragons
Though known most often by the Blondie cover from the 1980s, this was originally recorded by The Paragons in 1967. This romantic song is about holding out for a lover, even if the tide is high.
24. “I’ve Got to Go Back Home” by Bob Anthy
A mid-1960s hit, this famous song is about returning home after a long journey. Sometimes you just want to rest in the place you’re most familiar with.
25. “Now We’ve Found Love” by Third World
“Now that we’ve found love, what are we gonna do with it?” This song about camaraderie, friendship, and coming together is one part disco and one part reggae. Either way, it’s sure to raise your spirits.
Stories and Love: Finding Peace Through Reggae
If you’re planning a memorial service, you might not think of using a reggae song for your final tribute. In reality, these songs offer more than you might think upon first listen. Rich in culture, identity, and mastery, the best songs aren’t afraid to hide the beauty in the details.
How will you honor those you love? Music is a form of time travel, reminding us of memories and moments dear to us. No matter what genres draw you in, let the magic of these beats sweep you away.