Songs help us express feelings we can’t put into words, and they’re a common part of many modern funerals. Some people request a certain favorite song to be played as part of their funeral wishes. Other times the family chooses a song they feel reflects the life and attitude of their deceased loved one.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Tell If You Should or Shouldn’t Play a Song at a Funeral
- List of Worst Songs to Play at a Funeral
While there are a number of fantastic funeral songs to choose from, there are some songs that are better left for other occasions. Unless specifically requested otherwise by the deceased in their funeral plan, it’s best to choose a song that’s respectful and honors your loved one.
These are 40+ inappropriate songs you should never, ever play at a funeral.
Tip: Your loved one might have created a funeral plan including the songs they want played at the service. But more often than not, a close family member takes on that responsibility after the death. If you're in charge of planning a funeral and tying up other loose ends, our post-loss checklist can help.
How to Tell If You Should or Shouldn’t Play a Song at a Funeral
When do you know if you should or shouldn’t play a certain song during a memorial slideshow, reception, or Zoom funeral? In general, your common sense should be enough of a guide. However, these tips should also help your selection process.
- Start with their favorite music: The first tip is to consider the favorite music of the deceased person. If they loved rock, it’s not a good idea to play a rap song at their funeral since this likely isn’t something they wanted.
- Consider the irony or sense of humor: You’ll quickly notice that some of the inappropriate songs below would be ironic if played at a funeral (e.g. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees). Unless the deceased person joked about having this type of irony or humor at their funeral, skip this type of song.
- Avoid controversy or explicit language: Funerals are generally conservative events. Avoid songs that are controversial or have excessive explicit language. Remember, funerals are for the surviving family more than they are for the deceased.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, test your audio before the service to ensure online guests can hear the music. If the music doesn't sound great, make a digital playlist and send it to your guests before the funeral.
List of Worst Songs to Play at a Funeral
Unless you’re specifically told otherwise in the funeral wishes, you should avoid playing any of these songs below at a funeral. When you learn how to plan a funeral, you recognize the importance of staying respectful and keeping things supportive. These songs generally won’t achieve this goal.
1. "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen
Unless the deceased is a die-hard Queen fan, it’s best to avoid this song. There are many more fitting Queen songs to choose from than one about dying.
2. "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC
Though we can all appreciate this rock classic, most people like to think the best of their loved ones after they die. For those who are religious, nothing could be worse than taking a highway to hell.
3. "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang
This song might be a favorite for family celebrations, but it doesn’t have any place at a funeral. It sounds a bit like you’re celebrating the death of your loved one, not their life.
4. "Stayin’ Alive" by The Bee Gees
As mentioned earlier, the lyrics here are a bit too ironic to play at a funeral since the deceased is no longer “stayin’ alive.”
5. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams
Though this song has an undeniable fun beat, this could come across as offensive since it applies you’re “happy” at the death of your loved one.
6. "Problem" by Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande might be one of today’s biggest stars, but her song “Problem” shouldn’t be heard at a funeral. A song all about having one less problem without you sends the wrong message.
7. "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” by Glinda and the Munchkins
Unless the deceased was a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz, avoid this song about celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West.
8. "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor
While this song would be a great fit for anyone who’s recovered from any of life’s challenges, it’s not appropriate for a funeral.
9. "Hells Bells" by AC/DC
Similar to “Highway to Hell,” this song just has too many negative connotations for most funerals. It’s likely a good idea to steer clear of AC/DC altogether.
10. "Don’t Worry Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin
This reggae classic is sure to put a smile on your face—but it’s probably not a good song to play at a funeral. Again, it’s implying that it’s good to be happy about the death of your loved one.
11. "Come As You Are" by Nirvana
While the repeated references to having a gun in this song are actually implying that people don’t always have the best intentions, this feels like dark foreshadowing for Kurt Cobain’s death.
12. "(Don’t Fear) the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult
When in doubt, avoid using any song that hints at the devil, the grim reaper, or other dark symbols of death.
13. "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke
This song was controversial upon its release due to its questionable lyrics, so it absolutely has no place within a funeral.
14. "Thriller” by Michael Jackson
“Thriller” might be a classic, but that doesn’t mean you should play a song about dead people rising from the grave during a memorial service.
15. "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors
This folk-pop hit recently gained a lot of popularity for its positive message. Yet, it’s not a good idea to play this at a loved one’s funeral, which is most definitely not the best day of your life.
16. "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi
There are a lot of great Bon Jovi songs to choose for a funeral other than this one. With lyrics like “shot through the heart and you’re to blame,” it’s a little too dark for a memorial service.
17. "Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO
This song might make you want to jump up and dance, but it’s extremely disrespectful to play it at a funeral.
18. "Anaconda" by Nicki Minaj
“Anaconda” is one of the top club dance songs of the generation, and it’s also in very poor taste to play this song at a funeral.
19. "The Stroke" by Billy Squier
Though the song title implies this song is about a cardiovascular event, it’s actually much more… intimate. Regardless of your interpretation, leave this song on your private playlist.
20. "The Final Countdown" by Europe
Again, it’s best to steer clear of songs about “final” and “ending” since the deceased person already reached the end of their “countdown.”
21. "Ha Ha You’re Dead!" by Green Day
If the song title wasn’t convincing enough, this song is literally about cheering after someone dies.
22. "Dominion / Mother Russia" by The Sisters of Mercy
This song references the Chernobyl nuclear accident and hints at anti-American sentiments. Including a song about a nuclear disaster during a funeral isn’t a good way to show support.
23. "Burn" by Three Days Grace
While this is meant to be a motivational song about proving others wrong, the lyrics are simply too harsh for a funeral. With sentiments like “So on the way down, I’ll watch you burn,” this is a poor choice for a funeral.
24. "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson
Known as one of the best breakup pop songs, Kelly Clarkson’s hit doesn’t fit in the context of a funeral.
25. "The Best Day Ever" by Spongebob SquarePants
It’s true that Spongebob warms the hearts of many, but this still isn’t a good choice for a funeral song. All about celebrating and having a good time, save this cartoonish song for another day.
26. "A Little Piece of Heaven" by Avenged Sevenfold
Though the name might be misleading, this song is actually about an ex-lover burning in hell while everyone else lives in heaven.
27. "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift might be a pop icon, but this song about letting things go shouldn’t be at a funeral.
28. "Dead" by Korn
This short song is eerie and memorable, but not in the way you want for a funeral. With the ending line being nothing but “Every time I get ahead I feel more dead,” skip this one.
29. "Loyal" by Chris Brown
Regardless of your deceased loved one’s love life, it’s best to avoid songs about their fidelity during their funeral.
30. "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silento
The Whip and Nae Nae might have been the latest dance fad years ago, but it’s undoubtedly not a respectful song to play in honor of someone’s life.
31. "Bye Bye Bye" by NSync
There are much better songs about saying goodbye than NSync’s classic “Bye Bye Bye.”
32. "We Can’t Stop" by Miley Cyrus
The ultimate party anthem, this song about drinking, smoking, and dancing could be offensive at a funeral.
33. "Let It Go" by Idina Menzel
Even the biggest Frozen fan sees why this is a bad choice for a funeral. A song all about moving on and letting go doesn’t fit with the mourning crowd of a funeral.
34. "Don’t Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra
Since the process of burying a loved one literally involves “bringing them down” into the earth, it’s best to skip this song.
35. "Everything Is Awesome!!!" by Tegan and Sara
This song from The Lego Movie is great for remembering the best things in life. However, at a funeral, everything is not awesome.
36. "Bodies" by Drowning Pool
With a chorus including the chanting of “let the bodies hit the floor,” this is self-explanatory.
37. "Friday" by Rebecca Black
Even if the deceased passed away on a Friday, this is a song you should avoid at all costs. You don't "gotta get down" on this particular Friday.
38. "Forget You" by Cee Lo Green
With the original version of this song having a less PG title, this is a disrespectful song to play when someone recently died.
39. "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N’ Roses
This song about the darker sides of Los Angeles, and it’s very much an ode to sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.
40. "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles
While there are many Beatles songs that would be perfect for a funeral, this one is not. Based on the story of an heir dying in a van, there are numerous mentions of an untimely demise.
Find the Best Funeral Songs
With a world of amazing songs out there, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the right playlist for a funeral. Whether you start end-of-life planning for yourself and consider your own funeral songs or you’re planning for a loved one’s memorial, now you know how to find the best musical tribute.
Music is a great way to bring people together and find peace after losing someone. At the same time, you want the music to be respectful of both the deceased and the funeral’s guest. When in doubt, avoid these songs above.