October 3, 2006

What song do you want played at your funeral?

51% in a (U.K.) survey say they have considered this question. (Via Metafilter.) I know I have. Haven't you? As you might imagine, most people have decided to inflict garbage on the poor souls who remain among the living and are decent enough to show up for the ceremony.
  1. Goodbye My Lover, James Blunt.
  2. Angels, Robbie Williams
  3. I've Had the Time of My Life, Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley
  4. Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler
  5. Pie Jesu, Requiem
  6. Candle in the Wind, Elton John
  7. With or Without You, U2
  8. Tears from Heaven, Eric Clapton
  9. Every Breath You Take, The Police
  10. Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers
"Every Breath You Take"? I guess that's for when you want to let people know you're planning to haunt them.


Joseph Hovsep said...

How many people play Top 40 pop songs at their funeral?

w. michael murphy said...

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Procol Harem

Long Version

SteveR said...

Perhaps they have "considered it" but it does not appear they given it much thought. "I've Had the Time of My Life"? All righty then.

I've told my wife I want "I'll Fly Away" the old gospel song. Kinda like "In My Life" by the Beatles.

MadisonMan said...

What age are these respondents?

I'm fond of the adagio cantabile of Beethoven's Pathetique. That'll be nice as my casket moves down the aisle.

nina said...

It seems the vote should be given to those who are left behind. Why do people care about their own funerals? It's not as if they get to attend.

Mike said...

Ann asked "Haven't you?"

No, I haven't. I couldn't care less. I'll be dead. I don't think most people "get" dead. Dead is not caring one iota about what song they play at your funeral (or anything else).

Ann Althouse said...

You might want to leave instructions for someone to say, after the song is played, "At least I don't have to hear that again."

-Peder said...

MLK by U2

JodyTresidder said...

Funnily enough, was mulling over this with my husband very recently. I said I wanted Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive for the sheer amusement of thinking about people trying to stifle their embarrassment at my stupidity.

Brian J. said...

I've always been partial to the instrumental end of Layla. No kidding.

tommy said...

I don't see the need to play anything, but if you must...Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

Internet Ronin said...

I guess "Amazing Grace" is an American thing. Nina's right - let the ones at the funeral decide. Better yet, give each one an ipod and allow them to choose their personal favorite. That could be interesting...

corporate law drudge said...

Sympathy for the Devil

Internet Ronin said...

Jody: An outstanding choice!!

Meade said...

When The Saints Go Marching In

No bagpipes. No banjos.

RogerA said...

One of my friends, a rather outspoken and sometimes charmingly abrasive lady, has chosen "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," and has expressed the wish that the congregation join in.

bearing said...

Pie Jesu, Requiem?

Do you think that this many people could really have meant it, or is this the Monty Python contingent?

(I *like* Pie Jesu, really, but every time I hear the children's choir sing it at Mass all I can think of is *WHACK!* I fully accept that this is a result of Original Sin and I hope that it is burned out of me in Purgatory.)

Christy said...

The day before my dad's funeral, my siblings sat and cried as they listened and picked through country gospel songs for his service. The only one I remember was Ricky Van Shelton's To the Mansion in the Sky.

My brother, if he goes first, is getting Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox. (He'll also go in beside the Grandma we both detested if he goes first.)

I love I'll Fly Away, Stever. I'm not much of a believer, but I do love the old church hymns.

And while I know it has become a cliche, I want Ashokan Farewell. My brother has already promised that if I go first, he'll arrange to have Amazing Grace piped from over the hill at the graveside part of my service. Apparently that is the way the military does taps at funerals.

Er, yes, I've thought about it.

Goesh said...

- my Dad went out with Herb Alpert and by God! it'll be some Jimmi Hendrix for me....

me said...

My mom wants to be cremated and play, "When smoke gets in your eyes."

bearing said...

And another thing --- the journalist appears to think that "Pie Jesu," a requiem, is actually a song called "Pie Jesu" recorded by a group called Requiem, perhapsthis group.

I know journalists don't "get religion" (that's why this blog is so fun to read), but that's quite a doozy.

Frank IBC said...

"Trumpet Voluntary" for the processional, "Trumpet Tune" for the recessional, just like a graduation.

Or the closing theme from the Benny Hill Show...

Or the closing song from the Carol Burnett Show...

Or "Spirit in the Sky" by Norm Greenbaum...

Christy said...

iTunes used to have groups of songs recommended by users - songs to make love to, songs to cheer you up, and the like. I remember there were several lists of funeral music, but can't seem to find them now.

bill said...

Interesting idea, I'll start a playlist. Trick is to balance uplifting, sentimental, and maudlin. Or just skip it and go for the ironic grin from the grave. At least try to entertain the people; no one enjoys these things, so just get it over with.

Probably start with Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso was never called an Asshole" just because it's funny.

"How Great Our Lord" from Randy Newman's musical "Faust." Hell, just play the whole thing.

"Hang on St. Christopher," Tom Waits.

For more of a death theme,Robyn Hitchcock's Bones in the Ground is pleasant. Tori Amos' Happy Phantom makes me laugh.

Definately closing with Robert Johnson's "Hell Hound On My Trail."

jeff_d said...

My plan is to invite thousands of dignitaries, hoping that they will attend out of concern that I was someone important that they simply forgot about. At the beginning of the funeral, one of my heirs will select at random one member of the audience to sing and another to accompany on the bagpipe. The tune will be Bohemian Rhapsody.

Telecomedian said...

Will Ferrell's rendition of Dust in The Wind from "Old School."

"You're my boy, Blue!"

Maxine Weiss said...

The Way We Were

Peace, Maxine

tjl said...

I'd like to lie in state before the high altar of the cathedral of Santa Fe, NM, as the final scene of Richard Strauss' "Salome" is performed by soprano and orchestra.

"The Wind Beneath My Wings?" Why hasn't it been banned by the authorities as a menace to public health?

Anthony said...

I suppose it doesn't really count as a 'song', but I'd be keen on having Victoria's Requiem mass sung at mine. It'd bore the snot out of everyone there though.

Either that or Allegri's Miserere, the single most beautiful piece of music ever written.

Oxbay said...

My song will be Black Peter by the Grateful Dead written by Garcia/Hunter.

Slocum said...

Why do people care about their own funerals? It's not as if they get to attend.

Because doing so allows them to imagine, in life, what it will be like. In that sense, they do get to attend...

buck turgidson said...

"Every Breath You Take"? I guess that's for when you want to let people know you're planning to haunt them.

Given that it's a song about Reagan and his cronies, it sounds appropriate, now that he's passed on.

"Meese's pieces--a chubby little candy anyone can buy!"

Pogo said...

Brain Eno & Harold budd
First Light
Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror

listen to a few seconds here

johnstodderinexile said...

My previous wife died at an untimely age, and even though she was a singer and a songwriter, we never discussed what music she wanted, so I had to figure it out.

I had my son's singing teacher and a student my wife had cast in a play perform "Over the Rainbow," and it was very moving, though I realize now that it was a big thing to ask of a 15-year-old girl.

I needed something for the end of the service. She was a fan of Nancy Griffith's "Other Voices, Other Rooms," CD, so I looked there and found "Where I'm Bound," which I thought was perfect. It's a hootenanny-era folk song -- here's how it starts:

It's a long and dusty road, it's a hot and heavy load
And the people that you meet aren't always kind
Some are bad, some are good some have done the best they could
Some have tried to ease my troubled mind

But I can't help but wonder Where I'm bound, where I'm bound
I can't help but wonder where I'm bound

Ruth Anne Adams said...

We just went through this when my father died in July. Throughout the years, he mentioned a few songs that he thought would be good for his funeral. How Great Thou Art; Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata [played at his grandmother's funeral]; a dixieland band playing When the Saints Go Marching In [from his time in New Orleans as a boy].

He got his wish.

johnstodderinexile said...

"Every Breath You Take" is about Reagan and his cronies???

Not even remotely! It's about an obsessed lover.

Where is the politics in this lyric?

Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around, but it's you I can't replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please

If that's how you feel when you think about Ed Meese or Cap Weinberger...well you should probably keep it to yourself. Certainly don't IM anyone about it.

Troy said...

I'm not sure which is more distressing -- the total secularity of the list (which is not surprising and of no concern to many I'm sure) or the utter lack of taste the Brits have. I will haunt any hint of maudlin at my funeral.

My wish for my wife or kids -- play whatever gives you comfort it's not for me anyway.

Jeremy said...

"Songs at my funeral: "Many Rivers to Cross" by Jimmy Cliff, "Angel" by Aretha Franklin, and I've always had this fantasy that some beautiful, tearful woman would insist on "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" by Gladys Knight. But who would that woman be?" - Rob Gordon

A Menken Moment said...

That I won't be able to hear the music is not the point. I know now how I want my loved ones to commemorate my having passed. I want music that sums the spiritual ideal of my life. That would be O Magnum Mysterium by Thomas Luis de Victoria. If you ever listen to it, you may understand why I have chosen it, and you don't have to be a theist to be open to letting its majesty resonate within.

Mickey said...

Who said sympathy for the devil? lol

no internet gambling, causes terrorism-i dont gamble

no smoking in omaha-i dont smoke

now they`re taking my sex toys away.......the ones I bot here !

and now, it`s what do i want played at my funeral?

mmm, have to be one of my own or a beatles tune;
Long & Winding Road?

mmm, `guess it `d be one of mine, "Rock & Revolt"

I know I have. Haven't you?
Honestly, it has never crossed my mind.

sympathy for the...lol

Ed said...

I went through this when my dad died back in March. He was a cowboy; my sisters and I chose "The Dance" by Garth Brooks to be played at the luncheon after the funeral.

Joe said...

"Sharp Dressed Man," ZZ Top.

Elizabeth said...

My partner has chosen "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," and I suppose it will be the original, Vince Guaraldi version.

I haven't thought about this, but I lean toward dixieland: Start with "Just a Closer Walk" at a slow beat then speed it up to register the joy of passing over.

Troy said...

but if I had to choose.... if I die in the next few years -- "Where the Streets Have No Name" played live by U2 before they turn in to Rolling Stone jokes and then a good rousing "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life" to make my wife laugh and anything by Bach for my kids.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I want the slow movement of the Bruckner 7th-- my way of saying "I know what at least half of you are thinking, but this is a tragedy, dammit." But how many of them will be willing to wait half an hour for the point to be driven home?

George said...

"The sun is shinin' c'mon get happy,
The Lord is waitin' to take your hand.
Shout, "Hallejulah! C'mon, get happy!
We're going to the promise land!

We're headin' across the river to
Wash your sins away in the tide.
It's all so peaceful on the other side."

--Get Happy
Harold Arlen, 1929
Benny Goodman

tdocer said...

I want "Someday I Will Lead the Parade", recorded by Patty Lovelace.
And I want to be paraded down main street, New Orleans-style. Everyone should have a funeral dirge played to note their demise. Or, not. Maybe something by Frank Zappa instead.

Bill: "Pablo Picasso"--great song (great film). I haven't though of that in years. Thanks for the chuckle.

charlotte said...

Jody, yours is too funny!

As for me: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46 : Aases Dead, Beethoveen's 7th second movement, some of my kid's music which is terrific, Marianne Faithful's As Tears Go By, and a finale of hard metal and death rock. No eulogy, please, just music and convo.

reader_iam said...

"Pablo Picasso was never called an Asshole"

Bill! You never, ever let me down (you and XWL): I should have known you'd know that song. You rock.

Wouldn't have thought of it in connection with funeral-planning. Now I'll never be able to think about funeral-planning WITHOUT that coming to mind.


reader_iam said...

Weird. I pretty much know what (or at least what type) of music everyone would want, but I've never hammered that down for myself. On some fundamental level, I think I don't actually care much about my own funeral (since I do believe their basically for the living).

Except--live music. Not recorded.

Real, live musicians.

My father (a musician) has always said that he wants to be cremated privately, and then for us to throw a big party, invite a bunch of musician friends of various genres, and just let them have it. Food and drink for free and free-flowing (within reason).

Sounds like a pretty good party to me.

tiggeril said...

"Freedom" by George Michael?

"Beat It" by Michael Jackson?

"Love Child" from The Supremes just to start rumors among the mourning?

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered?"

"Tears of a Clown?"

"Dancing in the Street?"

Sean said...

Since you're not going to be there at your funeral, the only way this can be a valuable exercise is if you integrate the song into your life, so that hearing the song intensifies your memory for the mourners.

This advice is a little easier than Henry Ward Beecher's "If you want someone to know what Jesus Christ can do for him, let him see what Jesus Christ has done for you," because you could integrate the tune into your life by, say, singing it or playing it on the piano. If you actually had to live a life as penitent as Gounod's "O Divine Redeemer" (my own choice), that would be very difficult.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm never going to die, so I have no dog in this fight.

But if you have to listen to crappy pop songs even after you're dead, I've got some suggestions.

With contextual suggestions:
Green onions- Booker T (unwashed vegetables)
Bad Medicine- Bon Jovi( single payer healthcare)
Hit me with your best shot- Benatar (boasting)
Poison arrow-ABC (ecotourist mishap)
Straight from the heart -Bryan Adams (embolism)
Two less lonely people in the world-Air Supply (murder/suicide)
Tijuana taxi- Herb alpert (cab crash)
Bend me shape me- American breed (before rigor mortis sets in)
Hold your head up-Argent (old age)
Make the world go away-Eddy Arnold (cirrhosis)
Pick up the pieces-AWB (lawnmower accident)
Rescue me- Fontella Bass (drowning)
I don't want to spoil the party-Beatles (Irish)
How can you mend a broken heart-Bee Gees (co-pay/deductible too high)
What a fool believes-Doobies (homeopathy)
Judy's turn to cry- Lesley Gore (suicide)
I think we're alone now-Shondells (her father showed up)

AemJeff said...

I'm suprised nobody has chosen Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World." I can't think of a more fitting tribute to very idea off having had a chance to pass through.

Malibu Stacy said...

I choose Irving Berlin's "I Say It's Spinach And The Hell With It."

Dave said...

Uh, Stairway to Heaven?

I can't believe this one hasn't occurred to people yet. It's only like, the most exalted song ever!

OMFG you guys are such lamers! Hello! Led Zeppelin????!!!!

Or Freebird, natch.

johnstodderinexile said...

How about "Days" by the Kinks?

"Surf's Up" by the Beach Boys.

"A Change is Gonna Come," Aretha's version.

Maybe when people are walking in, I'd play "The Shape I'm In" by the Band.

MadisonMan said...

The more I think of it, the more I'm fond of playing the most treacly crap imaginable, with a notation in the program that I'm so glad I don't have to hear this stuff. You light up my life, Patches -- those kinds of songs. If I have a long lingering illness, I will survive would be good too.

The Drill SGT said...


or Amazing Grace if you have a good piper.

katiebakes said...

Let It Be - Beatles

HD_Wanderer said...

It was suggested by others, but I want Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

Wurly said...

I've always really liked "Raindrops Are Falling on My Head".

Sanjay said...

Doesn't it say something good, though, about how far we've progressed as a species, that "My Way" _isn't_ on the list?

Plus, I mean, c'mon, let's appreciate the humor here. "I've had the time of my life" --- well, sure, obviously at this point.

Bruce Hayden said...

For me, the old faithfuls: How Great Thou Art, and Amazing Grace, preferably on bagpipes. When my mother went a couple of years ago, we skipped the bagpipes, given how overpowering they can be.

Paddy O. said...

"Oops... I did it again."

Just to confuse the lot of them.

Chrees said...

Haven't thought about it much, but the first song that came to mind was "Have a Drink on Me" by AD/DC.

MMF said...

My family has instructions that the recessional is to be the Roy Rogers - Dale Evans classic;
"Happy Trails to You"....until we meet again....

cbi said...

My dad has mentioned that he would like "Spirit in the Sky." Fine by me.

Daryl Herbert said...

"Stairway to Heaven" is never appropriate for a funeral. Either the lyrics don't fit the person at all, or they hit way too close to home.

amba said...

Maybe I'll get over this, but I hope not. Especially if I live to be very old. I particularly love this first choice for a little old lady:

Processional: "Don't Fear the Reaper," Blue Öyster Cult

Recessional: "Chan Chan" from "Buena Vista Social Club"

amba said...

And maybe in the middle: "Sicut Cervus" by Palestrina.

amba said...

Ann, I think you like this because you're looking at your funeral as an art project.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba: Not really. I don't even want a funeral. I have thought of the song, but only in the context of feeling that I wouldn't want to inflict it on/share it with other people. I think I've only told one person what the song is.

Frank said...

Bach cantata, Vernugte Ruh.

nedludd said...

Gotta go with "Another One Bites the Dust."


"Hells Bells"


"One Toke Over the Line"

Maybe "Swanee River" just to confuse people, let those who need to see meaning in everything try to figure out why in the hell I wanted that played.

Maxine Weiss said...

"My Sweet Hunk O'Trash"

---It's a love song...honest!

Sung by Billie Holliday. I'm serious.

Also, "I Get Along Without You Very Well".

Cmon, no I'm serious...that's also a love song...and elegy.

I'm not kidding. Matt Monro sung that one best.

Songs where you've got a discrepancy between the title and the lyrics.

Irony and contradiction.

Peace, Maxine

Johnny Nucleo said...

Because my profession is so dangerous and I could be killed at any moment in any number of violent and horrific ways, I think about death constantly and have left detailed funeral instructions in my will.

"In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" will be played. There will be smoke, lasers, dancing-girls, and a jumbotron showing me doing cool stuff. I have already shot the jumbotron video. It is supercool and I look fantastic in it.

Terrie said...

I used to joke about having "Disco Inferno" as my funeral march. But then I found the most tragically beautiful song that seems crafted for a funeral procession, "Vapour Trail" by Ride, which you can watch at You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-UdQrKUBNM.

Since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, whenever I would hear an old favorite, usually a love song, I automatically add it to my funeral playlist.

"Don't Dream It's Over" - Crowded House

"Pearly Gates" - Prefab Sprout

"Maybe It's You" - The Carpenters

"Til I Die" - The Beach Boys

"In My Life" - The Beatles

"The Last Goodbye" - Jeff Buckley

"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" - The Smiths

Tearjerkers all.

Now that I am possibly facing bone metastasis of my breast cancer, I realize that I want to be cremated without a formal memorial service. But not any time soon, God willing.

Internet Ronin said...

If my loved ones insist on a funeral despite my wishes, I want this sign on the side of my casket for all the mourners to see:

Wish you were here

When they open the casket for viewing, something like the Pointer Sister's "Jump!" would be neat. As the mourners file past, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" would be good. Then again, Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" may better represent the general view.

They ought to have no problem working in Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" either before or after any eulogies.

After an announcement that I donated by organs to UCSF for scientific research, Tony Bennett's classic, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" would be appropriate.

At the end of the service, as my family departs, preferably one by one, I trust they will sing "So Long, Farewell" from the Sound of Music.

They can then all pile into the hearse for the trip to the cemetary as I plan to enjoy the air-comfort ride of the U-Haul trailer I demand be towed behind. With the attendant widespread publicity that this should receive, I am confident that the meme about never having seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul will be laid to rest about as quickly as I.

If someone wants to play Angela Via's "Catch Me if You Can" as the hearse pulls away from the curb, who I am I to object? (After all, I'll be dead.)

At the end of any graveside ceremony, I would hope they would give consideration to Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go."

sonicfrog said...

I sang "Highway To Hell" when my band played at a jewish wedding, so I guess that will be my song for death too!

PS. It was requested by the groom.

Abraham said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Abraham said...

One of the primary uses of a funeral is for the visitors to reflect on their own mortality. Thus, "We'll Meet Again" is both appropriate, and in a way, comforting to these thoughts. Maybe the Johnny Cash version. On the more transcendental side, anything from the Rachmaninoff Op.37 Vespers work would be outstanding.

PatCA said...

Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"!

Hmm, guess I shouldn't sound so eager.

stoqboy said...

I hated "Celebration" when they played it at every single wedding, including my own, that I went to in the 1980's, but it is one of two songs I've always wanted played at my funeral:

Kind and Generous, Natalie Merchant
Celebration, Kool and the Gang

John Jenkins said...

Clearly, the only possible choice is Alice in Chains - "Man in the Box"

Rose said...

Great thread...mine:

Ani DiFranco's version of Amazing Grace, off Living in Clip


One Of These Days, Neil Young, Harvest