A Family’s Guide to Funeral Songs

Top 10 Funeral Songs

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Choosing music for a funeral service is an important task that can provide a comforting element to many grief-stricken people who cared deeply about the person who passed away.

Funeral songs can start the healing process, provide a much needed pause in the ceremony for people to cry, be alone with their thoughts, or to quietly celebrate the departed person’s life.

While some funeral songs are more appropriate in certain situations than others, there really are no ultimately right or wrong choices when it comes to the music you select, other than limitations that you may be bound to by religious considerations.  Funeral songs have evolved, and a wide variety of choices are more accessible now than ever before.

As long as the music is in good taste and done in the right spirit, for the most part you are not limited by genre or style.

What many people who haven’t planned a funeral may not know, is that there are common top funeral songs that families choose for their loved one.

Considerations when choosing funeral songs

How will the venue impact your choice of funeral songs?

If you are having the funeral service at a funeral home, there’s a good chance the facility will be primed and ready for most any kind of musical request ranging from playing pre-recorded music, microphones for live singers, or having a wide range of music already on hand from which to choose.  It should also be easy to accommodate performers who may want to play guitars, violins, a portable keyboard/piano, or even bagpipes.

If you have a service at a church or other religious facility, you may be limited as to the kind of music you can play and also how it might be amplified.  Normally this is not too much of a problem, but it is best to think about it up front just in case.  Always discuss the music component with your clergy person before the service to avoid any surprises or disagreements.

Every service is different, but you should target using three to five songs at various points in the memorial.

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How will music be incorporated into the service?

A funeral works best when all details are decided beforehand, including how music will be incorporated into a service.  What to play and when to play it must be scripted in well before the service so that the actual event proceeds smoothly.

Regardless of what music you choose, make sure you listen to every funeral song all the way through.  The last thing you want is to make a selection, only to find out that there are inappropriate lyrics in the third verse of a song that you never really paid any attention to beforehand.

If you decide on live music, should it be a friend or family member?

This is a tough one.  Well intentioned family members may want to step into the void and offer to sing at the service which may be a good thing, or maybe not.  The upside is that a friend or family member can provide a personal touch that a singer for hire cannot.  However, unless you are very familiar with the singer’s abilities and they have already demonstrated they can sing at a service, then you run the risk that he or she may not be able to deliver a quality performance.  Worse yet, they may be overcome with emotion and not be able to complete the song at all.

If you decide to use a professional singer, chances are your funeral director or clergy person will have several possibilities to choose from.  There are usually a roster of singers who perform as church soloists, at weddings, or who make a living as vocal teachers.  The singer may also have a website with some of their previous performances so you can get a sense of what to expect in advance.

If you choose a professional singer, make sure to find out what their fee is, if they require any equipment for pre-recorded background music, or if they will also provide an accompanist.

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What about copyright considerations for funeral songs?

Funeral homes are bound by copyright laws and must comply with them during funeral services.  Some exceptions are allowed when the service is performed by a clergy member, but in general each funeral home must have licenses through BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and other licensing agencies.  Usually, funeral homes just purchase a license through a blanket agreement negotiated on their behalf for them through the National Funeral Directors Association.

In some instances, a license may not cover music used in a slideshow that you want to present before a service takes place.  It’s always best to check with a funeral director to see if there are any conflicts in this regard.  If you find that you are not covered in this instance, you might consider using music available online that is free and in the public domain.

Involve your family to make your funeral song choices easier

The loss of a loved one will impact family members in several different ways.  Some will be so overcome with grief that they will only want to just make it through the service and the difficult adjustment period that follows.  Others will want to play an active role in deciding how a loved one should be remembered and will want to be involved in every detail of the remembrance.  It’s important to understand and respect the full range of emotions that people will be feeling, and how those feelings will manifest themselves in things such as choosing the right songs for a funeral service.

Here are some things to consider that may help make your funeral song choices easier while also helping to move the grief and healing process forward.

  • During the planning stages, try to include family members in the discussion and not only ask for their choices when it comes to picking songs, but also use the occasion to share great memories, especially if they are linked to particular musical pieces.
  • Create a master playlist of the best funeral songs that memorialize your loved one. Be sure to add all possibilities, even if they seem a bit off beat or don’t fit a theme you’d like to use.
  • After your master list is assembled, gather as many of your family members together as possible and play all the songs on the list. See which ones trigger the most emotional responses among your family, along with memories that are sure to surface as well.  It’s an organic part of the healing process that will help people start to deal with their grief.
  • Create a final playlist with the help of family members. It should be a mix of music that helps celebrate the life you are remembering.  Once the list has been finalized, share it with the funeral home and the person presiding over the service so that they can appropriately incorporate it into the events of the day.

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What makes a good funeral song?  What are the most popular funeral songs?

Choosing music to be played a funeral is a highly personal choice, but sometimes people may be overwhelmed by all the details that go into planning a service and may need suggestions to help them come up with the best musical selections.  There are many ways to make musical decisions and going with your gut is always a safe way to go.  But if you’re stuck for ideas, here are some ways you can narrow your choices.

Most Popular funeral songs

These are some of the most popular and commonly play funeral song choices.  When in doubt, you can always rely on any of these to provide a meaningful place in your service.

  1. Amazing Grace – Elvis Presley
  2. Angel – Sarah McLachlan
  3. Angels – Robbie Williams
  4. Candle In The Wind – Elton John
  5. Death Is Not The End – Bob Dylan
  6. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
  7. Have I Told You Lately – Van Morrison
  8. Memory – Barbra Streisand
  9. My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion
  10. My Way – Frank Sinatra
  11. Over The Rainbow – Eva Cassidy
  12. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
  13. Unchained Melody – Righteous Brothers
  14. Unforgettable – Nat King Cole
  15. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
  16. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler

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Funeral songs by genre

If the deceased was a fan of a particular kind of music, you might want to consider these possible choices:

Pop and Contemporary Funeral Songs

  1. Angel — Sarah McLachlan
  2. Bittersweet Symphony — The Verve
  3. Fields of Gold — Eva Cassidy
  4. Fix You — Coldplay
  5. Goodbye My Lover — James Blunt
  6. Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen
  7. Halo — Beyoncé
  8. How Long Will I Love You — Ellie Goulding
  9. I Will Always Love You — Whitney Houston
  10. I Will Remember You — Sarah McLachlan
  11. Lay Me Down — Sam Smith
  12. Make You Feel My Love — Adele
  13. Never Tear Us Apart — INXS
  14. One Sweet Day — Mariah Carey
  15. Tears in Heaven — Eric Clapton
  16. To Where You Are — Josh Groban
  17. Wind Beneath My Wings — Bette Midler
  18. You Raise Me Up — Josh Groban

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Country Funeral Songs

  1. Angels Among Up – Alabama
  2. Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill
  3. I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
  4. I’m Already There — Lonestar
  5. Jealous of the Angels — Jenn Bostic
  6. Live Forever — Billy Joe Shaver
  7. See You Again — Carrie Underwood
  8. Temporary Home – Carrie Underwood
  9. There’ll Be You – Faith Hill
  10. The Dance — Garth Brooks
  11. When I Get Where I’m Going — Brad Paisley/Dolly Parton
  12. Clouds – Montgomery Gentry
  13. I Can Only Imagine – Bart Millard

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Broadway/Musicals Funeral Songs

  1. Borrowed Angels — Kristin Chenoweth
  2. If Ever I Would Leave You – “Camelot”
  3. Memories – “Cats”
  4. Moon River – “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
  5. Over the Rainbow – “Wizard of Oz”
  6. Someone to Watch Over Me – “Oh Kay!”
  7. Somewhere – “West Side Story”
  8. The Party’s Over from “Bells Are Ringing”
  9. You’ll Never Walk Alone – “Carousel”
  10. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
  11. Who Can I Turn To – “The Roar of the Greasepaint…”

Classical Funeral Songs

  1. Adagio For Strings – Albinoni
  2. Adagio Lamentoso (from Symphony No. 6) – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  3. Adagietto (from Symphony no. 5) – Gustav Mahler
  4. Agnus Dei – Samuel Barber
  5. Ave Maria – Andrea Bocelli
  6. Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten – Arvo Pärt
  7. Canon in D major – Pachelbel
  8. Lacrimosa, from Requiem in D Minor – W.A. Mozart
  9. The Lark Ascending – Vaughan Williams
  10. Pavane – Fauré
  11. Pie Jesu – Fauré and others

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Funeral Songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s

  1. Unforgettable – Nat King Cole
  2. Blackbird – The Beatles
  3. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel
  4. Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
  5. Stand By Me – Ben E. King
  6. Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
  7. Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  8. Knights in White Satin – Moody Blues
  9. You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder
  10. Candle in the Wind – Elton John
  11. Bright Eyes – Art Garfunkel
  12. Dust in the Wind – Kansas

Christian Funeral Songs

  1. How Great Thou Art – Carrie Underwood
  2. You’re Beautiful – Phil Wickham
  3. There Will Come a Day – Faith Hill
  4. How You Live – Point of Grace
  5. How He Loves – John Mark McMillan
  6. There Will Be a Day – Jeremy Camp
  7. You Never Let Go – Matt Redman
  8. 10,000 reasons – Matt Redman
  9. Jesus Died My Soul to Save – Pocket Full of Rocks
  10. Various Iona songs – John Bell

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Funeral Song Hymns for Catholic Services

  1. Amazing Grace
  2. Lord of All Being
  3. Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley
  4. Come Holy Ghost
  5. I Have Loved You
  6. We Remember
  7. Holy is His Name
  8. Here I Am Lord
  9. Be Not Afraid
  10. On Eagles Wings

Funeral Songs Based on a Family Relationship

The deceased will generally hold a certain place in a family’s structure.  Here are some suggestions based on family relationships.

Funeral Songs for Dad

  1. Song for Dad – Keith Urban
  2. The Greatest Man I Never Knew – Reba McEntire
  3. Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion
  4. Temporary Home – Carrie Underwood
  5. Father and Son – Cat Stevens
  6. Love Without End, Amen – George Strait
  7. Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  8. Tenderly Calling – John Denver
  9. When I Look to the Sky – Train

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Funeral Songs For Mom

  1. Mama – Il Divo
  2. A Mother’s Wish – Kirtsen Andersen
  3. A Song for Mama – Boyz II Men
  4. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
  5. Ave Maria – Josh Groban
  6. Song for Mom – Jon Barker
  7. I Believe – Leanna Rimes
  8. Angel – Sarah McLachlin
  9. In the Blue of Evening – Frank Sinatra
  10. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
  11. Heaven’s Garden – Kieran Brennan
  12. Mama’s Song – Carrie Underwood
  13. Mother Like Mine – The Band Perry

Funeral Songs For a Brother

  1. Down the River – Chris Knight
  2. Brother – Beck
  3. Missing You – Diana Ross
  4. I’ll See You in My Dreams – Joe Brown
  5. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother – The Hollies
  6. Still They Ride – Journey
  7. No Expectations – The Rolling Stones
  8. Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill
  9. Lay Down Burden – Brian Wilson

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Funeral Songs For a Sister

  1. The Other Side of Life Now – Emmylou Harris
  2. Sissy’s Song – Alan Jackson
  3. View from Heaven – Yellowcard
  4. Hello – Evanescence
  5. Miss You – Blink 182
  6. Let It Be – The Beatles

Funeral Songs For a Grandparent

  1. Supermarket Flowers – Ed Sheeran
  2. Nan’s Song – Robbie Williams
  3. My Angel – Kellie Pickler

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Funeral Songs For a baby, child or young person

  1. Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
  2. Brahm’s Lullabye
  3. A Mother’s Prayer – Celine Dion
  4. Fly – Celine Dion
  5. Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) – Billy Joel
  6. In Dreams – Roy Orbison
  7. Borrowed Angels – Kristin Chenoweth
  8. In My Daughter’s Eyes – Martina McBride
  9. God’s Will – Martina McBride
  10. Forever Young – Rod Stewart
  11. Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland
  12. There You’ll Be – Faith Hill

Funeral Songs For a Husband or a Wife

  1. Free as a Bird – The Beatles
  2. When September Ends – Green Day
  3. Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon
  4. The Living Years – Mike and the Mechanics
  5. Courtney’s Song – James Blunt
  6. Homesick – MercyMe

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Funeral Songs For a Military Veteran

  1. America The Beautiful
  2. Dixie’s Land
  3. El Captain by John Philip Sousa
  4. Eternal Father, Strong to Save (The Navy Hymn)
  5. Semper Paratus (Always Ready, US Coast Guard)
  6. Taps – Trumpet
  7. The Battle Hymn Of The Republic
  8. The Caissons Go Rolling Along
  9. The Marine’s Hymn
  10. The Stars and Stripes Forever
  11. Wild Blue Yonder (US Air Force)

Conclusion

These are just a few of the hundreds of possible songs you can choose from to use as funeral songs for your loved one.  If you’re still searching for just the right song or the right mix of songs, the Internet is loaded with possible choices that you can access for additional ideas.

A quick search using the key words “funeral songs” should give more than enough to help you make the right choices.

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