Music for funerals
Choosing music for a funeral will help create a personalised service and pay tribute to a loved one’s life. To give you some inspiration, we have compiled a list of the most popular funeral songs; from classical funeral music to modern day pop songs.
This guide covers:
- Popular songs for funerals
- Classical funeral music
- Examples of funeral music
- Funeral songs for mum
- Funeral songs for dad
- Uplifting funeral songs
Some people choose live music for funerals, commemorating a person’s life with uplifting and happy songs. The choice is completely up to you, and depending on the rules of the church or crematorium, there really is no right or wrong.
As funerals become more tailored to reflect the life of the person who has sadly passed away, families are opting for modern songs to be played at the service.
Some of the most popular songs for funerals include:
- My Way – Frank Sinatra
- Angels – Robbie Williams
- The Best – Tina Turner
- Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
- Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Eric Idle (Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’)
- Time to Say Goodbye – Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli
- You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry and the Pacemakers
Classical music remains a popular choice for funerals, setting the stage for an emotional and moving service. Choosing the right piece of classical music is a personal choice, though there are a few popular ideas.
Some of the most popular classical pieces of music for funerals include:
- Canon in D – Paachelbel
- Nimrod from Enigma Variations – Elgar
- The Four Seasons – Vivaldi
- Ave Maria – Schubert
- Pie Jesu – Fauré
- Adagio – Albinoni
- Air on a G String – Bach
Frank Sinatra is a show business legend and considered by many to be the greatest vocalist of the 20th century. His groundbreaking phrasing vocal technique helped the listener to understand and empathise with this song. My Way would be an obvious musical choice to remember those that in life were charismatic and individual.
Angels is the song that made Robbie a household name and has become a popular choice for funeral services in recent years. Its emotive music and reflective lyrics strike a chord with many listeners.
The song that marked Tina Turner’s comeback to the music scene has become a popular choice at funeral services in recent years. Equally adept at gospel, R&B and soul, Tina Turner’s iconic voice and emotional delivery makes this a good choice to remember someone who was special to you.
Wind Beneath My Wings
Wind Beneath My Wings was performed by Bette Midler for the soundtrack of the film Beaches, and was named Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 1990. It has become one of the most popular choices of music to remember a loved one in recent years.
Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman
Time To Say Goodbye
A soaring and sweet duet between the world-famous tenor and soprano. The popularisation of opera has seen this musical piece become a regular choice at funerals for those that have lost a romantic partner.
Can’t Help Falling In Love
The most popular musical artist of his generation left a musical legacy that few singers could hope to match. The emotive Can’t Help Falling in Love would be a beautiful tribute to a lost husband or wife and competes with Are You Lonesome Tonight? and Love Me Tender as his greatest romantic ballad.
Tears In Heaven
Often referred to as the world’s greatest living guitarist, Eric Clapton wrote this touching song following the tragic death of his son, Conor. While the lyrics concentrate on the trauma of losing your child, the sensitivity of the music makes it a suitable choice for the funeral of a person of any age.
Let It Be
Paul McCartney’s favourite Beatles song was inspired by a dream he had about his mother who had died when he was 14. 1969 was a turbulent year for The Beatles and McCartney was much troubled. His mother appeared to him in the dream helping to calm his fears and telling him to Let It Be. An evocative and strangely haunting classic, many people still find peace in this song more than 40 years after its release.
Candle in the Wind
This is the song that was famously performed by Elton John at the funeral of Princess Diana. Originally written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, Elton re-wrote the lyrics upon the death of his friend at the request of her family. Released as a charity record it became the biggest selling single of all time. A profound expression of love and healing the song was described as “proof that music can unite the world in the celebration of life and in an emotional grieving for a loss".
Dignity was the first single from Deacon Blue and comes from the band’s debut CD, Raintown, a concept album about life in Glasgow. The song’s lyrics express a yearning for ‘a better life’ and a plea to humanity to consider others as you would yourself. This makes the song a suitable choice to remember those who dedicated their lives to helping others.
Adagio in G Minor
A very beautiful and soothing composition, Albinoni’s Adagio has become one of the most popular classical pieces to be played at funerals. Its calm nobility has often been used to add emotion to films and advertising.
Johann Sebastian Bach
A gentle and calming composition that would allow mourners an interval in the service to pause and remember the life of their loved one. Bach was a family man with 20 children who dedicated his life to music, once walking 200 miles to hear a fellow organist.
Adagio for Strings
A spiritually uplifting piece of music, Barber’s intention was that this noble composition would demonstrate respect, admiration and love for other men and has been used to enhance the atmosphere of numerous films. This would be an ideal choice of music for a family to remember and pay tribute to their father.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Für Elise is the more common name for one of Beethoven’s most popular compositions, the Bagatelle in A Minor for Solo Piano. The identity of Elise is unknown but from the music the listener is in no doubt that she was beautiful and demure. The sentiment of this composition has meant that it is often used at funerals to remember a female partner.
Claire du Lune
Debussy has often been described as the master of subtlety and nuance. Claire de Lune translates as Light of the Moon and the ingenuity of this composition lies in the ease with which you can imagine the moon appearing slowly from behind a cloud as the music reveals its full sensuality. A perfect musical piece to provide a few moments of reflection during the service.
Nimrod from 'Enigma' variations
Enigma Variations – musical portraits of the composer’s friends and relatives – was Elgar’s first success even though he was over 40 years old at the time. This solemn yet uplifting music has been played on numerous state occasions, when its restrained grandeur has never failed to create a deep impression.
Fauré’s music was usually restrained and nowhere more so than in this gentle, undulating theme where he took a traditional French slow dance and added a melancholy melody. A very feminine piece of music that has been used to advertise soap and perfume, this composition could be used for the funeral service of a mother or wife.
Canon for Strings and Continuo
A simple yet haunting canon – a piece of music for several instruments which each enter after each other, playing the same music at the same tempo. The three violins begin playing long notes which gradually get faster and faster until the exact middle of the piece, when it then slows at the same tempo. A dignified composition that would be particularly suitable for the funeral service of a person who had led a long and full life.
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
This well-known, well-loved hymn was written by Rev. John Newton in 1773 after he miraculously survived a storm at sea. The recording by the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in 1972 spread its popularity and this piece of music was played at funerals and memorial services for members of the New York Police and Fire Departments following the attacks of September 11 2001. The history of this hymn makes it a popular choice for those who are proud of their Scottish origins.
Satie wrote three piano pieces called Gymnopédies – slow dances of classical Greek inspiration. The music’s soothing and tranquil qualities make it ideal as a means to pay tribute to the life of a loved one.
If your mother has recently passed away, you may have been tasked with making the funeral arrangements. If that is the case, you will have to decide what songs to play at the funeral. We have listed a few songs which are fitting when saying goodbye to a loving mother.
Popular songs for a mother’s funeral include:
- In the Arms of an Angel - Sarah McLachlan
- You’re My Best Friend - Queen
- Supermarket flowers – Ed Sheeran
- Goodbye’s the Saddest Word – Celine Dion
- Mama – Il Divo
- Don’t Forget to Remember Me – Carrie Underwood
If your father sadly passes away, you may wish to honour him by choosing music that reflects his personality. It could simply be one of his favourite songs; though picking something appropriate for a funeral can always be a difficult task.
Popular songs for a father’s funeral include:
- You Raise Me Up – Josh Groban
- Dance With My Father – Luther Vandross
- The Living years – Mike & The Mechanics
- My Father’s Eyes – Eric Clapton
- Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own – U2
Many people believe a funeral should be a serious and sombre occasion, though in recent years, more and more people are beginning to break the mould by opting for a celebration of life. We have listed some songs which will help bring comfort to those attending the funeral service and may even raise a smile.
Happy and uplifting songs for a funeral include:
- Three Little Birds – Bob Marley and the Wailers
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
- What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
- Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
- See You Again – Wiz Khalifa
Things to consider
Almost any piece of music can be played at the funeral as long as copyright restrictions do not apply. Commonly, people choose hymns for funerals or play a CD of a favourite song or piece of classical music.
Most of our crematoria have a full digital music library available to choose from. Please speak to your local Funeral Director to find out more. It is also best to speak to whomever is leading the ceremony before the day of the funeral and when you are creating a funeral order of service.
Our funeral experts will be able to give you all the support and advice you need when it comes to making necessary funeral music arrangements. Whether it’s sourcing music or assembling a choir, we will help you every step of the way.