Music for funerals, wakes, and memorial services
I originally assembled this list for people in my life story writing workshop, who wanted a session on planning their own funeral. That session was surprisingly lively, but we needed a fuller list of choices for musical selections. I began digging, one thing led to another, and these lists, based on recommendations from many people and sources, are the result. Links are provided to Amazon so you can hear song samples for most numbers and purchase an MP3 audiofile online. When you purchase anything after to linking to Amazon from this page, this website gets a small commission, which helps support the cost of maintaining the site.
• Classical music for funerals and memorial services
• Hymns, gospel, and inspirational music for funerals and memorial services
• Funeral anthems
• Patriotic and military funeral music
• Popular secular music for a funeral or memorial service, including blues music
• Steve Taravella's selections
Classical music for
funerals and memorial services
Many thanks to John S. Rigney for correcting my many original errors (for example, one piece by Handel which was more appropriate for a wedding than a funeral is no longer listed). Let me know if you think I should add, subtract, or correct anything else. I’m providing links to only a few samples. If you like a particular selection, a search will turn up all the versions and you can choose the one that’s right for you.
• Albanoni, Tomaso. Albinoni’s Adagio (London Philharmonic; composed as Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ by Remo Giazotto, based on a fragment of a tune by Albinoni found in the ruins of the Dresden State Library, which was destroyed in World War II )
• Bach, Johann Sebastian Air On the G String, from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major
• Bach, Johann Sebastian. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (from Cantata BWV 147, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben”—performed by Barrymore Chamber Orchestra. Listen also to this piano version.
• Bach. Prelude 1 from “The Well Tempered Clavier”
• Bach. Sheep May Safely Graze From Cantata No. 208 (Academy Of St Martin-In-The-Fields, arr. Marriner)
• Bach. Cantata No. 140 "Wachet Auf", BWV 140 ("Sleepers Awake")
• • Bach. Toccata & Fugue in D Minor (performed by U.S. Marine Band). There are two pieces by this name; ask for it by its Schmeider number, BMV565.
• Bach. G Major Sarabande (Suite No. 1 for Cello in G Major, BMV1007). Performed here, unaccompanied, by Yo-Yo Ma.
• See more Bach organ music under Hymns.
**Barber, Samuel. Adagio for Strings from the String Quartet, Op. 11 (moving)
• Beethoven. Symphony No. 6 in F Major "Pastoral"
• Beethoven, Ludwig van. Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55, "Eroica," II. Funeral March. Adagio assai. The second movement of this long symphony is a funeral march)
• Beethoven. Ode to Joy (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op.125 'Choral': Ode to Joy) Check out various versions, orchestral and chorus
• Berlioz, Hector. Requiem (Grand Messe des morts, Op. 5). John Rigney recommends the fifth of the ten movements, the elegant and moving Quaerens Me--"Seeking Me"--which in the midst of this grand orchestral mass is sung a capella)
• Brahms, Johannes. German Requiem: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (Robert Shaw Choral Masterpieces). Notes JR: the Brahms German Requiem is NOT a requiem mass like the well-known requiems of Mozart, Fauré, and Verdi. And some readers may know this selection by its English translation, "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place."
• Brahms, Johannes. O Welt, ich muss dich lassen (Oh, World, I Must Leave Thee) , from Op. 122, Brahms' Chorale, performed here by Soren Gleerup Hansen.
• Brahms, Johannes. Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Third Movement (Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra)
• Chopin, Frédéric. Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28, No. 4 (Artur Rubinstein)
• Chopin, Frédéric. Prelude in C Minor, Op. 28, No. 20 (performed by Tatiana Shebanova)
• Chopin, Frédéric. Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor , 'Funeral March' Op. 35: III. Marche funèbre (Lento, performed by Simon Trpceski)
• Delius, Frederick. The Walk to the Paradise Garden (Sir Thomas Beecham, Royal Philharmonic Society Orchestra)
• Dupré, Marcel. In Quiet Joy (Chorales, Op. 28, No. 41, George Bacon playing organ)
• Dvořák, Anton. Requiem/Symphony No 8. Listen on YouTube
• Elgar, Edward. Enigma Variations: Nimrod (Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra)
• Fauré, Gabriel. Requiem: In Paradisum (John Rutter and Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra)
• Fauré, Gabriel. Requiem: Pie Jesu (John Rutter and Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra, from the album They Shall Have Rest: The Requiems of Gabriel Fauré and John Rutter
• Frank, Cesar. Panis Angelicus. Hear also Pavarotti's rendition.
• Gluck, Christophe Willibald. Dance of the Blessed Spirits (Act 2, Orfeo ed Euridice)
• Grieg, Edvard. Last Spring (Op. 33, No. 2, as sung by Anne Sofie von Otter) and as arranged for a choir (Janne Berglund)
• Grieg. • Peer Gynt (Suite No.1, Op.46 - 2. The Death of Aase, Berliner Philharmoniker)
• Handel, George Frideric. Largo from 'Xerxes' (Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra)
• Mahler, Gustav. Das Lied von der Erde, (Song of the Earth) VI. Der Abschied (The Farewell. Written after the death of his four-year-old daughter. Otto Klemperer, Fritz Wunderlich, Christa Ludwig, New Philharmonia Orchestra)
• Mahler, Gustav. Kindertotenlieder (songs on the death of children). A song cycle for voice and orchestra, with poems by Friedrich Rückert (performed by various artists):
—Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n (I. "Now the sun wants to rise as brightly")
—Nun seh' ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen (II. "Now I see well, why with such dark flames")
—Wenn dein Mütterlein (III. "When your mother")
—Oft denk' ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen (IV. "I often think: they have only just gone out")
—In diesem Wetter(V. "In this weather") “In this weather, in this windy storm, I would never have sent the children out.: You can find lyrics on Wikipedia .
• Mahler. Symphony No.2 in C Minor "Resurrection" (I. Allegro maestoso, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
• Mendelssohn, Felix. "May Breezes" (Songs without Words Book V, op.62: No.25 in G major) played by Rena Kyriakou
• Mendelssohn. String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, for Strings Op. 80 II (Aurora String Quartet II) and IV.(New Zealand String Quartet) Written for his sister Fanny, who died months before he did. This was his final composition.
• Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Dona Nobis Pacem (“Coronation Mass” Mass in C, K.317) from Mozart’s Requiem, performed here by Anna Tomowa-Sintow)
• Mozart. "Jupiter" Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K 551
•Mozart. Missa brevis in C major (K. 259, "Organ solo: Dona nobis pacem, performed by Lothar Stadler)
• Mozart. Requiem: Lacrimosa
• Pachelbel, Johann. Pachelbel Canon in D Major
• Puccini, Giacomo. E lucevan le stelle ("When the stars were brightly shining"), Plácido Domingo singing an aria from Tosca, which is sung beautifully by many tenors, including Jussi Björling and Luciano Pavarotti
• Purcell, Henry. When I am laid in earth("Dido's Lament,” from Dido and Aeneas, Act III), Leopold Stokowski and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
• Purcell. Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of Our Hearts(The Choir of Christ's College)
• Saint-Saëns, Camille. Le Cygne from Le Carnaval des Animaux (Carnival of the Animals)
• Schubert, Franz. Ave Maria< (sung by Mario Lanzo, in the version most of us are familiar with); listen also to Leontyne Pricex (Notes from JSR: Schubert never actually set the words of the Ave Maria to music. He wrote a piece called Ellen’s dritter Gesang (Ellen’s third song), to which others adapted the Ave Maria, years later.)
• Schubert. 'Death and the Maiden (String Quartet No.14 in D minor D810, performed here by Borodin Quartet)
• Shostakovich, Dimitri. Prelude & Fugue No.24 in D minor
• Taverner, John, Funeral Ikos and Song for Athene (Christopher Robinson)
• Vaughn Williams, Ralph. The Lark Ascending (Sarah Chang and the London Philharmonic Orchestra). Listen also to Nigel Kennedy
• Verdi, Giuseppi. Dies iraeand Sanctusfrom (Movements II and IV from Requiem, Robert Shaw & the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)
• Mild und leise (Liebestod) (Jessye Norman singing Isolde’s heartbreaking farewell to life in Tristan und Isolde)
• Classical Music For A Funeral (Jef Verstegen. YouTube playlist)
• Funeral Songs (2010 Funeral Song Consort, all mp3 downloads)
Hymns, gospel, and inspirational music for funerals and memorial services
You'll find many versions of most of these songs, solo and group, vocal and instrumental, religious, folk, and just plain music. I've tried in each case to choose a version that will help you recognize a tune and decide if the number is suitable for your occasion. Once you decide you like a particular hymn, put its title in a search engine and you'll find many versions to compare, many performers, and even quite a few YouTube versions showing a whole performance. (One thing I learned, and had never noticed: Jewish services usually don't include music!) The links below will take you to samples.
• Abide with Me (Metropolitan Boys Choir)
• A Living Prayer (Alison Krauss)
• A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (The Joslin Grove Choral Society)
• All People That on Earth Do Dwell (Washington National Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, arrangement by R. Vaughan Williams)
• All Things Bright and Beautiful (Cambridge Singers, from the album The Very Best of John Rutter)
• Alleluia, Sing To Jesus (The Joslin Grove Choral Society)
• Amazing Grace (Judy Collins)
• As The Deer Longs (Psalm 42, sung by Gretchen Harris)
• Ave Maria (Celtic Woman). Listen also to Sven Libaek orchestra (from Nadia's theme, free), Celine Dion, and Sarah Brightman, among others.
• Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun (Norwich Cathedral Choir)
• Be (My Heart, My Hands, My Voice) (Selah)
• Be Not Afraid
• Be Thou My Vision (Irish: Bí Thusa 'mo Shúile, a traditional hymn from Ireland, performed by Mark Howard, John Mock, Stuart Duncan)
• Because He Lives (Kristin Chenoweth)
• Bika Mono Ve (Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior) / It Is Well With My Soul
• Blessed Assurance (Ricky Skaggs and The Whites)
• By Name I Have Called You (Thirty Three)
• Children of the Heavenly Father (Anne Walsh). Among choral versions, listen to Atlanta Sacred Chorale
• Come Labor On (St. Thomas Choir Of Men And Boys)
• Come Labor On (St. Thomas Choir Of Men And Boys)
• Come, Ye Disconsolate, from the album Saints and Pioneers
• Down By the Riverside (Gospel Music Crew). Listen also to Etta James, from her album I'll Fly Away - Gospel & Inspirational Favorites
• Down in the River To Pray (Alison Krause, from the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Here are the lyrics (it is apparently “in the river,” not “to the river”).
• Draw Us in Thy Spirit's Tether. You can listen to a sample (not downloadable) on Anthems & Motets (The Choir of St. John's Episcopal Church)
• Eye Has Not Seen (Marty Haugen)
• For All the Saints (R. Vaughan Williams, performed by Choral Evensong Trinity Cathedral)
• Funeral Songs (2010 Funeral Song Consort, an anthology of piano music, mp3s to download)
• Gaudeamus Igitur (a traditional graduation song that for many holds strong sentimental value). Here's a lovely choral version on YouTube (Akademisk kortreff, Oslo)
• Gift of Finest Wheat (Vince Ambrosetti)
• God of Our Fathers (Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
• God So Loved the World (John Stainer, The National Lutheran Choir)
• Going Home (based on Largo from 9th Symphony 'From the New World,' performed by Angel Voices)
• Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Chris Rice, from Peace Like A River: The Hymns Project
• Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer (Choir Of Westminster Abbey)
• He Who Would Valiant Be (Choir of Christ’s College)
• Here I Am, Lord (Dan Schutte)
• Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty (The Choir of King's College, Cambridge)
• Hosea (Weston Priory, Gregory Norbert)
• I Am the Bread of Life (Suzanne Toolan)
• I Call to Thee Lord Jesus Christ (Bach organ music, played by Virgil Fox)
• I Have Loved You (Michael Joncas)
• I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (soprano, Maulbronn Chamber Choir, Hanoverian Court Orchestra), from Messiah - Part III (Handel)
• I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Nina Simone)
• I’ll Fly Away from Here (Mavis Staples, gospel)
• I’ll Walk With God (Mario Lanza)
• If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee (Leander Chapin Clafin)
• In Heavenly Love Abiding (Susan Mack and Ellen Hanna)
• In Paradisum (Fauré Requiem, The Sixteen/Academy of St Martin in the Fields
• In the Garden (Anne Murray)
• It Is Well With My Soul (Bill & Gloria Gaither) B000TEBBDW
• Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach Cantata No. 147, performed by Camilli String Quartet). Listen to this beautiful music by various artists.
• Jesus Loves the Little Children (St. John Children’s Choir)
• Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (Discovery Singers)
• Just a Closer Walk With Thee (Sara Evans, Grand Ole Opry). So many versions, including Tennessee Ernie Ford’s and Patsy Cline’s.
• Kumbaya My Lord (Boys Choir of Harlem, from the album We Shall Overcome
• Laudate Dominum (from Mozart’s from Vesperae solennes de confessore, KV 339, sung by Kiri te Kanawa). Hear it on YouTube
• Let There Be Peace on Earth (Boys Choir of Harlem)
• Lift Every Voice and Sing (Concordia Publishing Company). This version by the Women Of The Calabash is pretty powerful.
• The Lord's Prayer (Andrea Bocelli singing). Other vocal versions include the Mormon Tabernacle Choice and Anne Murray. Instrumental versions include piano and organ music (often for Karaoke).
• Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (Prayer of St. Francis) (Catholic Classics)
• My Shepherd Will Supply My Need (Washington National Cathedral)
• Nearer, My God, to Thee (Titanic Orchestra) and as sung by the Londonderry Choir.
• Now the Day Is Over (The Buffalo Bills)
• O Death (Ralph Stanley, from O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
• O God, Our Help in Ages Past (The Choir of King's College, Cambridge)
• O strength and stay
• Old Rugged Cross (The Joslin Grove Choral Society, from 100 Hymns And Praise Classics
• On Eagle’s Wings (Michael Joncas)
• Once to Every Man and Nation (Scott Krippayne, singing lyrics based on poem by James Russell Lowell)
• One Bread, One Body (John Foley, SJ)
• Panis Angelicus (Jackie Evancho)
• Precious Memories (Emmylou Harris)
• Redeemer (Nicole Mullen)
• Remember Me (from Catfish Credenza, on YouTube). The mp3 album: Catfish Cadenza
• Rock of Ages (Nicholas & Julia Blake)
• Saviour Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise (The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge)
• Shall We Gather at the River (Nashville Gospel Singers)
• Sheep May Safely Graze ((Bach Cantata No. 208, Lumiere String Quartet)
• Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling (Deborah Liv Johnson). Listen also to the Londonderry Choir.
• Song of Farewell (Father David Hemann)
• Supper of the Lord (Michael Vaughan). See also Laurence Rosania’s version on YouTube .
• Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Etta James’s great version, but there are many rousing versions, including that of Beyonce Knowles
• Taste and See ((James Moore, performed by S. Antonio David's Singers). For another version, try Jenn Johnson (O Taste and See)
• The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended (The Choir of St.Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, from the Famous Hymns of Praise , including Holy, Holy,Holy, Lord God Almighty
• The King of Love My Shepherd Is (Saint Clement's Choir, from the album Hymns of Heaven and Earth . This title is also associated with a traditional Irish melody, St Columba (The King Of Love My Shepherd Is), played here on bagpipes by Merlin Celtic Orchestra.
• The Lord Is My Shepherd (Cissy Houston with Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir), but there is more than one piece of music for this psalm. See also, for example, versions by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Cambridge Singers )
• The Last Mile of the Way (Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers) and in another style, the Nashville Gospel Singers
• Thine Be the Glory (Huddersfield Choral Society & Joseph Cullen)
• To Be a Pilgrim (Dan Carollo, acoustic guitar). Listen also to Martin Simpson’s rendition
• Turn To Me • (by John Foley, from the St. Louis Jesuits (with the original lyrics as shown on YouTube
• We Gather Together (The Joslin Grove Choral Society)
• We Shall Overcome (Peter, Paul and Mary), but there are oh so many versions, including Boys Choir of Harlem and Pete Seeger, from the album If I Had a Hammer: Songs of Hope and Struggle (songs from which could produce a whole program)
• What Wondrous Love (Annie Moses Band). Listen also to Fernando Ortega
• Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). The many versions of this song include those sung by Joan Baez and by The Carter Family. On YouTube, watch June Carter, Johnny Cash, and the Carter Family perform.
• You Are Mine (David Haas)
• You'll Never Walk Alone (The Boys Choir of Harlem)
~from Shakespeare's Hamlet
Here are links to samples from anthems (short pieces sung during religious services). Only some of the many versions of these selections are linked to here, but playing these samples or the full MP3s may help you decide what to have performed live or played in the background during your service.
• Agnus Dei (Dale Warland Singers singing Samuel Barber’s version). Listen also to versions by the Choir of Trinity College; by Luciano Pavarotti ; by Joysongs, a Gospel version ; and by Fulvio Rampi (Gregorian chant)
• Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart K.618, sung by St. Martin in the Fields). Listen also to the Robert Shaw Orchestra and Chorus, the Vienna Boys Choir, and Marie Osmond.
• Funeral Ikos, John Tavener: Song for Athene/Syvati (Choir of St. John College)
• Give Rest O Christ (Westminster Abbey Choir)
• God Be in My Head (Walford Davies)
• God So Loved the World (John Stainer)
• Nunc Dimittis< (St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir). Listen also to versions by the Choir of Dunham Cathedral and the Choirs of Blackburn Cathedral
• The Lord Is My Shepherd (sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). Listen also to Cissy Houston With Hezekiah Walker And The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir (singing Gospel-style) and Keith Green
• Pie Jesu from Fauré: Requiem (Opus 48, Laurence Equilbey)
• Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of Our Heart (The Choir of Christ's College, David Rowland, Michael Bawtree, Annabell McLauchlan)
• Listen to beautiful tracks of anthem music sung by St Mary's Church in Stamford, The Anglo Catholic Centre of Worship in South Lincolnshire.
You may find these sites helpful:
• This British Church Music Site Funeral hymns and music may also be helpful as you decide what music to have performed.
• Popular Christian hymns and gospel songs (tunes and lyrics)
• Christian funeral music list (click on title to get lyrics)
Patriotic and military funeral music
• Aloha 'Oe (The Brothers Cazimero, Hawaiian)
• Amazing Grace (bagpipe music, The King's Own Scottish Borderers Military Band), and as sung by Sarah Brightman
• America the Beautiful (U.S. Marine Band)
• Ashokan Farewell (this beautiful song performed by Jay Ungar And Molly Mason With Fiddle Fever is from the album Songs Of The Civil War
• The Battle Hymn Of The Republic (U.S. Army Chorus)
• Dixie's land (The United States Military Academy Band) and • Dixie, as a Civil War Fife And Drum March
• El Capitan (John Philip Sousa’s rousing march, played by the U.S. Marine Band)
• Eternal Father, Strong to Save (U.S. Navy Hymn, sung by US Navy and Sea Chanters Chorus). Hear also the instrumental version played by the United States Navy Band.
• It's A Long Way to Tipperary (The Band of The Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall)
• Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha (title song from George Clooney film The Descendants (YouTube version, with translation of lyrics).
• Reveille (bugle)
• The Stars and Stripes Forever (another popular John Philip Sousa march, played by the U.S. Marine Band)
• Taps, popular for military funerals, played here with echo (U.S. Marine Band, part of the music cut off on sample)
• Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (RAF Halton Area Band)
• Waltzing Matilda (Outback)
• Wild Blue Yonder (The US Air Force Song) (United States Air Force Academy Band)
• William Tell Overture (National Philharmonic Orchestra, as often played on July 4, Independence Day in the U.S.A.)
• You're a Grand Old Flag
And of course any emotionally suggestive music from whatever country, state, or region a person is from--Red River Valley, for example, for someone from the Midwest who used to feel nostalgic when he heard that tune.
• They played Taps at my father’s funeral. They played it beautifully. (Kathy Stephen, KevinMD, 6-22-16)
Popular secular music, including blues music
These often nostalgic numbers are often effective at a funeral or memorial service because they reflect something about the life of the person being mourned. The music itself helps us feel both the joy of the life and the sadness that it has ended. Many of these songs are especially appropriate for services that are a celebration of the life.
• Aquarius: Let the Sun Shine In (Fifth Dimensions, from Hair—nostalgic)
• Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Diana Ross). But listen also to Marvin Gaye’s version
• All You Need Is Love (The Beatles)
• Aloha 'Oe (The Brothers Cazimero, Hawaiian)
• Always on My Mind (Elvis Presley) or maybe Willie Nelson's version.
• Amazing Grace (Judy Collins, one of many versions available, which include Elvis Presley's rendition
• American Pie (The Day the Music Died) (Don McLean, pure nostalgia)
• And When I Die (Blood Sweat & Tears)
• Angel (Sarah McLachlan)
• Annie (John Denver)
• Another Soldier's Coming Home (Janet Paschal)
• Ashokan Farewell (Jay Ungar And Molly Mason –this is the beautiful song played on the PBS Civil War series)
• Autumn Leaves (Roger Williams Version). See also the versions by Eva Cassidy (from the beautiful album Songbird) and Eric Clapton
• Back Home Again (John Denver)
• Bang the Drum Slowly (Emmylou Harris)
• Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) (John Lennon)
• Big Rock Candy Mountain (Harry McClintock)
• Blackbird as performed by Sarah McLachlan. Listen also to renditions by Sarah Darling and Paul McCartney
• Blowin' In The Wind (Bob Dylan); listen also to version by Peter, Paul and Mary
• Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
• Bury My Body (Al Kooper, Shuggie Otis)
• Bright Sunshiny Day (I Can See Clearly Now) (Jimmy Cliff). I like this version from the film “Cool Runnings”
• California Dreamin' (The Mamas and the Papas)
• Candle in the Wind (Elton John, written and performed for Princess Di)
• Chlld of Mine (Carole King)
• Circle of Life (Elton John)
• Come on Up to the House (Tom Waits)
• Con te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye) (Andrea Bocelli)
• Dance with My Father (Luther Vandross)
• Dancing in the Sky (Dani and Lizzy)
• A Day Without Rain (Enya)
• Death Is Not The End (Bob Dylan)
• Death Letter Blues (Son House, blues)
• Deliver Me (Sarah Brightman)
• Do You Hear What I Hear? (Andy Williams). Listen also to versions by The Harry Simeone Choir |
• An Ending (Brian Eno, ethereal instrumental)
• Falling in Love Again • (Marlene Dietrich, nostalgic)
• Father and Son (Cat Stevens)
• Fields of Gold (Eva Cassidy)
• Fire and Rain (James Taylor)
• 500 Miles (Roseanne Cash)
• Fly (Celine Dion)
• For the Good Times (Kris Kristofferson).
• Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (Elton John)
• Funeral Songs (2010 Funeral Song Consort, an anthology of piano music, mp3s to download)
• The Gift You Are (John Denver)
• Goin' Back (Dusty Springfield)
• Good Day Sunshine (The Beatles)
• Good Riddance (Time of your Life) (Green Day)
• Go Rest High on That Mountain (Vince Gill)
• Greensleeves (The King’s Singers) and another classic version, Julianne Baird & Ronn McFarlane singing to a lute song
• Hallelujah (K.D. Lang singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah). Or listen and watch on YouTube
• Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles, from Abbey Road)
• Hero (Mariah Carey)
• Hey Jude (Paul McCartney). See other versions, including Best of the Beatles
• I Can See Clearly Now (Bright Sunshiny Day) (Jimmy Cliff). I like this version from the film “Cool Runnings”
• I Feel Like Going Home (Muddy Waters)
• I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Marvin Gaye, nostalgic)
• I’ll Be Missing You (Puff Daddy & Faith Evans)
• I’ll Be Seeing You (Frank Sinatra). Listen also to versions by Jo Stafford and Billie Holliday
• I’ll Fly Away (Etta James). Listen to quite different versions by Gillian Welch
• Imagine (John Lennon)
• In Dead Earnest (humorous song performed by Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger, to lyrics by Lee Hays)
• In My Life (The Beatles)
• I Will Always Love You (Whitney Houston) or maybe Dolly Parton
• I Will Remember You (Sarah McLachlan)
• I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Nina Simone)
• Joy To The World (Three Dog Night, upbeat rock, great for recessional)
• Just One Of Those Things (Frank Sinatra); listen also to renditions by Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day
• Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha (Hawaiian, The Brothers Cazimero). See versions by many others.
• Keep Me in Your Heart (Warren Zevon)
• Lean on Me (Bill Withers)
• Leaving On A Jet Plane (John Denver)
• Let It Be (Paul McCartney)
• The Long and Winding Road (Paul McCartney)
• Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again) (Kris Kristofferson)
• Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (The Beatles, nostalgia). Listen also to Elton John
• Many Rivers to Cross (Jimmy Cliff)
• May It Be (Enya
• Memory (Barbra Streisand). Listen also to the version from Cats (with the cast from the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical)
• Moon River (Johnny Mercer’s song from Breakfast at Tiffany’s). You may prefer Heather Masse's rendition.
• Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens )
• My Way (Frank Sinatra)
• Only the Good Die Young (Billy Joel)
• Only Time (Enya)
• On the Road Again (Willie Nelson)
• O Waly Waly (The Water Is Wide), as played by David Phillips. The same, as sung by the Ionian Singers (but there are many versions of this beautiful song ("Though I May Speak of Bravest Fire"), including this full-length, set-to-images rendition by Ensemble Planeta. Also fine as instrumental (Exciting Brass Works)
• Pilgrim (Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band )
• The Porpoise Song (The Monkees)
• The Prayer (Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli)
• Precious Child (Karen Taylor-Good on YouTube). Download free on her site . Song has been adopted by The Compassionate Friends, The Shaken Baby Alliance, and other groups
• Rocky Mountain High (John Denver)
• The Rose (Bette Midler)
• Sand and Water (Beth Nielsen Chapman)
• Scent of a Woman Tango (Por Una Cabeza) (John Williams, Itzhak Perlman)
• See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (Blind Lemon Jefferson, blues)
• Shebeg & Shemor (Moonrakers, traditional Irish waltz)
• She's Gone (Daryl Hall & John Oates )
• Slipped Away (Avril Lavigne)
• Someone to Watch Over Me (Barbra Streisand)
• Somewhere (Barbra Streisand with Il Divo)
• Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland’s version) is classic, but be sure to listen to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s marvelous Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World. For a totally different version, listen to Eva Cassidy's version (on Vimeo). I don't see a separate mp3 for sale, but the song appears on the CD Songbird, among others.
• Sounds of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel)
• Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year (Sarah Vaughan , but many others sing this lovely song, including Deanna Durbin)
• Stop All the Clocks (W.H. Auden's poem set to music by Nemo Shaw, downloadable at Songs of Grief and Loss, in "she" or "they" versions.
• Starry Starry Night (YouTube, wonderful video of Don McLean's music,"Vincent," played againts slideshow of pictures of Vincent Van Gogh's artwork)
• Summer Rain (Brenda Carlisle)
• Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
• Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton, after the death of his son, who fell from window)
• They Can't Take That Away from Me (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong), but you may prefer Frank Sinatra’s version
• Those Were the Days (Mary Hopkins)
• The Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) (Green Day)
• Time to Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiro) (Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli)
• Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is a Season) (The Byrds)
• Unchained (Johnny Cash)
• Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) (Don McLean, from the album • American Pie
• Wayfaring Stranger (Eva Cassidy)
• The Way We Were (Barbra Streisand)
• We’ll Meet Again (Vera Lynn). That's the original, and Johnny Cash’s versionis good in a different way.
• When The Saints Go Marching In (Louis Armstrong)
• When You’re Gone Avril Lavigne
• Where Have All the Flowers Gone (Peter, Paul and Mary, from the album The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary
• What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
• Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler)
• The Wings That Fly Us Home (John Denver)
• With A Little Help From My Friends
• You'll Never Walk Alone (Renée Fleming, from “Carousel”)
• You Raise Me Up (Josh Groban). Other versions available include those by Westlife and by Selah too. And this YouTube video of Martin Hurkens singing it on the street is wonderful (and available on the new music CD (no video) Sognare.
Lesley Nelson (the Contemplator) has gathered some good folk music (tunes and lyrics):
• Folk music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and America
• Songs of the sea
• Popular folk songs in American history
Play Jolly Music at My Funeral
I’ve taken in recent years to thinking about my funeral
and have decided to make one paramount request:
play jolly music at that ritual.
What good does it do to heap on dirges
or other mournful melodies?
I won’t be there to be gratified by the grieving
and if I could tune in
I’d be happier to see those present have some relief.
Dixieland would be nice.
Joplin would be fine.
Something by Fats Waller would certainly do.
Those early jazzmen knew what they were up to
when they set about making funeral marches swing.
So swing me away, please, with a rousing tune.
Music With Lyrics (repeated while guests are entering, before service starts):
• Is That All There Is? by Peggy Lee
• Someone to Watch Over Me by Lena Horne
• The Same Old Tears on a New Background by Art Garfunkel
• I Remember You by Chet Baker
• You Stepped Out of a Dream by Peter Cincotti
• You're Beautiful by James Blunt
• Life Is by Karen Akers
Music Without Lyrics (long pieces for background during the service while people are speaking):
• The Goldberg Variations (Bach) by Glenn Gould (piano only, here Variation XXI - Canone alla Settima a a 1 Clavier)
• Les Parapluies de Cherbourg by Michel Legrand
• Theme from "Last Tango in Paris" by Gato Barbieri
At End of Service (and while guests linger, to help them leave on an inspired or upbeat note):
• We Are Family by Sister Sledge (subtly encourages mourners to share a bond)
• The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston (in the 80s, something of an anthem at AIDS memorial services)
• This Is My Life by Shirley Bassey
• If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher
• Ain't No Mountain High Enough by Diana Ross
• Take Five by Dave Brubeck