Funerals are never fun to attend, so looking for the perfect song or songs to play during the sad ceremony can be quite a task. While some people request simple church or religious music to be played at their service, some people and families go on the hunt for the most touching tune to send off their loved one.
Below is a list of the top 10 best songs to play at a funeral, in no particular order, of course.
10. “Who You’d Be Today,” Kenny Chesney
“Who You’d Be Today” is a song written by Aimee Mayo and Bill Luther, and was recorded country music singer Kenny Chesney. It was released in September 2005 as the first single from Chesney’s album The Road and the Radio.
The song is a good pick for a funeral because it’s to a person who died before their time (“It ain’t fair, you died too young / Like a story that had just begun / But death tore the pages all away”). The narrator describes how much he has missed that person and questions what their life would be like if they were still alive (“Sometimes I wonder who you’d be today”). The song ends with the narrator saying that the only hope that comes from the death is knowing they’ll see each other again someday.
Learn more about “Who You’d Be Today” here.
Learn more about Kenny Chesney here.
Read the lyrics for “Who You’d Be Today” here.
9. “Free Bird,” Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Free Bird” is a power ballad performed by American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was released as a single in 1974, and Amazon.com music reviewer Lorry Fleming calls it “the most-requested song in the history of rock music.” This track was always used as a show closer during the band’s live performances, and it is their longest song. It usually went well over 14 minutes when played live. It is considered to be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature song.
The band’s guitarist Allen Collins, wrote the song after his then girlfriend, Kathy, whom he later married, asked him, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” Collins noted the question and it eventually became the opening line of “Free Bird”. The touching lyrics and slow melody have made it a great dedication song to those who have passed.
Learn more about “Free Bird” here.
Learn more about Lynyrd Skynyrd here.
Read the lyrics for “Free Bird” here.
8. “One Sweet Day,” Mariah Carey
“One Sweet Day” is a song by Mariah Carey and R&B group Boyz II Men. The song was written by Carey, Walter Afanasieff and Boyz II Men. “One Sweet Day” was produced by Carey and Afanasieff for her fifth studio album, Daydream, and was released as the album’s second single on November 14, 1995.
The song makes for a nice funeral song because it speaks about the death of a loved one, how the narrator took the passed one’s presence for granted and misses them, and finally about seeing the person in heaven. Both Carey and Boyz II Men wrote the song about specific people in their lives, being inspired by sufferers of the AIDS epidemic, which was globally prevalent at that time. Carey wrote it for her friend and past collaborator David Cole who had died. She began writing and developing a song that would pay homage to him and all the friends and family her fans had lost along life’s journey.
The song was performed at Princess Diana’s memorial service in September 1997.
Learn more about “One Sweet Day” here.
Learn more about Mariah Carey here.
Read the lyrics for “One Sweet Day” here.
7. “Amazing Grace,” Elvis Presley
“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton. He wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences He served in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion.
Thanks to the inventions of recorded music and radio, “Amazing Grace” began to cross over from primarily a gospel song to other audiences. The ability to record combined with the marketing of records to specific audiences allowed “Amazing Grace” to take on thousands of different forms in the 20th century. AllMusic.com lists more than 7,000 recordings of this hit as of September 2011. But Elvis Presley’s version tends to be a favorite.
Learn more about “Amazing Grace” here.
Learn more about Elvis Presley here.
Read the lyrics for “Amazing Grace” here.
6. “When I Get Where I’m Going,” Brad Paisley
“When I Get Where I’m Going’” is a song written by George Teren and Rivers Rutherford, and recorded by country singer Brad Paisley. It was released in October 2005 as second single from his album Time Well Wasted. The song features harmony vocals from Dolly Parton.
Not only are the lyrics perfect to celebrate one’s life at a funeral, but the music video for the track goes along with the theme, too. The video features many different people holding photographs of loved ones who have presumably died. Two notable people featured in this video are Michael Reagan, who is shown holding a photograph of his father Ronald Reagan, and Teresa Earnhardt, who is shown sitting in front of a painted portrait of her husband, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt. Parton is shown holding a picture of her grandfather, Rev. Jake Owens. Figure Skater Scott Hamilton is shown holding a picture of his mother. John Carter Cash is featured holding a photo of his parents, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.
Learn more about “When I Get Where I’m Going” here.
Learn more about Brad Paisley here.
Read the lyrics for “When I Get Where I’m Going” here.
5. “Tears In Heaven,” Eric Clapton
“Tears in Heaven” is a song by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings, that was in the 1991 Rush film soundtrack. The song was written about the pain and loss Clapton felt following the death of his 4-year-old son, Conor.
Conor fell from a window of a 53rd-floor New York apartment building owned by his mother’s friend on March 20, 1991. Clapton arrived at the apartment shortly after the accident.
“Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same, if I saw you in heaven? I must be strong and carry on because I know I don’t belong here in heaven…” the lyrics read.
Learn more about “Tears In Heaven” here.
Learn more about Eric Clapton here.
Read the lyrics for “Tears In Heaven” here.
4. “Come Away With Me,” Norah Jones
“Come Away with Me” is a song written by Norah Jones for her 2002 debut studio album of the same name. Her soothing voice and peaceful lyrics make the track the perfect choice for a funeral setting.
The lyrics are, “Come away with me in the night, come away with me and I will write you a song, come away with me on a bus, come away where they can’t tempt us, with their lies, and I want to walk with you on a cloudy day in fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high so won’t you try to come, come away with me and we’ll kiss on a mountaintop. Come away with me and I’ll never stop loving you and I…”
Learn more about “Come Away With Me” here.
Learn more about Norah Jones here.
Read the lyrics for “Come Away With Me” here.
3. “Hallelujah,” Jeff Buckley
“Hallelujah” is a song written by Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, but the song became more popular through a recording by John Cale, which inspired the most-known recording by Jeff Buckley.
Following its increased popularity after being featured in the film Shrek in 2001, many other arrangements have been performed by many and various singers, both in recordings and in concert. There are over 300 versions known. The infamous track has been used in film and television soundtracks and televised talent contests like American Idol and The Voice.
The lyrics of the song and just the title of it prove why it’s usually a number one choice to play at funerals.
Learn more about “Hallelujah” here.
Learn more about Jeff Buckley here.
Read the lyrics for “Hallelujah” here.
2. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole
Who doesn’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling in them when they listen to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” or “What a Wonderful World?” This mashup of the two hits from Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole instantly became a huge success when it was released in 1999. With his soft voice, the song’s sweet lyrics, and the sound of the ukulele, you can easily see why it became a fan favorite, climbed charts, and became the perfect song to play at a funeral.
The tune “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” originated from the movie The Wizard of Oz. While “What a Wonderful World?” was originally recorded by Louis Armstrong.
Learn more about “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” here.
Learn more about Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole here.
Read the lyrics for “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” here.
1. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Bob Dylan
“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is a song written and sung by Bob Dylan, for the soundtrack of the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Guns N’ Roses recorded their own version of the song in 1990 for the Days of Thunder soundtrack.
The song is perfect for a funeral because of its touching lyrics and haunting melody. The track describes the collapse of a deputy sheriff; dying from a bullet wound, and he tells his wife “Mama, take this badge off of me; I can’t use it anymore. It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see. I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door”
Learn more about “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” here.
Learn more about Bob Dylan here.
Read the lyrics for “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” here.