Funeral Songs

Life has a soundtrack. From the time we are children, music finds its way into our days and nights and links us to important moments. It brings us joy and comfort.

We sing on the playground, in church, in the car and in the shower. Many people remember the song that was playing on a first date or the first dance at a wedding. We choose music for parties and weddings and special Saturday nights. So it just makes sense that we would also choose the music for our funerals. From a single song to a curated playlist, music has the power to make a funeral memorable.

When planning a funeral, memorial service or celebration of life, consider how funeral music can set the tone and help tell a story. A solemn funeral service for a deeply religious person calls for a different type of music than a no-holds-barred celebration of life for a rock-and-roller. Choosing funeral songs in a time of grief may seem overwhelming, but we can help. Your Dignity Memorial® provider specializes in personalized funerals and memorials. Let us help you choose the best funeral songs for yourself or your loved one*.

Choose funeral music to match the person

Whether classical or gospel, mournful or uplifting, funeral music should reflect the personal preferences, religious traditions and cultural aspects of the person being remembered. Think about incorporating timeless Christian funeral songs for an aunt who loved her church or country funeral songs for your dad who considered himself a modern-day cowboy. A disco funeral calls for ’70s hits, while old-school rock might be more suitable for a biker’s memorial. The musical selection all depends on the person, and there are no right or wrong choices.

To find the best funeral music, start by thinking about the person's musical preferences and then taking stock of favorite bands, meaningful lyrics or spiritual messages. Below are just a few suggestions.

Songs of hope for funerals

Many people use music to bring a sense of peace or a message of hope to attendees. These favorite songs are often religious in nature, though they may also be used for secular services.

"I Can Only Imagine" (MercyMe)
"Amazing Grace"
"When I Get Where I’m Going (Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton)
"I’ll Fly Away"

Classical music for funerals

Good choices for background music during a visitation or slideshow at a funeral home, these classical selections evoke emotion and offer comfort without being intrusive.

"Ave Maria" (Schubert)
"Danny Boy" (Frederic Weatherly)
"Clair de Lune" (Debussy)
"Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire" (Bach)
"Taps" (Butterfield)

Popular music for funerals

The lyrics of these songs speak to the heart and reflect both sorrow and hope while offering comfort.

"Imagine" (John Lennon)
"Tears in Heaven" (Eric Clapton)
"Wind Beneath My Wings" (Bette Midler)
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Simon & Garfunkel)
"You Raise Me Up" (Josh Groban)

Personal favorites for a funeral or memorial service

Although there are certainly many popular choices that have beautiful melodies and meanings, you can also incorporate favorite songs into a celebratory service. A person’s favorite song or a personalized playlist can give funeral attendees insight into the person who has died and can even help them feel closer to that person. If possible, let people know why certain songs were chosen.

Maybe the funeral includes a tune someone sang at the top of his lungs while washing dishes. Maybe the song was her favorite way to start a summer road trip—convertible top down, wind whipping through her hair. The song a couple danced to at their wedding might also be used at his funeral. Her favorite love song can help tell the story of their relationship. A family or group of friends might choose a certain song as an inside joke, providing levity and healing humor. (If that’s the plan, just keep in mind that not everyone will be in on the joke, and an explanation could be helpful in ensuring that no one is confused or offended.)

Hands playing the piano 

Ways to present funeral music

Once you have selected the songs for a funeral or memorial service, think about how you would like to present the music. Do you want to use pre-recorded music or hire someone to play an instrument? Will you use a playlist or would you like a band? Talk to your funeral director for ideas and assistance in organizing the musical presentation.

Using pre-recorded music or music available in the public domain may be the right option for instrumental songs during a visitation, wake or post-service reception. If you want music performed live—some funeral chapels have pianos or organs, or you could hire a guitarist or a string quartet—let your funeral planner know. Most modern funeral chapels and churches have state-of-the-art audio equipment, but if the funeral is to be held at another location, your planner can make sure the right equipment is on site.

Some funerals include funeral hymns sung by attendees. Other may include a performance of a special song by a family member or close friend. For those who fear emotion may overtake their musical prowess, recording a song tribute ahead of time and then playing it at the service still lends a deeply personal contribution.

The lasting effect of funeral songs

No matter what combination of styles, songs and presentation you choose, music can have a powerful impact on the mood of a funeral. It can provide a cathartic release of emotion. It can bring smiles and even laughter through tears. It can provide a permanent connection to a moment and a reason to reflect and remember later. It's something to be carefully considered.

Your Dignity Memorial provider can help you choose the best music for your loved one’s funeral service or your own celebration of life. Let’s start with a person's passions and fine tune a plan from there.

*Please make sure your local funeral establishment has the proper licensing before broadcasting a specific song.