“My Way” by Frank Sinatra or “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC – which song should be played at your funeral? The choice is personal. Funeral songs set the tone for your service, which is why there are popular options and some unusual choices, all dependent on the choice of the deceased or the family.
Planning your funeral lets you plan your end-of-life celebration including the choice of music. What is the most played song at a funeral? Our funeral arrangers are asked this often.
United Kingdom-based Co-op Funeralcare compiled a Funeral Music Chart – sort of like the Billboard music charts – from 2002 to 2019 (They didn’t do it in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic). The 2019 Top 10 Funeral Songs list includes:
- “My Way” by Frank Sinatra
- “Time To Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli
- “Over The Rainbow” by Eva Cassidy
- “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
- “Angels” by Robbie Williams
- “Supermarket Flowers” by Ed Sheeran
- “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole
- “You Raise Me Up” by Westlife
- “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn
- “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” by Eric Idle from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”
Popular funeral songs at our services
The Billboard list, though, is just one snapshot. Mandy Desmarais, a funeral director with Phaneuf, shared some of the popular song choices in recent years, such as “Dancing ‘n the Sky” by Dani and Lizzy. “Ave Maria,” a traditional song recorded by many artists, remains very popular as does. Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”. “Time To Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, and “My Way” by Frank Sinatra remains a staple at Phaneuf-hosted funerals.
Country music playlists are also often requested. Elvis is popular with families who have lost older parents and grandparents.
“I had one family request ‘Avalon’ by Roxy Music at the end of their service, and if you listen to the words it’s extremely fitting, but still an unusual request,” Mandy said.
Families can bring in or request a playlist of whatever they want, and we’ll download it for them. We had a family who played all Metallica and Rob Zombie and other metal, and also had a 100% Grateful Dead family. The music is so personal and such an important element of the grieving process, so we make no restrictions.
On the flip side, there are lists of unusual songs that are requested, or songs that some would think to never play at a funeral, such as:
- “The Show Must Go On” by Queen
- “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
- “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC
- “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen
- “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” by Bon Jovi
- “Always Look on The Bright Side of Life”
- “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” from “The Wizard of Oz”
- “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles
- “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred
- “The Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett
It’s interesting that “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python is on both the popular and unusual lists. There’s actually a Reddit thread about unusual funeral songs with more than 4,500 posts.
“My aunt did that,” one poster wrote about “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.” “They had to go into detail explaining that she chose the song so people wouldn’t get offended.”
Another cited the Halloween staple “The Monster Mash,” “because no one is sad during a graveyard smash.”
And another poster added this unusual tune: “My grandfather went to a funeral where the song was ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconut.’ To this day, I wonder what that selection process was like.”
Mandy said Johnny Cash remains popular, but there was one unusual situation. “I was standing there at the memorial gathering with the cremated remains present and ‘Ring Of Fire’ started playing.”
Humor aside, it’s truly your choice as to which songs you’d like played before or during your service. Music affects our emotions in positive ways. If your loved ones knew you were a lifelong fan of The Beatles, it may be comforting to them to listen to a selection of the Fab Four at your end-of-life event.
Once more with feeling
It’s important to remember that certain songs create emotions within us. When we associate certain songs with funerals and death, they may create sadness. These emotions sometimes escalate to a physical response such as sobbing.
The brain makes the connection between song and emotion, therefore the same song may not affect everyone the same way. The song that may create sadness for one may give another person the strength they need to help them through the grieving process.
“Taps” is a song commonly played by a single bugle during a military funeral. For many, this song creates sadness. But for others, their brain may have linked this song to the memory of how courageous their loved one was, and the song may give them a sense of pride or comfort.
As you begin to think about songs you’d like played at your funeral, pay attention to your emotions. This may help you choose the most important playlist of your life.