Songs to Die For: What Do You Want Played at Your Funeral?

My morbid mother frequently peruses the obituaries and, with an almost estranged amazement, reads a few aloud. Usually she’ll note how old this person was, or how many surviving family members that person had, or, unsettlingly, how “this boy was your age!”

She’s also always talked about songs she wants played at her funeral, or songs my grandfather wants played at his funeral. The obits don’t have my readership, but I do occasionally hear a song that I’d die for; that is, a song so beautiful and humbly celebratory even, I make a note to tell someone close that I’d like it played at my funeral.

In an effort to rationalize our own morbidities by exploring those of some of our readers, we’ve put together a series of songs that you would die for. This is Part 1 of that list.

Alex, aka WXDU DJ Medved, host of ‘Carpetbagger Jams’

If I died tomorrow: “Blue Lips” by Regina Spektor.

If I died old: “Soldat” by 5’Nizza.

They both speak to me. I want the last line of Soldat’s chorus–“Я герой/скажите мне какого романа,” which loosely translates to “I’m a hero, but tell me, of what novel?”–as a tattoo. But, it’d be pretentious to play a song about being a soldier and fighting to survive when I’ve never even been in a fist fight.

Colin, loyal subscriber and doctor-to-be

Just last week, I attended a funeral for the mother of one of my good friends from high school.  It was a pretty standard Roman Catholic shindig – a lady who was a bit too large for her own good bellowed on the organ while a young, pretty blonde tried to sing loud enough to be heard.  The songs were traditionally religious with themes of peace, hope, and love.

After the service, we convened in the church hall for a potluck lunch.  As I sat there, poking around at my various casseroles, 7-layered things, and chicken fried accessories, I had the same thoughts most people do at funerals – what would mine be like?

Music is a big part of a funeral service, as time is an issue.  The family and friends of the deceased want to get across as much information about him or her while still keeping things short and sweet.

But I would do things a bit differently.  Let’s be brutally clear – I’m dead, gone, deceased.  If I actually cared what people thought of me while I was alive, this self-consciousness would obviously cease to be.  Therefore, I would want my funeral to be something that people came to in order to celebrate my life, not mourn my death.  If you’re at my funeral, you already know enough about me.  What not make it fun?  Shouldn’t it be one big party?

While people were gathering, I would like the mood to be solemn.  It’s my funeral, and I’m aloud to be selfish.  For at least 10 minutes, I’d like people to be thinking of me.  Songs like Gayngs‘ “By Your Side” and Bon Iver‘s “Holocene” should do the trick.  During my service, people will likely be upset.  I’m sure my parents, brother, and closest friends would be crying.  Thus, I would want music during the service that soothed and brought out joy in others.  Bruce Hornsby, David Wilcox, Bob Dylan, and Marc Cohn would be just a few of the many artists that have helped me relax and be at ease over the years, and I would count on them to do the same for the people I loved.

After the funeral, I really don’t people to think about me or be sad any longer.  Play some Hendrix, crack open a few cold ones, and laugh about how I wanted to be buried with nothing but my lucky boxers on with one hand in my pants and the other propped comfortably behind my head.

Alternatively, you could just dump me body and all on top of some mountain in Wyoming.  Wolves have to eat to, you know.

Derek

“Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” by The Flaming Lips and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” are my funerary songs of choice. They, respectively, put forth my views on the death phenomenon and the essence of life.

The Flaming Lips produce a psychedelic rock of transcendental proportions and “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” is their ultimate expression of death, distilled down to the figurative image of the body’s disintegration. Even though the thought of an after-life is comforting, in the end we just disintegrate from a carboniferous life form into a vast array of particles recycled by the environment; thus reintegrating yourself into the only assured supernatural being: the universe. As the saying goes, “For you were made from dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Bobby McFerrin’s a capella magnum opus “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” espouses a deceptively profound message in this song. In the end, happiness is the most important achievement any human can attain and too often we lose sight of this goal.

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Look for Part 2 of “Songs to Die For” next week. If you’d like for your funeral list to be included, email us at wtf4@duke.edu.