Songs to Die For: What Do You Want Played at Your Funeral? Part 2

 A few weeks ago, we embraced our morbidity and asked ourselves and our readers, “What songs do you want played at your funeral?” We received a number of tremendous, thoughtful responses, all of which have been (read Part 1 here) or will be published. This is Part 2 of the Songs to Die For series. Enjoy.

Chantalle, aka Jacksonville-based singer-songwriter Shoni

“Reset” – Mute Math

I chose this instrumental by Mute Math because the combination of sounds creates a visual representation of existence. The song is split into three movements: life, ascension, afterlife. It begins with a beautiful and haunting melody, reaches an illuminating climax, then copies and pastes pieces from the beginning in a higher key before it falls into an ultimate rest. We essentially journey through life and are stopped by the hands of time before we are “reset” by our creator for the next life. I would want those in mourning to understand the progression of our existence and that it does not end here on earth.

Weston

“Recokner” – Radiohead

While “Recokner” is much more of a pre-mortem Radiohead song than “Motion Picture Soundtrack” or its album mate “Videotape,” it’s the one track that I feel comfortable pointing towards when asked to pick my all-time favorite song. This alone puts it at the front of my funerary playlist–never mind the Great Divide-crossing guitar riff, the drowning-in-the-cosmos lyrics, or that beautiful piano close found on live versions.

“Avril 14th” – Aphex Twin

Because Jon Brion’s “Transposition” from the Synecdoche, NY soundtrack is nowhere to be found in shareable format, Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” is my second track. Simple, elegant, and as good as any 2-minute song can be, “Avril 14th” has strangely followed me around since my birth into deliberate music appreciation, most recently in its incarnation in Kanye West‘s “Blame Game.” Here, it’s a wonderful bridge in my playlist; it also serves to send me off in a way.

“Amazing Grace” – Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues

I don’t regret being raised in the South, but there are few cultural amenities of which to be proud of. And no, t-shirts with hunting dogs and Confederate flags don’t make that list, nor do commemorative NASCAR cups.

But I can’t help but get down with a super bluesy rendition of “Amazing Grace” that sounds like it almost never escaped some small, wooden, backwoods church where it was played every Sunday night. If I go soon, this is the one selection my family will all be proud of.

Listen and download: “Blood” – The Middle East

“Blood” is death-affirming, but not quite tragic, as evidenced by its last lines:

It was the only woman you ever loved
that got burnt by the sun too often when she was young
And the cancer spread and it ran into her body and her blood
And there’s nothing you can do about it now

What is an omnisciently narrated tragedy on paper becomes a distinct celebration of mortality when backed by swelling, joyous, children’s choir-supported instrumental composition. “Blood” is a sad song that can only produce happy tears.

“A Satisfied Mind” performed by Justin Vernon

“But one thing’s for certain, when it comes my time / I’m gonna leave this old world with a satisfied mind.”

Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon’s cover of Mahalia Jackson’s “A Satisfied Mind” (from this album) manages to find a remarkable balance: Vernon’s absolutely vulnerable falsetto channels a wizened, powerful conviction. For all of the world’s expectations and trappings, material or otherwise, the contentment of “a satisfied mind” is really all we should aim for. It’s a simple philosophy, but I cannot think of one more worthy of communicating to those in attendance.

Audrey

“Blue Light (Engineers Anti Gravity Mix)” – Bloc Party

Because “you’ll find it hiding in shadows.” Everything in this song, from the cigarette ash imagery to the frequent invocation of insomniac shadows, suggests something that lingers. What is there to be said about death other than, “if that’s the way it is, then that’s the way it is, but I still feel you in the taste of cigarettes?”

“Lola Stars And Stripes” – The Stills

Because “are you afraid? We always said the world would never last…” According to the Stills, there is to be no feeling sad at my funeral, despite all the apocalyptic overtones. We’ll seek comfort, instead, in the surge of our pasts. “Can you take me back to that place where stars grow?”

“Chasing The Broken Hearted” – Jimmy Ruffin and Snow Patrol

Because “what becomes of the broken-hearted who had love that’s now departed?” Is there any encouragement like Jimmy Ruffin’s voice, which acknowledges that life is painful and also tells you to get over it in the most soulful way possible? “Some kind of peace of mind… maybe.”

“Beneath the Rose” – Micah P. Hinson

Because “I can be found beneath the rose.” The song is a little obvious, but Micah P. Hinson can score my whole life as far as I’m concerned.

“Wild is the Wind (Nina Simone Cover)” – Cat Power

Because “we are creatures of the wind—wild is the wind..” Because this song is accurate and miserable—it suggests that everything is fleeting almost in counterpoint to “Blue Light.” If Bloc Party is still hung up on cigarettes, Chan Marshall can’t get over the sound of mandolins, but this song has something of the futility in hanging on that “Blue Light” lacks.

“Your Hand in Mine” – Explosions in the Sky

Because “the earth is not a cold dead place,” and because Explosions in the Sky always manages to be quietly hopeful.

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Part 3 of the Songs to Die For series will be published next week. This will likely be the last installment, so if you’d like to submit your funerary playlist, write us at wtf4@duke.edu.