Songs to Die For: What Do You Want Played at Your Funeral? Part 3

[President Abraham Lincoln's hearse, Springfield]

Just over a month ago, we began asking our readers and ourselves the deceptively tough-to-answer question: “What songs do you want played at your funeral?” This is the third and final installment of our Songs to Die For series (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). It’s been an interesting, enlightening ride, and with such capable and articulate readers, we’re really looking forward to our next community-written project (which we promise will be far less morbid!).

In the meantime, enjoy Part 3 of Songs to Die For:


A song’s lyrical content is the tantalizing, thought-provoking meat any singer/songwriter uses to convey their soul with. Any conscientious artist experiments endlessly with the concepts of life and death. However, life and death are not the bookends of lyrical creation. That is, not all songs are written of birth, death, and every thing between our first and last breaths. Quite the contrary, life and death are at the centerfold of most great lyrical concepts.

The best songs about death are those that reflect on how we feel we did in life, the things we wish had turned out differently. These songs may apply to a specific topic of regret; resent; longing; peacefulness; et cetera, or a broader sense of exactly how far we got on our journey to self-actualization. There does not necessarily have to be a direct or implied interest in death throughout the song. In choosing the song I would want used as my personal elegy, I considered many songs that were not naturally observed as mournful or nostalgic. However, these songs stretch far from the lyrically rooted pair of life and death. I thought it more appropriate to find a song nearer to the aforementioned “centerfold”.
My pick is “In My Life,” a Lennon/McCartney creation. A surprisingly short ballad of reflection, this song compiles all the elements of a good “song to die for.” “In My Life” provides an honest look back at the past without becoming too regret-oriented or too elated. The theme here relies on believing that one’s actions are rendered due to emotions that may later seem blasphemous and that one should not feel as though they want to change their past. The Beatles knew that the world reinvents itself as an ever-changing battle as we age. However, the attitude here is just jovial enough to think that the Fab Four were content with this and with all their ups and downs. If the lyrics aren’t enough to get you stirred up, the production on this track is superb…and there’s a harpsichord/keyboard solo in there that is sure to make your ears swim with the beautiful melody of “In My Life.”


“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” – Radiohead

Street Spirit has always been one of my favorite songs, but only recently did I come across an interview in which Thom Yorke discussed the track.  I can’t say I agree or entirely comprehend Thom’s perception of the “devil,” but this part is spot on and is fitting for such a doleful procession:

“All of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve. ‘Street Spirit’ has no resolve. It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end. It represents all tragic emotion that is so hurtful that the sound of that melody is its only definition.”

Entire quote:

This one speaks for itself:

“Dedicated Follower of Fashion” – The Kinks


“Bitter Sweet Symphony” – The Verve

This song has always been a favorite of mine. It is a reminder of how limited our time is on earth. As time passes quickly to the day it will be too late. I would like to remind people with this song that the cast will eventually harden and there is no going back to alter the legacy.

“Stomping Grounds” – The Flecktones

The feeling Stomping Grounds gave me when I first heard it is something I would like to share with everyone. This dense song creates a cheerful feeling in me and I wish the same feeling to be shared at my funeral.

“Let’s Stay Together” – Al Green

All of my grandparents were married for over 50 years. They and were some of the most complete and happy people I have ever met. If I am lucky enough to get the opportunity to take part in something as great, “Let’s Stay Together” should be played for my other half. Although it is not as appropriate as Barry White’s “You’re the First, The Last, My Everything”, it is simply my favorite.