Honoring those who have passed away can be an emotional and difficult process. Finding the right music that expresses exactly how you want your loved one to be remembered can offer comfort and closure while working through grief.
Music acts as a bridge between souls and spirits like no other. Ideal for funerals, a celebration of life services, and other memorial services for family members or friends, here are the best funeral songs to dedicate to those you hold close.
- You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor
- Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) – Billy Joel
- Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
- To Lay Me Down – Jerry Garcia
- Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
- Asleep – The Smiths
- I’ll Be Seeing You – Billie Holiday
- Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
- Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
- Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- You Raise Me Up – Josh Groban
- Smile – Nat King Cole
- My Way – Frank Sinatra
- Time to Say Goodbye – Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli
- Lay Me Down – Sam Smith
- Like a River – Carly Simon
- We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn
- Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon & Garfunkel
- See You Again – Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
- Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill
- Song for Dad – Keith Urban
- Thank You for Being my Dad (Song for Dad) – Jon Barker
- Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die – Willie Nelson
- Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python
You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor
Songwriter James Taylor has previously said his writing process is a bit subconscious. That’s how ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ came about, with Taylor in a hotel room simply writing down lyrics and playing a melody as it came out naturally. While filming the racing movie Two-Lane Blacktop, he wrote the tune for his girlfriend at the time, fellow musician Joni Mitchell.
Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) – Billy Joel
Model and actress Christie Brinkley had a child with Billy Joel in the ’80s. Joel’s tune ‘Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)’ was written after their daughter Alexa asked him where people go after passing away. Searching for the words to comfort her, he wrote the song, and Brinkley designed the cover art for the album River of Dreams.
Related: Hear this song on our playlist of angel music.
Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
A dreamy, island-tinged classic, ‘Over the Rainbow’ has been used to comfort little ones and individuals experiencing hardships and grief for decades. The song’s message is uplifting, chronicling a person’s hopes and dreams of following their heart and traveling “somewhere over the rainbow” to blue skies. In 2021, the enduring single was recognized as “historically and culturally significant” and is preserved by the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. It’s the perfect choice if you’re looking for uplifting funeral songs.
Related: Feel comforted with our songs of hope playlist.
To Lay Me Down – Jerry Garcia
Though ‘To Lay Me Down’ was one of the first songs Jerry Garcia released as a solo artist, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter actually wrote the tune. Hunter wrote the sweet yet mournful tune while hanging out with the band in London and indulging in a whole bottle of wine. Along with writing ‘To Lay Me Down,’ which deals with longing to return to a lover one last time, he wrote other songs like ‘Ripple’ and ‘Brokedown Palace’ that day as well.
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
When Leonard Cohen released his single ‘Hallelujah’ in 1984, it didn’t receive much radio airplay or attention in the U.S. When touring artist Jeff Buckley discovered the tune in the ’90s, he began performing it at his shows and subsequently released it on his most popular album, Grace. However, it wasn’t until his tragic death in ’97 that fans connected with the song’s message, which deals with life’s different “hallelujah” moments.
Related: Listen to more spiritual songs.
Asleep – The Smiths
The Smiths frontman Morrisey wrote ‘Asleep’ with lyrics that could be left to interpretation. Because of this, some fans speculated that the sorrowful lyrics were about Morrisey’s desire to end his life. It is also rumored that he was grieving a friend who had just passed away when he wrote it. The message behind ‘Asleep’ features someone who wishes to be comforted as they pass on to the next life.
Related: Here is our playlist of sleeping songs.
I’ll Be Seeing You – Billie Holiday
“I’ll find you in the morning sun. And when the night is new. I’ll be looking at the moon. But I’ll be seeing you.” With lines full of beauty and nostalgia, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ was originally written for a musical comedy, Right This Way. Though the musical didn’t last long in venues, this jazz number endured due to its comforting, timeless message. Though loved ones leave us sometimes, we reconnect with their spirit in countless ways.
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
During the recording of Pink Floyd’s album Wish You Were Here in the mid-’70s, what began as a song about one of their founding members also reflected the band’s current climate while in the studio. The title song was written about original Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett and his battle with schizophrenia. As the band recorded the song, Waters felt it also reflected their feelings of burnout with the industry.
Related: Remember your loved ones with this missing you songs playlist.
Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
One of the most performed songs of all time, Bette Midler’s ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ was recorded for a 1988 movie she starred in, Beaches. The song plays during a pivotal scene in the film involving her character. Though other artists like Gladys Knight and The Pips first recorded the song, Midler’s became the most popular. The song has become a cornerstone for many emotional events with uplifting, universal lyrics centered around love.
Related: This song features on our playlist of wind music.
Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd cemented themselves in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with their release of ‘Free Bird,’ a dynamic song about a guy trying to tell a girl why he can’t settle down into a normal, quiet life. The recording clocks in at almost 10 minutes, allowing ample time for Skyndyrd’s three lead guitarists (Allen Collins, Ed King, and Gary Rossington) to lay down several epic solos.
Related: Fly high with these wonderful birds songs.
You Raise Me Up – Josh Groban
Christian singer Josh Groban wrote ‘You Raise Me Up’ in 2001 as a poignant vehicle for listeners to be able to connect with their spirituality. In 2004, he was invited to the Super Bowl to perform the song and commemorate the Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster that had happened just one year before. In 2003, the spacecraft was re-entering Earth’s atmosphere to make a landing in Texas but broke up upon descent due to a faulty piece of insulation.
Related: Appreciate your grandfather with these grandpa songs.
Smile – Nat King Cole
Originally a Charlie Chaplin song from the mid-’30s used in his film Modern Times, multiple artists would go on to cover the song, including Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole. Chaplin’s original version was instrumental with a message focusing on a brighter tomorrow. In 1954, lyricists John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added words to the tune. Nat King Cole would become the first artist to record ‘Smile’ with lyrics.
Related: If you’re dealing with tragedy, listen to these uplifting songs for hard times.
My Way – Frank Sinatra
“I’ve lived a life that’s full. I’ve traveled each and every highway. But more, much more than this. I did it my way.” Frank Sinatra has spanned generations with his encouraging hit ‘My Way.’ He wrote it at a time in his life when new genres of music were being ushered in, and his time in the limelight was coming to a close. The single was his way of saying he was at peace with things because he stayed true to himself through it all.
Related: Here are some great theme songs for life.
Time to Say Goodbye – Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli
Andrea Bocelli’s 1995 Spanish single ‘Con te partirò’ translates literally to “I’ll Leave With You.” Female vocalist Sarah Brightman brought a story-filled song about lovers celebrating life’s adventures together into the studio to re-record the song with Bocelli. They renamed the tune ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ and performed it at boxer Henry Maske’s last fight.
Lay Me Down – Sam Smith
British singer Sam Smith has a penchant for releasing emotionally-driven, mournful songs. His most famous hit, ‘Stay With Me’ was full of yearning for a lover who doesn’t want to settle down. His song ‘Lay Me Down’ dives deeper into complicated emotions involving losing loved ones. ‘Lay Me Down’ was the song that helped Smith get his first record deal.
Like a River – Carly Simon
“I fought over the pearls with the other girls.” One of Carly Simon’s later releases in her career, her 1994 song ‘Like a River’ tackles the emotional process of dividing up the belongings of a loved one among children. In Simon’s personal life, the song deals with her losing her own mother and going through her things with her sisters. The song is featured on the longtime artist’s 20th album, a haunting project titled Letters Never Sent.
Related: Float away with these songs about the river.
We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn
Singer Vera Lynn spent a lot of time with British soldiers during WWII, putting on concerts for them during their service to boost morale. She would often sing cheerful songs that would get them thinking about their lovers waiting for them at home. ‘We’ll Meet Again’ is one of those tunes. Lynn’s music has continued to influence artists. Pink Floyd mentions the singing beauty twice on their classic album, The Wall.
Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon & Garfunkel
When Paul Simon began writing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters,’ he had a friend in mind who was grieving and needed comfort. It started as a simple hymn with gospel elements. However, as he continued to work on it, the tune developed into a more poetic, acoustic ballad. Art Garfunkel ended up singing this one solo. Later on, Simon admitted he wished he would have agreed to sing it with him.
Related: Find this song on our list of songs about water or rain.
See You Again – Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
After Whiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s spirited performance of ‘See You Again’ on an episode of Saturday Night Live, the nostalgia-filled single skyrocketed on the charts. With open-ended lyrics about focusing on seeing a loved one again someday, the tune resonates with listeners who are dealing with losing someone. The poignant tune was featured in the seventh installment of the Fast and Furious movie franchise.
Related: Head over to our list of songs about challenges.
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
The haunting ballad ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ has been covered by artists more than 150 times. However, when songwriting genius Bob Dylan wrote the tune in 1973, he was simply writing a song for the gunslinger film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. The song’s moving lyrics and flowing melody make it a soothing song to hold on to while mourning the loss of someone.
Related: Check out our playlist of songs about heaven and death.
Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill
Country songwriting impresario Vince Gill has one of the most unique voices in the industry. He pairs his soulful pipes with musicians Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs for their performance of ‘Go Rest High on That Mountain,’ a moving single centered around honoring the complicated past of a loved one. Gill wrote the tune in the early ’90s while dealing with the sudden passing of his brother, Bob, from a heart attack.
Related: Climb over to our playlist of mountain music.
Song for Dad – Keith Urban
Appearing on his breakout record Golden Road in 2002, ‘Song For Dad’ eloquently captures country musician Keith Urban’s fond memories of his father. As he reflects on his childhood, he realizes the older he gets, the more he resembles his dad. The song is the perfect tribute for anyone looking to commemorate their father’s positive influence on their life.
Thank You for Being my Dad (Song for Dad) – Jon Barker
In 2005, songwriter Jon Barker sat down and wrote a tribute to his father, with whom he shared a close bond. Organic traction caused the song to take on a life of its own, with people performing the sweet song across the world. It went on to earn top spots on charts spanning 50 countries. ‘Thank You for Being my Dad (Song for Dad)’ was also voted by Sunlife UK as the most popular tune to play at a funeral.
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die – Willie Nelson
Country icon Willie Nelson felt a song with as much swagger and attitude as ‘Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die’ needed some guest vocalists, and he found his partners in none other than rap legend Snoop Dog and country legend Jamey Johnson. Kris Kristofferson, a member of unofficial country music royalty, also sat in on vocals. The single was released in 2012 on April 20th, or “420 day” in America, which celebrates cannabis (Nelson is a longtime fan of the herb). It’s certainly not traditional funeral music, but it will surely fit someone with a sense of humor.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python
“If life seems jolly rotten. There’s something you’ve forgotten. And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” This lighthearted, touching tune can be heard in the Monty Python film series Life of Brian. The film follows a young man who is mistaken for Jesus. Just days before filming was supposed to start, the production company pulled funding. George Harrison was good friends with the comedy group (known as Monty Python), so he decided to fund it himself.
Related: Whistle along with some more whistle songs.
More of the best funeral songs:
- Amazing Grace – Judy Collins
- What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
- You Are Not Alone – Michael Jackson
- Remember When – Alan Jackson
- Candle in the Wind – Elton John
- If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away – Justin Moore
- There You’ll Be – Faith Hill
- Goodbye’s the Saddest Word – Celine Dion
- Don’t Forget to Remember Me – Carrie Underwood
- Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton