This month’s community playlist is a tough one. I put the following question to a great group of music bloggers and insiders:
“What song do you want played at your funeral and why?”
Read the picks and then think about what you would like to say to your loved ones when you pass. Will a song help you say it?
If so, pick one, write it down, then put it in your will and share it with us in the comments.
You can listen to this playlist here.
1. “Come on Up to the House” – Tom Waits
I actually spent a lot of time thinking about this earlier this year, when my little sister died and I had to put together music for her funeral tribute. My sister was more of a country music and pop fan, so I ended up using the trio of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw, Green Day’s (unfortunately titled) “Good Riddance (Time of your Life)” and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” (which was magical because it starts with “this is for Gabby…” which is her surviving daughter’s name.) But my favorite that I came across doing research for it was Tom Wait’s “Come on Up to the House.” It comes across almost like a New Orleans funeral march, but with Waits, it obviously has it’s own charms, both lyrically and vocally. Also, as much as I love Waits growling vocals, I can imagine a choir doing wonders with these lyrics:
Come on up to the house…
There’s no light in the tunnel, no irons the fire
Come on up to the house
And your singin’ lead soprano in a junkman’s choir
You gotta come on up to the house“
I don’t know that I can wait for my funeral to hear this now… I think I’ll have to commission a choir to sing it very soon.
Selected by Drake of Thus Spake Drake
2. “I’ll Fly Away” – Mavis Staples
I really had to think about this one. You don’t want be insensitive nor overly depressing when selecting a funeral song. So I narrowed it down to seven tracks. I made my decision halfway through this song, based solely on my gut reaction. Mavis Staples has one of those powerful, stirring Gospel voices, but there’s more to it. Her faith shines through in a way that makes you feel the presence of God. Her version of the gospel classic “I’ll Fly Away” is my choice; not only because of Mavis’ voice, but for the uplifting and accepting way it speaks of death. I want those who love me to know more than anything that death is only a passing over to something much better. This song makes me feel that sentiment every time I hear it.
Selected by Robert of the Radish
3. “Celebration” – Kool and the Gang
How super-confused would you be if your good buddy Joan died, and all that was playing at the funeral was “Celebration” on a loop? It’d either be hideously ironically sad (not the desired effect), or morbidly hilarious (the desired effect.) I may even want to mix in Neil Diamond’s “Dry Your Eyes” and/or Steely Dan’s “Aja” in, just for texture. Funerals, as a rule, should be more Dia De Los Muertos-style, aka they should bring to light the awesomeness of the life of the deceased in order to aid the grieving masses left behind. Not that my life’s that awesome or that I’d have masses grieving, but I’d rather have balloons and a disco ball at my last party than some heavy, poignant, intelligent notes (i.e. Talk Talk, Ella Fitzgerald gospel numbers, Stravinsky’s “Firebird”, etc.)
Selected by Joan Hiller—Publicist, Sub Pop Records
4. “Orange Sky” – Alexi Murdoch
I can’t say that I ever really thought about what song I’d like to be played at my funeral, but this is the one. No, you can’t dance to it, and it won’t make you laugh or even chuckle. It’s a very emotional song and although I am a fun person, more than anything else I would want to thank the people in my life who had shown me love. Alexi sings, in very nearly a whisper, “I had a dream I stood beneath an orange sky, with my brother standing by,” and then crescendoes with “my salvation lies in your love.” In the end it’s a song of optimism, hope and above all the bonds that hold us together. Sure, it might make them all cry, but somebody better be crying at my funeral.
Selected by Amanda of Rhapsody in Blog
5. “Unchained” – Johnny Cash
I would want Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Unchained” to play at my funeral because I think it encompasses an aura of acceptance with death. I would want my friends and family to know that I’m okay with dying and that it’s actually freeing me from the chains of life. I’m always touched when I hear Johnny sing this song and would die for the chance to have him sing this song at my funeral. I guess this is impossible because he has already been “Unchained.” I have never heard a more encouraging yet emotional spin on death. Leave it to the man in black.
Selected by Andrew Warren Special Ops Media
6. “High & Dry” – Radiohead
I had to choose a Radiohead tune. I can’t think of a more appropriate type of music to play at a funeral than that which is reserved and melancholy, but when viewed in a certain light can actually be uplifting. The album which High & Dry comes from (The Bends) has always made me feel exactly that way; likely because whatever is causing me to be ill-at-ease always seems to trivial when compared to whatever is making Thom & the boys so bloody depressed. Also, I can’t help but associate this song with late nights in diners and long drives home
from a slew of different locations, which are all times spent with people who (I would hope, anyway) would show up if I were to suddenly kick off. The clincher: many people have told me that hearing Radiohead makes them feel like they’re at a funeral, so how could I resist such a parting joke?
Selected by Eric at FIQL.com
7. “Prelude and Fugue #24 in D minor” – Dimitri Shostakovich
This was a very hard decision to make. On one hand, dead is dead so I don’t really care about music at that point. I guess that misses the point because the purpose of any service or music is to give whatever comfort or message to those who might grieve or pay their respects. My first instinct was to play something funny to allieviate the ENORMOUS pain everyone must feel as I get ready take a dirt nap. I was thinking maybe William Shatner’s “Elegy for the Brave” from “Spaced Out-The Best of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. This would be good for a laugh but since music is one of my number one interests in life this would not fill that qualification. I chose the final Prelude and Fugue from Dimitri Shostakovich’s 24 preludes and fugues. The short prelude begins with a somber and serious theme which is very cold sounding. It then enters a slow processional which will be used for the first subject of the magnificent double fugue. As the fugue enters slightly faster, the full exposition of the first subject brings a kind of warming feeling. Then, all of a sudden the second subject enters and the whole thing springs to life and accelerates ending with a huge bang which symbolizes the continuation of life in all its glory. Now, I am ready to push some daisys.
Selected by Pantagruel of the Radish Message Board
8. “The Porpoise Song” – The Monkees
I’ve been telling people for years that I want “The Porpoise Song” played at my funeral. I want it played loud! On a good sound system. I figure if I tell enough people, they’ll have to actually do it. “The Porpoise Song” is a perfect slice of psych pop written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King for the Monkees. I hear that Cameron Crowe put it in one of his movies. That guy needs to stop raiding my record collection. I don’t want people thinking about Tom Cruise at my
funeral! “Wanting to feel / To know what is real / Living is a lie / The porpoise is waiting / Goodbye, goodbye / Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.”
Selected by Jake of Glorious Noise
9. “In the Garden” – Van Morrison
Although not a religious person, this song always seem to make me feel spiritual. There are particular Christian references – but when Van says “No Guru, No Method, No Teacher” it says to me that meaning and
spirituality are within – not in any particular religion and any particular voice.
What makes this really work is the sense of community between all the members of the band and the audience. This sense of community grows from a
single ‘Yeah’ yelled from the audience at the softest part of the song, Brian Kennedy turning into Sam Cooke, and the rousing finale with everyone singing in unison. It’s a rousing and spiritually lifting finale and at my funeral I know people will mourn, but in the end I want them to feel good.
Finally at the very end, a member of the band yells “Did you get healed tonight, did you get healed?” The audience screams “Yeah”.
Selected by Mark Munroe of Musicrocker
10. “An Ending (Ascent)” – Brian Eno
This track, which turns up in the occasional movie or PBS documentary, has had a somewhat mystical relationship to me on a personal level. I bought this album by mistake, confusing it with Eno’s soundtrack to “For All Mankind”, but when this piece came on I very suddenly and inexplicably was almost reduced to tears. An amorphous instrumental featuring a ghostly and intensely beautiful electronic solo instument, that shifts in shape and tone while seemingly hovering in the air, it immediately flooded my consciousness with memories, future glimpses, and a torrent of emotion out of the blue. It immediately suggested death to me, but death as a transition and something that was as beautiful and natural as life, although something that was also profoundly sad. This first listening was accompanied by an unexpected and unusually vivid and poignant slideshow in my mind of people I had known and loved who had passed away. I also had a premonition of the death of a close friend whom I hadn’t seen in years; years later, on the day I received word he had commited suicide, this track appeared out of nowhere on TV as a trailer for a science program. It was one of those moments when you almost believe there is a higher being somewhere, and they’ve orchestrated the whole thing to teach you some fundamental truth about life. I still find this piece beautiful beyond the ability of words to communicate and almost unbearably sad, for no sound reason other than personal ones. And since funerals are very personal things, and this piece has been embedded into my very psyche as a shorthand for death and transition itself, I’d like this one played.
But to lighten the mood, I’d insist it be followed by some repetitions of the Sgt. Pepper inner groove’s giggles. My last task on Earth would be to elicit smiles from those who mourn me, just as I loved to elicit their smiles in life.
Selected by uao of Freeway Jam
11. “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
This one is easy, this is how I like to think I went through life, cheerful and carefree. Always looking on the bright side of things. Looking for the positives versus the negatives.
Always have time to take a deep breath and reflect how good things are. To have time for the extra smile. To provide cheer to everyone around me. Always patient to listen to others woes and cheer them up, to get them to look at the bright side of life.
Selected by Keith “MusikMan” Weiss
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