A grey Monday in January, the perfect time to dwell on death, loss and communal grief right? For whatever reason, (and London’s current exhibition Death: Southbank Centre’s Festival for the Living is probably a factor, as was Rebecca’s Songs About Death Listomania last week) we’ve been picking our perfect signing out songs.
There’s a variety of ways you can bow out and head off to the great gig in the sky. Have a rummage online and funeral song suggestions seem to fall broadly into four categories: the celebratory, the tearjerkers, the literal (Brian Eno’s ‘An Ending (Ascent)’, The Doors’ ‘The End’, ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’), and the comedy (‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Highway To Hell’).
Personally, I always wanted to begin my rotting to the strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’, accompanied by a gigantic slideshow of my life from birth onwards, Birds Of A Feather style. The idea of whoever could be arsed to show up weeping to the interlinking and quite ludicrous guitar solos that noodle on for a full four minutes always appealed for some reason.
I’ve since changed my mind. I want to bugger off this mortal coil to something like this from Live And Let Die now (although without the stabbing):
Either way, I’d be on the positive, higher BPM side of the fence; subjecting mourners to sad songs seems too cruel. The only song I can remember hearing at a funeral was a self-penned effort from a close relative and needless to say dry eyes were rare in the house.
So what would you pick? Please don’t say Adele. Here’s some muso picks to get you started.
'Suzanne' by Leonard Cohen. It's my mother's favourite song and it was played a lot in our house when I was growing up. The narrative is really descriptive - hearing it feels like reading a book. Also it's kind of a peaceful song, appropriate for a funeral I reckon.
I'd want 'Party Hard"' by Andrew W.K to get everyone in the mood for a wake. Death is a natural part of life and life goes on once you're gone. As long as you know you were loved and you've loved your family and friends, there's no need to be sad. Just get me in the ground and get down the pub.
The last movement of 'Quartet For The End Of Time' by Messiaen, and 'Wealth' from 'Spirit of Eden' by Talk Talk. In both cases, these are the closing pieces to two sublime works contemplating spirituality and mortality, and both tracks are melancholy and reflective but equally optimistic - which is what you want at a funeral: something that makes you think, jerks the tears, and is incomparably beautiful without being cheesy or pompous or over-holy.
Lauren Flax: R. Kelly 'Trapped In The Closet' because then everyone would have to be at my funeral for 14 hours. My runner up would be Justin Bieber slowed down 800% for the same reason. It's also the only way to be able to listen to Justin Bieber.
Lauren Dillard: The Sugababes 'About You Now' sung a capella by Romy Madley Croft, because I want to exit this earth just like Max from Hollyoaks did.
Arvo Part, 'Spiegel I’m Spiegel'. Won't be a dry eye in the house.
I've thought about this question before. It might be a bit morbid to imagine one's own funeral, but it certainly seems natural. I have always thought my loved ones should play 'Funk 49' by the James Gang. I can't imagine anyone being sad while this song is playing. It just doesn't seem possible.
I'd go for The Verve, 'Gravity Grave (Live at Glastonbury 93)' from 'No Come Down'.
Although the title has obvious morbid connotations, this live version alao brings with it lengthy euphoria back when Richard Ashcroft and the boys were something exciting to behold and long before the overblown, trad retro rock pomp of solo projects and ostentatious country piles.
Nick McCabe's guitar playing actually sounds like it's from another world, and Mad Richard's final cries of "one more minute, we've got one more minute!" among the church congregation could definitely help to get the 'life celebration' allnighter started, before I formally transcend from this world to the next (allegedly).
It would probably have to be 'Angeles' by Elliott Smith. I've no idea why, it's just a very sad song and one of my all time favourites. Either that or I Know It's Over by The Smiths, that songs seems rather appropriate for a funeral, probably guaranteed tears all round with that one.
'Bitter Sweet Symphony' by The Verve. The lyrics are true to life and touch on death and it’s kind of emotional. It says what I feel on most days.
'Hocus Pocus' by the band Focus. It changed my life and could quite possibly contain the ingredients for resurrection in its composition. But mostly, because this song irrefutably, without question, changed my life.
'Sweet Child O Mine' by GNR. It reminds me of a childhood friend who died a few years ago. However I think this will only work right if I die before I turn 40. After that I'll have to pick a new song.
I would like to hear 'The Bear Necessities', as sung by Baloo from the Jungle Book, because that song has a badass groove and it would lift everybody at the funeral's spirits. You can't help but sing along. Or wait... 'I'm Sexy and I Know It' by LMFAO, and bury me in animal print pants. Yeah, the second one.
I definitely wouldn't want just one song at my funeral. Music is a defining aspect of my life and i would like there to be lots of it. As I envisioned my death all morning while listening to sad music (what a brutal task you have assigned) I came up with these jams:
'Let My Spirit Rise' by Kurt Weisman. The song begins, "Before I leave this earth, before I close my eyes, before we kiss goodbye, let my spirit rise", and ends "we can never know the wide and open sky, where our souls reside, let me taste the heavens before I die". It's a song about the celebration of life and the mystery of death, and it's delivered in Kurt's heartbreakingly beautiful falsetto.
'The Minutes' by David Longstreth. This is from a very early Dirty Projectors album, long before I was in the band. Dave has written a lot of great songs since then, so I guess if I die before him I would just let him choose the song.
'Thank You For Your Love' by Antony And The Johnsons. This would be a thank you to everyone for sharing this crazy life with me.
That's it for my funeral mini-mixtape. Now im going to go listen to Ryan Power's album, 'I Dont Want To Die'.
Jackson Browne, 'All Good Things'. There is a timeless quality to the sound of Jackson Brown's voice that I think lends itself very well to a retrospective look at someone's life. His songs mean a lot to me and this one in particular seems very fitting for such an occasion.
At my funeral I want them to play Paul Epworth’s remix of Band Of Horses’ 'No Ones Gonna Love You' ft. Cee Lo Green. I first heard this track one night in Manchester a few years ago and was instantly blown away. It has a slightly dark feel to it but also has a really nostalgic and heavenly vibe running through it."
'Jeepers Creepers' by Louis Armstrong. This is a track we often play after we've finished a gig. It's always such a contrast after our set and no matter whether it went great or terrible this song always manages to retain or put me in a great mood. I think this would be quite apt as i would be offstage for the final time and this is bound to make people smile.
Weird Al - 'Amish Paradise'. I have a feeling it might bring me back from the grave.