Rock and Roll Music For Your Own Funeral

Rock and Roll Music for FuneralsWhat music do I want to be remembered by? I think that’s a fair question and it was the topic at the funeral for our dear friend Mike last weekend.

Losing Mike was devastating to all of us who knew and loved him. He died way too young (63 years of age) and way too suddenly (from an infection that his body could not fight).

It was fitting that at a weekend gathering, college friends and close friends flew in from around the country to process his death together. His dearest friends and wife designed a service for him that left its mark on all who were privileged to be present. Reminiscent of The Big Chill, his life was celebrated in story and song, laughter, love and tears. This link may jog your memory of how prescient that film was.

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The music at Mike’s memorial service was profound and central to keeping him present. It was the music that pulled at all of our heartstrings and set the stage for the wonderful goodbyes that were said. It was the music that brought everyone in the room together and more importantly, it was HIS music that brought Mike deeply into our hearts.

The service sparked a dialogue with my husband about music we wanted to be remembered by. Surprisingly, it was not the slightest bit morbid to talk about this–it was actually an uplifting conversation. My Bill has a great sense of humor and immediately put in a request for Richie Valens singing “La Bamba.”  He envisioned everyone celebrating, dancing and smiling. He can’t stand to make anyone sad. By the way, he doesn’t even speak Spanish–go figure–glad I asked him.

Who thought planning your own funeral could put a smile on your face? When I started asking friends about music they’d like to be remembered by I got an earful, so I thought I’d pass along some of their requests. By the way, please comment at the end of this piece and let us know your top requests.

Here are some personal favorites:

1. My friend Holli likes what Elton John sang to Princess Diana: “Candle in the Wind.”
Candle In the Wind - The Greatest Hits 1970-2002  Download Music from Amazon


2. My Yoga teacher recommended “Across the Universe” by The Beatles. She loves the lyric, “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” And the song also includes a sanskrit chant that means “remover of darkness.”
Across the Universe - The Beatles 1967-1970 (The Blue Album)  Download Music from Amazon

3. Here’s a song from those who aren’t ready to say goodbye– “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations. “I want to keep you anyway I can–refuse to let you go”
Ain't Too Proud to Beg - Anthology Series: The Best of the Temptations  Download Music from Amazon

4. A really tearful, beautiful and moving piece that’s a personal favorite of mine: “Ain’t No Sunshine,” by Bill Withers (he’s just the best).
Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers' Greatest Hits  Download Music from Amazon

5. At Mike’s funeral the lyrics from another totally uplifting and moving Bill Withers piece were read by his best friend. Love the message, “I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.” Check out — “Lean On Me.”
Lean On Me - Bill Withers' Greatest Hits  Download Lean on Me

6. Human rights activist Peter Gabriel wrote this song after September 11th. His music was written for those who lost loved ones–he wanted to give people music to help them grieve. “I Grieve” Love this lyric: “nothing yet has really sunk in.”
I Grieve - City of Angels (Music from the Motion Picture)  Download I Grieve

7. Another song of Peter Gabriel’s with lyrics that give us courage and keep us going: “Don’t Give Up.”
Don't Give Up - Shaking the Tree (16 Golden Greats) [Remastered]  Download Peter Gabriel Music


8. My sister loves sweet Joni Mitchell’s “River.” You know the lyrics – “I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”
River - Blue  Download Joni Mitchell


9. At Mike’s funeral the service opened with the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace.” The room was stilled by these amazing lyrics, “Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell.” Oh, it was magical!
Brokedown Palace - American Beauty (Bonus Track Version) [Remastered]  Download The Grateful Dead

10. And of course let’s not forget Leonard Cohen’s, “Hallelujah.” So many great artists sing this spectacular song, but I personally love Cohen’s own version. This song has the power to wrap a room in love and memory and move us all to tears. Check out this YouTube video–guaranteed to make your spirits fly.
Hallelujah - The Essential Leonard Cohen  Download Leonard Cohen from Amazon


We also found this great list:

“Most downloaded Funeral Songs”


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Rock and Roll Music For Your Own Funeral was last modified: by


Felice Shapiro

Felice Shapiro Felice Shapiro loves figuring out what's next. Felice writes with honesty and humor about real life events, romance, tragedy, reinvention and family not to mention — fashion, beauty & travel. As a serial entrepreneur in the publishing space, she launched to meet the needs of women entering their next phase at 50. Inspired and armed with her love of publishing, writing, start-ups and women’s issues, Shapiro launched an online magazine for 50-something women to share personal stories, successes and relevant issues. She is proud of BA50 which is in its 4th year and has over 7 million unique visitors. 

  10 comments for “Rock and Roll Music For Your Own Funeral

  1. January 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Loved your blog. It brought tears to my eyes. I lost a dear friend recently who fought for her life for 5 years with me by her side. There were so many songs that I wanted to hear at her service but it was organized by her husband who was not open to ideas. It was a beautiful service on the Vineyard but could have used some good old tunes! Music makes memories that resonate deep into your soul.

  2. January 15, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Great idea. I also say I want a big turnout at my funeral. I guess I should figure out the entertainment ahead of time.

  3. Marlene Clayton
    January 15, 2013 at 9:04 pm


  4. Cathy Chester
    January 16, 2013 at 8:06 am

    As you said, Felice, you and I wrote similarly themed blog posts today about death and loss. Perhaps in different ways, but we remember our loved ones with a smile, a song and keep their spirit with us always.

    I remember going to a friend’s fathers funeral when I was 13. They played “Edelweiss”; the song Christopher Plummer sang in “The Sound of Music”. It was his favorite song. To this day when I hear it, it brings me to tears.

    When I pass I want to also be celebrated in song – no sadness allowed. Hmm. Here goes another conversation to put on my list of discussions to have with my hubby!

  5. January 16, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I’ve given this thought in the past. “I’ll Fy Away’ by Gillian Walsh is on my list.

  6. Lisa C
    January 18, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I’ve already told my sisters I want “Mull of Kintyre” by Paul McCartney and Wings at mine. Never been to Scotland but the song is heavenly and dignified. The bagpipes are like a gift from God.

  7. Veronique
    January 22, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Loved this article.Thought I was the only one who at 50 had already planned the music…. Will download all these songs.You have done a great job with this article.Bravo!

  8. May 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    This can be the actual incredibly finest report We have examine be thankful We have arrive at understand plenty of abilities in this subject.

  9. skip
    March 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I want this one – seriously.

  10. Popterlonie
    April 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Here’s my list of somewhat-traditional and not-so-traditional funeral/memorial service music. Three of my selections overlap with Ms. Shapiro’s.

    Song Title, Artist (original/cover) — as sorted by Artist

    How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Al Green
    I’ll Fly Away, Allison Krauch and Gillian Welch
    Cups (Pitch Perfect’s _When I’m Gone), Anna Kendrick
    All Things Must Pass, Beatles
    Blackbird, Beatles
    Carry That Weight, Beatles
    Golden Slumbers, Beatles
    Here Comes The Sun, Beatles
    In My Life, Beatles
    Let It Be, Beatles
    The End, Beatles
    The Long And Winding Road, Beatles
    Yesterday, Beatles
    Ain’t No Sunshine, Bill Withers
    Grandma’s Hands, Bill Withers
    Lean On Me, Bill Withers
    The Whippoorwill, Blackberry Smoke
    And When I Die, Blood Sweat and Tears
    “Turn, Turn, Turn”, Byrds
    The Space Between, Dave Matthews Band
    Knocking on Heaven’s Door, “Dylan, Bob”
    Desperado, Eagles
    Take It Easy, Eagles
    The Last Resort, Eagles
    The Sad Café, Eagles
    Train Leaves Here This Morning, Eagles
    Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Elton John
    Funeral For a Friend, Elton John
    Your Song, Elton John
    Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me, Frank Sinatra
    How Little It Matters, Frank Sinatra
    Iris, Goo Goo Dolls
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow, “Israel “”Iz”” Kamakawiwo?ole”
    Fire and Rain, James Taylor
    Dreaming My Dreams With You, Jamey Johnson
    Even The Skies Are Blue, Jamey Johnson
    Lead Me Home, Jamey Johnson
    Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
    Mathew, John Denver
    Carry On My Wayward Son, Kansas
    Dust In The Wind, Kansas
    Better Things, Kinks
    What A Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
    Call Me The Breeze, Lynyrd Skynyrd
    I Never Dreamed, Lynyrd Skynyrd
    Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), Marvin Gaye
    What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye
    Old Man, Neil Young
    Spirit In The Sky, Norman Greenbaum
    I Grieve, Peter Gabriel
    Secret World, Peter Gabriel
    Wallflower, Peter Gabriel
    Washing Of The Water, Peter Gabriel
    Brain Damage, Pink Floyd
    Eclipse, Pink Floyd
    Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd
    You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones
    Adia, Sarah McLachlan
    Angel, Sarah McLachlan
    I Will Remember You, Sarah McLachlan
    Back In The High Life Again, Steve Winwood
    Higher Ground, Stevie Wonder
    Brand New Day, Sting
    Consider Me Gone, Sting
    Fields Of Gold, Sting
    Fragile, Sting
    Shape Of My Heart, Sting
    And She Was, Talking Heads
    Bad, U2
    Exit, U2
    One, U2
    One Tree Hill, U2
    Running To Stand Still, U2
    Walk On, U2
    40, “U2 (“”Under A Blood Red Sky””)”
    Keep Me In Your Heart, Warren Zevon
    Love Reign O’er Me, Who
    The Song Is Over, Who
    Amazing Grace, Willie Nelson
    Georgia On My Mind, Willie Nelson
    Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, Willie Nelson
    September Song, Willie Nelson
    Stardust, Willie Nelson
    Uncloudy Day, Willie Nelson
    Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Willie Nelson
    Mood For A Day, Yes

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