Best Funeral Songs Ever

A funeral can be the most trying time in a person’s life, and there are many variations of grief. Those emotions need processing time, and music has the unique ability to help humans process their difficult emotions. Let’s examine the most popular funeral songs of all time.

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler

Song Year: 1988

Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar wrote the track “Wind Beneath My Wings” in 1982, and you might be familiar with another common name for the song “Hero.” Despite recordings by other artists like Kamahl and Lee Greenwood, the most successful version was Bette Midler’s 1988 recording for the film beaches. Her singing is powerful and emotional, well-fitting for a funeral.

“If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks

Song Year: 1989

Garth Brooks released the track “If Tomorrow Never Comes” on his 1989 self-titled album. Kent Blazy wrote the song, and this Brooks recording was so successful that it became his signature track. Reaching the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart, the music will put you into a gentle and reflective mood.

“Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith

Song Year: 2013

With contributions from Jimmy Napes and Elviin, Sam Smith wrote the track “Lay Me Down” for the 2013 album In the Lonely Hour. The lyrics and gentle piano accompaniment beautifully express the painful emotions and deep reflections one feels at a funeral. The track hit number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

“One More Day” by Diamond Rio

Song Year: 2000

“One More Day” by Diamond Rio came out on a 2000 album by the same name. The title refers to the narrator wishing to have another day with the lover they recently lost, something they want more than anything else. Despite the painful lyrics, the musical accompaniment brings a touch of positivity to the overall emotional feel.

“Lord of All Hopefulness” by Jan Struther

Song Year: 1931

Assuming such a song fits in with your traditions, this Christian hymn by Jan Struther is a sad yet beautiful way to grieve. With expressive musical accompaniment mimicking the sound of Irish and Scottish folk songs, the lyrics ask for the feeling of peace during a difficult time.

“My Father’s Eyes” by Eric Clapton

Song Year: 1998

Eric Clapton released the track “My Father’s Eyes” on the 1998 album Pilgrim, and the lyrics are personal to tragedies that Clapton suffered earlier in his life. After a reflective opening guitar solo, the music finds a faster tempo. But the lyrics are the sad expression of Clapton grieving his father and his son who died at the age of four.

“I Can’t Write That” by Jeff Bates

Song Year: 2005

“I Can’t Write That” is a slow country ballad by Jeff Bates, which he released on the 2005 album Good People. The title refers to the difficulty songwriters face as they try to write about personal deaths, no matter how healing and beautiful those tracks often turn out to be. The soft piano accompaniment and subtle lyrics will help you grieve during a difficult time.

“Hero” by Mariah Carey

Song Year: 1993

Walter Afanasieff helped Mariah Carey write the song “Hero,” and Gloria Estefan recorded the original version. But this recording, from Carey’s 1993 album Music Box, features Carey’s powerful and inspiring voice. Considering the lyrics center around finding your inner strength during difficult times, the track is fitting for funerals and other sad settings.

“Goodbye’s (the Saddest Word)” by Celine Dion

Song Year: 2002

Released on the 2002 album A New Day Has Come, Celine Dion’s “Goodbye’s (the Saddest Word)” is a touching track about the narrator’s love for her mother and the fear of losing her. Robert Lange wrote the song, and the lyrics fit perfectly with Dion’s powerful yet floating vocal technique. The track did not hit the top of the charts but found moderate success worldwide.

“Holes in the Floor of Heaven” by Steve Wariner

Song Year: 1998

Steve Wariner’s “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” is a sad song about a narrator losing his wife, and it appeared on the 1998 album Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down. The title and lyrics suggest that even after you lose someone close, they still look down on you from heaven. Overall, this is a great track to help people find comfort during times of grief.  

“Like a River” by Carly Simon

Song Year: 1994

Carly Simon released the track “Like a River” on her 1994 album Letters Never Sent. The content is all about the love between mothers and daughters and the painful emotions of grief and acceptance one must face at a funeral. After a slow opening segment with reflective piano accompaniment, the music finds a faster tempo that provides a sense of hope during hard times.

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

Song Year: 1967

George David Weiss and Bob Thiele wrote the classic track “What a Wonderful World,” a song that likely needs little introduction. Louis Armstrong released the first recording on the 1967 album of the same name, and the touching lyrics are all about finding hope in life. Armstrong’s subtle expression and rugged tone quality give this track deep meaning.

“I’ll See You Again” by Westlife

Song Year: 2009

Next is the song “I’ll See You Again” by Westlife, from the 2009 album Where We Are. This Christian pop song has lyrics about dealing with loss and finding comfort in the feeling that lost ones remain with us. The lyrics are accompanied by haunting music with mixed emotions, matching perfectly with the complicated feelings that arise during a funeral.

“I’ll Be There For You” by Kenny Rogers

Song Year: 1991

Released on the 1991 album Back Home Again, “I’ll Be There For You” by Kenny Rogers is a country ballad with a gentle sound and touching lyrics. Like many country ballads, the track will leave you with mixed emotions, aided by Rogers’s tone quality. The lyrics will remind you that you can always feel loved ones by your side, even after they pass away.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole

Song Year: 1990

You probably have heard Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s track “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” due to its abundant usage in pop culture. Released on the 1990 album Ka ʻAnoʻi, the music will put you into a dreamlike mood. The beautiful lyrics quote the previous Louis Armstrong track, and the gentle ukulele playing creates a peaceful and accepting mood.

“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton

Song Year: 1992

Appearing on the 1992 live album Unplugged, Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” is a painfully sad song about the death of his four-year-old son one year prior. Considering Clapton wrote this track to process one of the most difficult moments of grief, the music is fitting for any funeral setting. The song hit number two on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

“I’ll Leave This World Loving You” by Ricky Van Shelton

Song Year: 1988

Next is another country track, a genre that expresses pain and grief particularly well. Rick Van Shelton released the song “I’ll Leave This World Loving You” on the 1988 album Loving Proof, and the track found the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The lyrics center around the deep love that sustains even after someone passes.

“Pie Jesu” by Celtic Woman

Song Year: 2008

“Pie Jesu” by Celtic Woman is a new-age take on classic Latin lyrics about letting go of loved ones who passed and wishing them eternal peace. The music is slow and has beautiful textures with strings and other gentle accompaniments. The delicate singing and harmony will likely bring tears to your eyes but in a healthy and accepting fashion.

“How Do I Live” by LeAnn Rimes

Song Year: 1997

Written by Diane Warren, LeAnn Rimes recorded the track “How Do I Live” for her 1997 album You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs. While the lyrics express how challenging it is to process grief and continue living after you lose someone, the powerful music, and singing give a sense of hope. The song hit the number two spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

“We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn

Song Year: 1939

If older music fits your taste, consider the 1939 track “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn. Hughie Charles and Ross Parker wrote the music and lyrics, which are about saying goodbye to loved ones and believing you will see them again. The success of the track during the World War 2 era led to a 1943 musical film by the same name.

“Angels Among Us” by Alabama

Song Year: 1993

Alabama released the track “Angels Among Us” on the 1993 album Cheap Seats. The song begins in the country recitation style, later leading to expressive singing, including the eventful addition of a children’s choir. The lyrics center around loved ones staying with us in spirit even after they pass.

“Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

Song Year: 1992

While Dolly Parton wrote and recorded the track “Will Always Love You” in 1973, this Whitney Houston recording from 1992 was a huge hit. Houston’s singing is powerful and expressive, matching the deep content of the lyrics in a soulful manner. The song stayed at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks.

“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

Song Year: 1970

While many people prefer soft and reflective music at a funeral, there is a utility to uplifting music with faster tempos and driving instrumentals. And Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” released on the 1970 album of the same name, manages to blend gospel sentiment with rock and roll instrumentals. The track was a worldwide success.

“When a Hero Falls” by Stephen Cochran

Song Year: 2007

Stephen Cockran put out the track “When a Hero Falls” on his 2007 self-titled album. The lyrics represent the grief of losing someone during military service, but you can generalize them to work at any funeral as losing someone who was a personal hero to grieving people. Despite the sad content, the musical accompaniment suggests more hopeful emotions will come.

“Candle in the Wind” by Elton John

Song Year: 1974

Next is the touching Elton John track “Candle in the Wind,” released on the 1974 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. While the original intention was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe after her passing, the track found more popularity in 1997 when John rewrote the song in honor of Princess Diana. The deep lyrics and gentle music are a perfect fit for funeral emotions.

“If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” by Justin Moore

Song Year: 2011

From the 2011 album Outlaws Like Me, Justin Moore’s “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” is a country song that reflects on the melancholic feelings of missing someone who passed. Typical of the style, gentle and reflective music in the verses leads to powerful and expressive choruses featuring Moore’s strong vocals.

“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley

"Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley

Song Year: 1994

Leonard Cohen wrote the track “Hallelujah” and recorded the original version of it in 1984. But this version by Jeff Buckley, released on the 1994 album Grace, fits particularly well with a funeral setting. Buckley’s gentle singing and sparse guitar accompaniment will bring about a sad and reflective mood fit for people mourning and dealing with the difficulties of death.

“You are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder

Song Year: 1973

Next is Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life,”  an upbeat ballad that serves as a nice contrast to many of the slow and mournful tracks in this collection. This track will not be appropriate for all funeral settings, but it is fitting for those times when people need to feel hopeful emotions and appreciate the happy memories they formed with passed loved ones.

“Just a Closer Walk with Thee” by Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson

Song Year: 1996

“Just a Closer Walk with Thee” is commonplace as a jazz standard at New Orleans-style funerals, blending gospel musical sounds with Dixieland harmonies and swing. This recording by Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, released on the 1996 album I’m Moving Along, is a faster and more positive interpretation of this classic song.

“Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)” by Toby Keith

Song Year: 2009

Toby Keith put the track “Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)” on his 2009 album American Ride. The mostly acoustic track produces a reflective mood as the narrator expresses the moment of finding out that someone has died. The song made it to number six on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Judy Garland

Song Year: 1945

A tune from Carousel, a 1945 musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, this recording of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” showcases the powerful and expressive singing of Judy Garland. The lyrics can be a gentle comfort for those who have recently lost someone, and the slow tempo and soft voices create a reflective mood well suited for funerals.

“You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban

Song Year: 2003

The Irish/Norwegian band Secret Garden wrote the song “You Raise Me Up,” and many artists have recorded this passionate tune. The cover by American singer Josh Groban was particularly successful because of Groban’s powerful voice, which expressed the lyrics well. His recording hit the top of the Adult Contemporary chart in the US.

“Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill

Song Year: 1995

Vince Gill released the track “Go Rest High on That Mountain” on his 1995 album When Love Finds You. This country ballad has a slow tempo and the rich sonority typical of country singing, including beautiful harmonies. With lyrics about losing family, the music and words provide a healthy avenue for crying and grieving.

“Smile” by Nat King Cole

Song Year: 1954

Nat King Cole released “Smile” on the 1954 album Ballads Of The Day. The music comes from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times, and John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics in 1954. The instrumentals are gentle with subtle orchestral strings, and the lyrics remind you to remember that there are still beautiful things in life, even during difficult times.

“Jealous of the Angels” by Donna Taggart

Song Year: 2014

“Jealous of the Angels” is a track by Donna Taggart that appears on the 2014 album Celtic Lady Volume II. All death is difficult, but these lyrics express the unique challenge of processing an unexpected death. Taggart’s subtle voice floats on top of a gentle piano accompaniment that produces a meditative mood.

“Meet Me In Heaven” by Johnny Cash

Song Year: 1996

Johnny Cash has a direct tone quality that can seem harsh to some, but there is no doubting the impact and depth of his music. From his 1996 album Unchained, the song “Meet Me In Heaven” has lyrics that center around the death of Cash’s younger brother.

“Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics

Song Year: 1988

Mike Rutherford and B. A. Robertson wrote the song “Living Years,” and it appeared on an album of the same name by Mike and the Mechanics. Musically you can expect the gentle sounds of a rock ballad with electronic sounds typical of music from the 1980s. You will likely recognize the chorus, which has lyrics about appreciating those we love before they pass.

“Why” by Rascal Flatts

Song Year: 2009

Rascal Flatts put out the track “Why” on the 2009 album Unstoppable, and this song takes on the challenging topic of suicide. Co-written by Rob Mathes and Allen Shamblin, the lyrics are deep and reflective, accompanied by gentle piano chords.

“Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross

Song Year: 2003

Luther Vandross’s “Dance with My Father” came out on a 2003 album of the same name. You might recognize this track from its opening piano riff, which introduces lyrics Vandross wrote as a tribute to his father, who passed away when Vandross was a child. The lyrics and singing express the wish for another moment with loved ones who are gone.

“Sissy’s Song” by Alan Jackson

Song Year: 2009

The gentle guitar opening of Alan Jackson’s “Sissy’s Song” sets the stage for an expressive and emotional song about someone’s unexpected death. The track appeared on the 2009 album Good Time, and the lyrics are about the mixed emotions we feel after someone passes away.

“What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts

Song Year: 2006

Originally written by Steve Robson and Jeffrey Steele, this recording of “What Hurts the Most” appeared on the 2006 album Me and My Gang by Rascal Flatts. The background music is more upbeat than you might expect, considering the lyrics are about losing a lover. There are also dialogues between verses that help set the background story of the song.

“The Lord’s My Shepherd” by Stuart Townend

Song Year: 2003

Next is the track “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” another Christian/Gospel tune based on Psalm 23. This recording by Stuart Townend comes from the 2003 album How Deep The Father’s Love, and the peaceful lyrics and gentle guitar will help you to process the heavy emotions of grief honestly.

“Lullabye (Goodnight my Angel)” by Billy Joel

Song Year: 1993

Chances are you will recognize the piano introduction to Billy Joel’s “Lullabye (Goodnight my Angel),” which appeared on his 1993 album River of Dreams. Joel’s subtle and deep singing fit perfectly with the sparse piano accompaniment, and the lyrics express the painful emotions of saying goodbye to someone after they pass away.

“God’s Will” by Martina McBride

Song Year: 2004

From the 2004 album Martina, the track “God’s Will” by Martina McBride is about accepting tragedy, even when it feels impossible. Barry Dean and Tom Douglas wrote the tune, which has lyrics about a crippled child and how the narrator cannot seem to understand their suffering.

“How Long Will I Love You” by Ellie Goulding

Song Year: 2013

The folk band Waterboys originally wrote “How Long Will I Love You,” but this Ellie Goulding recording comes from her 2013 album Room to Roam. Goulding’s vocals do a fantastic job of capturing the tension between love and loss in the lyrics.

“I’m No Stranger to the Rain” by Keith Whitley

Song Year: 1989

Keith Whitely recorded the track “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” for his 1989 album Don’t Close Your Eyes. The song has lyrics about processing tragedy in a positive manner, and Whitley’s bright vocals help express this hopeful emotion.

“My Immortal” by Evanescence

Song Year: 2003

You will probably recognize Evanescence’s tune “My Immortal” from its haunting piano opening. From the 2003 album Fallen, the highlight of this song is the slow build to a powerful chorus. This emotional tune captures the seriousness of dealing with loss and tragedy.

“Just a Dream” by Carrie Underwood

Song Year: 2007

Released on the 2007 album Carnival Ride, Carrie Underwood’s song “Just a Dream” has lyrics that take on the painful topic of a woman attending her husband’s funeral. The mid-tempo ballad mixes gentle verses with intense choruses that highlight Underwood’s passionate singing.

“Time to Say Goodbye” by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli

Song Year: 1996

If you do not recognize the name, you will likely know the opening string instrumental riff of this popular song. Recorded as a duet by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, “Time to Say Goodbye” comes from the powerful Italian song “Con te partirò” written by Francesco Sartori and Lucio Quarantotto.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver

Song Year: 1971

While the lyrics of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” are explicitly West Virginia and missing one’s home, they work beautifully as a metaphor for accepting death in a peaceful spirit.

“The Dance” by Garth Brooks

Song Year: 1990

The song “The Dance” by Garth Brooks is his signature song from his 1990 self-titled album. The gentle music backs up lyrics about dealing with loss. Soft strings balance Brooks’s vocals to create bittersweet emotion.

“Angel” by Sarah McLachlan

Song Year: 1998

Sarah McLachlan released the track “Angel” on the 1998 album Surfacing, and it is a song with sad lyrics and a painfully somber musical texture. The lyrics specifically center around the death of Smashing Pumpkins’ keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin, but the music works more generally as a slow and gentle way to grieve someone’s passing.

“Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle

Song Year: 1997

Bob Carlisle and Randy Thomas wrote the track “Butterfly Kisses,” which appeared on the 1997 album Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace). While the lyrics are ambiguous and not strictly about someone’s passing, the gentle singing and musical accompaniment will put you in a calm mood as you reflect on the love this narrator has for their daughter.

Top Funeral Songs Of All Time, Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many songs from a range of musical genres that can help you process the difficult emotions associated with death and funerals. Sometimes even upbeat songs have a strange way of fitting into these difficult moments.

Hopefully, you found tracks you like. But for a more general theme of sad music, check out this collection of the saddest songs of all time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *