Funeral music doesn’t have to be sad. If you’re arranging a funeral where pop music is allowed, you’re free to choose songs with a happy sound or hopeful lyrics.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Upbeat funeral songs for a parent’s funeral
This section includes a mix of rock, pop and folk tunes that might suit a parent’s funeral. We’ve suggested two songs for mums and two for dads, but this is just a guide. Feel free to pick and choose from both lists.
Uplifting funeral songs for mum
Mary Black – Just Around the Corner
‘Just Around the Corner’ probably wasn’t written as a funeral song. However, its gentle music and hopeful lyrics mean it’s ideal as a piece of uplifting funeral exit music. This is the music that plays when people file out of the funeral venue.
The song is about overcoming sadness and looking forward to a brighter tomorrow. ‘When you reach your destination,’ Black sings, ‘the journey’s just begun’.
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
This is a cover of a famous song from The Wizard of Oz. The film version is a slow tune backed by an orchestra. Kamakawiwo’ole’s cover is more upbeat but no less beautiful. He plays the song on a ukulele, which gives it a simple and peaceful feel.
The lyrics are about dreaming of a magical place where ‘bluebirds fly’ and ‘troubles melt like lemon drops’. If you’re religious, you could interpret this place as being heaven or another kind of afterlife.
Listen to the song here.
Uplifting funeral songs for dad
Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky
‘Spirit in the Sky’ is one of the UK’s most popular upbeat funeral songs. It’s a joyful, stomping rock number. The lyrics are about preparing for death but being sure you’re going to a better place.
This is another song that would work as uplifting funeral exit music. People might appreciate a change of mood after the sadness of the funeral service.
Foo Fighters – My Hero
Was your dad a fan of modern rock music? If so, ‘My Hero’ could make for a powerful tribute. The song has a big sound and a simple message: you don’t have to be rich or famous to be a good role model.
The most emotional moment happens in the chorus – ‘there goes my hero, he’s ordinary’.
Uplifting folk songs for funerals
These songs are quiet, simple and very poignant. They’d be especially good for a folk fan’s funeral, but you don’t have to know a lot about folk music to enjoy them.
John Martyn – May You Never
You can think of ‘May You Never’ as a ‘saying goodbye’ song. It’s not necessarily about a person who has died, but it sounds like a list of good wishes for a friend who’s going away. These include ‘may you never lose your temper’ and ‘may you never make your bed out in the cold’.
The instrumental backing is beautiful too. It’s just John Martyn’s guitar with a little bit of soft percussion.
Ewan MacColl – Joy of Living
Ewan MacColl was famous for collecting and preserving folk songs. He also composed many of his own, including ‘Joy of Living’. It was one of his last songs – he wrote it just a few years before he died.
‘Joy of Living’ is a little different to the other songs here. At first, the music and words sound quite sad. However, when you listen carefully, its real meaning becomes clear. The song is a tribute and farewell to the adventure of life, with all its ups, downs and in-betweens.
Uplifting country funeral songs
Was the person who has died a fan of country music? Here are two tunes that could be good for their funeral playlist.
The Byrds – I Am a Pilgrim
‘I Am a Pilgrim’ is a very old Christian song that’s often performed in a blues style. The Byrds give it a bouncy country sound, with twanging banjo and mellow fiddle. The singer describes himself as a pilgrim passing through life on a journey to his ‘home’ in Heaven.
Merle Haggard – Green, Green Grass of Home
Like many country songs, ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ has a bittersweet feel. It’s the kind of song that could make people smile and cry at the same time.
The words tell a story. It starts with a man visiting his childhood home and seeing the people he grew up with. In the final chorus, the man dies and is buried in the ‘green, green grass of home’ that he loves so much.
Uplifting gospel funeral songs
Here are a couple of uplifting Christian songs for funerals, performed in a gospel style.
Tramaine Hawkins – Amazing Grace
‘Amazing Grace’ is a famous Christian hymn. It always has a happy feel, but Tramaine Hawkins’ gospel version sounds especially joyful.
The music starts quietly and then builds. Eventually, drums and backing singers join in as Hawkins gives a powerful and passionate vocal performance. It’s sure to have an emotional impact, especially if you play it at a Christian funeral.
Mahalia Jackson – His Eye is on the Sparrow
‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’ would be a good choice for the moment of reflection. This is the part of a funeral where people sit and pray or think about the person who has died.
Lots of people have recorded ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’. We’ve chosen Mahalia Jackson’s version because it sounds very gentle while still being upbeat.
More funeral music ideas
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Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash