If you’re planning a funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life for a loved one, or pre-planning for yourself, you might be considering what music to include and play. Music can create an atmosphere, share meaning, and set the tone for the funeral or end of life event. Songs that you select for a funeral or memorial service can communicate a meaning, belief, or message to the guests.

Some songs are curated based on religion or ideology, while others may simply be favorite songs of the honoree! Maybe they are evocative of certain periods of someone’s life or they are songs that always make you think of them. When selecting songs for funerals you can take into consideration genre- did they enjoy Country or Jazz, Pop or Classical? You can also pay attention to lyrics and the tone of the singer. Alternatively, instrumental music can paint a picture without words.

What makes a good funeral song for one event will be very different then what is a good funeral song for another honoree! You can certainly take into consideration what the most popular songs played at funerals are or what the most played song at a funeral may be, but please don’t let that cloud your judgment of what feels best for a funeral for yourself or a loved one. What is a beautiful funeral song varies so much from person to person and situation to situation. We’ve composed this list of funeral songs as suggestions and a jumping off point to consider beautiful funeral songs for your needs.

Songs to Play at a Funeral

Keyboard of a small organ in a church.

For a funeral where you’d like to express joy and gratitude for someone’s life:

What a wonderful world- Louis Armstrong 

“I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world”

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For someone looking for a classic or traditional funeral song:

Ave Maria- Franz Schubert 

Due to its bittersweet yet harmonious melody, Ave Maria has been a popular funeral song choice for everyone from Classic music devotees to services held in Catholic Cathedrals. Initially composed by Franz Schubert in 1825, as a part of his Op. 52. It is one of Schubert’s most popular works and there are many renditions and adaptations. 

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For an honoree who was an honorary rat pack member, or one who stayed true to their tune:

My Way – Frank Sinatra

“And now the end is here
And so I face that final curtain
My friend I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
I did it, I did it my way”

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For an honoree whose love you will always hold dear:

I’ll Be Seeing You – Billie Holiday

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you”

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For an honoree with a pure heart:

Forever Young – Rod Stewart

“And when you finally fly away
I’ll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell
But whatever road you choose
I’m right behind you, win or lose
Forever young, forever young”

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For an honoree who inspires hope and joy:

Over the Rainbow Israel Kamakawiwo’ole 

After a few emotionally evocative appearances in television and movies, this rendition of Over the Rainbow has fostered a wide audience who appreciate the message of hope and warmth. Kamakawiwo’ole’s vocals lend a sincerity and heart to this beautiful song.

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For a funeral where joy and grief are sisters:

So Long, Marianne – Leonard Cohen 

“I see you’ve gone and changed your name again
And just when I climbed this whole mountainside
To wash my eyelids in the rain
Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began
To laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again”

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For a reflective and serene atmosphere:

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning- Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson

Initially written by David Mann in the 1950s, this particular jazz cover by Ben Webster and Oscar Peterson is delicate yet existential: an appropriate choice for jazz lovers and introspective folks alike.

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For an honoree who saw life as a cycle:

Ripple- Grateful Dead 

“There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow”

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For someone who lived life to the fullest:

Dancing Queen – ABBA

Though this may not seem like an initial choice for a funeral, Dancing Queen is a delightful and jovial tune that can lift spirits and inspire a sense of laughter and joy! If ABBA isn’t their style, you can always consider whatever song they most loved to dance and let loose.

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For someone who loved Country music:

Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill

“Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered ’round your grave to grieve
Wish I could see the angels faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing”

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For the appreciate of R&B or Soul who you’ll remember fondly:

Bring it On Home to Me – Sam Cooke

“If you ever change your mind
About leaving, leaving me behind
Baby, bring it to me
Bring your sweet loving
Bring it on home to me”

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For someone who lead their life with a carefree and accepting attitude:

Que sera sera- Doris Day

“Qué será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Qué será, será
What will be, will be”

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