Music can say so much – at a difficult time of grief, it often feels like a song can express more than you could put into words yourself. Whatever style of funeral or memorial service you decide upon for your departed loved one, it is likely that music will become an integral part of it.
A song can convey emotion, describe a person’s life or – if it was one of your loved one’s favourites – simply bring back happy memories. You might choose to use it at the beginning or end of the service or during a quiet period of reflection, a photo slideshow or even a sing-along.
Many people are able to clearly state their wishes regarding funeral music before they leave us. However, you may also find yourself choosing songs on their behalf. If you are in this position, try not to feel pressured during what is already a stressful period.
We collated the most up-to-date information from Google Trends to find out what the most popular song choices are for funerals in the UK. Listed below, these may help to guide your decision or unearth the perfect choice.
First performed in Italian and then re-released with English lyrics (as a duet with Sarah Brightman), this rousing, slow-building piece of operatic music is powerfully uplifting.
“And I do, I know you are with me, with me, you my moon, you are here with me”
Written by Sheeran from the point of view of his mother, after his grandmother’s passing, this simple, poignant portrayal of a mother’s love has quickly become a popular choice.
“So I’ll sing Hallelujah, you were an angel in the shape of my mum”
Composed in tribute to McLachlan’s friend Jonathan Melvoin, the lyrics of this sparse, piano-based ballad describe being carried away in the protective arms of an angel.
“You’re in the arms of the angel, may you find some comfort here”
Regarded as a secular hymn, this enduringly popular piano ballad was originally recorded by Leonard Cohen, but Buckley’s version is the one that has particularly struck a chord.
“And every breath we drew was Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah”
This song is known from The Wizard of Oz, but Hawaiian musician Kamakawiwoʻole recorded a gentle, ukulele-based cover which emphasises its message of hope and comfort.
“Someday, I wish upon a star, wake up where the clouds are far behind me”
Norwegian songwriter Rolf Løvland composed this powerful ballad for his mother’s funeral. There are several popular versions including Josh Groban’s, but Irish boy band Westflife’s cover has endured.
“I am strong when I am on your shoulders, you raise me up to more than I can be”
Written by Christine McVie, this simple ballad is one of Fleetwood Mac’s best-known songs. Its words describe the ongoing warmth and presence left behind by a departed loved one.
“For you, there’ll be no more crying, for you, the sun will be shining”
One of the most popular rock songs ever recorded, this progressive eight-minute track begins as a slow guitar ballad before building up to a soaring crescendo and guitar solo.
“Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know, your stairway lies on the whispering wind”
A more contemporary love song, the powerfully emotional lyrics of this piano-based track, penned by Smith, describes the feeling of emptiness and absence when a loved one is missing.
“You told me not to cry when you were gone, but the feeling’s overwhelming, it’s much too strong”
The poignant words of this folk-rock track can bring comfort by describing the everlasting power of love between two people. Ellie Goulding has also recorded a more recent cover.
“How long will I love you? As long as stars are above you, and longer if I can”
The words of this heartfelt track evoke childhood memories to describe the unique bond between parent and child, and the deep longing left by a parent’s absence at any stage in life.
“If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him, I’d play a song that would never ever end”
This upbeat fusion of rock and gospel has been an enduringly popular track for five decades, with words that describe the hope and joy of another life. Alternative versions include Larry Norman’s cover.
“When I die and they lay me to rest, gonna go to the place that’s the best”
“And when God takes you back we’ll say Hallelujah, you’re home”
“Let me be empty, oh, and weightless, and maybe I’ll find some peace tonight”
“I’ve been here before, I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor”
“And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before”
“Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky, that’s where I’m gonna go when I die”
“And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul…”
“Then up the stairs he would carry me, and I knew for sure I was loved”
This popular Lennon-McCartney ballad follows a gentle guitar line, and its words describe how – even across a lifetime – our love for the people and places that are important to us does not fade.
“But of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares with you
With words that look back on a life lived without regret, this uplifting song has been a standard for 50 years since Frank Sinatra first recorded it. Elvis Presley’s version has become especially popular.
“I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve traveled each and every highway, but more, much more than this, I did it my way”
Despite being less well-known, this song has become increasingly popular in the last few years. It is written as poignant, personal letter of love and appreciation, from one man to his father.
“Thank you for your guiding hand, thank you for making my dreams come true”
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