Songs about love and loss can seem significant when they are played at a funeral – and even more so, when the song in question was written in tribute to someone who died.
While funeral hymns and sombre music are traditional, the songs we loved in our happiest moments are becoming the memorial songs of choice at many final farewells today.
These 10 hits from the 80s, 90s, Noughties and more recent years have become evergreen modern funeral songs. With lyrics written in loving memory, they are modern funeral songs with incredible meaning.
When September Ends – Green Day
As my memory rests But never forgets what I lost Wake me up when September ends
Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was just 10 years old when his father, Andrew, died of cancer.
This evergreen classic is a fitting modern funeral song, which Billie Joe has described as therapeutic to write, but sometimes difficult to perform due to the emotions behind the poignant lyrics.
Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
Would you know my name If I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same If I saw you in heaven?
Eric Clapton channelled his grief following the heartbreaking death of his four-year-old son, Conor, into the lyrics of this timeless funeral song.
When you are lost for words and grieving, it is among the best modern songs for a funeral, expressing in lyrics and music what is almost impossible to say.
Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon
Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath Keep me in your heart for a while If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less Keep me in your heart for a while
Rocker Warren Zevon penned this heartbreaking goodbye after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer that took his life a year later.
If you are searching for modern funeral songs with meaning, this song is worth a listen if you are unfamiliar with it. Indeed, many of the tracks that feature on Zevon’s final album, The Wind, are worthy modern funeral songs, with reflections upon life, death and the people left behind.
The Show Must Go On – Queen
Inside my heart is breaking My make-up may be flaking But my smile still stays on
A terminally ill Freddie Mercury was becoming frail when he came to record The Show Must Go On, but his incredible voice was as strong as ever, as Queen recorded their final studio album together.
Expressing courage in the face of final days that came way too soon, it’s a deeply moving and modern funeral anthem for rockers who turned it up to 11.
Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill
Go rest high on that mountain Son, your work on earth is done. Go to heaven a-shoutin' Love for the Father and the Son
Bittersweet country numbers often touch a chord deep in our hearts and make for touching modern songs for funerals.
This song has been amongst the most popular choices for funerals since country star Vince Gill released it in 1994. He began writing it in tribute to another country star, Keith Whitely, but it was the death of Vince’s brother, Bob, that moved him to finish the song, in memory of them both.
I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy and Faith Evans
Every day that passes Is a day that I get closer To seeing you again
Shortly after the murder of his good friend, rapper Notorious B.I.G., rap star Puff Daddy wrote, recorded and released this Billboard chart-busting tribute. It has been a top choice for modern funeral music ever since.
The beat was sampled from The Police hit Every Breath You Take, while the song also features extracts from composer Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which was amongst the funeral music played for President John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco.
The Living Years – Mike and the Mechanics
I think I caught his spirit Later that same year I'm sure I heard his echo In my baby's newborn tears
Singer B.A. Robertson and musician Mike Rutherford had both lost their fathers when they co-wrote this poignant modern funeral song, and tied their experiences into the lyrics.
Rutherford has said that he’s had hundreds of letters from fans saying it’s helped them pick up the phone following an estrangement. For others, it’s a memorial song which brings a lump to the throat and evokes what they felt in their heart for their dad.
Meet Me in the Middle of the Air – Paul Kelly
In my house you'll dwell forever You shall not want for care Surely goodness and mercy will follow you Come and meet me in the middle of the air I will meet you in the middle of the air
Legendary Aussie singer songwriter Paul Kelly and guitarist Charlie Owen released an entire album of modern funeral songs, Death’s Dateless Night, in 2016.
Inspired to record it after attending the funeral of a friend, it includes arrangements of evergreen classics such as The Parting Glass and versions of some of Kelly’s own best-known songs, including Meet Me in the Middle of the Air. He revealed the tracks are the most popular songs he’s requested to play at people’s final send-offs.
See You Again – Wiz Khalifa
It's been a long day without you, my friend And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again We've come a long way from where we began Oh I'll tell you all about it when I see you again When I see you again
This was written in memory of film star Paul Walker and featured on the soundtrack of the movie Furious 7.
It was the world’s biggest selling song in 2015 and its touching lyrics also struck a chord with people remembering their own loved ones. It has already become one of the most popular modern songs for funerals and memorial services.
10. Courtney’s Song – James Blunt
You lit me up and you led me inside Then you disappeared with no warning sign You broke more than my heart When you left without saying goodbye I'm here to let you know I'm here to let you go
James Blunt wrote this beautiful modern memorial song in tribute to his good friend, actress Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, who died just a day apart in 2016.
It was played at their joint public memorial in March 2017 and is likely to become a poignant funeral song in the years to come. Debbie’s son Todd Fisher said: “Everybody has lost somebody and this song is a true help in letting go.”
We have a wide selection of funeral hymns for you to browse if you are looking for something more traditional to play at a funeral. We also have rundowns the most popular rock songs for funerals and country songs for funerals if you’re looking for something more specific.