If your music collection leans toward rock, pop, hip-hop or show tunes, do you really want Bach at your funeral? You’re not alone. Traditional funerary music – dirges, hymns, organ pipes – is giving way to new, more personalized music choices rooted in a rethinking of the funeral as a celebration of an individual’s life, including their iPod playlist.
And with funeral preplanning becoming more popular, some people believe you may as well decide ahead of time what type of music you want. After all, if you programmed the playlist at your last party, why would you leave the sounds at this important gathering to chance?
Out with the old!
Recent research conducted in the U.K. and based on more than 30,000 funerals showed the rising popularity of sports anthems, TV and film themes, humor, and rock and pop tunes.
Among the latest funeral-music hits:
- Topping the chart, the upbeat, distinctly British and totally irreverant “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” – the crucifixion song from from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”
- Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” which was among nine Queen songs in the top 20 (“Another One Bites the Dust” didn’t make the cut)
- Pink Floyd, who made the chart with two songs: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and – that Brit humor again? – “Another Brick in the Wall”
- Songs by Tina Turner, Abba and Led Zeppelin, which also were among the top 20
- Appearing for the first time, music from “Downton Abby.”
Preplanning the Big Day
Funeral Director Amy Cunningham, of Greenwood Heights Funeral & Cremation Services in Brooklyn, New York believes the right music choices can make a funeral and help people leave feeling inspired. Referring to a family who played Earth, Wind and Fire during a recent wake, Cunningham said of their deceased love one, “She lived this full and happy life, and they wanted the music to represent that. And it kept them upbeat and focused on her.”
Cunningham expects baby boomers to push the envelope when it comes to personalized music choices. “As word goes out that planning your own funeral is a spiritual practice and an exercise of considerable value, I think more and more people might jot down a note or two about the kind of music they want – the choices might be humorous, a favorite recording artist or a family member singing a favorite song.”
A big proponent of personalized funeral music, Cunningham has written about good music choices on her blog, The Inspired Funeral. And in her “End of Life Toolkit,” she links to Lasting Post, a blog that lists dozens of contemporary funeral tracks, among them Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” Guns N’Roses’ cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever?” – which in this case becomes a rhetorical question.
Which songs or artists reflect how you want to be remembered? Would you go with humorous, or your favorite songs?