In 2019, the UK funeral directors released the most popular requests for songs. People put a lot of thought into the music played during funerals; it reflects the deceased's personality and the feelings of the mourners.
Some songs have been around for centuries, while others were as recent as 2017. Some artists wrote these songs for the passing of a loved one, while others didn't. Whether you're a rock or pop fan, whether you want lighthearted or somber music, there's a song here that could fit you. Here are the most popular funeral songs, according to research.
"My Heart Will Go On" By Celine Dion
Most people know Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from the 1997 movie Titanic. After the movie released, the love ballad became a global hit. It topped the charts in 20 countries and sold over 18 million copies worldwide.
Many associate "My Heart Will Go On" with Jack and Rose's love from the movie. The song plays after Jack passes away while saving Rose's life. Composer James Horner initially made the music for the movie, but he later added lyrics against director James Cameron's wishes. It worked in everyone's favor.
"What A Wonderful World" By Louis Armstrong
Since Louis Armstrong sang "What a Wonderful World" in 1967, the song has been a fan favorite. It first appeared in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam, and was re-released as a single in 1988. It topped the charts in Australia, Austria, and the UK, and appeared in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
During funerals, people play "What a Wonderful World" for its celebration of life, encouraging optimism instead of sorrow. The song is also instantly recognizable. Since the '60s, it has appeared in dozens of movies and trailers.
"How Long Will I Love You" By Ellie Goulding
The original song "How Long Will I Love You?" was created by The Waterboys in 1990. But in 2013, English singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding gave the song a new spin. Her song became the official anthem for the BBC Children in Need charity.
Goulding's "How Long Will I Love You" became a popular funeral song, especially for the young. Goulding changed a few lines from the original to fit the charity that raised over £1 billion for disadvantaged children. What better song to celebrate the passing of a person who had so much to live for?
"See You Again" By Wiz Kalifa And Charlie Puth
The song "See You Again" by rapper Wiz Kalifa and singer Charlie Puth first appeared in the 2015 movie, Furious 7. It was a tribute to Paul Walker, an actor in the series who passed away in a car crash two years prior. The idea that the singer will "see you again" in death is powerful and appropriate for a funeral.
When "See You Again" was released in 2015, it quickly became a top single in both the US and UK. It spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, tying with Eminem's "Lose Yourself" as America's second-best single.
"Supermarket Flowers" By Ed Sheeran
English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran first sang "Supermarket Flowers" in 2017. He wrote the song for his grandmother shortly before she passed away. At her funeral, he performed the song for the first time. It has played at many other funerals since then.
"Supermarket Flowers" became a hit after Sheeran performed it at the 2018 Brit Awards. It reached number eight on the UK Singles Chart and won many international awards. Although it isn't Sheeran's most famous song, it holds poignant emotion and meaning for many people.
"Tears In Heaven" By Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" became a standard funeral song not only for its sound but also for its backstory. The song is a tribute to Clapton's four-year-old son, Connor, who tragically passed away in 1991. While grieving, Clapton wrote the song for the movie Rush.
During an interview, Clapton said, "I almost subconsciously used music for myself as a healing agent, and lo and behold, it worked." People play the song for both healing and memorializing. "Tears in Heaven" also became Clapton's best-selling single, reaching No. 2 on the US Billboard Top 100.
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" By John Denver
Ever since John Denver released "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in 1971, the single has sold millions of copies. The song describes the country as "almost heaven," which fits into a funeral. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) gave the song Gold in 1971 and Platinum in 2017.
Ironically, Denver had never been to West Virginia. He composed the lyrics while driving through Maryland and initially considered using Massachusetts, but it didn't fit into the song. Either way, country and nature-lovers will appreciate this song as a final goodbye.
"Dance With My Father" By Luther Vandross
"Dance with My Father" is a rare song that fits in both weddings and funerals. Singer-songwriter Luther Vandross wrote the song about his deceased father, who used to dance with him and his mother. Many people identify with the song's happy remembrance.
When "Dance with My Father" aired in 2003, it quickly became one of the most requested radio songs of all time. It won the 2004 Song of the Year Grammy Award, and the RIAA gave it a gold certification. That year, Celine Dion covered the song after her father had recently passed away.
"Over The Rainbow" By Judy Garland
The song "Over the Rainbow" was written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. It became Judy Garland's most well-known song and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The studio recording has been downloaded over one billion times in the United States alone.
In the movie, Aunt Em tells Dorothy to "find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble," which prompts the song. For many, this "special place" can be seen as the afterlife. To this day, "Over the Rainbow" is considered to be Judy Garland's signature song.
"Angels" By Robbie Williams
"Angels" was the single on Robbie Williams' 1997 debut album Life thru a Lens. It quickly became Williams' best-selling single, and dozens of other artists have covered it. But Williams' original plays at funerals more than any other version. In 2005, Britons voted "Angels" as the number one song they wanted to play at their funeral.
Williams wrote it with Guy Chambers about the former's late aunt and uncle. The emotions shined through as the song received positive critical reception. "Angels" is still commonly played today for many occasions.
"Lay Me Down" By Sam Smith
"Lay Me Down" by English singer-songwriter Sam Smith came out as the lead single for his debut album, In the Lonely Hour (2014). In the song, Smith talks about a deceased loved one and much he misses them. The music video was filmed outside of the parish church of St. Margaret in London, England.
For many, "Lay Me Down" is the perfect song for saying goodbye to a loved one. The song was far more popular in America, peaking at No. 8 in the US Billboard Hot 100 as opposed to No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart.
"We'll Meet Again" By Vera Lynn
In 1939, British singer Vera Lynn recorded the song "We'll Meet Again." The song spoke to soldiers who went to battle during World War II. It became so popular that in 1943, a movie inspired by the song, We'll Meet Again starred Vera Lynn as the main lead.
"We'll Meet Again" still stands the test of time. It resurged in popularity during the Cold War and has played during many charities. For veterans, "We'll Meet Again" is the perfect funeral song. Even if the deceased was not a soldier, the song still promises that loved ones will reconvene after death.
"I Will Always Love You" By Dolly Parton
In 1973, country singer-songwriter Dolly Parton recorded "I Will Always Love You." She wrote it as a farewell to her ex-boyfriend and mentor of seven years, Porter Wagoner. Although it is not about death specifically, the song is an emotional farewell to a loved one.
"I Will Always Love You" was a success, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 twice. In 1982, Parton re-recorded the song for a movie. Then, the song became popular again! "I Will Always Love You" will remain a common song for funerals.
"Stairway To Heaven" By Led Zeppelin
Since Led Zeppelin recorded "Stairway to Heaven" in 1971, it has become one of the most iconic rock songs of all time. In the '70s alone, it became the most requested song on US radio. It's no wonder why people would have "Stairway to Heaven" to play during a funeral, regardless of how much they love rock.
"Stairway to Heaven" is one of the most iconic rock songs of all time with an influential guitar solo. The sheet music alone sells 15,000 copies every year. For music lovers, "Stairway to Heaven" is the perfect goodbye song.
"My Way" By Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra's "My Way" first aired in 1969 to the backing music of a French song, "Comme d'habitude." The song immediately became a hit. The year it released, it remained on the UK Top 40 for 75 weeks.
To this day, "My Way" is one of Sinatra's best-known songs. "And now, the end is near/And so I face the final curtain" is the opening line, which many people interpret as facing death. Years later, "My Way" was covered by Elvis Presley, but it is not as popular as Sinatra's original.
"I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" By Aerosmith
In 1998, the rock band Aerosmith composed four songs for the disaster movie Armageddon. Of those songs, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" became the most iconic. Oddly enough, the song was initially written for Celine Dion, but Aerosmith took it and made it their only number-one single.
"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" topped the charts in several countries, and it plays during many funerals. The writer, Diane Warren, created the lyrics when she heard that Barbra Streisand's husband missed her when he was sleeping. These lyrics resonate with those who are mourning.
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" By Bon Jovi
"I'll sleep when I'm dead" is a phrase that people want to work hard until death. The rock band Bon Jovi used it as a song title in 1993. In the music video, the band showed the gravestone of the Doors' lead singer, Jim Morrison.
Whether you're a rock fan or not, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is a great song for people who lived their lives to the fullest. The song became especially popular in the UK, reaching No. 17 on the UK Charts and No. 29 on the Mainstream rock charts.
"I Miss You" By Beyoncé
In 2011, Beyoncé aimed to create "classic" songs that she could continue to sing in old age. Enter "I Miss You," which she wrote about a former love interest whom she feels self-conscious for missing. Although the song is not as successful as Beyoncé's other works, it is still a common funeral song.
Perhaps mourners identify with feeling sad and also feeling self-conscious about their strong emotions. "I Miss You" is a great final goodbye, and its 1980s inspiration makes it both new and vintage at the same time.
"If Tomorrow Never Comes" By Garth Brooks
In 1989, "If Tomorrow Never Comes" became country singer Garth Brooks' first number-one single. The song became so well-known that other country artists have covered it. "If Tomorrow Never Comes" has a somber yet catchy sound, which made it so popular.
In the song, the narrator wonders how he will go on if his partner passes away. The music video featured Brook's then-wife, Sandy. In 2002, Irish singer Ronan Keating covered the song, and it topped the charts in 11 different countries. Both versions of the song can work for a funeral.
"The Show Must Go On" By Queen
Queen's song "The Show Must Go On" has a sad backstory. Writer Brian May knew that the band's lead singer, Freddie Mercury, had been diagnosed with HIV. At the time, this news was not public. The song discusses Mercury continuing to perform even with a bleak future.
It's no wonder why "The Show Must Go On" Plays during several funerals. It has also been immensely popular. Since it came out in 1991, the song played in several TV series, movies, and charities. Celine Dion later covered it, but the Queen version still reigns supreme.
"Unforgettable" By Nat King Cole
Jazz pianist and singer Nat King Cole first recorded the song "Unforgettable" in 1951 for an album with the same name. In the lyrics, the narrator talks to someone who is "unforgettable"--perfect for a funeral. The song entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000.
Oddly enough, the more popular version of "Unforgettable" was sung by Elvis Presley in 1991. However, this version is not the most popular funeral song. Something about Cole's voice--or his later duet with his daughter, Natalie--sticks with people. Both of Cole's versions have become well known.
"Chasing Cars" By Snow Patrol
The Scottish-Northern Irish band Snow Patrol initially made "Chasing Cars" for the 2006 season finale of Grey's Anatomy. The song quickly became a hit. Years after it aired, "Chasing Cars" still sells in several countries. It became the 14th best-selling single in the UK.
During an interview with Rolling Stone, lead singer Gary Lightbody called "Chasing Cars" the "purest love song that I've ever written." Perhaps that's why people love this song for funerals. Even outside of funerals, "Chasing Cars" is one of the most popular songs in UK history.
"One Sweet Day" By Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey
"One Sweet Day" was a collaboration between singer-songwriter Mariah Carey and the R&B group Boyz II Men. In the song, the narrator talks about dealing with the death of a loved one. Both Boyz II Men and Carey pulled the lyrics from personal experience, mainly inspired by the AIDs epidemic.
"One Sweet Day" stayed at the top of America's Billboard Hot 100, for 16 weeks, a record at the time. The song also topped the charts in several other countries such as Canada and New Zealand. With so many listeners, it's no wonder why "One Sweet Day" became a common funeral song.
"Highway To Hell" By AC/DC
For families with a sense of humor, "Highway to Hell" might be the perfect funeral song. Initially, the rock band AC/DC wrote the song to reflect the tough lifestyle of going on tour. But many have interpreted it as the challenges of life.
When "Highway to Hell" released in 1979, it became an instant classic. It landed within the Top 100 charts in several countries, including the US, France, Germany, and Spain. Rolling Stones listed within the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. When you're hosting a large event, an easily-recognizable song like "Highway to Hell" is a good choice.
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" By Guns N' Roses
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" was originally written by Bob Dylan for the 1973 movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. In 1987, Guns N' Roses covered the song for the 1990 film Days of Thunder. Their version became a number one hit in several countries, including Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK.
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is not only a popular funeral song. In 1996, a schoolteacher wrote a new verse to commemorate deceased children. Some newer recordings and re-releases of the song include this verse.
"Always On My Mind" By Elvis Presley
The ballad "Always on My Mind" was first performed by Gwen McCrae in 1972. That same year, Elvis Presley released a version of the song. He sang it after separating from his first wife, Priscilla. For listeners, the song could represent the loss of a loved one.
Presley's version achieved great fame and became one of his best hits in the 1970s. The record sold one million units and won gold from RIAA. Although "Always on My Mind" has been remade many times, Presley's rendition stands out from the crowd.
"Make You Feel My Love" By Adele
"Make You Feel My Love" was first written and performed by Bob Dylan in 1997. In 2008, the British musician Adele covered the song. Her version topped the charts in several countries and is one of the most popular funeral songs of all time.
Since it released, Adele's "Make You Feel My Love" has appeared in many UK and US television shows, including S.W.A.T., One Tree Hill, Bones, and Glee. Something about Adele's voice and the piano music by Neil Cowley touches peoples' hearts more than other covers do.
"Wind Beneath My Wings" By Bette Midler
In the UK, Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" is the most popular funeral track. The original song by Kamahl came out in 1982, and Midler covered it in 1989. She initially performed it for the movie Beaches.
The song quickly became a number-one single in the US and UK, winning Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1990. Although it is a love song, it played during a tear-jerking moment in Beaches. "Wind Beneath My Wings" captures both the nostalgic and sorrowful aspects of funerals.
"Dancing Queen" By ABBA
Believe it or not, ABBA's "Dancing Queen" frequently plays at funerals. Like many Swedish singers, ABBA is known for playing on joyful and sorrowful themes. Some people interpret the song as a woman looking back on her youth because she can no longer be 17.
When "Dancing Queen" released in 1976, it became a worldwide hit. It topped the charts in dozens of countries and became ABBA's best-known song. In 2015, "Dancing Queen" joined many other iconic songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame. This song is not going away anytime soon.
"Wish You Were Here" By Pink Floyd
In 1968, Pink Floyd guitarist Syd Barrett left the band because of mental health struggles. Seven years later, the band created the song "Wish You Were Here." Because the song talks about missing a comrade, people who are mourning resonate with the lyrics.
Critics initially didn't like the song, but as time passed, it became more and more popular. Since it released, the album has sold over 20 million copies. The song has been remastered and re-released many times, and it will continue to play during funerals.