Music is an important aspect of a memorial or funeral for many reasons — it can set the right tone, personalize the memorial, help people connect to special memories, and express feelings that may be difficult for those grieving to put into words. Depending on what type of music you select, it can provide a sense of connection, peace, or even a moment of laughter during an otherwise solemn occasion.
We’ve put together this guide on how to choose songs for memorial services and funerals, along with a list of suggestions.
Read more: Memorial service ideas for family and loved ones
What is the most played song at a funeral?
According to various sources in the funeral industry, the most frequently played songs at a funeral include:
- “Ave Maria” by various artists
- ”Amazing Grace” by various artists
- “Candle In The Wind” by Elton John
- “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman
- “My Way” by Frank Sinatra
What is a good song for a memorial?
A good song for a memorial is any song that resonates with attendees, complements the atmosphere you’re creating, and honors the deceased. You’ll also want a song that fits the occasion and mood — for instance, you may choose an uplifting song for a celebration of life like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or a devotional song for a funeral, such as ”Amazing Grace” or “I’ll Fly Away.”
Tips for picking songs for memorial services & funerals
The music you choose when creating a tribute to your loved one is a personal decision based on a number of factors. Here are some things to consider as you contemplate which memorial songs you might want to incorporate:
- Did the deceased have a favorite song or a preferred genre that you can use as a theme? This can give you a good place to start when planning.
- Is there a particular song that reminds you of the deceased? Ask loved ones to share their lists of songs as well.
- Was your loved one religious? If so, consider including hymns or devotional songs in your funeral songs.
- Think about your loved one’s personality — would they want something traditional and classic, or would they want their memorial songs to be unexpected and unique?
- Are there close friends or family of the deceased who are musicians? Consider asking them if they’d be up for performing a song live at the service.
- What is the venue like? What type of event are you planning? Choose the appropriate music for the tone you want to set. For example, you may choose different music for a funeral in a church vs. service in a memorial forest.
Read more: 10 songs about death to help you grieve
Where to find songs for memorial services & funerals
Now that you have some ideas of what kind of music you want to include, you can begin searching for songs. The best way to search for memorial and funeral songs is using your favorite music app, such as Spotify, Amazon Music, or Apple Music. This will give you a chance to listen to the songs and decide if they feel like a good fit.
Unique memorial service & funerals songs
If you are looking for unique suggestions you may not see on other lists of best memorial songs, check out the ideas below and why they make surprisingly good memorial songs.
“Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone” by The Carter Family
This song from 1935 may be old but has a timeless quality. The lyrics and music are uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. This would be a great one to include if you have guitar players who can recreate it.
“Come Sunday” by Mahalia Jackson & Duke Ellington
This gorgeous gospel song features the powerful vocals of Mahalia Jackson singing about how God will “give peace and comfort to every troubled mind.” It’s a fitting funeral song to be played after the service.
“Into Dust” by Mazzy Star
The soft, haunting quality of the vocals combined with lyrics alluding to the frailty of life are what put this indie song on our list.
“In My Life” by The Beatles
This classic makes for a loving send-off, assuring the deceased that you’ll treasure their memory and “in my life, I love you more.” It’s a good choice if you are looking for uplifting funeral songs to help raise everyone’s spirits.
“Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon
This emotional song is written from the point of view of someone ready to pass. In fact, singer Warren Zevon wrote it to be his final farewell after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis. Be prepared for the possibility of a cathartic cry when you hear him sing, “these wheels keep turnin' but they're runnin' out of steam. Keep me in your heart for a while.”
“I’ll Be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday
You can never go wrong with a song featuring the beautiful vocals of Billie Holiday. “I’ll Be Seeing You” is a sentimental ballad about seeing a loved one “in every lovely summer’s day, in everything that’s light and gay.”
“You’re My Best Friend” by Queen
This upbeat ode to a supportive relationship can inject levity into a memorial service, which may be a welcome relief. Funeral home etiquette may keep you from singing along, but it’s a perfect choice for playing over a photo montage of the deceased and their friends.
“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
This timeless classic makes for an uplifting funeral song. It can provide a moment for memorial attendees to focus on the good memories they were fortunate to make with the deceased. It’s also a good song for a celebration of life service.
“Who Knew” by Pink
This pop song may not immediately come to mind when you think of memorial songs, but listen to the lyrics — they describe wishing someone was still around and a promise to “keep you locked in my head until we meet again…and I won’t forget you, my friend.”
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
The lyrics of this song convey the emptiness a person feels when they lose a loved one, especially if they lived with the deceased. “And this house just ain’t no home, anytime she goes away” is a relatable sentiment to those grieving someone’s presence.
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
This is a popular choice for memorial songs due to its somber chords and melancholy lyrics. Several artists have covered it — Jeff Buckley’s beautiful version is especially poignant in light of his untimely death a few years after its release.
“See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
This is a more modern funeral song and will resonate with anyone who has experienced the sudden loss of a loved one. The lyrics “it's been a long day without you, my friend. And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again” sums up how it feels to struggle with grief and the hole a departed loved one leaves in your daily life.
Best memorial and funeral songs for mom
Some of the most popular songs to play for your mother at a memorial or funeral include:
- “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
- “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole
- “Like a River” by Carly Simon
- “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban
- “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men
Best memorial and funeral songs for dad
Some of the most popular songs to play for your father at a memorial or funeral include:
- “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers
- “Imagine” by John Lennon
- “Living Years” by Mike + the Mechanics
- “Hero” by Mariah Carey
- “Daddy” by Beyoncé
Best memorial and funeral songs for a friend
If you have to say goodbye to a beloved friend, consider one of these popular memorial songs for friends:
- “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, 112
- “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King
- “That’s What Friends are For” by Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight
- “Thank You For Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold
- “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
Uplifting funeral and memorial songs
If you want to raise everyone’s spirits, play one of these uplifting memorial songs:
- “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner
- “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python
- “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole
- “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls
- “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers
Selecting the songs for a memorial service or funeral may seem intimidating, but it may also be the most enjoyable part of the memorial planning process. Just keep your loved one’s spirit in mind, and you won’t go wrong with whatever you choose.