Whether a passing is sudden or anticipated, the last thing anyone wants to do is put together a list of songs to be played at their dad’s funeral. There’s a lot to consider. Should the music be sad or soothing? Did their dad have a sense of humor or should the songs be on a more somber note?
This may be the number one playlist that nobody ever wants to think about. So, to save you time, we’ve put together a list of the best funeral songs for dad.
1. The Living Years – Mike + The Mechanics
The title might lead one to believe this is an odd choice for a playlist about funerals. However, this is a song about one of the most important lessons in life; not to hold a grudge. The singer’s father passed away before they had a chance to mend their relationship, and now, it’s too late. Reminder to everyone in attendance, don’t let this happen to you.
2. Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was a Hawaiian man with a voice that should have made him a household name. He, unfortunately, died too soon. The gift he left for humanity is this beautiful song. If there ever was a song to think back on happy memories, it’s this one.
3. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong’s unmistakable voice brings a sense of peace to a world full of chaos and uncertainty. The hope is that if this song played on their deathbed, it would be meaningful no matter how much drama came to pass during their lifetime. They would leave this earthly plane thinking “What A Wonderful World.”
4. See You Again – Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
When you lose someone that has meant so much, it’s hard to imagine going forward. When that person is your dad, given you had a close relationship, it would be hard not to pick up the phone in hopes of telling them about both the hard and fun times. The thought of being able to see them again provides the hope needed to keep going.
5. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
This song was written from a father’s perspective after losing a child. Eric Clapton lost his four-year-old and this was composed of his grief. Even though it’s in reverse, the situation still makes the thought and lyrics behind the music fit for a dad’s funeral. We all want to think there’s a place where we’ll be together and happy again.
6. Candle In The Wind – Elton John
Whether it’s about Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana, this song hits you in the gut. Elton John put together this extremely descriptive take on how precious life really is. “Candle In The Wind” is especially on point for someone who passed away young and unexpectedly. Life goes by so fast, enjoy it while you can.
7. Dance With My Father – Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross lost his father at the tender age of seven to complications from diabetes. The pain of having to grow up without him left a lifetime imprint on the singer’s soul. Luther’s favorite memories with his dad were when they would dance together along with the other siblings at home. That happiness is the kind of memory everyone clings to when they lose someone.
8. Song For Dad – Keith Urban
A great song to play at a dad’s funeral is one that praises who he was as a person. Keith Urban wrote this song as a tribute to his dad for all the sacrifices he made for his family. Being a father encompasses so many things and getting it right isn’t easy. Doing your best and putting in the effort makes all the difference. It’s never forgotten.
9. Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day
Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day, penned this tribute to his dad. At the young age of 10, he lost his father to cancer. The song deals with the pain one goes through when suffering such a loss. It would be so much nicer if you could check out and wake up later when it wouldn’t hurt as much. That’s the thought, anyway.
10. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
It’s nearly impossible to hear this song and not associate it with one of the most heartbreaking moments in cinematic history. Yes, this is the lead song from the movie Ghost starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. The song plays in a beautiful bonding moment early on. It shows up again at the end after he dies and comes back as a ghost. Finally, he got to say what he always meant, “I love you.”
11. Hallelujah – Rufus Wainwright
A perfect piano start is the best way to get into the feels. Rufus Wainwright’s version was featured in Shrek, but it wasn’t the first. This song has touched so many with a simple melody and deep words that it has been recorded by many artists. Broken relationships, mourning lost love, grief, and finding peace is what you’ll find here. That’s why so many have been compelled to sing it.
12. The Sounds Of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
Appearing in the closing scene of The Graduate, “The Sounds Of Silence” was playing after a dramatic exit by two people who ran away to be together. As the bus pulled away from the over-the-top spectacle they made, a sinking feeling of what they did sank in. What the song really means, though, is how people aren’t able to communicate their emotions. So much gets unsaid and could change the relationship. Another good lesson to share at the end of life.
13. Dust In The Wind – Kansas
Even though this ditty has a more upbeat guitar solo to start, it’s not long before the lyrics begin. Suddenly, the listener is dropped into the thoughts of a man. He is going through what sounds like a crisis of time. It’s something that hits everyone at some point in life coupled with how fleeting it all is.
14. Fields Of Gold – Sting
Sting and Sir Paul McCartney came together to bring this number about undying love to fruition. That love perpetuates despite the fact that the man had passed away many years prior. A couple is represented in the song, but the idea can be represented by any loving relationship.
15. Every Breath You Take – The Police
Okay, so this song technically is about a stalker. It was written by Sting while he was going through a marital separation. However, many have taken the lyrics in a different direction over the years. It’s not hard to imagine this as a song coming from someone you love after they pass, saying they’ll be with you. You can give the song its own meaning.
16. Love, Me – Collin Raye
This is a sweet song written from the perspective of a grandson whose grandmother was dying. The story continues where the grandfather explains what it was like to fall in love when her father was not a fan. A letter the grandmother wrote had stayed in the family for all these years. At her passing, it took on a different meaning for when she meets him again in heaven. Whilst not directly aimed at fathers, this song is still a good pick for the reception at a father’s funeral.
17. Rose – Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty dedicates an entire song to every viewpoint of love. What it means, how it feels, and what the outcome is. He even lets you know what it means to him. This classic transcends genre and time with the painfully relatable scenarios he puts love in. “And the soul, afraid of dyin’, That never learns to live.” If that’s not something to take away from a funeral song, then nothing is.
18. If I Lost You – Shiny Toy Guns
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you almost lost someone, this sentiment hits hard. It just so happens to hit extra hard when you actually do lose the person. Thinking about the possibility hurts, but when it’s real, the acceptance of loss feels like the world is crashing down. That is especially true if you do everything with your dad. What in the world happens now?
19. The Three Bells – The Browns
A story set to music starts with the birth of Jimmy Brown. A gentle chorus takes us through each passage of his life, childhood, marriage, and eventual return to the earth from whence he came. It’s sad, but the words provide a melodic overview of what happens to most of us. In that, we find acceptance of fate.
20. The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
This is the ultimate man’s advice that sounds like it’s about gambling but really is an insight into life. Sure enough, by the end, the gambler himself has played his last hand. He lived long enough to pass on his life experience to a young man who could live by those words. The advice is good for all generations and is a great way to go out.
21. Leave Out All The Rest – Linkin Park
Lead singer, Chester Bennington, starts out the song from the perspective of someone who dreamed he had ceased to exist. When he woke up, he realized one day this would be a reality. So, he goes on to share how he wants to be remembered after he’s gone. This song is particularly meaningful since Chester cut his own life short. It now sort of feels like he was leaving this in his own memory. Take out all the mistakes made and focus on the good.
22. It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday – Boyz II Men
Not sure what it is about a capella, but it’s more emotional. Perhaps it’s the lack of anything else that keeps the focus on the words that makes it more serious. Whatever it is, the use of a powerful range of voices is impactful. That’s the case in this song by Boyz II Men. These men are adding harmony to a tough situation, having to move on from what once was.
23. Mad World – Gary Jules
This sounds like someone who is reflecting on a life lived and stopping to single out specific moments. He’s going on about the feelings he had in various situations. Every scenario leads to one thing: the world is a mad one. It’s similar to what they say about when you die and life flashes before your eyes. A song like this would be the commentary.
24. Hero – Mariah Carey
Fathers are heroes to many of us. Losing that strong figure can be devastating, especially when you realize you’ll never hear that voice on the phone encouraging you again. It’s okay though. You can be that hero, too.
25. One Sweet Day – Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men
Two sets of voices combined to make the ultimate song about missing someone. Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men explode your heart with sorrow and hope as you get lost in their amazing harmonies. “And I know you’re shining down on me from Heaven” are words many of us feel upon the death of a loved one.
26. Crossroads – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
“Crossroads” was written after the group lost someone very important to them, rapper Eazy-E. They are making plans to meet again when this life is all over. Many of the words deal with what it feels like to face the world following such a painful loss. The singers are also wondering what it all means. A lot to think about, especially at a funeral.
27. I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy Featuring Faith Evans And 112
Puff Daddy put together an entire ensemble to properly get his feelings out about the death of his friend, Biggie Smalls. The whole song is about accepting that he wasn’t around anymore and the struggle of each day that passes. Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans, is featured on the track. You can hear the pain in her voice about a relationship lost.
28. Time In A Bottle – Jim Croce
If it were possible to save time in a bottle, it would be the hottest commodity in existence. It would mean not having to ever let go of anyone and living blissfully with them into infinity. A wonderful thought, since there’s never enough time to enjoy it while you’re here. Ironically, this song about running out of time is timeless.
29. Only God Knows Why – Kid Rock
Whether a father was lost suddenly or had been sick for a while, it’s not uncommon to be confused and angry. Wondering why it had to be your dad, asking “Why now?” These are feelings you can express through this song. Kid Rock uses this as a way to be reflective of life in general, but it works at any point.
30. Good Riddance – Green Day
When you’re looking back on life, there are undoubtedly ups and downs. So much chaos and joy. Despite the unpredictability and potential craziness that ensues, all you want to be able to do in the end is say life was good.
31. Like A Stone – Audioslave
From the perspective of the dying person. You may be gone, but that doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten those you love. Maybe you love someone so much you’re just going to wait for them, like a stone, until they can be with you on the other side. Perhaps that’s what Chris Cornell is doing right now.
32. My Way – Frank Sinatra
Another classic song that is something we all hope to feel in the end. The idea is that no matter what happens, life unfolds the way you directed it to. It may not have been perfect, but it was yours, your story, and your decisions. That’s something to be proud of and what you like to think dad thought of his life, too.
33. Save The Last Dance For Me – The Drifters
Surely, this wasn’t what was intended when The Drifters penned this hit. But when you look at this song through the eyes of someone who is passing, it takes on a new meaning. Can you imagine your dad saying this to your mom? Keep living and enjoy dancing with others. Just remember that when the end comes, someone is waiting for you.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.