Some funerals are held to gospel music, others to a somber organ. But if that wasn’t your loved one’s style, it’s also okay to use songs from another genre. These 41 best R&B songs for funerals offer the perfect mix of emotion, reverence, and celebration for remembering the deceased.
1. It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday — Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men’s beautiful a cappella song is actually a cover from an earlier song, first released in 1975. This is a beautiful example of the 1990s Motown resurgence and expresses the sorrow of leaving behind an important chapter in your life. Funerals are for the living, as they say, and moving forward is the hardest part for those of us left behind.
2. Wind Beneath My Wings — Gerald LeVert & Eddie LeVert
Though Bette Midler’s version is best known, this version from Gerald LeVert is a skillful R&B cover with a slower tempo. The cover changes it from a powerhouse ballad to a gentle tribute that is achingly beautiful. LeVert performed it with his son Eddie LeVert, making it perfect for a parent’s funeral.
3. Dance With My Father — Luther Vandross
“Dance With My Father” topped the charts back in 2003, the year it was released. Its popularity is proof that the lyrics speak to us all. The song is all about a child remembering his mother and father dancing and what a happy home they had together. Vandross wrote the song about his own father, who passed away when he was eight.
4. Like You’ll Never See Me Again — Alicia Keys
In “Like You’ll Never See Me Again,” Alicia Keys asks the listener to imagine that every interaction they have might be the last time they see each other. We never know when it might be time to say goodbye, so we have to act like every kiss is the last one.
5. Sparrow — Emeli Sandé
“Sparrow” is a tribute to a person that everyone looked up to. The song honors a community leader who led by example, shown in the lyrics: “See, with the heart of a sparrow, Oh, tell me what arrow could ever bring you down, mmm, yeah, Oh, the escape it was narrow, But what a gift, the, the courage you found, mmm.”
6. See You Again — Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
“See You Again” was composed in honor of the late actor Paul Walker and featured over the credits of Fast And Furious. The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone speaking to a lost friend, describing how weary life is without them and how much they look forward to being together once again.
7. Walk Around Heaven — Patti LaBelle
In “Walk Around Heaven,” Patti LaBelle speculates what eternal life might be like. She looks forward to meeting her lost loved ones and describes how they will have nothing to do but walk around heaven together for the rest of time. For those that believe in an afterlife, this song can be a huge comfort.
8. Memory Lane — Minnie Riperton
“Memory Lane” was released in 1979, but the lyrics are still just as profound today. The song blends elements of R&B and soul to make a stunning tribute to a person who has died. The lyrics describe finding an old photograph and thinking back on happy memories, wishing that you could go back.
9. Can’t Let Go — Anthony Hamilton
“Can’t Let Go” is about loving someone through thick and thin, no matter what challenges come your way. Though it isn’t explicitly about losing a loved one, it is a good choice for a funeral thanks to its description of love that defies all odds. As bereaved people know, you never stop loving someone, even after they’re gone.
10. Show You — Baby Rose
“Show You” is a smooth, gentle song about missing someone who has gone away. The lyrics can be interpreted either as a post-breakup song or as a tribute to a loved one who has passed on, speaking of how much the singer wishes they could talk to them once again.
11. Isn’t She Lovely — Stevie Wonder
Ironically, Stevie Wonder first wrote the song to celebrate the birth of his daughter. Although it was originally about birth, it is also a fitting tribute after someone’s death. If you are looking for the perfect R&B tribute for your mother, sister, grandmother, or female friend, “Isn’t She Lovely” is a touching choice.
12. One Sweet Day — Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
“One Sweet Day” was written in honor of the victims of the AIDS epidemic, including Mariah Carey’s own sister. The R&B tribute has become a famous memorial song. Most notably, it was played at the memorial of Prince Diana after her death in 1997, proof that it is perfectly suited for tributes of all kinds.
13. Footprints in The Sand — Leona Lewis
“Footprints In The Sand” is dedicated to a friend who helped support you through difficult times. The singer recognizes the impact that the person had on her life by looking back and seeing the “footprints in the sand,” noticing that the two of them were always by each other’s side.
14. Miss You — Aaliyah
“Miss You” is about losing a romantic partner. Though the song doesn’t specify whether it was to death, the lyrics express the intense loneliness and grief of being without the person you love. The song was released shortly before Aaliyah’s own death in a plane crash at the age of 22.
15. Love Me Now — John Legend
“Love Me Now” is part love song, part goodbye song. The lyrics remind us that we only have a short time with our loved ones, so we need to make the most of what we have. We might not be able to fight the passage of time, but we can give our loved ones what we have while we’re together.
16. Sweet Memories — Ray Charles
“Sweet Memories” isn’t a goodbye song but for remembering a loved one. The lyrics describe a woman who made the singer happy, but now, the memories of her leave him feeling sad. It is a beautiful song to play at the funeral of a mother, sister, or female friend.
17. God is Love — Marvin Gaye
Most of Marvin Gaye’s musical career focused on secular songs, but this 1971 track drew inspiration from his personal faith. The song is an R&B-style religious tune about the promises of God. It’s a great choice for the funeral of a person of faith, providing comfort and hope to the people left behind.
18. Missing You — Brandy, Tamia, Chaka Khan, And Gladys Knight
“Missing You” might be a song about grief, but it is one that is upbeat and hopeful. It speaks directly to a sister, describing how she was taken too soon. The singer goes on to say that although she misses her terribly, she knows that her grief will heal in time.
19. A Song For Mama — Boyz II Men
If you’re looking for the perfect song to honor your mother, “A Song For Mama” might be a perfect choice. This thanks a mother for all the sacrifices she made for her children and the important lessons that she taught them. Losing a mother is one of the most difficult things we each experience, and finding the words to honor her is just as hard.
20. River — Leon Bridges
“River” is a religious song that combines elements of gospel and R&B. The song is based on the traditional spiritual song “Down To The River To Pray.” It is an excellent choice for a church funeral, depicting the Christian hope for life after death. Even if the deceased wasn’t religious, it is still a beautiful but hopeful song that could be a reverent fit.
21. Hero — Mariah Carey
“Hero” by R&B queen Mariah Carey isn’t necessarily about death, but it is a tribute to a person who had great influence during their lifetime. It can be difficult to express how much a person has meant to us. Choosing a beautiful song is a great way to honor them, even if you don’t have the words on your own.
22. Lay Me Down — Sam Smith
Sam Smith’s sweet, gentle vocals are on perfect display in his R&B hit “Lay Me Down.” The lyrics are all about his wish to see someone whom he has lost and his grief of knowing that they will never meet again. The song is a tearjerker, expressing emotions we have all felt while grieving.
23. Unforgettable — Nat King Cole and Natalie King Cole
Nat King Cole’s famous song “Unforgettable” has been a favorite for decades. Many years later, his daughter Natalie King Cole recorded her own version as a duet with her father, who had passed away in 1965. It is a beautiful tribute from a daughter to her dad, even though the two of them were no longer together.
24. Daddy’s Lessons — Beyoncé
“Daddy’s Lessons” is a song about a late father who taught his daughter how to fight and be strong. Even though her father has passed away, she still holds on to the lessons he taught her, which shaped her entire life. Though Beyoncé didn’t compose the song by herself, her soulful cover will get the tears flowing.
25. Can’t Get Close — Sampha
“Can’t Get Close” is a more upbeat song that fuses elements of R&B and electronica. It describes the futile longing of wishing you could be close to someone again. Though the lyrics aren’t directly referring to death or loss, they beautifully express the grief of missing someone and feeling lost without them.
26. Really Gonna Miss You — Smokey Robinson
“Really Gonna Miss You” was composed for a funeral, and the lyrics are explicitly about losing a beloved friend. The song expresses how missing someone never ends, and how, for the rest of the singer’s life, he will be looking for signs of the person that he lost. It is a beautiful tribute to a friend who has passed away.
27. The Day is Past And Gone — Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin explored many genres during her long career, including gospel. Her song “The Day Is Past And Gone” fuses elements of gospel and R&B. The lyrics are a simple prayer for God to keep us all safe as we go on life’s journey and to reunite us all in heaven one day.
28. Bye Bye — Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey’s “Bye Bye” opens with a dedication to everyone who is grieving. The song describes how painful it is to lose someone you love and how hard it is to go on without them, knowing that they will never be a part of your life again. It is made for anyone grieving someone, whether a friend, parent, sibling, grandparent or someone else.
29. His Eye is on The Sparrow — Gladys Knight
“His Eye Is On The Sparrow” is an old gospel song that has been performed many times, most notably by gospel queen Mahalia Jackson. Gladys Knight’s version has gentler R&B vibes. The song is taken from Matthew 10:31, which describes how valuable we are in God’s eyes. Verses like these can be a huge comfort in times of grief.
30. Easier — Kandi And Faith Evans
Grieving is a long and difficult process, which Kandi’s song shows. In the song, she wonders if it will ever get easier to bear the loss of a loved one. In the beginning, it feels like the pain is unbearable. But although we always miss them, it doesn’t always hurt the way it first did.
31. I Will Always Love You — Whitney Houston
Though the song was originally written by Dolly Parton in 1973, Whitney Houston’s R&B cover became famous after it was featured in the movie The Bodyguard. It is a powerful tribute to a nameless person, stating that the singer’s love will continue forever—no matter what.
32. That’s How Strong My Love Is — Otis Redding
“That’s How Strong My Love Is” describes loving someone so much that you wish you could make the sun and moon follow them and wrap them in the rainbow. It is a beautiful and poetic tribute to someone who will be loved forever, no matter that they have passed away.
33. Missing You — Diana Ross
Diana Ross’s 1984 hit “Missing You” was written by Lionel Richie, bringing together two of the greatest voices in the soul and R&B genres. Its lyrics are ambiguous, possibly referring to an ex-lover or a person who has died. Either way, they express deep longing for someone who is no longer there.
34. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart — Al Green
“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is about struggling to go on after losing someone. The song asks a series of unanswerable questions, showing that the true answer just doesn’t exist. We can learn to go on with time, but that sorrow will always be present. It is one of the hardest parts of losing someone you love.
35. Know — Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige’s song “Know” is a great choice for a mother or other female community leader. The lyrics describe how many sacrifices women make for their children and others who depend on them and how rarely they are thanked for their actions. This song is the chance to finally express that thanks.
36. Get Lifted — Tony Sway
“Get Lifted” is a beautiful R&B instrumental track by Tony Sway. Though the song doesn’t have lyrics, it offers a mournful orchestral sound that is ideal for a funeral. This could be a good choice for a processional song or an opening track as people come into the funeral or memorial service.
37. These Three Words — Stevie Wonder
“These Three Words” asks the question: when was the last time you told the people in your life ‘I love you’? It is easy to forget to say the important things. But we also don’t have that much time, so we have to say these all-important words while we have the chance. The song is a beautiful reminder to tell our loved ones how we feel.
38. Exhale — Sabrina Carpenter
Sabrina Carpenter’s gentle song “Exhale” perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibilities. Though it isn’t explicitly about the death of a loved one, the song is a good description of how we might feel unprepared to go through life without the people that we once looked up to.
39. I Will Not Let You Go — Ray Charles
Ray Charles was one of the best voices in early R&B, and “I Will Not Let You Go” is a perfect example. The song describes the singer’s deep love for an unnamed person and how much he misses them, with lyrics like “I’d like to sit around and sing to you my love, Just moan like a mourning dove”
40. Prayer — D’Angelo and the Vanguard
D’Angelo And The Vanguard used a blend of soul and R&B for their smooth track “Prayer.” The song uses inspiration from The Lord’s Prayer to describe how prayer and faith defeat the devil. The singer goes on to say he believes that one day we will all be saved together. If your lost loved one was a person of faith, this is a lovely way to remember them.
41. I’ll Be Seeing You — Billie Holiday
“I’ll Be Seeing You” was released in 1944 at the height of World War II. At the time, many people were separated from or grieving for their loved ones. Though it has been many decades since the song’s release, its message remains just as powerful to this day. The lyrics describe how the singer will see her lost loved ones everywhere, even though they are gone.