35 Songs About Death

Songs About Death

Though unfortunate, people sometimes pass. And it can be hard to cope with it.

Many people turn to music in times of difficulty, as it can help you process your grief and other emotions. Music can be healing.

In this guide, you will find various songs about death and loss for those hard times.

Note: If you’re currently struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 immediately.

“Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton

Song year: 1992

Eric Clapton wrote this song for his son who plummeted to his death from a 53rd-floor window of a New York City apartment. It was just one of many songs Clapton would write in mourning of, and in tribute to, his four-year-old Conor.

Mourning is evident in “Tears In Heaven,” but you can also tell that it’s a beautiful celebration of life. An encouraging song in times of difficulty.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day

Song year: 2005

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a song about Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong’s father who died from esophageal cancer in September 1982. The song was also dedicated to victims of Hurricane Katrina and September 11 attacks. So, the reference to September should be clear now.

Upon its release, it was one of the most autobiographical songs Armstrong ever wrote, and it’s a poppy acoustic ballad, unlike Green Day's punk rock laden catalog.

“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

Song year: 1982

R.E.M. is right when they say, “everybody hurts.” Because we all go through challenges in life. And knowing this can help you navigate the waters ahead. You are not alone, and there are people who can support you and lift you up because they've been through hard times of their own.

The repeated calls of “hold on” also let you know that things can get better. Healing can occur.

“Hurt” by Christina Aguilera

Song year: 2006

“Hurt” was written about Christina Aguilera’s late father. And from this song, you can tell that she had more to say to him and regretted not being able to spend more time with him. But she also releases any blame placed on her father.

This is a beautiful song about coming to terms with loss.

“A Long December” by Counting Crows

Song year: 1996

The lyric “The Smell of hospitals in winter” tells you most of what you need to know about this folky sounding alt-rock number.

When you’re grieving, “A Long December” can serve as your traveling companion. It may even help you see that things could get better in time.

“Gone Too Soon” by Michael Jackson – A Song About Loss

Song year: 1991

Many would argue that King of Pop Michael Jackson himself was “gone too soon.”

This ballad, however, was written in memory of Jackson’s friend Ryan White, a teen from Kokomo, Indiana. White became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment and was given six months to live. Jackson befriended White in his final days.

In addition to being a song about loss, this is also a great song about friendship.

“Adam’s Song” by Blink-182

Song year: 1999

Many will remember “Adam’s Song” as the “serious song” off Blink-182’s ever popular and mostly fun-loving Enema of the State. This song features themes of depression, loneliness, and suicide.

Songwriter Mark Hoppus was inspired by his own loneliness he experienced on tour because he was single, and his bandmates had significant others to go home to. Highly relatable.

“Fire And Rain” by James Taylor

Song year: 1970

“Fire And Rain” was written in response to the suicide of Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of Taylor’s. But if the lyrics offer any doubt, it would be good to know this is a multi-layered song in which Taylor recounts several incidents during his early recording career.

Either way, this low-key acoustic and piano tune is soothing to the soul.

“Gone Away” by The Offspring

Song year: 1997

Songwriter and Offspring front man Dexter Holland wrote “Gone Away” in memory of his girlfriend who died in an unfortunate car accident.

Life, for some, can end suddenly and tragically. And coping with it can be difficult. But there’s always someone who can relate. And this song knows where you’ve been.

“I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy feat. Faith Evans & 112

Song year: 1997

“I’ll Be Missing You” is Puff Daddy’s tribute to Bad Boy Records artist Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, who was murdered earlier in the year.

If it sounds familiar, it’s because the song was built on a sample of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”

People are still moved by this song today.

“Life Without You” by Stevie Ray Vaughan

Song year: 1985

Stevie Ray Vaughan wrote “Life Without You” after the untimely death of his friend and mentor Charley Wirz.

The lyrics are simple, but sometimes the best songs are those that speak universally to those who have lost.

“Goodnight, Good Guy” by Collective Soul

Song year: 1993

Though theories abound, interviews with songwriter Ed Roland reveal this is a song about his leukemia-stricken uncle.

“Goodnight, Good Guy” is a personal favorite of mine, and in some small way, has helped me deal with loss in life too. The guitar playing is great.

“Wish You Were Here” by Incubus

Song year: 2001

Some songs are a little more general and relay simple sentiments as “Wish You Were Here” by Incubus does.

Vocalist Brandon Boyd said it was simply a song about wanting to share a special moment with someone who he had a connection with.

Of course, loneliness can often leave us feeling that way.

“See You On The Other Side” by Ozzy Osbourne

Song year: 1995

There’s no mistaking what this rocker is about. It’s about death and loss.

But there is hope in this song, of being reunited with loved ones “on the other side,” a sentiment many can relate to.

“The Last Carnival” by Bruce Springsteen

Song year: 2009

With “The Last Carnival,” the Boss sought to honor his deceased band mate.

The song alludes to the emptiness you feel when someone you love suddenly leaves this world.

“My Father’s Eyes” by Eric Clapton, A Song About Death

Song year: 1998

It seems the 90s were a self-reflective decade for Clapton. Here we find “My Father’s Eyes,” a song about how Clapton never met his father Edward Fryer, who had died in 1985.

This song kind of acts the bridge between the father he never got to meet, and his son Conor who died when he was only four.

“In Loving Memory” by Alter Bridge

Song year: 2004

The narrative in Alter Bridge‘s “In Loving Memory” is easy to follow. The narrator has lost someone special to him – it could be a parent, child, or even girlfriend.

The narrator says he will always remember the one who has left him.

“Slipped Away” by Avril Lavigne

Song year: 2004

Avril Lavigne dedicated “Slipped Away” to her grandfather, to whom she was close. So, it was difficult for her to see him go.

The song expresses the sentiment that, now that a loved one is gone, life will never be the same.

“Bye Bye” by Mariah Carey

Song year: 2008

Mariah Carey’s “Bye Bye” was a tribute to her late father Alfred Roy. He was diagnosed with cancer as she was beginning work on her ninth album. During this time, she began reconnecting with her father who was in hospital care.

Carey herself dedicates this song to anyone who has recently lost someone. The song is a bit cheesy both lyrically and musically, but it is at least heartfelt.

“Shadow Of The Day” by Linkin Park

Song year: 2007

The lyrically vague “Shadow Of The Day” hints at “goodbyes,” and overall, has kind of a somber, mellow vibe.

The song seems to carry multiple themes, including suffering, depression, and the idea that everything returns to dust. So, themes of death are kind of implied too.

“I Grieve” by Peter Gabriel

Song year: 2002

“I Grieve” appears on Peter Gabriel’s Up album, which mostly deals with birth and death. Apparently, Gabriel looked at his musical catalog as a collection of emotional coping tools. Recognizing that he had yet to deal with the subject of death, he penned “I Grieve.”

Yet, it is not written from the perspective of someone who has never experienced death or hasn’t dealt with it. It is very much coming from someone who has suffered major loss. And to that extent, the song is incredibly relatable.

“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Song year: 1973

Lynyrd Skynyrd is a tragic story all its own. Regardless, “Free Bird” is mostly about leaving. Kind of like John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane.”

Even when you know you’ve got to move on, following through isn’t always easy, and this song is for just such an occasion.

And there’s no escaping that the extended guitar solo towards the end of the song is beloved by many.

“Angel” by The Corrs

Song year: 2004

Celtic folk-rock group The Corrs certainly made a bit of a splash in the 2000s. Here we have “Angel,” a song that’s clearly about grief and loss.

The song was apparently based on their mother, Jean Corr. And the narrator talks about how she wants to be just like her. A loving tribute to the deceased.

“Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon

Song year: 2003

The late Warren Zevon penned “Keep Me In Your Heart” as his final goodbye to loved ones. That makes this well-known tune especially haunting.

What’s wonderful about it, though, is that Zevon got to say goodbye to those he cared about. He got to say what needed to be said. And the song lives on.

“Who Knew” by P!nk

Song year: 2006

This number is apparently about losing a friend to a drug overdose. It expresses the shock and surprise of losing someone important suddenly.

The narrator reflects on memories of someone gone.

“Trouble” by Cat Stevens

Song year: 1970

In the early days of his career, Cat Stevens went through a trying time. He had been diagnosed with a collapsed lung and tuberculosis. He spent three months in the hospital and nine months in bed at home. His near-death experience led him to write dozens of songs, including “Trouble.”

In “Trouble,” we find the narrator pleading with his illness: “Trouble / Oh trouble set me free / I have seen your face / And it’s too much too much for me.”

As we know, Stevens is still alive to this day. But many who’ve fought through illness will easily be able to relate to this song.

“Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)” by Elton John

Song year: 1982

With “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny),” Elton John paid tribute to the late and great Beatle John Lennon. Lennon’s assassination occurred just 15 months before this song was released.

John and Lennon were good friends, and Lennon even appeared on John’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Losing a friend is never easy, as this song shows.

“Brendan’s Death Song” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Song year: 2012

This song was written in memory of Brendan Mullen, who founded The Masque, a small punk rock club that was a bit of a fixture in the early L.A. punk scene. Mullen gave the Peppers a bit of a leg up in their career and continued to collaborate with the band in the years that followed.

Mullen died suddenly after he suffered a stroke in 2009 while working on the Chili Peppers biography, Red Hot Chili Peppers: An Ora/Visual History. The book was eventually finished by Kateri Butler and John Curry.

“Return” by OK Go

Song year: 2002

This song is apparently about Timory Hyde, a friend of OK Go singer Damian Kulash. Hyde, sadly, fell out of a third-story window on her 22nd birthday. She did not survive the fall.

The song is catchy with a bit of an edge. The lyrics are sad, and the repeated line “You were supposed to grow old” are especially heart wrenching.

“Afterimage” by Rush

Song year: 1984

Rush’s “Afterimage’ was dedicated to Robbie Whelan, who worked as an assistant engineer on some of the band’s early albums, such as Moving Pictures.

The song deals with the loss of a friend. Whether you have recently lost a friend, or have lost one in the past, there’s little doubt you’ll be able to relate to this song.

“Wave Goodbye” by Chris Cornell

Song year: 1999

Chris Cornell’s “Wave Goodbye” is a song about singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, who died in 1997 during a spontaneous evening swim in the Mississippi River.

In this song, the narrator expresses how much he’s missing a friend.

“Afterglow” by INXS

Song year: 2005

This poetic tune speaks of sorrow, longing, and living in the afterglow of a loved one.

“Afterglow” is a touching tribute to INXS co-founder Michael Hutchence, who took his own life in 1997.

The narrator, therefore, sees himself in the afterglow of Hutchence.

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler

Song year: 1989

It’s unlikely you haven’t heard of “Wind Beneath My Wings” in one of its many incarnations. The song was originally written in 1992 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley and was first recorded by Kamahl.

Midler’s version, though, appeared in the film Beaches, and could even be considered the definitive version.

The song is all about how much someone inspires you to keep going in life.

“Time To Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman

Song year: 1995

Now, this song makes a lot more sense in the original Italian than in English. To what, exactly, the narrator is saying goodbye to, is up for debate. Saying goodbye to countries never visited, or saying goodbye to ships that don’t exist… We can’t make perfect sense of it.

But the beautiful “Time To Say Goodbye” is sure to leave you speechless either way.

“My Way” by Frank Sinatra

Song year: 1969

In a way, this song paints Sinatra as the ultimate rebel, and let’s be fair – he kind of was!

But more than that, this is a song about breaking the rules. Doing life your way. Not following anyone else’s path. Because you got to where you are on your own strength.

As a tribute to those who were one of a kind, there’s always “My Way.”

Songs About Death, Final Thoughts

Songs for grief and mourning

Even as loved ones pass, we are reminded that life is temporary. At some point, we will all find ourselves on the “other side.”

Death can often feel unnatural. In a roundabout way, though, there is nothing more natural.

In the short term, knowing this doesn’t make it any easier. But as often has been said, time can heal all wounds.

If you are mourning, we wish you all the best. And if you are fed up with life, be sure to find help. Call the number at the beginning of this guide.

Thanks for joining us, and we hope you enjoyed this list.

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