Grief is never easy. Consequently, there’s a variety of songs about losing someone spanning time and musical styles.
Whether you need a reminder to laugh or someone to weep in sympathy with you, here’s a list of songs about losing loved ones to make remembering them easier.
“Send In The Clowns” by Judy Collins
Stephen Sondheim wrote the poignant ‘Send in the Clowns’ for the musical A Little Night Music. It has his signature complex harmonies and equally notorious melancholy.
On the surface, the lyrics don’t sound like a song about losing someone. In Judy Collins’ capable hands, it becomes a mournful lamentation that deftly reflects the sentiments of grieving listeners.
In particular, the titular clowns hit home. The song isn’t about a circus; It’s about how moments of light and levity can twist on you unexpectedly. That’s exactly what the lens of grief does.
“After” by Amanda Roocroft
If you are looking for classical songs about losing someone, look no further than Sir Edward Elgar’s ‘After.’
Although we remember Elgar for ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ he wrote a variety of music, including song cycles for female voices. Here, the combination of a minor key with a soaring soprano melody line produces an achingly poignant song based on the poem by Phillip Bourke Marston.
“Onegin and Lenski’s Duet” by Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Ramon Vargas
Here is another classical song about losing a loved one. It may seem counterintuitive to single out this duet about a duel. It’s a masterclass in musical word painting.
In this duet from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, the eponymous Onegin and his friend Lenski mourn the loss of their friendship. Neither wants to kill the other, and the fact that the two harmonic lines use consonant minor thirds indicates that despite their imminent separation, they’re still emotionally in sync.
When Lenski dies, the duet segues into a funeral march. It’s a moving, heartfelt reflection on the loss of a loved one.
“Turn, Turn, Turn,” by Pete Seeger
Equally affecting is Pete Seeger’s ‘Turn, Turn, Turn.’ The song takes its lyrics from the Book of Ecclesiastes. It reminds us that however painful losing someone can be, nothing happens without a cause. We have seasons of laughter and grief.
We love ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ because it reminds us that however severe and gloomy the world feels, there’s always a glimmer of light to look forward to, whether it’s cherished memories or the love of the people around us.
“I’ll Be Seeing You” by Bing Crosby
‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is a popular World War Two song with lyrics by Irving Kahal and music by Sammy Fain. But it was Bing Crosby who made it famous.
The song started as a tribute to missing soldiers. These days it doubles as a song about losing a loved one, reflecting as it does on how easily we see our dead in all the places they loved.
“Let It Be” by The Beatles
The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ is another to add to your list of songs about losing loved ones. The lyrics don’t deal with loss directly, but the minor key and the meditative melody offer the space to reflect on loss.
The lyrics nod at other broken-hearted people and remind us we are not alone, however, isolating grief feels. And whether you subscribe to the religious imagery the lyrics invoke or note, they remind us that comfort comes from sometimes unlikely quarters.
“Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen” by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf
On the other hand, if you want songs about losing someone that are more prayerful, Franz Schubert’s ‘Litanei au das Fest Allerseelen’ is hard to beat.
Schubert wrote the song for the Feast of All Souls, when many religions, from Christian to pagan, commemorate their dead. The result is a slow, lugubrious song that wishes a peaceful hereafter on their loved ones.
“Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” by Ella Fitzgerald and the Inkspots
‘Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall’ is one of the marginally more upbeat songs about losing someone. We’ve all heard the expression ‘It never rains but it pours,’ and Fitzgerald and the Inkspots explore the sentiment here.
Despite this, the tempo is jaunty, and the harmony is warm. The title comes from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
“We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn
It’s hard not to think of Dame Vera Lynn when it comes to songs about losing loved ones. She made ‘We'll Meet Again’ famous as a song of the Second World War.
It's also an effective meditation on loss. What could be more human than wanting to see our departed loved ones again some far-off day?
“Darcy Farrow” by Ian & Sylvia Tyson
Steven Gillette was a young musician when his sister suffered death by misadventure after a horse accident. He put pen to paper, and the result was a song about losing a loved one that became a staple not only of folk music but ballads more generally.
For years everyone had a version of the story of doomed Darcy Farrow. Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s is perhaps the most famous.
There is lots to love about ‘Darcy Farrow.’ The story is compelling, and the melody is memorable. We love the poetry of the lyrics. For a song that came from grief, its similes are unrivaled.
“Haunted Heart” by Jo Stafford
Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz wrote ‘Haunted Heart’ in 1948. In 1950 it became one of Jo Stafford’s signature songs.
It’s warm, tender, and reflects on the loss of a loved one. It’s unclear if the ghost who haunts the speaker died or merely ended a love affair. Either way, the result is an achingly sweet reflection on the persistence of love.
“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by The Cardiff Festival Choir
Ralph Vaughn Williams wrote ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ as a memorial to his lost comrades-in-arms during the First World War. Like other songs about losing someone on this list, the words are from The Book of Ecclesiastes.
These days it gets mired in Remembrance Sunday pomp and circumstance, but there’s a haunting undertone of grief to the music when it starts talking about the unmarked, unnamed dead.
The other reason we like this song about losing someone is that it reminds us that our loved ones always leave traces of themselves behind, whether that’s in poetry, music, or something else.
“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” by Emmy Rossum
‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ is a song from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical Phantom of the Opera. Inspired by a nineteenth-century novel, the lyrics come from collaborators Charles Hart and R. Stilgoe.
We include it on this list of songs about losing someone because few sentiments go more readily with grieving than the wish to have your loved ones back.
“There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill
Anyone who knows Thomas Hardy knows that ‘There You’ll Be’ are the ambiguous words that close out ‘Far from the Madding Crowd.’
But whether you see the end of that book as optimistic or oppressive, there’s no denying that we all long for that moment when we look up from our chair or out the window in the expectation someone we lost will be there.
Faith Hill’s song of the same name explores this sentiment. The sweeping orchestra is equal parts nostalgic and sentimental.
“Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father” by Randy Newman
As songs about losing someone goes, Randy Newman’s ‘Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father’ is haunting and evocative. It captures the aimless way we feel after experiencing a death.
“Addio Dolce Svegliari alla Matina” by Luciano Pavarotti
Here’s a variation of songs about losing someone. In Puccini’s ‘Addio Dolce…’ from ‘La Boheme,’ Pavarotti’s Coline farewells his coat. It’s tender, humanizing, and done with all the affection one would lavish on a person.
It’s also a touching gesture of love towards the dying Mimi, as Coline sacrifices the one thing he has of value to try and save her. After all, however much meaning we imbue objects with, they aren’t a patch on people.
“In Haven” by Janet Baker
Despite not being associated with songs about losing someone, Sir Edward Elgar’s music has lots to say about the subject.
‘In Haven’ is the second song in a larger cycle called ‘Sea Pictures.’ As sung by Dame Janet Baker, it’s a powerful reminder that however permanent death is, love outlasts it.
“Never Weather-Beaten Sail” by Stile Antico
Boats and sailing have long been popular metaphors for death. Thomas Campion’s anthem ‘Never Weather-Beaten Sail’ is one of many songs about losing someone to explore that metaphor. It also offers comfort and reassurance that wherever our loved ones go, they’ve found different happiness and that someday we will see them again.
“Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day
Many things recommend ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ by Green Day as earning a place on lists of songs about losing someone. Not least of these is its dedication to victims of Hurricane Katrina and September 11.
These are significant losses linked with the song. It’s also full of evocative cosmic sympathy; Images of rain and winter that mirror the more personal feelings we experience after death.
“Lemon Tree” by Peter, Paul, and Mary
Peter, Paul, and Mary’s iconic song ‘Lemon Tree’ explores a different way of losing someone. The speaker laments not death but lost love. And yet, the grief they feel here is similarly total.
The lyrics reflect an inability to find beauty and meaning in life without someone to share experiences with.
“Supermarket Flowers” by Ed Sheeran
In Sheeran’s song ‘Supermarket Flowers,’ the speaker stops to purchase flowers for a loved one. But when he returns home, he must confront the inevitable reminders that he has lost someone, and all he has left are memories. It’s a feeling anyone who’s suffered loss knows well.
“Four Strong Winds” by Ian & Sylvia Tyson
‘Four Strong Winds’ is one of Canada’s best-known folk songs. Ian Tyson wrote it in 1961. By 1963 it was an integral part of the Folk Revival landscape.
On the surface, this is a song about a floundering romantic relationship more than it is a song about losing someone. What makes it relevant is the way the lyrics insist change is inevitable.
Try as we might, we can’t stop time moving impassively forward. And we can’t help but lose people. It’s the risk we take of loving people, and Tyson’s lyrics remind us how losing that love affects us.
“Can’t Take That Away From Me” by Ella Fitzgerald
George and Ira Gershwin wrote ‘Can’t Take That Away From Me’ in 1937. Dozens of people sang it, but this collaboration between Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong from 1956 stands out.
Often thought of as a song about lost love, the lyrics are no less true of the tenacity of grief. It catches us at unlikely moments with reminders about the person we lost. ‘Can’t Take That Away From Me’ sums up that personal alchemy beautifully.
“The Trees On the Mountain” by Renee Fleming
‘The Trees on the Mountain’ is an aria from Carlyle Floyd’s folk opera ‘Susannah.’ It’s a modern retelling of the apocryphal story of Susannah.
In ‘The Trees on the Mountain,’ there’s no telling if the speaker lost her love to death or someone else, but it doesn’t matter. The poignancy and longing inherent in the music make it a rich example of a song about losing someone.
It asks what we wouldn’t do to have our lost loves back for a day. There’s no answer, only the desperate wail of a woman alone, who would give anything.
“He Loved Him Madly” by Miles Davies
‘He Loved Him Madly’ is Miles Davies’ tribute to a deceased Duke Ellington. Ellington’s catchphrase to audiences was, ‘I love you madly.’
‘He Loved Him Madly’ is a jazz-fusion piece. Sometimes spikey, sometimes jarring it’s a virtuosic feat of composition. It also reflects the confused, adrift landscape of grief.
“Already Gone” by Disturbed
The inspiration for ‘Already Gone’ came to Disturbed vocalist David Draiman after experiencing several personal losses.
The result is a heartfelt song about loss that ponders how accurate our beliefs and superstitions about death are.
“Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers
Sometimes, as in ‘Last Kiss’ by Wayne Cochran, death arrives suddenly. Despite the song’s examination of the horror and grief of suddenly losing someone, the song didn’t do well.
It wasn’t until Wilson and The Cavaliers recorded the song that it became a hit.
There’s some controversy over who wrote ‘Last Kiss.’ Whoever was behind it, it’s a remarkable song about the abruptness of death and our wish to be reunited with those we love.
“Cat’s in the Cradle” by Cat Stevens
‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ puts another spin on songs about losing someone. As the song progresses, the speaker does lose his son, but not to death. Instead, they grow apart because they no longer have time for or knowledge of each other.
It’s a bittersweet song and a touching reminder to make the most of the opportunities we have with loved ones.
“Loch Lomond” by The Corries
Folk songs are rife with songs about losing someone, especially loved ones. The chorus of ‘Loch Lomond’ is perhaps the most famous part, and with good reason. It’s here we learn that the mournful Scotch Snaps and Strathspey time are musical word-painting meant to convey the grief of losing someone you care about.
The last verse is especially striking because it reminds us that, irrespective of our loss, life goes on for other people. In those first moments of grief, that seems incredible.
Changes by Phil Ochs
Loss creates significant sea changes, and you feel the ripples it leaves for years afterward.
From the moment ‘Changes’ opens, it’s a poetic reflection on loss. Surface readings suggest it's only about change. But in the closing couplet, Phil Ochs talks about kissing a loved one goodbye and losing them permanently.
“Green Eyes” by Jimmy Dorsey
Originally, Green Eyes was a Spanish song by Adolfo Utrera. In 1931 it became a popular English-lyric melody with words by Eddie Rivera and Eddie Woods.
As songs about losing someone go, ‘Green Eyes’ isn’t explicitly about loss. But the longing for those green eyes that haunt the speaker will be a familiar sentiment to anyone who ever dreamed about someone they lost. Especially resonant is the haunting power of those eyes, surfacing when least expected.
“These Foolish Things” by Nat King Cole
One of the remarkable aspects of grief is the way it permeates everything. We don’t think of ‘These Foolish Things’ when we think about songs about losing someone, but the sentiment it expresses is common to mourners everywhere.
We find our loved ones in books they loved, clothes they wore, and the last traces of a particular smell. And these things do indeed remind us of them.
“If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” by Justin Moore
‘If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away’ is a song by Dallas Davidson, Rob Hatch, and Brett Jones. In it, the speaker daydreams about taking a day trip to Heaven and visiting with the people he’s lost over the years.
In Moore’s hands, the theme of keeping the connection to dead loved ones alive is evocatively rendered.
“You’ll Never Know” by Dick Haymes
‘You’ll Never Know’ is another song about losing a loved one that takes inspiration from a poem. The poem was written by a newlywed bride. But the sentiment that love is incommunicable is true in more ways than the poet anticipated.
If love is hard to express in life, it’s still harder to express when the person you love dies. The slow, meandering pace of ‘You’ll Never Know,’ combined with Haymes' warm vocals, result in an expressive song about loss, intentional or not.
“There Will Never Be Another You” by Nat King Cole
‘There Will Never Be Another You’ began life as a song written for the film ‘Iceland.’ Harry Warren and Mark Gordon collaborated on it, but it didn’t become popular until 1954 when Chet Baker covered it.
Like other songs we’ve discussed, it wasn’t intended as a song about losing someone important. Yet the irreplaceability of the people we care about is one of the first impressions to land after losing a loved one.
Nat King Cole’s rich vocal line reminds us that time continues for people left behind, but it feels surreal because the person you want to share those experiences with is no longer there.
“My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time” by Doris Day and Les Brown
Written in 1944 by Vic Mizzy and Manny Curtis, ‘My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time’ became a hit in 1945. The most famous version features Doris Day on the vocals and Les Brown and his orchestra accompanying her.
Ostensibly, it’s about a young woman dreaming about her sweetheart. It’s also possible to read the song as a speaker dreaming about someone they lost and whose dreams remind them of the life they shared.
“Always” by Ella Fitzgerald
Written by Irving Berlin, ‘Always’ is best-known to most listeners as the song that features in Noel Coward’s play ‘Blithe Spirit.’
In the context of Coward’s play, it’s the song sung by vengeful and spurned ghosts to torment their misogynistic husband. It doesn’t sound like the stuff of typical songs about losing someone.
But listen to the lyrics divorced from Coward, and you hear a song about the enduring power of love. It’s proof of the adage that love outlives death. Your loved one might be dead, but your love isn’t. That’s what Ella Fitzgerald sings about.
“You Were Loved” by Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s ‘You Were Loved’ is a crucial part of any list of songs about losing a loved one. It reminds us of the impact we have on each other by expressing that love. A loss might be painful, but our personal histories of life and love make it a worthwhile hurt.
“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
As songs about losing someone go, ‘Tears in Heaven’ tells a painful story. Clapton wrote the song after the death of his young son. Consequently, it’s more than an exploration of grief. It pokes and prods the nature of our myths about death to ask, as people have wondered for years if our lost loved ones would know us if they saw us again.
“Who You’d Be Today” by Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney’s ‘Who You’d Be Today’ is another song about losing a loved one that wonders what that departed loved one would be like if still alive. Few things are more haunting than unanswerable questions, and Chesney’s song is a powerful thesis statement on exactly that.
“Gone Too Soon” by Michael Jackson
There were several versions of this ballad about losing someone in circulation before Michael Jackson did a version. But Jackson’s rendition of ‘Gone too Soon’ made waves as much for the dedication as the artistic talent behind it.
Jackson dedicated the song to the memory of a hemophiliac friend who suffered stigmatism at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
“Children and Art” by Annaleigh Ashford
‘Children and Art’ is a song from Stephen Sondheim’s musical ‘Sunday Afternoons in the Park with George.'The musical was inspired by Georges Seurat.
It’s a musical family portrait. The speaker reminisces about departed loves and even quotes them. She also anticipates her death and tries to reassure the next generation that this inevitable loss shouldn’t be sad.
“Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro
Bobby Russell wrote ‘Honey’ for Bob Shane of The Kingston Trio fame. He gave the song to Goldsboro, who made it a hit in 1968.
As songs about losing someone go, this one is gentle and a bit sentimental. The speaker walks through memories of lost love and takes comfort from knowing that the tree she planted is thriving, even if she can’t witness it.
“Go Tell Aunt Rhodie” by The Weavers
‘Aunt Rhodie’ plays the conventions of songs about losing someone incredibly straight. But the someone in the song is Aunt Rhodie’s old grey goose. Judging from the lyrics, Aunt Rhodie isn’t too upset about the loss since she was going to turn the goose into a feather anyway.
It’s a somber, gentle reminder of life’s absurdities. It also reminds us that it’s always possible to find light and hope in extreme darkness. Even if the light we find is more bittersweet than Aunt Rhodie’s.
“For Good” by Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel
‘For Good’ is a song from the musical ‘Wicked'by composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. The lesson of ‘For Good’ is that however painful our loss is, people leave an indelible mark on our souls. In that way, they are never far from us, even when it feels like they are.
“Senza Mamma” by Renata Scotto
Puccini’s ‘Senza Mamma’ is a moving song about the loss of a child. The speaker is a nun who joined a convent after giving up her illegitimate infant.
As she sings, she wonders who this child became and if he feels her loss the way she does his. When she finds the courage to ask after her baby, she learns he died in infancy.
“Holes in the Floor of Heaven” by Steve Wariner
There’s no one like your grandparents. Steve Wariner wrote ‘Holes in the Floor of Heaven’ to commemorate his grandmother, who died when he was young. Despite this, it’s an optimistic song. It theorizes our loved ones watch over us long after they leave us.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” byShirley Jones and Claramae Turner
Inexplicably, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is primarily associated with British football. But it’s also a poignant and optimistic song about loss.
Like other songs about losing someone on this list, it argues that however alone you feel, your loved ones never truly leave you.
“Forever Winter” by Taylor Swift
‘Forever Winter’ sounds upbeat but reflects the heart-breaking story of Swift’s friend, who died far too young. In that context, the upbeat tempo echoes the brave face many put on their struggles, even as the speaker wonders if they could have prevented the death from transpiring.
“Hello It's Me” by Todd Rundgren
Todd Rundgren’s song ‘Hello It’s Me’ trades in a different kind of loss. It’s about letting someone go for love. The person you lose may not be dead, but it’s differently difficult to wrestle with, and the speaker still feels their absence. Despite this, they are glad their loved one is happy somewhere else.
“St James Infirmary” by Louis Armstrong
Here’s a song to resonate with anyone who’s endured long hospital visits with a languishing loved one. It features Louis Armstrong’s distinctive, gravelly vocals, as well as his adept trumpet playing. The harmony is bluesy, the melody warm, and the key minor.
Armstrong packs lots of feeling into the melody. Its only drawback is its guarantee to make you a bit weepy.
“In Loving Memory” by Alter Bridge
Mark Tremonti, the Alter Bridge guitarist, wrote ‘In Loving Memory’ after the death of his mother. Even so, it's an optimistic song. There’s a hopeful feel to the music, as the speaker enumerates how his loved one is with him, even after death.
“Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep” by Christ Church Cathedral Choir
There are many powerful settings in this poem by an anonymous writer. Howard Goodall’s arrangement is particularly effective at capturing the cautious hope of rediscovering a lost loved one in the world around you.
“Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi
This is another song about losing a loved one inspired by a real-life loss. Scottish singer and songwriter Lewis Capaldi wrote the song in memory of his grandmother.
He struggled to write the song, but you wouldn’t guess that by listening to it. It’s a touching tribute to a grandmother he loved, and the key and harmony are achingly tender.
“Everybody Lost Somebody” by Bleachers
Bleache’’s ‘Everybody Lost Somebody’ is a reminder that we are never as alone as we feel after losing someone. It’s also an exploration of the pain and confusion of loss. The speaker, unmoored by these feelings, tries desperately to return home at any cost.
“Afire Love” by Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran’s song about losing someone is another tribute to a deceased grandmother. Heartbreakingly, the lyrics to ‘Afire Love’ reveal the loss began even before death. They hint at a woman with Alzheimer’s whose memory was fluid and whose loves and interests were lost to her before she died.
“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.
‘Everybody Hurts’ is another reminder of the ubiquity of grief. More than that, R.E.M.’s moving song is a reminder to keep going despite grief and pain. There are always things to live for and even ways of finding enjoyment. Except now, you are experiencing them for the sake of your lost loved one as well as yourself.
Popular Songs About Losing Someone, Final Thoughts
Songs about losing someone come in all shapes and sizes. Some are optimistic, and some are melancholy.
They are also deeply personal. Some songs start as being about one thing and come to be songs about losing a loved one because of the associations they have for you. There’s nothing about Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’ that’s inherently mournful. But we think of a loved one who cherished it whenever we hear it.
We don’t think we’re alone in that. Hopefully, this list helps you find songs about losing someone that are meaningful to you. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself imbuing other songs with similar sentiments.