31 Songs About Missing Someone Who Died

Musicians write songs about happy and sad occasions, love and loss, and sometimes about going to parties. But the power of music can make songs about missing someone who died hit harder than just about any other subject. Here are some of the best ones.

1. “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” by Tommy Emmanuel

“I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” by Tommy Emmanuel

Song Year: 2005

Tommy Emmanuel is one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” isn’t a shred-fest. Emmanuel sings about how he always wanted to be like his dad. Even though he’s gone now, Emmanuel still tries to emulate his old man. It’s a heartbreaker.

2. “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John

Song Year: 1973

“Candle in the Wind” was never a radio single, though it has long been a fan favorite.

The song mourns the difficult life of Marilyn Monroe, and when Princess Diana died, Sir Elton reconfigured it as a tribute to her called “Goodbye England’s Rose.” He sang it at her funeral and had a worldwide number-one hit with it in 1997.

3. “Go Rest High On That Mountain” by Vince Gill

Song Year: 1995

Originally conceived as a ballad to mourn the death of guitar legend Keith Whitley, “Go Rest High On That Mountain” was a song Vince Gill had trouble finishing until the death of his own brother. Combining both men’s struggles, Gill combined poignant lyrics of love and loss with a heartrending melody.

Even avid haters of country music have to admit that this is a beautiful song.

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

Song Year: 1997

When rapper Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in 1997, he left a huge hole in the world of hip-hop. For some reason, that compelled Puff Daddy to sample “Every Breath You Take” by the Police— the most-played song in the history of radio— without asking for permission. What, no one was going to recognize that guitar riff?

Is it a sentimental song about missing someone who died? It is. Did Sting sue for 100 percent of the royalties and win? He did. Is it weird to take a song about an obsessed stalker and turn it into a hymn to brotherly love? It is.

5. “Let It Be” by The Beatles

Song Year: 1970

Sir Paul McCartney was a long way from being a musical icon when his mother died. He was only 14 when an embolism took her, but as The Beatles were falling apart, he had a dream about her.

In his waking hours, as the band was falling apart, McCartney was tense, agitated, and anxious. He said that one night, he fell asleep feeling all those things only to have his mother, Mary, appear to him in a dream and tell him that everything was going to be okay.

Sir Paul woke the next morning and wrote the song, basing the lyrics on his mom’s words.

6. “Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton

Song Year: 1992

Conor Clapton was just four years old when he fell from a 53rd-story apartment window. His dad, guitar god Eric Clapton, did the only thing he could in the face of overwhelming grief— he wrote a song about it.

Losing anyone to death is hard. Losing a child is unthinkable. The tragedy drove Clapton’s creativity, and he produced a piece of music that was a worldwide number-one and snagged him three Grammys.

7. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth

Song Year: 2015

Paul Walker, star of the Fast and the Furious films, died in a car accident in 2013. When the seventh film of the franchise was in post-production, the filmmakers wanted a tribute song for the credits.

Charlie Puth had lost a friend to a motorcycle accident, and he tapped into that grief to write his part of the song. Other contributions came from DJ Frank E, Wiz Khalifa, and Andrew Cedar, and Wiz rapped between Puth’s singing.

8. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion

Song Year: 1997

We tell ourselves things so we can handle other things. “My Heart Will Go On,” written by the late film composer James Horner for the worldwide phenomenon that was the movie Titanic, is about doing just that. Even after death, love never dies.

Two fun facts:

  • Celine Dion didn’t want to record the song.
  • The version we heard in the film was Dion’s first take.

Lastly, we all know there was room for Jack on that door. We know it, Rose, and so do you.

9. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day

Song Year: 2004

Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s father died in early September of 1982 when Armstrong was just 10 years old. After the funeral, he locked himself in his room and, so the story goes, commanded his worried mom to wake him when the month was over.

So came to be the title of Green Day’s top-ten hit. It’s poignant and does a terrific job of putting the listener into the headspace Armstrong enters every year when the anniversary of his father’s death approaches.

Anyone who’s suffered loss can identify, which helps explain the song’s universal appeal.

10. “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor

Song Year: 1970

“Fire and Rain” is not about a woman who died in a plane crash. The Suzanne that James Taylor mentions in the song was a friend who committed suicide just as Taylor’s music career was taking off, and his family kept the news from him so he wouldn’t get distracted.

The song also deals with Taylor’s personal struggles with addiction, so it’s not strictly a song about missing someone who’s passed away, but that first verse hits pretty hard.

11. “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran

Song Year: 1992

Simon Le Bon’s lyrics for Duran Duran songs are notoriously abstract. Duran Duran bassist John Taylor still famously has no idea what “Hungry Like the Wolf” is about, but “Ordinary World” is hard to misinterpret.

Le Bon sings about often forgetting that a lost loved one is gone, sometimes imagining that he hears the person talking in the other room before realizing that’s impossible. The work he does in the song is in his effort to figure out how to get back to something like normalcy in the wake of loss.

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