When preparing a ceremony for friends or family that will be cremated, you want to find music to play that properly sets the tone of the affair. Many songs have lyrics that help us say goodbye. Depending on their personality, you may find one of these songs for a cremation appropriate for the occasion.
1. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth
Song Year: 2015
Two worlds came together in 2015 when rapper Wiz Khalifa got together with singer Charlie Puth to write this song. They were asked to write a tribute to Paul Walker, an actor who had died in a car crash before completing the film Furious 7. The song perfectly translates the pain felt during a cremation knowing that you have to face the days ahead without that person with you.
2. “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve
Song Year: 1997
The British rock band The Verve wrote this song for their third studio album titled “Urban Hymns”. The song was based on a sample of a Rolling Stones song called “Our Last Time” with string instruments added to give it a bigger sound. The song talks about how hard we work to make money to live on, but we all have to face our death anyway.
3. “Let It Be” by The Beatles
Song Year: 1970
“Let It Be” is one of the most famous songs of the late era of Beatles music. It was released on their album by the same name and charted up to number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is one of the perfect songs for cremation ceremonies because of the hopelessness felt in trying to find an answer to why bad things happen. The lyrics say there will be an answer, but we can’t know what it is now, and we should let it be.
4. “Ave Maria” by Schubert
Song Year: 1825
If you want a classical feel with some of the music played at your loved one’s cremation ceremony, “Ave Maria” has been bringing people to tears for nearly two centuries. The melody was written for a poem called “The Lady of the Lake”, and eventually became the tune for the song declaring a prayer to the Virgin Mary.
Religious gatherings will appreciate this song as mourners can ask Mary to help usher the deceased into Heaven. Many beautiful recordings of this song exist, giving you a large selection.
5. “Go Rest High On That Mountain” by Vince Gill
Song Year: 1995
This song is often used in funerals, wakes, and life celebrations because it is sung directly to the deceased. Vince Gill released this song in 1995, and it has been used by mourners to tell their loved ones that they have nothing more in life to worry about and to take their rest in Heaven. Gill once sang the song at the funeral of George Jones and struggled to sing the emotional words.
6. “You Are My Sunshine” by Jimmie Davis
Song Year: 1940
This song has been recorded hundreds of times, and there are many interpretations of its sound, so there is a version that will fit your ceremony. The song is mostly thought of as sung by a mother to a baby. However, the lyrics can be about anyone seen as a bright spot in life. It could be the perfect tribute to someone you care about who is gone.
7. “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland
Song Year: 1939
This Oscar-winning song was performed by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” Interestingly, it was almost cut from the film to speed up the beginning sequence. It was left in and became one of the most famous songs in history. This is one of the perfect songs for cremation ceremonies as you say goodbye to someone and send them to live in a land somewhere over the rainbow.
8. “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John
Song Year: 1994
Elton John wrote this song for the Disney film “The Lion King.” It was a song of romance between two of the main characters. However, a gathering of people who have come to say goodbye to a person they cared about in life can make you realize how much love you can feel.
9. “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
Song Year: 1995
This song was released on the soundtrack for the 1995 film “The Brothers McMullen”. It is an emotional song about saying goodbye. However, it is perfect for greeting guests at a cremation ceremony or a wake. The deceased is gone, but our lives are full of memories of them. They will live on in those memories as long as we are here.
10. “Time of Your Life” by Green Day
Song Year: 1997
The history of this song is rooted in anger as Billie Joe Armstrong wrote it about a girl who broke up with him to move to Ecuador. He called the song “Good Riddance”. However, it has taken on new meaning over the years because the lyrics can be reinterpreted as melancholy and full of sadness over someone's leaving. Time forces us to go down roads we wouldn’t have if we had a choice because it means saying goodbye to people along the way.
11. “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
Song Year: 1969
If your loved one was a lover of classic rock, then this gospel from Norman Greenbaum will be a good tribute. The psychedelic sound and the thumping base might have a few of the grieving in your gathering tapping their foot as they listen to the lyrics about the promise of a better place that we go to when we leave this world.
12. “You Are Not Alone” by Michael Jackson
Song Year: 1995
Michael Jackson was the king of pop, but his talented voice could make a beautiful R&B ballad like this one released in 1995 for his album “HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book 1.” The lyrics can be a promise to the grieving that no matter how sad they feel and how lonely they are, the deceased is still here with them in spirit and will never completely be gone.
13. “Don’t Stop Dancing” by Creed
Song Year: 2002
Creed is an American rock band whose songs have a dream-like, tortured sound that may be the right sound for a gathering of this nature. The lyrics are about moving on with life and not giving up no matter what gets thrown at you. That could be the advice your loved one would want to give their friends and family if they could speak to them one more time. Whatever you do, don’t stop dancing.
14. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Song Year: 1992
A cremation ceremony is not a happy occasion. However, there can be uplifting messages sent out to people overcome with grief. Their feelings can be summed up in this big-voiced song performed by Whitney Houston on the soundtrack to the 1992 film “The Bodyguard.” She sings that she wishes all of these wonderful things for someone and then lets them know at the end that they will always be loved.
15. “Amazing Grace” by John Newton
Song Year: 1772
One of the most used songs for cremation ceremonies, funerals, and life celebrations is a Christian hymn. The lyrics sum up the belief Christians have about life perfectly, declaring that they were undeserving of the grace they received from God and thankful for their salvation. It also celebrates the promise that they have that death is not the end for them because they are promised a home in Heaven.
16. “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
Song Year: 1988
While this song had been around for a while, Bette Midler’s version sung for the movie “Beaches” is the most famous. It is a powerful tribute to anyone in your life who you feel made your life better by supporting you.
17. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
Song Year: 1988
Many people may be tempted to play something upbeat if the tone of the ceremony is more celebratory, but they don’t want to offend anyone. This song will do the trick. Bobby McFerrin’s advice is simple: we should not worry about things we can’t change and try to make the best of it.
Best Non-Religious Funeral Songs, Final Thoughts
A cremation ceremony is a sad occasion, but music has a way of soothing grief. When you find a song that encapsulates the personality of the deceased, it can feel as though they are speaking to you and meant for you to hear that song at that moment.
All of these songs are appropriate for a ceremony where you must say goodbye to someone you care for deeply. They may help to take some of the grief and make it easier to manage.