27 Traditional Funeral Songs

Funerals are hard to plan, even when your loved one leaves instructions behind. If it’s your job to find the music for the day, and know they’d be after some classic music, the below should be a good fit for you.

Here are some traditional funeral songs to send your loved one off the right way.

1. Amazing Grace by Carrie Underwood

Song Year: 2021

“Amazing Grace” is a funeral classic for a reason. It’s a traditional funeral song anyone can sing, whether you hand it to a Gospel Choir, a soloist, or the congregation.

It’s full of poignant phrases and an achingly sweet melancholy that resonates with mourners everywhere. But it’s also hopeful. As much as it's about loss, it’s also about the strength of love and perseverance. Those are powerful things to hold onto when you’re grieving. They make the world a bit brighter and a bit more hopeful. 

2. Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band

Song Year: 2012

The first time we heard “Ashokan Farewell,” it was as a waltz cool-down in a dance class. It has the kind of melody that goes round and round endlessly, which is perfect for a relaxed end to an evening.

It’s also the perfect funeral song. The traditional melody is sweet, mournful, and soothing. It brings a touch of Scottish music to the service, making it ideal for ex-pats or long-time lovers of Scotland.

Here it’s rendered touchingly on strings, but it can sound equally elegant on bagpipes. It makes a beautiful and meaningful farewell for any funeral service.

3. On Eagle’s Wings by Michael Joncas

Song Year: 2020

Psalms play a vital role in more religious funeral services, and there are as many musical settings as there are composers. “On Eagle’s Wings” is an uplifting arrangement of Psalm 91.

It’s a setting designed to comfort mourners. It reminds people they are never truly alone, even when they feel cut off from the world.

It’s a great pick, especially in Catholic churches. But its soaring melody is suitable for any service. The music makes it sound like the phrases float just out of reach, not unlike the person you’ve lost. That gives them an element of optimism. We might feel alone, but when we need it, there's always someone to catch us and carry us away on eagle’s wings.

4. Blute Nur by Elly Ameling

Song Year:1965

It’s difficult to get more traditional than Bach when planning a funeral. Bach wrote music for every occasion, and he’s hard to beat when it comes to capturing the breadth of human emotion.

This traditional funeral song is part of a larger composition, St Matthew’s Passion. It’s all about the agony of loss and describes the painful sensation of heartbreak.

Bach’s music describes the feeling perfectly. It uses minor keys and intervals to convey the deep sadness of the speaker. Even if you can’t speak German, the music resonates deeply.

5. How Great Thou Art by Pentatonix

Song Year: 2018

“How Great Thou Art” is another versatile song. It has a high, soaring melody that reflects the song's scope. You often hear it at more religious funerals, where it’s an emotive and powerful reminder of God’s love for all his children, alive and dead.

It also helps remind grieving listeners that they are never truly alone. Not only that, but in a religious context, it serves as a reminder the God at the core of faith lost a child. That makes him ideally suited to comfort people when they need it.

Even without that context, the sweeping musical phrases and stunning high notes make this a moving song for funerals. There’s a lot more to the world than the people in it, and remembering that can help us rediscover some of its light and beauty in darker hours.

6. Danny Boy by The Celtic Women In Song

Song Year: 2005

Sung to the tune “The Londonderry Aire,” “Danny Boy ” is one of the best-known funeral songs.

Like many Irish folk songs, it has a haunting and melancholy melody.

In it, the speaker meditates on loss. Despite its lyrics, it’s not entirely sad. The speaker ends by suggesting that someday they will be reunited with their lost love. Until that happens, they will rest peacefully and content, confident they’ll meet again.

Irrespective of what you believe, it’s difficult not to find that premise of after-death reunion comforting. At a time when it can feel like you’ll never see your loved one again, the thought they’re peacefully waiting for you can be powerful.

7. I’ll Fly Away by Alison Krauss

Song Year: 2000

“I’ll Fly Away” first entered the popular consciousness when it appeared on O Brother, Where Art Thou? Ever since it’s been a traditional funeral song.

The melody is atypically jaunty, and its lyrics remind listeners that while death always comes at the end, it doesn’t have to be sad. It can be, especially for the people left behind. But sometimes, especially if your loved one was in pain or felt they had lived too long, it can be like an old friend.

That’s how it comes to the speaker of this song. It’s an opportunity to finally rest and enjoy creature comforts they couldn’t on earth.

It’s a song designed to make listeners smile, and while that may seem unlikely for a funeral, it’s almost certainly how the person you lost would want to think of you.

8. Simple Gifts by The Utah Symphony Orchestra

Song Year: 2020

“Simple Gifts” is an old Shaker melody. It’s a traditional song that’s ideal for funerals because, like Ecclesiastes, it talks about there being a right place and time for everything.

It also transforms death from a shadowed, frightening place into one full of love, delight, and comfort. That’s something many mourners find reassuring.

The melody is haunting, but it's also sweet and tender. That’s true whether you hear it in the context of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring or as an unadorned folk melody. Both are beautiful songs.

9. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Etta James

Song Year: 2002

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was first recorded in 1909. It’s older than that, though. It’s an African-American Spiritual that describes Elijah’s ascent into heaven.

It’s an uplifting song. Despite the minor intervals used to evoke a chariot descending to earth, it’s an optimistic meditation on what happens after death. The suggestion that your loved one is going home can be a comforting one because it takes some of the stings out of death.

It doesn’t make you miss them less. But it’s a potent reminder that sometimes death is harder for the people left behind. That makes it important to seize these slivers of comfort when they appear.

10. Michael Row The Boat Ashore by Pete Seeger

Song Year: 1963

Another spiritual that’s a popular and traditional funeral song is “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.”

It describes a bright and hopeful future for our lost loved ones. Many find this song particularly soothing if they have watched their loved one battle the discomfort and pain of sickness. It reassures us that whatever discomfort they endured on earth won’t be there in this idyllic afterlife.

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