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Dress sexy for my funeral

I was reminded today of a story a friend once told me about a funeral he attended several years ago. The deceased was only in her twenties, and had died after a long and painful battle with cancer. Despite the difficulty of her last weeks, she’d asked her family to ensure her funeral was a celebration, and more specifically, that there be singing and dancing. And so, after various bands and singers had performed, music began to play and the MC asked people to push back the seats and dance. Row by row they began to comply, uneasily at first, but gradually with more vigour. And then, without warning, her father and brothers and the other pallbearers lifted the coffin onto their shoulders and began sway through the congregation towards the door in a sort of shuffling dance, pausing now and then to dance with one person or another as they went.

For my friend, who’d known the deceased since she was a child, the experience was completely overwhelming; joyous, heartbreaking and unlike anything he’d ever felt before, so much so that even 48 hours later he was still barely able to speak about it without weeping.

Anyway, the story got me thinking. If I were to die, what would I want played at my funeral? Setting aside the many classical pieces I’d choose, what songs would sum up the way I wanted people to remember me? Would it be obvious things like Bob Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’? Or less obvious things like ‘Somewhere’, from West Side Story or ‘Our Time’ from Merrily We Roll Along? Would it be ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ or ‘Mrs Robinson’? Otis Redding doing ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ or The Flaming Lips doing ‘Do You Realize?’ Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’? The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’? The possibilities are almost endless.

And so, as an exercise, I tried compiling a list of five songs:

The Rolling Stones, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’
Elton John, ‘Rocket Man’
Louis Armstrong ‘What a Wonderful World’
Lou Reed, ‘Satellite of Love’
Perry Como, ‘Moon River’

It’s not definitive, but it’s not a bad start. So I was wondering: do other people have playlists prepared for their own demise? And if they do, what are they?

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(Apologies for the crappo video but it was the best I could find).

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Melissa #

    I don’t, but my father has actually thought about it I believe. The one I remember is “Forever Autumn” from the War of the Worlds musical. It is quite a beautiful song actually.

    I haven’t thought about it I must say, though I always love the funeral scene from White Mischief where they have martinis in the cemetary. That is the kind of funeral I would like, something more celebratory.

    March 19, 2009
  2. anonymous #

    Weird, I was having this conversation tonight, then looked at your site.

    Mine are:
    Holmes’ Brothers’ I Want Jesus to Walk With Me
    Nick Cave’s Brompton Oratory
    Final chorus, Bach’s St Matthew Passion

    But let’s make this more interesting. Try guessing your friends (initials only, please, from our lists)

    March 20, 2009
  3. Geordie #

    Curious coincidence: today’s Guardian posts their new batch of 1000 songs to hear before you die. The subject of this lot, life and death:

    March 20, 2009
  4. Anthony #

    Odd, I was just considering this the other day too. I decided on Cat Power’s cover of Amazing Grace on the new Dark Was the Night compilation; Rob Snarski’s cover of David McComb’s Someone Watching Over Me; and the Voice Squad (an Irish male acapella group) doing The Parting Glass.

    But now you’ve got me thinking: maybe I need something with a beat, that you can dance to…

    March 20, 2009
  5. Anthony, snap — I want ‘The Parting Glass’ too. I first heard it done by the Voice Squad, but I like the Wailin’ Jennys’ version even better.

    I’d also like ‘Ah, tutti contenti’ from The Marriage of Figaro, Paul Simon’s ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’, the best-known of the Satie ‘Trois Gymnopedies’, Buffy Sainte-Marie singing ‘Country Girl Again’, some really hot dark Argentinian tango music for people to dance to after their first martini, and, for after their second, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.

    March 20, 2009
  6. I left classical out because it cast the net too wide, but the St Matthew would be on my list as well. But – and this is one of those weird synchronicity moments – it’s strange you should mention the St Matthew, because I spent years being tormented by the Chorale in the middle of it, and the certain knowledge I’d heard it before, before realizing one day that Paul Simon had recycled it into his ‘American Tune’, a song which was in my original draft of this post along with ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ as one of my suggestions for possibilities (I think that makes sense).

    March 20, 2009
  7. susan bradley-smith and J. Bradley #

    Susie BS says she’d definitely have the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Sticking With You”. She’s right on the money about that one, and I will faithfully obey her instructions, should she go before me

    Me, I might consider “Mogwai Fear Satan”. That’d clear the aisles. Perhaps, however, “La-La Bam-Bam” by the Congos would be a more sensible and, indeed, spiritual choice. Should I die in a bomb attack, however, have it noted, Julian Cope’s “Although-those-blowing-themselves-up-motherfuckers-will-realise-when-they-die-they-are-suckers”, will be mandatory.


    March 20, 2009
  8. That chorale in American Tune? Treely ruly??

    iz racking my music head – will listen further when the rest of the house is awake. But running them both through my head silently, it would appear that Simon definitely heard an echo, though I think he made the tune his own – the echo is pretty much lost by the third and fourth lines.
    Fancy that now. Well heard, James.
    Would probably go the Chorale at my funeral rather than the Simon though, much as I love it.

    March 21, 2009
  9. Just Zappa guitar solos: “Watermelon in Easter Hay” if people are willing to sit through ten minutes; “Zoot Allures” otherwise. Then my remains will be fired on a rocket into the heart of the sun.

    March 21, 2009

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