How to Choose Funeral Songs for Older Generations

Sophie Bebeau

Written by Sophie Bebeau on Sun Oct 16 2022.

How to Choose Funeral Songs for Older Generations

Choosing funeral music for older generations, from baby boomers to the silent generation, can be challenging. These are people that have lived long, full, and interesting lives, marked by many different eras of music. Many of them have favorite songs from their younger years that would be appropriate for listening but not necessarily for a funeral. 

From traditional hymns to current hits, choosing the right music for a funeral or memorial service can create an inspiring and memorable occasion for mourners, helping them through their grief.

How to choose a memorial song

The first and most obvious thing to do is simply ask! While discussing funeral arrangements with an aging loved one might feel a bit gloomy, many people have strong opinions about how they want their funeral to go, including musical selections. 

If your loved one had no specific requests, try to think of songs that you associate with them - this could be music they frequently listened to or songs that remind you of them. There may be songs that you associate with your loved one because of their personality traits or events in their life. If you aren’t sure what kind of music might reflect them best, talk with close friends and family members.

Finalizing music selections

As you’re deciding on music selections, think about preparing introductions for each song with background as to why it was chosen or include a small write-up in the service program that gives guests a look into the meaning behind each song.

Lastly, if you’ve selected music with lyrics, listen to each song all the way through and carefully read the lyrics to make sure the selection is appropriate for the occasion. You can find lyrics to almost any song by Googling the name of the song and artist or searching for the song on sites like AZLyrics.com and Lyrics.com. You can listen to songs fully using song streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, or Amazon Music or search for songs on YouTube

If you want to go the more traditional route, you can’t go wrong with instrumental (without any lyrics) music. There are many moving instrumental pieces written specifically for funerals or celebration-of-life occasions.

Read below for some ideas from our list of funeral songs for older generations from many different genres that reflect the eras of music they likely enjoyed in their lifetimes, with lyric selections for each.

Popular Funeral Songs

“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan

Mama, take this badge off of me

I can't use it anymore

It's getting' dark, too dark to see

I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door

Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door

Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks

We had joy, we had fun

We had seasons in the sun

But the hills that we climbed

Were just seasons out of time

Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler

Did you ever know that you're my hero

And everything I would like to be?

I can fly higher than an eagle

For you are the wind beneath my wings

“My Way” by Frank Sinatra

Maybe I cried or maybe I laughed

Maybe I won or maybe I lost

Now I know I was happy

If I cried I also loved

I can go on until the end

My way

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel

When you're weary, feeling small

When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all

I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

“In My Life” by The Beatles

Though I know I'll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I'll often stop and think about them

In my life I love you more

“Angel” by Sarah McLachlan

Oh this glorious sadness

That brings me to my knees

In the arms of the angel

Fly away from here

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole

Someday, I wish upon a star

Wake up where the clouds are far behind me

Where trouble melts like lemon drops

High above the chimney top 

That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow

Rock Funeral Songs

“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin

And if you listen very hard

The tune will come to you at last

When all are one and one is all, yeah

To be a rock and not to roll

And she's buying a stairway to heaven

“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley

And it's not a cry, that you hear at night

It's not somebody, who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home

And when that fog horn blows I want to hear it

I don’t have to fear it

I want to rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old

Then magnificently we will float into the mystic

“Mama, I’m Coming Home” by Ozzy Osbourne

I've seen your face a hundred times

Every day we've been apart

I don't care about the sunshine, yeah

'Cause Mama, Mama, I'm coming home

“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd

How I wish, how I wish you were here

We're just two lost souls

Swimming in a fish bowl

Year after year 

Traditional Funeral Songs

“Danny Boy” by GENTRI

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.

The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,

It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.

“The Water Is Wide” by Karla Bonoff

Love is gentle, love is kind

The sweetest flower when first it's new

But love grows old and waxes cold

And fades away like morning dew

“Amazing Grace”

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now I'm found

Was blind but now I see

“Ave Maria” by Josh Groben

(English translation)

Maiden mild

I listen to a maiden's prayer

For thou canst hear amid the wild

'Tis thou, 'tis thou canst save me amid despair

Religious Funeral Songs

Abide with Me”

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

“Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill

Go rest high on that mountain

Son, your work on earth is done.

Go to heaven a-shoutin'

Love for the Father and the Son.

“I’ll Fly Away” by Johnny Cash

Some glad morning when this life is over

I'll fly away.

To a home on God's celestial shore

I'll fly away. 

“The Old Rugged Cross” by Sandi Patty

Then He'll call me someday to my home faraway

Where His glory forever I'll share

And exchange it someday for a crown

“How Great Thou Art” by Carrie Underwood

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart

Then I shall bow, in humble adoration

And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art

Instrumental Funeral Songs

“Adagietto” by Gustav Mahler

“The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams

“Air on G String” by Johann Sebastian Bach

“Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky

“January” by Ola Gjeilo & Kristian Kvalvaag

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Sophie Bebeau
Sophie Bebeau

Sophie Bebeau is a writer, graphic designer, poet, and multidisciplinary artist living in Green Bay, Wisconsin. When she’s not writing or making things for the internet, she can be found cross-stitching, writing poetry, and snuggling on the couch with a cup of tea and her husband, son, and dog, Buttercup.