Life, huh. You’re born, you go from cute to not cute, then hot to not hot, you stare at your phone for a bit, eat a few nice dinners, shit them out, do some queueing, maybe fall in love, maybe change some nappies, increase your overdraft, attend a couple of soul-crushing meetings, go on a mini break, do some DIY, open an ISA, spend a third of your time unconscious, and then, after all of that, you die.
Provided you weren’t a complete arsehole to every single person you met, normally what happens next is some sort of ceremony to commemorate your life. In this part of the world, people usually wear black, there’s a buffet and some of the people who knew you best stand up in front of all of your neighbours and former colleagues and make a noble effort to summarise your whole personality in a few brief words.
Except it’s really hard, isn’t it, to do justice to somebody’s entire life with a couple of pithy remarks about their fondness for Emmerdale, or how they hadn’t missed a West Ham fixture in 14 years, or the deep and unconditional love they had for their seven cats? Quite a tall order, really, to express all of the joy, passion, wonder, boredom and despair that constitutes somebody’s whole existence in a five-minute speech delivered to a room of vague acquaintances, while also trying not to cry so hysterically that you literally vomit.
Yeah, life is huge, language is fallible and funerals are fucking weird. As such, songs are usually also played at funerals because – let's be honest – your fave tune will probably do a better job than your dearly beloved’s weird life-summarising speech. With that in mind, I asked a bunch of people which songs they would like to have played at their own funeral. Time to get morbid!
Cheryl Lynn – “Got To Be Real”
I just think it's a song that has so many layers. You've got a celebratory horn section, and that funky bass slap. It's almost gospel. But it's also a song about being authentic and living your life, mistakes and everything. It's about being loved and loving people and about being true and while I'm not sure that I always live up to that, it's something that I aspire to. Also, there's a fucking key change, which is the sort of dramatic and ridiculous shit that I'd want to have at my funeral. I think it’d make people laugh, which is important, because life can be tragic and death is tragic and hard on those around you. It makes you think about your mortality, and I'd hope that an upbeat song would help people to deal with that. Also, it's fucking fabulous and that's how I'd want to be remembered. Alim, 27.
My Chemical Romance – “I'm Not Okay”
I didn't even realise I wanted this song at my funeral until right this second when you asked me, but this would be sick, wouldn't it? Imagine them lowering the coffin into the soil while Gerard Way screams, “For the last time, take a good hard look!” I also think it would encourage all my funeral attendees to get majorly 'in their feels', which is a healthy way to kick off the grieving process. Plus it's kind of lols because the song is like “I'm not okayyy!” and it's like no, you're not, you're literally dead. Raye, 25.
Deep Purple – “Lazy”
I always tell people I would have “Lazy” by Deep Purple – the Quadrophonic Mix if possible, but that would require four speakers in the church. It has my favourite guitar solo, and the organ gives it an appropriate sombre vibe, which I think is what I’d want for my funeral. Also it’s usually quite difficult to get people to listen to such a long song, so I guess it would be good to play it at a funeral where they’ll just have to endure all 7 minutes and 22 seconds of it. Then they can appreciate both my life and Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar finesse – there are quite a few parallels that can be drawn there. Ezra, 22.
Joanna Newsom – “Sawdust and Diamonds”
I’m a huge Joanna Newson fan and I think it this song in particular would be the most peaceful send-off. It somehow manages to pack the entirety of life into a few short minutes. The first line goes “From the top of the flight of the wide, white stairs,” and I imagine it being told by someone with an aerial view – perhaps by someone who's now in heaven and is looking down on all of life, watching how the living interact and get on with their own lives. I think it's important to have an aerial view on things like life and death, and to celebrate life itself rather than just the life of one person. Emma, 23.
Kanye West – “All of the Lights (Interlude)” + “All of the Lights”
I’m going to have the Interlude play followed by “All of the Lights” itself, kind of like the entrée and the main course. The Interlude is really calm and solemn and then the song itself is suddenly all upbeat and dramatic. It’s a choice inspired by a deep love for Kanye but also a deep love for being dramatic. I’m not sure how it’ll go down – I think people will either be mortified or think it’s the best thing ever. My family will probably be in shambles trying to work out how to disconnect the aux cord. All I can really hope for is that it’ll be silly enough to stop people from crying. I wonder if it’s conceited to assume people will be sad? Anyway, it’s the most extra way to go, and who doesn’t want an extra funeral?! Kish, 28.
George Michael – “Freedom”
I don’t believe in the afterlife, so my funeral song choice is for the people that are still alive as it’s not like I’m gonna be hearing it. So I’d choose this one to remind everyone about their mortality and to embrace their freedom while they’re still alive: have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff. Do things that make you happy and stop caring so much about what other people think and appreciate waking up every day and breathing in fresh gulps of air while you still can. Alex, 24.
Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
This is a pretty easy choice because it’s the best song in the world and they’re basically the best band in the world imo. My deep love for Foals is rooted in a huge teenage crush for the front man Yannis (such a cliché I know) and this was the first song I heard by them. It’s really beautiful, super slow and calm at the beginning and then this massive climax, which feels kind of appropriate. Also all my friends and family know it’s my number one favourite song ever so I reckon it would be a real tear-jerker at the funeral because they can only associate it with me. Maddy, 20.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – “Harvest Dawn”
I’d want this instrumental track from this video game called Oblivion which I really like. It’s just this very innocuous but really peaceful track. It’s kind of sad, but not too sad, as I don’t really want there to be a really funereal atmosphere. I don’t think funerals really have to be sad. Also it would be played outside – I wouldn’t want to be cremated or buried, I want to be excarnated, which is when your body is left out for the elements. Zoroastrians do it, and Tibetan Buddhists call it a ‘sky burial’. Not sure if it’s legal in this country, but that’s how I want to go. Abandon my body on a hilltop and signal my passing with “Harvest Dawn”. Raphael, 21.
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