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16 funeral rock songs: the ultimate salute

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Do you have fond memories of your loved one singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of their voice? Or perhaps they spent hours picking out the opening chords of Stairway to Heaven on their guitar. If so, then they may have appreciated a musical last blast, rather than mournful tunes played at their funeral.

Rock music features high in the music choices of those of us who’d prefer their funeral to be a celebration of life. According to Cooperative Funeralcare, which compiles an annual funeral music chart, a little tongue-in-cheek humour is also key to many people’s funeral wishes, with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway among the top 10 most-played rock anthems at funerals.

With motorcycle hearses among the alternative ways to transport people on their final jouney, if they turned it up to 11 in life then rock music could be the most fitting way to say goodbye. Whether it’s a slow and sentimental ballad, or an unapologetically loud air-guitar anthem for a farewell Viking-style, one of these 16 rock songs for funerals could be the ultimate final salute.

1. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

“How I wish, how I wish you were here.”

Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett left the band in 1968 due to struggles with his mental health. Years later, his absence inspired former bandmates to write Wish You Were Here. Although the song describes Syd’s absence from Pink Floyd, it reflects strong feelings of loss which could be just as appropriate for a rock funeral.

2. Green Day - Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)

“It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right. I hope you had the time of your life.”

Although singer Billy Joe Armstrong was lamenting a relationship split when he wrote this ballad, it’s become a poignant funeral song. Tinged with sadness, it ultimately reminds us to cherish the memory of every moment spent together.

3. Jimmy Eat World - Hear You Me

“And if you were with me tonight/I'd sing to you just one more time.”

Hear You Me was written in memory of two music fans who were killed in a car crash. This ballad fades out to its haunting refrain, May Angels Lead You. It’s a funeral rock song that could be fitting for a spiritual or religious funeral service, as well as a celebration of life.

4. Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven

“There's a feeling I get/ When I look to the west/And my spirit is crying for leaving.”

One of rock music’s most enduring anthems, Stairway To Heaven is one of the most popular rock songs for funerals in the UK. There’s a mystical, spiritual feel to it that reflects the passing of the seasons, of life and of something more beyond.

5. Queen - Another One Bites the Dust

“How do you think I’m going to get along, without you, when you’re gone.”

Humour’s an important part of the funeral wishes of more than two in five Brits according to Cooperative Funeralcare findings. The title of this Queen classic makes it a tongue in cheek choice, while it’s also a thumping good song that’s among the nation’s top ten most-played rock songs at funerals.

6. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird

“If I leave here tomorrow/ Would you still remember me?”

Free Bird has long been embraced as a meaningful funeral song loved by many people. Tender and beautiful when played acoustically, this anthemic funeral rock song started out as a love song and is a fitting way to say goodbye to someone you loved with all your heart.

7. Queen - The Show Must Go On

“My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies/ Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die”

Brian May wrote The Show Must Go On when Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury was battling AIDS and nearing the end of his life.The bittersweet lyrics reflect a devastating sadness, courage and determination, while valiant Freddie sang them, despite fears that he might be too frail to sing, triumphantly.

8. Guns and Roses - Knocking on Heaven’s Door

“It's getting dark too dark to see/ Feels like I'm knockin' on heaven's door”

Guns‘n’Roses reworked this Bob Dylan song to become the ultimate rocker’s parting shot. While G’n’R’s version is one of the UK’s most enduringly popular rock songs for funerals, Knocking on Heaven’s Door has been reinterpreted by many other artists, with covers by stars including Avril Lavigne, Bryan Ferry and Dolly Parton with South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

9. Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky

“When I die and they lay me to rest /Gonna go to the place that's the best”

Norman Greenbaum’s psychedelic rock song is said to have taken him just 15 minutes to write, but the gospel-style tune has been an uplifting favourite at parties - and more recently, for funerals - for almost 50 years. The singer songwriter told the New York Times in 2006: ““I’ve gotten letters from funeral directors telling me that it’s their second-most-requested song to play at memorial services, next to ‘Danny Boy.”

10. AC/DC - Highway to Hell

“Living easy, living free/ Season ticket on a one-way ride”

One of the most requested funeral songs in AC/DC’s native Australia, Highway to Hell is also among the top 10 most-requested rock songs for a funeral in the UK. The opening riff makes this one of the most recognisable rock anthems in the world. It’s the funeral wishes pick of the irreverent, fun-loving and fearless.

11. Bon Jovi - Hallelujah

“Your faith was strong but you needed proof”

Bon Jovi’s take on Leonard Cohen’s heartbreaker is a slow and haunting rock song for a funeral. It reflects on love, sacrifice and melancholy in lyrics which are ultimately open to the interpretation of how and when you’re listening. As a funeral rock song, it’s deeply poignant.

12. Linkin Park - Shadow of the Day

“The sun will set for you/ And the shadow of the day/ Will embrace the world in grey”

Linkin Park’s melancholic song, Shadow of the Day describes the difficulty of letting someone go when they are close to death. This funeral rock song was released in 2007 making it a more contemporary tribute for a loved one.

13. Queen - You’re My Best Friend

“You’re my only one”

This upbeat rock song was written by the band’s bassist, John Deacon, for his wife. This love song could be fitting for a celebrating the life of someone that was the centre of your universe.

14. Aerosmith - I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing

“Don't want to close my eyes/ I don't want to fall asleep 'Cause I'd miss you baby.”

This Aerosmith ballad is a real tearjerker. It’s a love song that’s become a classic rock song for a funeral. It can be interpreted as a final farewell from the person who has died, expressing great love and a wish that things could have stayed just how they were, forever.

15. Oasis - Stop Crying Your Heart Out

“Cause all of the stars have faded away/ Try not to worry/ You’ll see them some day”

Singer songwriter Noel Gallagher said that this song is between a parent and child, but it’s a also beautiful funeral rock song with words of reassurance and love.

16. Bread - Everything I Own

“I would give everything I own. Just to have you back again”

David Gates wrote this song in 1972 after the death of his father and has said the lyrics to the song say it all. It’s a ballad that conveys so much about what someone truly meant, when you can’t find the words yourself.

Discover more popular funeral songs to include in your loved one’s farewell, or choose your own final slaute to rock and roll by filling out your own funeral wishes.