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by Patrick McMahon
Death, despite all the advances of modern witchcraft and wizardry, remains undefeated. It endures as one of the few certainties in life, on par only with taxes and people getting uncomfortable when you talk to them about death. It comes for us all, so we may as well prepare accordingly.
Setting aside the fun stuff, like completing a last will and testament or picking out your pine box, make sure to prioritize the funeral playlist. Your funeral will be the last party you attend and you have full creative control on the soundtrack. Music sets the mood. Music can take an otherwise sad event and temporarily inject joy and lightness into even the heaviest and most somber room.
I've attended (too many) funerals, and without fail the music is a bummer. If you play sad music at a sad party, people are gonna cry. The goal of my festivities will be to keep tears to a minimum, and happy music seems like the best way to ensure success. The other consideration is to pick songs that attendees won't often have to hear; if your happy songs take on an unintended sad-by-association connotation, you want to avoid one that randomly pops up on the radio to ruin someone's day.
With that, the top 5 songs I want played at my funeral:
The debut single from English group McGuinness Flint serves as the guiding light for this audio mood board. Mandolin and kazoo, two instruments incapable of sadness, are heavily featured. Vocalist Graham Lyle pleads that when he's dead and gone, nobody mourn beside his grave. We should all be so lucky.
Although Tom Petty wrote 1994's Wildflowers about his divorce, the message within its songs apply well to facing the Great Unknown. The implication is sad, but the mood is kept light. His voice resonates with acceptance as he utters the line "what lies ahead I have no way of knowing." It is reassuring to know that I'm not the only one.
A good vibes goodbye from Toots Hibbert and co. An acknowledgement that it's time to go, and an earnest wish that the trip could be made with a plus one.
James Murphy ain't exactly known for his cheery lyrics, but he manages to infuse his odes-to-bummer with upbeat grooves. File "Home" under the trademark Murphy world-weariness, equal parts pragmatic and danceable. If you must be pragmatic at a funeral, at least be danceable.
Bill Withers is the owner of one of the most expressive and soulful voices of all time. When he sings in agony, he puts you in agony. When his voice is jubilant, there is no other choice but to smile. On "I Wish You Well" he earnestly imagines that which he may not be around to see in person. His message is heartfelt and his audience ambiguous: it could as easily be applied to a child as to a long-lost love. It seems just as fitting as a final message to those who show up to send you off.
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