On the journey to create Great Goodbyes, I’ve sometimes asked people if they have one song, above all others, they’d want played at their funeral. Given a moment to think about this unexpected question, my experience is some people actually do know. Generally we sit there quietly for a bit, and they kind of disappear into themselves while they think. They don’t tell me what their song is, and they never ask about mine.
The songs and sounds we love say something about us. The era we lived in, where we found joy, what stirred and moved us. Music transports us, and at a funeral this simple yet profound element is so easy to arrange.
According to surveys, one of the most popular funeral songs is My Way by Frank Sinartra, and it’s played at around 25 percent of services, Given this is a song almost universally for guys, that’s a lot of the western male population going out on the same tune. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song – a banger as they say. But, I reckon there is scope for more variety . . .
My friend Toni made a surprising choice for her funeral. As the service came to a close and the pallbearers lifted her casket to their shoulders the simple melody of Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles began to play. As we sat there with the tears rolling down our faces Toni was letting us know “and I say, it’s all right”. So very Toni. Twelve months later we gathered on a cliff top at dawn and sang this song as the sun rose over the sea. Written by George Harrison for the Abbey Road album, for me this song will forever be Toni’s song.
Whether it’s Van Halen or Vivaldi, Dean Martin or Donna Summers, whether you selected it, or someone else chose on your behalf, your song says something. It could be you just loved it more than anything else. It might hold special significance (it was your wedding song, a powerful hymn, you snogged the lead singer back stage). There might be a message there for you, or those you love. It might not be a song at all. It could be the rhythmic beat of drums or the haunting sound of live sax. It’s whatever makes you, you.
My song (you’re much too polite to ask outright) is Southern Cross by Crosby Stills and Nash. It’s been on my play list as long as I can remember, and I’ve long known this was a special piece of music for me. But why this song? What makes one of the many songs I love worthy of being the ultimate tune? I don’t plan on needing it for a long time, but since we’re sharing …..
When you’re a kid in New Zealand, the first constellation you learn to spot on a clear night is the Southern Cross. This symbol is so important it’s even on our flag. Since I was old enough to appreciate the golden ticket of being born in New Zealand, I’ve woken up grateful every day for the sheer good fortune of living in this stunning little country. For me, Southern Cross captures that. That’s why this song, for me, is The Song.
Every year the world gifts us thousands of new songs. Listen closely. One of them might be yours.