Candle in the Wind (Elton John, 1973)
Elton John rewrote his Marilyn Monroe memorial classic for Diana, Princess of Wales’s, funeral in 1997. It was number one forever. A camp classic.
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin, 1971)
The 1971 monster melody has monumental impact all of its own. Unique. Not sure how the vicar/priest/other officiating clergy will view the eight-minute version…
You’ll Never Walk Alone (Rodgers and Hammerstein, 1945)
You don’t have to be a Liverpool fan to get a magnificent lift from the final knockout phrase. But don’t let that tempo drag.
The Quest (Mitch Leigh, 1965)
Jacques Brel’s masterly rendition, in French, made reaching the “unreachable star” a noble ambition. Covered by many artists as ‘If You Go Away’.
Ne me quitte pas (Jacques Brel, 1959)
Brel’s lapidary gem was plumbed to its depths in Nina Simone’s matchless rendition. Half spoken, and beyond words.
Auld Lang Syne (Robert Burns/traditional, 1788)
The perennial New Year party favourite celebrates as much as it mourns. You’re halfway to the wake when you hear this.
Unchained Melody (Alex North, Hy Zaret, 1955)
The Righteous Brother standard got a boost as a 20th-century classic when it was featured in the Patrick Swayze weepie Ghost (1990). Pure melodic gold.
Bist Du Bei Mir (Johan Sebastian Bach, 1718)
“Be. Thou, with me” works as well at a wedding as it does at the last rites. Timeless, austere and consoling.
Together Again (Janet Jackson, 1977)
A 1997 ballad inspired by a friend’s death from Aids. Big-hearted and poignant. Not to everyone’s taste.
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie, 1980)
Bowie’s trippy lyrics reference the Anglican funeral service and his other great heartbreaker, ‘Space Oddity’ (1969). It’s more about the title than anything else.
Spem in Allium (Tallis, 1570)
One of the greatest of all polyphonic masterpieces from the Elizabethan age is an aural experience like no other. Torrents of sound to lift the heart. Now in 50 Shades Of Grey!
Wind Beneath My Wings (Jeff Sibar, Larry Henley, 1982)
It took flight when Bette Midler recorded it for the movie Beaches (1988), and is now a funeral standard like no other.
My Way (Paul Anka, 1969)
A testament to independence made immortal by Frank Sinatra. Wrecked by karaoke enthusiasts and pub singers ever since.
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (Eric Idle/Monty Python, 1979)
A jaunty tongue-in-cheek final track to get the congregation leaving on a high note. Like a lot of Python, it can be an acquired taste.
Con Te Partirò (Andrea Bocelli, 1994)
Bocelli had a smash international hit with the matchless Italian heartbreak of his ‘Time to say Goodbye’. Latin lyricism that hits the spot.
(Somewhere) Over The Rainbow (Henry Arlen, 1939)
Judy Garland’s standard from the Wizard of Oz cries out for a happy reunion like nothing else. The power ballad to top them all.
My Heart Will Go On (James Horner, Will Jennings, 1997)
Celine Dion went on and on, and on, as did this weepy epic after its use on the Titanic soundtrack… Overplayed. But it still has a pull all of its own.
Someone Like You (Adele, 2011)
A more contemporary classic, all about coming to terms with a relationship that didn’t work. But presses all the right buttons at a funeral.
We’ll Meet Again (Ross Parker, Hughie Charles, 1939)
Vera Lynn’s Second World War tearjerker has never lost its appeal. Founded as it was on the total disruption of daily life in wartime.
Nessun Dorma (Puccini, 1926)
“Vincerò!” The immortal Luciano Pavarotti favourite will help you win over the grief every time. And you don’t have to be a football lover.
O Danny Boy (Frederick Weatherly, 1913)
…I love you so… One to touch everyone’s Celtic tear-ducts. It’s become an unofficial anthem. It has a lot in common with…
You Raise Me Up (Secret Garden, 1992)
Made famous in the UK and Ireland by Westlife, and covered by more than 100 artists. Has become a hymn in its own right.
Don’t You Want Me (Felix, 1992)
Unorthodox perhaps, but this dance classic will give your congregation something to move to. Only for former clubbers and those with a sense of humour.
Ave Maria (Franz Schubert, 1825)
A classical favourite turned easy-listening standard that lends a bit of dignity to any memorial gathering. For weddings, too.
Nothing Compares 2U (Prince, 1990)
Sinead O’Connor’s pristine vocal delivery, and the glancing, fugitive melody (actually written by the diminutive superstar), made this an instant classic of lost love.
Up Where We Belong (Jack Nitzche, 1982)
The fairytale ending to Officer and a Gentleman, with Richard Gere swooping up Debra Winger on his Harley, make this the wish-fulfilment standard to beat them all.
And for cremations only:
Firestarter (1996, The Prodigy)
A pyromaniac manifesto for the family that wants to lift the gloom as the coffin rolls through the curtains… Again, this won’t be for everyone!