Top 10 Songs About Death or Dying

Songs fill us with emotions and help us process experiences. They also shape ideas into words and music. Each one of us has a soundtrack and go-to songs that remind us of our shared humanity. And many musicians have written about that final transition, with humor, sadness or regret. Here are some of the best, if unusual, songs about death to add to your personal playlist.

10. I Can’t Wait to Meetchu – Macy Gray

At first glance, it might seem strange for an agnostic to choose a song clearly dedicated to a higher power. She’s probably singing about Jesus. But the thing is, Macy Gray doesn’t distinctly name the deity.

Could be Jesus.

On the other hand, it could be an ex-boyfriend.

We don’t know.

It’s the way she looks forward to transitioning that hooks you. May we all be that unafraid.

9. People Who Died – Jim Carroll Band

This song inspired multiple conversations with friends during the mid to late 1980s. As we wrapped our mind around the reality of losing friends or fellow classmates.

Therefore, play the song and close your eyes.

You can almost smell clove cigarettes as you name your own losses along with him.

8. Danny Boy – Sinead O’Connor

This ancient mournful tune brings to mind millions of Irish mothers who sent their boys off to England or America for a better life, knowing they’d never return.

7. Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

One of the most classic songs about death that encourages us to, once again, be unafraid. Like the wind and the sun and the rain.

Please. More cowbell.

6. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Rolling Stones

Is this a song about the end of life, or does it evoke those feelings because of The Big Chill? You decide.

5. Ohio – CSNY

This classic protest song, anthem and memorial written for four anti-war, protesting students murdered by National Guard soldiers at Kent State on May 4, 1970. In short, it allowed the country to mourn together.  

4. What Sarah Said – Death Cab for Cutie

The lyrics are poignant for anyone who’s ever had to wait in a hospital for bad news. A beautiful poem set to music that encourages you to listen and allow the sadness to wash over you.

3. Ænema – Tool

Sometimes, just for fun, I switch “L.A.” to “USA” when singing along.

Good times.

2. Late – Ben Folds

This song was written for Elliott Smith, but the lyrics are universal. For example, I often think of John Lennon, MCA and Chris Cornell. If you’ve lost an important artist to murder, cancer or suicide, this song is for you.

1. Happy Phantom – Tori Amos

Songs about death don’t have to be dark or depressing. Like death itself, many of these songs have an upside. Her breezy piano playing helps us embrace the idea of being free from our bodies, causing a bit of mischief.

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