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Incorporate Music in a Memorial Service and Playlist Suggestions

Many of us may spend our lives engaged in song and music. Our favorite melodies may make us laugh or fill our eyes with unshed tears; some music makes us feel peaceful and relaxed, while others send shivers down our spine.

Humans are drawn to music as it elicits emotion and memories. Music can comfort us when we are sorrowful, lift us when we are happier, and create lasting bonds between us; even though music is not necessary for survival, it makes it easier. A Harvard University psychologist, Steven Pinker, was famously quoted to state in his 1997 book How the Mind Works that music is "auditory cheesecake," or a confection crafted to tickle the areas of our mind that evolved for more critical functions—but as a result of that, music often offers a novel system of communication rooted in emotions rather than meaning.

When incorporating music into a memorial service, funeral, or celebration of life, when you choose the right music, it can often feel as if you are communicating the deep, complex myriad of emotions you and others may be feeling. Planning a memorial service, however, especially during a profound time of mourning, can make small details—such as choosing music or a playlist for a memorial or funeral service—exceptionally difficult.

If you are seeking aid and ideas, we are here to help.

How Do I Select the 'Right' Songs?

Music's ability to evoke emotions, recall memories, and provide comfort during challenging times can be a boon during a memorial. A memorial playlist is a collection of curated songs for remembrance and can serve as a touching tribute to one who has passed away. But how do you choose the 'right' songs?

Before you begin, please remember that If a loved one has left us with no clear indication of their wishes or desires for a memorial service, including music, the songs you eventually choose are a deeply personal task. There is no right or wrong song to choose if it is what you feel reflects the personality, interests, and life of the person you are memorializing.

Tips to get you started:

  • What songs did your loved one adore?
  • What songs remind you of your loved one?
  • What songs express the way you are feeling right now?
  • What genre of music was your loved one's favorite?
  • Did they have a favorite music artist?


Every music genre has a unique sound and emotional resonance. Classical music, for example, can evoke a sense of peace and reflection, while rock or dance can reflect a person's vibrant personality and energy. Country or Gospel is ideal for telling stories that can resonate with personal experiences or spiritual and religious beliefs, providing comfort and hope.

Choose a genre that aligns with your loved one's tastes and the tone you may wish to set within the memorial.


Lyrics can play an essential role in the emotional impact of a song. Lyrics, like poetry, can encompass our feelings of deep love, loss, hope, and remembrance that many feel when laying a loved one to rest. Consider the lyrics, meaning, and relevance to your loved one when selecting a song. And, it may not be just the lyrics' literal meaning—leave room to find lyrics that resonate deeply with you and your memories of your loved one.

Creating the Playlist

Once you've found the songs that resonate the most with you and the memory of your loved one, you can begin creating the playlist.

If you feel able, you may also want to ponder the order in which you wish each song to be played. You may want to begin with a song that encapsulates the person's life or a comforting tune, and from there, transition to songs that reflect different aspects of who they were, their passions, and songs that encompass your memories of them.

Sharing the Playlist after the Memorial

After the funeral or memorial service, you may wish to share the playlist, or friends and family may want to listen. Music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube are easy-to-use tools that can make creating and sharing your playlist quick and uncomplicated. You can find and add songs from their vast music libraries, arrange them in the order you wish, and share a link or send them to others.

Memorial Playlist Suggestions

  • Candle in the Wind
  • Amazing Grace
  • How Great Thou Art
  • You Raise Me Up
  • Goodbye My Friend
  • My Heart Will Go On
  • I Will Always Love You
  • One Last Cry
  • What a Wonderful World
  • Heaven Was Needing a Hero
  • Right Here Waiting
  • One Sweet Day
  • Stand By Me
  • Take Me Home, Country Roads
  • Dance with My Father
  • A Song for Mama
  • Grandma's Hands
  • Just The Way You Are
  • Tears in Heaven
  • See You Again
  • Wind Beneath My Wings
  • Over the Rainbow
  • I Will Remember You
  • His Eye is on The Sparrow
  • Unchained Melody
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Time to Say Goodbye
  • Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone
  • Come Sunday
  • Into Dust
  • In My Life
  • Keep Me In Your Heart
  • I'll Be Seeing You
  • Ain't No Sunshine
  • Cold Blows The Wind
  • A Tear for Eddie
  • You'll Never Walk Alone

Playing a loved one's favorite music and music that reminds you, friends, and family of the person they are memorializing can provide a comforting background or a profoundly emotional experience that is part of the natural grieving process. Your music will no doubt enhance whatever service you choose to hold and can be played softly as guests enter and exit or softly as background throughout the entire service.

Should guests not be able to attend but still wish to be part of the service, sharing your playlist can be a heartfelt means for them to participate in the grieving and remembrance process, helping keep the memory alive during the long healing journey. A memorial playlist is also a lasting tribute that anyone can access any time they need it most, as it can be shared publicly or privately.

Creating a memorial playlist is yet another beautiful way to remember someone who so deeply touched our lives and honor who they were and the legacy they left behind. Through selecting, listening, and creating the playlist, many also comment on the act as a therapeutic outlet for their grief.

There's no right or wrong way to create a meaningful playlist that captures the essence of your loved one, and we hope we have made one task no longer feel impossible with our help.

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