Shuffle: Funeral Music

These dark days of the global pandemic have not in any way increased the number of times I think about the music I want to be played at my funeral. I have been thinking about it for years – I have nearly died a number of times so I have always been in touch with my mortality. This hasn’t helped with the task, the starting point is a negative one – not wanting Robbie Williams and the execrable ‘Angels’ or Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ (though it’s a stretch to think that either of these would actually happen). My vanity does carry on over to my death, how narcissistic is that? No matter, it does not make it any easier; I cannot decide what I want. A nailed-on certainty has always been Bonnie Price Billy’s ‘I See a Darkness’ and is the only certainty.

The other near certainty is LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Someone Great’, (though now writing this it sounds very egotistical – I’m going for a live version added applause). Imagine it building from the drone at the beginning through the synthesized throb and the playful burbles as people walk into the crematorium where I am recumbent in my cardboard box awaiting the heat to be brought or on the way out as they leave satisfied that I have finally gone.

It would seem that my motivation is to appear cool in death. Choosing the music for our wedding party was hard enough; trying to find the intersecting parts of our musical Venn diagrams was a tortuous process, there was plenty of Teenage Fanclub and even some Wilco. At least I had parameters for those choices – none of my nonsense was the main one. For my death, my final playlist, do I go with favourites? Is ‘Freak Scene’ allowable? It might offend some. On the other hand, do I choose songs that are fitting to the context? I always find the Go-Betweens’ ‘Cattle and Cane’ to have the perfect amount of nostalgia. Iron and Wine’s ‘Naked as We Came’ is hushed and gentle, perhaps have it on when they serve the canapés (I leave his world more middle class than I entered it). Also part of the wake element could be Sufjan’s ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’ paired with ‘Death with Dignity’. I did think of Mount Eerie’s ‘Real Death’ but it is perhaps, a tad too devastating.

Maybe to get people on their way I could go with Laura Veirs’ version of ‘Freight Train’ followed by Bonnie Prince Billie again with ‘Death to Everyone’ which will, in the best-case scenario, inspire a rowdy singalong. It would seem remiss not to pick something by Jason Molina, I’m going for ‘Farewell Transmission’. I’m not a religious man but I am partial to a bit of sentimentality and the Walkabouts’ ‘Satisfied Mind’ has always been one of my favourite covers albums: from it, let’s have ‘Feel Like Going Home’ which swells like a hymn, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Do I want people to cry at my funeral? A little weeping is fine; I do not want a disco, my life has been nothing to celebrate. My philosophy is that life is essentially meaningless and all you can do is to try to be a good person. In addition, on that note, I really should not forget to leave a message for my wife, so here it is: ‘Your Love is the Place Where I Come From’ (tieing neatly in with the wedding music).

If I had died on one of the earlier occasions when I smelled the fetid breath of the Devil, my funeral tape would have been very heavy on the Cure; their entire early run of albums (especially ‘Faith’) could have been the soundtrack to my self-involved mope party. In those days, there would have been sparse attendance and it would have been the first party that I did not leave early. So far I’ve only considered songs with lyrics and there is a great deal to be said for some stately mournful instrumentals. Pretty much anything by Explosions in the Sky would be suitable, maybe Mogwai, the Mercury Program, or the epic ambience of Godspeed You Black Emperor. Suddenly I have opened up a whole new avenue, and now serendipitously on my iPod there is ‘Porky in Wackyland’ from The Carl Stalling Project, – ‘Music from Warner Bros Cartoons’ which is a tremendously playful record, an absurdist masterpiece (listen to it divorced from the visuals, eyes closed, headphones on and it is seriously out-there). The sign-off at the end of the cartoons was always ‘Th-that’s all folks’, and what better final words could there be?


About David Cowling 142 Articles
Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.
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John Ralph

The Byrds – ‘Mr Tambourine Man’……Dylan’s lyrics sum it all up really….with McGuinn’s Rickenbacker, and those great harmonies (and haircuts) putting the icing on the cake…