Musicians have a way of expressing sadness and grief like no one else. Across generations and genres, many artists poured their hearts into these sad songs about death. While you might not feel comfortable playing some of these at a funeral, they could help you grieve through a loss.
Rock 'n Roll Songs
Rockers are known for their wild lifestyles which sometimes leads to drug use and depression. These normally energetic musicians take on tough topics using raw emotion and detailed accounts of feelings or situations in these tunes.
The Last Carnival
Sun down, sun down/Empty are the fairgrounds/Where are you now handsome Billy? sings Bruce Springsteen in this song honoring the death of a bandmate. Springsteen captures the emotion felt by those left behind as they seek to continue their life without that special someone they lost.
Fade to Black
Chronicling suicidal thoughts and depression, Metallica declares I have lost the will to live/Simply nothing more to give. This kind of catastrophic thinking is hard for those who don't suffer from depression to comprehend. Songs like this show how alone even celebrities can feel at times.
Keep Me in Your Heart
While suffering from a cancer diagnosis, Warren Zevon penned the lyrics for this song as his last goodbye to friends and family singing Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath/Keep me in your heart for a while. For listeners, it's as if they are watching a loved one die before their eyes while playing this song.
This raw song about the death of a family member by Guernica says Is this the way a toy feels when its batteries run dry? These kinds of metaphorical and emotional lyrics give listeners a true sense of how sadness feels.
Radiohead offers a deeply emotional goodbye in this song written from the perspective of a dying man sending his family one last message via videotape. The saddest lyrics are Because I can't do it face to face/I'm talking to you after it's too late.
Country Music Songs
Whether you need a country funeral song for a friend or loved one, or just enjoy the genre these songs capture grief perfectly. The slower pace and twang of guitars add to the somber feeling of grieving or impending death.
I Miss My Friend
After the death of a girl he was dating, Darryl Worley recorded this chart-topper singing I miss your gentle voice in lonely times like now/Saying it'll be all right. Those who have experienced a loss like this can relate to Worley's lament at losing something who kept him feeling happy.
This gut-wrenching ballad from Martina McBride chronicles the life and death of a little girl at the hands of abuse. Lyrics like An angel girl with an upturned face/A name is written on a polished rock/A broken heart that the world forgot capture the spirit of this tragedy for listeners as there's nothing more saddening than the murder of a child.
Nothing is more sad and depressing than the death of a young child. The Drive-By Truckers capture the emotions of those left behind after Little Bonnie's death singing Her Daddy stood out by the cemetery fence/Prayed to God for forgiveness/For surely all of this is punishment for my sins.
Was there anything I could have said or done /Oh, I had no clue you were masking a troubled soul sings Rascal Flatts about a friend who committed suicide. This heartfelt song captures the feelings of those left behind after a loved one takes their own life, feelings of how they could have prevented the tragedy.
This emotional and rare song about two suicides linked to each other gets listeners crying from the first line. Sung by legends Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss the lyrics say Life is short, but this time it was bigger/Than the strength, he had to get up off his knees.
Originally written by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor about his own addictions and suicidal thoughts, the song was brilliantly covered by Johnny Cash shortly before his own death. In the depressing song, Cash sings Full of broken thoughts /I cannot repair /Beneath the stains of time /The feelings disappear.
Flirted With You All My Life
Vic Chesnutt expresses his love-hate relationship with death as he contemplates suicide, finds the will to live and grieves for loved ones in this emotional song. With lyrics like Oh, Death you hector me/Decimate those dear to me Chesnutt goes straight to the heart of listeners who are also likely to have strong feelings about death.
Rap and R & B
Musicians in this genre are known for their ability to touch on tough topics with realistic lyrics. From natural deaths to senseless murders, these songs attack grief and sadness head-on with questions like, "Why?"
Kanye West puts his artistic twist on a conversation with his mother in heaven with inspiration from The Beatles Let it Be. He sings So tell the voice inside ya' head to believe it/I talked to God about you, he said he sent you an angel in reference to his mother's spirit knowing about his own children even though she never met them.
Make Heaven Wait
Singing about the death of a love one, Wayne Brady says when there was so much left for us to do/how could the angels come so soon. Losing someone who had so much life left in them is never easy and listeners will get that feeling from this song.
Miss You/Suicidal Thoughts
The Notorious B.I.G. gets real and raw in this song about thoughts of suicide saying When I die, f--- it, I wanna go to hell Cause I'm a piece of sh--, it ain't hard to f--ing tell. This song isn't for the faint of heart and ends with a literal "bang."
Chronicling the path of stray bullets this gritty rap depicts the senseless and sad killings caused by gun violence. Organized Konfusion explains how kids are often affected saying 'Cause for some little girl, she'll never see more than six years of life.
This Can't Be Life
Jay-Z, Scarface and Beanie Sigel rap about life's tribulations, particularly the deaths of children in this depressing song. With lyrics like Baby came out stillborn, still I gotta move on/Though my heart still torn, life gone from her womb listeners can't help but be sad for those lost innocent souls.
Retrospect for Life
The tough topic of abortion takes center stage in this single from Common and Lauren Hill. Lyrics like Must have really thought I was God to take the life of my son give listeners a taste of the regret felt in this situation.
As with other genres, popular musicians take inspiration from real life events. These depressing songs approach death in a more modern form.
See You Again
Written to honor the death of actor Paul Walker, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth are featured on the song in lyrics like It's been a long day without you, my friend/And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again.
With lyrics like I can't prepare for death any more than I already have, Elliot Smith chronicles drug addiction in this sad song. For listeners, hearing someone talk about themselves in this way can be really disheartening.
Ben Folds Five relays this song about the intense emotions associated with aborting a baby. Feelings like Now that I have found someone /I'm feeling more alone /Than I ever have before express the deep emptiness left by this tough decision.
Written by Evanescence band member, Ben, this song chronicles the pain felt even after a loved one dies when their spirit won't leave you alone to the point of making you wish it was gone. Haunting lyrics like Your face it haunts/My once pleasant dreams/Your voice it chased away/All the sanity in me are sad because the memory of a loved one should be enjoyable in some way, but in this song, they are tormenting.
Beyoncé wrote this song about the death of her mother's best friend, although many thought she wrote it about a miscarriage. Listeners lament at the thought of losing a loved one as Beyoncé sings No heaven couldn't wait for you/So go on, go home in an inward battle to say goodbye.
Delta Spirit sings from the perspective of a deceased older man encouraging his ailing wife to join him in heaven. Lines like Sleep oh sleep my Vivian/ Heaven is too cold without you tug at the heart of any listener who has watched their grandparents pass away within a short time of each other.
Some songs have so much emotion and meaning wrapped in their lyrics, they transcend time or trends. These classic songs by classic artists remain relevant decades after their initial release.
Going, Going, Gone
In this classic song capturing suicidal thoughts, legend Bob Dylan sings I'm closin' the book/On the pages and the text/And I don't really care/What happens next. Not everyone experiences deep depression like this, so the lyrics are truly disheartening for those who have never felt the same way.
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
This unusual song written by Gordon Lightfoot pays homage to the anniversary of a ship's sinking. Dozens of people lost their lives in the tragedy which Lightfoot captures sadly in these lyrics And all that remains is the faces and the names/Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
Cat Stevens wrote this tune while recovering from life-threatening health issues at a young age. Singing Trouble/Oh trouble please be kind/I don't want no fight/And I haven't got a lot of time Stevens gives readers the sense that he's given up on fighting his illness.
The Killing of Georgie
Chronicling the life and murder of a friend, Rod Stewart sings Oh Georgie stay, don't go away/Georgie please stay you take our breath away as he wishes his friend didn't have to die. While the main character's senseless murder is sad enough, the song also shares the murderer did not intend to take Georgie's life which makes it depressing for everyone involved.
Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)
Elton John is no stranger to highly emotional songs. In this ballad, he sings in memory of his late friend and fellow singer John Lennon. Lyrics like And I've been knocking most all the day/Oh and I've been calling, oh hey hey Johnny/Can't you come out, can't you come out to play? listeners get a feel for the deep sadness of realizing a friend won't be around to make memories anymore.
Fire and Rain
This strong song by James Taylor touches on the suicide of a friend along with the singers own struggles with drugs and fame. In it he says, I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend/But I always thought that I'd see you again giving listeners a taste of how it feels to be lonely after a loss.
Turning Life and Death Into Music
Musicians, songwriters, and singers are experts at taking real-life inspiration and turning it into art that can be heard and felt by listeners everywhere. These songs capture the emotion behind many difficult situations involving actual, perceived or contemplated deaths. For some, these songs serve as a tribute after death while others can use them to work through their own grief.