Funeral Blues

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I have a somewhat morbid confession to make: I keep an iTunes playlist of songs I want at my funeral.

Before you get all wigged out by that statement, please know that I don’t have a terminal disease (of which I’m aware) and I’m looking forward to a long and happy life.  I just thought that — when the time comes —  it would be nice for my loved ones to be one click away from my posthumous music requests.

Macabre or brilliant?  You be the judge.

My song choices aren’t exactly church-approved, so I’m thinking they might work best at a celebratory memorial service vs. a traditional Catholic funeral mass.  Feel free to play “On Eagles Wings” and “Be Not Afraid” in the church, but please give these secular tunes a spin where appropriate.  Here’s what you’ll find in my Funeral Blues playlist…

“One Hell of a Life” by Katell Keineg

 Who in the world is Katell Keineg?  Beats me.  I think I saw her open for someone at a club called Shuba’s back in Chicago once.  But I love this song, mostly for one particular line with which I couldn’t agree more:  “When I’m dead please don’t philosophize or feel regret, just remember when I said:  I had one hell of a life.”  Indeed, I have.  (So far.)  And I am beyond grateful.  In the song, Keineg starts the first verse setting herself up for burial:  “Lay me down in a wooded field, plant a bush above my head,” while the second verse opts for cremation: “Throw my ashes to the wind, watch them blow into the sea.”  Let the record show, I prefer the latter.

“Find the River” by R.E.M.

I originally thought I wanted R.E.M.’s “Sweetness Follows” since that is such a nice sentiment for the end of one’s life.  Your time on earth may be over but, you know, sweetness follows.  Plus it contains some of my favorite lyrics to live by:  “Live your life filled with joy and thunder.”  But then I decided the rest of the words and the music itself were just too dark, so I swapped it for “Find the River.”  This one is less about a specific lyrical message and more about the overall mood it creates. That said, I do love the words that come at the end of the song…

Strength and courage overrides

The privileged weary eyes

Of river poet search naivete

Pick up here and chase the ride

The river empties to the tide

All of this is coming your way

Don’t try to read too much into it; I just think it’s pretty.

“Remember Me” by Diana Ross

I’ve always loved Miss Ross’s voice, and it’s in great form on this little ditty.  She’s all breathy at the beginning and then wails on the chorus, just like I like it.  Along the way she makes these requests:

Remember me as a sunny day
That you once had along the way

Remember me as a funny clown
That made you laugh when you were down

Remember me as a big balloon
At a carnival that ended too soon

Remember me as a breath of spring
Remember me as a good thing

Who wouldn’t want to be remembered like that?  By the way, I’m assuming these songs will all be played in their originally recorded formats.  But if they’re performed live, please be sure to have a gospel choir backing up the singer who does “Remember Me.”  🙂

“Keep Me in Your Heart” by Warren Zevon

He knew he was dying of cancer when he wrote this and it became the basis for a stunning tribute at the Grammys after he passed away.

If that weren’t enough to pull at the heartstrings, how about these opening lyrics?

Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile
If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for awhile
There’s a train leaving nightly called “when all is said and done”
Keep me in your heart for awhile

I mean, how beautiful is that?

If it seems like I’m being a little emotionally manipulative with my song selections, then so be it.  I don’t want a single dry eye at my funeral.

By the way, the inspiration for the name of my playlist — Funeral Blues — comes from the beautiful poem by W.H. Auden that  John Hannah recited so lovingly in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

If someone wants to read Funeral Blues at my memorial service, that’s just fine by me.  So much the better if it’s in a Scottish accent.

Today’s Poll What’s your favorite tribute song?

Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” ( for The Notorious B.I.G.)

Elton John’s “Empty Garden” (for John Lennon)

Diana Ross’s “Missing You” (for Marvin Gaye)

R.E.M.’s “Let Me In” (for Kurt Cobain)

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