Funeral Home Traditions
Funeral songs are a staple of any modern day memorial service, and they've been a part of burial and funeral ceremonies for centuries. The tradition of musicians playing funeral songs go back the very beginning of funeral history itself. Archeologists have uncovered plenty of evidence over the years that funeral songs were a prominent part of funeral services even as far back as the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans. Whereas most funeral songs today are played via digital recording, it was until relatively recently common for large orchestras to assemble and play at a memorial service for even the most basic of funerals. Nowadays, with the advent and prevalence of many great recorded funeral songs, such a production is no longer necessary, and that means that just about anyone can now be treated to a beautiful send-off with just the perfect funeral song playing in a chapel as attendees silently take in the music and contemplate it's significance in the life of the deceased. Here is a brief guide listing things to consider when arranging a funeral song for a loved ones (or even your own) funeral.
The first thing to keep in mind about funeral songs is that there are many that are appropriate. In fact, nearly every genre of music – whether it be jazz, blues, country, rock, pop or even heavy metal – has multitudes of songs that are perfect for public performance at a funeral. So, if you are a devoted fan of a particular type of music (or even a particular artist), chances are strong that there is a great funeral song at your fingertips (literally so in today's age of the Internet). Some examples of funeral songs that come to mind after a quick Internet search include, “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox When I Die” and “On The Road Again” from the Country ranks; “What a Wonderful World” and “Celebration” from the Pop music ranks; “Dust in the Wind” from the Rock ranks; “Take the A Train” and “In The Mood” from the Jazz ranks, and “Chopin's prelude in C minor” from the classical music ranks. These are just suggestions made by random posters to a blogger's query about which songs readers would want played at their funeral. Some humourous (and potentially inappropriate) songs also made the list: “Highway to Hell”, “Another One Bites The Dust”, and “The Chicken Dance.” Those would certainly make for memorable funeral songs, to say the least.
Choosing the right funeral songs is a deeply personal decision, and, as we see with the suggestions above, a person's personality plays a big role. That's why many people have made it a practice – even in their youth – to prepare a list of songs that they would like to have played at their funeral. At first glance, this may seem to be a very morbid or even macabre thing to do, but in the end it can be quite comforting to all involved. But that said, choosing the right funeral song may create some difficulty when a person asks for an off-color or controversial song to be played. In one interesting example, a man in Texas reports that his uncle was a big fan of Robert Earle Keen's classic song “The Road Goes On Forever (and the party never ends),” and just days before he died he had requested that song be made a big part of his memorial service. Trouble brewed for the man's family when the Pastor who the man had selected to officiate his service informed the family that, “under no circumstances” would he allow the man's musical selection to be played during the service. So, reluctantly, the family decided to forgo that song at the funeral, but played it many times at a party after the service (to which the pastor was not invited). It just so happens, however, that neighbors at the party grew weary of hearing the song blaring repeatedly and loudly into the wee hours of the morning, and they ended up calling police to complain. A fine for the party host resulted, and a neighborhood feud ensued and lasted for more than a decade.
So, careful consideration of just the right funeral song is important for ensuring that a loved-one's memorial service is memorable for all the right reasons, too. While, as we noted above, most funeral songs today are played via compact disc or Mp3 player in a funeral home or church via a modern, high tech sound system, the tradition of live music is making a bit of a comeback as well. Even the smallest modern community these days has dozens of talented songwriters who can be hired very inexpensively (or even for free) to play funeral songs at a memorial service and, in many cases, these writers will be moved by the death of a friend or family member to compose a meaningful song just for that one occasion. Arranging such a special performance of a funeral song can be a comforting way to help all in the audience grieve peacefully over the loss of their friend or loved one.
An important final consideration when thinking of funeral songs is copyrights. While a death in the family is often a time when people tend to concern themselves with just about everything except finances, assuring that copyright issues are a priority for a public performance of a funeral song is still an important consideration. Fortunately, most funeral homes – and even many churches – have purchased standard “blanket licenses” from music royalty groups such as BMI and ASCAP, and this give them the right to use just about any recorded piece as a funeral song performed in a service hosted by them. But family members planning a funeral service should be warned that this blanket license may very well apply only to music played via recording. If a live band is to be incorporated into a memorial service, it is important that planners check to see that the band has appropriate licenses to play any of the funeral songs that have been selected. If the band is to be compensated financially for the performance, it may very well be legally required to pay a royalty fee for any song it plays that is not written by a member of the band. Checking on such matters may seem to be a unnecessary hassle, but, there have been some cases in which family members have been sued by music royalty groups who have discovered that they allowed music to be played without proper licensing as a funeral song.