Hundreds of artists have recorded moving songs about death, grieving, and mortality. Here are our favorites:
- “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Bob Dylan [youtu.be/rm9coqlk8fY], 1973—Writing early in his career, the legendary poet/songwriter considers a time when “It’s getting dark, too dark to see.”
- “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff Daddy (Sean Combs) [youtube.com/watch?v=NKMtZm2YuBE], 2006—The hip-hop artist shows a tender side, lamenting the murder of his friend The Notorious B.I.G. and hoping the latter will “hold open the gates.”
- “Who Knew,” Pink [youtu.be/NJWIbIe0N90], 2006—After losing a close friend to an overdose, the pop rock singer bemoans her own naiveté in thinking death can be planned.
- “Last Man Standing,” Bruce Springsteen [youtu.be/YE6l-_g814I], 2020—The Boss reflects on the death of all members of his earliest band and wonders why he’s “still standing.”
- “Marjorie,” Taylor Swift [youtu.be/hP6QpMeSG6s], 2020—America’s songstress shares memories of a beloved grandmother and takes consolation that “What died didn’t stay dead.”
- “Keep Me in Your Heart,” Warren Zevon [youtu.be/RMTKb-pgxGI], 2003—The dying songwriter tells his love to remember him in the ordinary moments of life: “Maybe you’ll think of me and smile.”
- “Hurt,” Johnny Cash [youtu.be/8AHCfZTRGiI], 2002—The Man in Black hauntingly articulates his own mortality in this cover of the 1995 Nine Inch Nails original [youtu.be/PbHz9p7Z4OU].
- “And When I Die,” Blood, Sweat & Tears [youtu.be/8gxwutvlTw8], 1968—Taunting the Grim Reaper with attitude.
- “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” medley, Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole [youtu.be/RDjb1MdUiGE], 1990—The song to be played at every memorial; wistful and optimistic.
- “Let the Mystery Be,” Iris DeMent [youtu.be/0gQVS2fCsek], 1992—The songwriter ponders death as one big unknown and unknowable question.
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