It’s my age, and there’s not much I can do about it. The years are accelerating faster than I can productively live them. I’m attending a lot more funerals than weddings, and, call me Mr Grumpy, but I do not appreciate what I’m experiencing.
Most of us know what a funeral is like. We’ve either been to them or we’ve seen them on TV or in the movies. In the Christian tradition there is solemnity and celebration in equal mixture. Christians will dress in sombre colours and tell affectionate tales of the deceased’s life at the wake. Muslims, like many Christians, believe that although death is a departure from this worldly life, it is not the end of a person’s existence. Rather, eternal life is to come. Jews, like Muslims, do not believe in embalming but do strive to bury the deceased as soon as possible after death.
In many religions, music is part of the ceremonial, and quite rightly so, because it has the unequalled ability to evoke emotion and memory. The great British composer, Benjamin Britten said: “It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness of pain, of strength and freedom, the beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love, the cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony.” Why then do the soon-to-depart or their living proxies choose such appalling music to send their beloved on their journey?
A large British funeral services organization has recently published their top ten funeral songs as requested by those about-to-die or those about-to-mourn. I present the full list so you may appreciate the ghastly rubbish that those who have been bereaved must endure.
1. My way – Frank Sinatra or Shirley Bassey;
2. Wind beneath my wings – Bette Midler or Celine Dion;
3. Time to say goodbye – Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli;
4. Angels – Robbie Williams;
5. Over the rainbow – Judy Garland or Eva Cassidy.
Hold on tight; it gets worse.
6. Your raise me up – Westlife or Boyzone;
7. My heart will go on – Celine Dion;
8. I will always love you – Whitney Houston;
9. You’ll never walk alone – Gerry and the Pacemakers;
10. Unforgettable – Nat King Cole.
Have you ever listened to the lyrics of ‘My way’? Mr Sinatra ate it up (life, I assume) and spat it out. He travelled each and every byway. He lived a life that was full. Is that really suitable for sad Uncle Albert who lived all his life in the same end terrace as his parents? Be honest now. Perhaps the lyrics of ‘Angels’ would be preferable. I think not, as the singer laments “When love is dead, I’m loving angels instead.” Enough is enough. This has gone too far.
Let’s abandon the saccharine sentiments of pop songs and revert either to gravitas or humour. For gravitas, a dose of Mozart or Wagner, perhaps. Humorists might vote for ‘Another one bites the dust’ by Queen which I’m assured is a popular choice for inveterate jokesters.
As for me, I’m rather taken by ‘When I’m dead and gone’ by McGinnis Flint. There’s a kazoo solo in the middle, and I think that a mass rendition by all funeral attendees would be an appropriate, if noisy, send-off, though I hope not for many more years.