Last Updated on October 24, 2020
Today we’re going to be sharing with you our top 21 picks for traditional funeral songs. We’ve got timeless hymns like “How Great Thou Art,” as well as more modern classics, like Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” And everything in between.
So no matter what type of traditional funeral music you’re looking for, we’re sure you’ll discover the perfect tracks to honor your loved one and the life they lived.
Let’s take a listen.
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Top 21 Traditional Funeral Songs
In alphabetical order, here are our top 21 picks for traditional funeral songs:
- Amazing Grace by Soweto Gospel Choir
- Ave Maria by Josh Groban
- Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel
- Danny Boy by Celtic Woman
- Funeral March by Chopin
- Go Rest High On That Mountain by Vince Gill
- Hallelujah by Mike Geier
- His Eye Is On the Sparrow by Lauryn Hill
- How Great Thou Art by Carrie Underwood
- If It Be Your Will by Antony Hegarty
- I’ll Fly Away by Johnny Cash
- In the Garden by Selah
- In the Sweet By and By by Randy Travis
- My Way by Frank Sinatra
- The Old Rugged Cross by Sandi Patty
- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by B.B. King
- Take My Hand, Precious Lord by Elvis Presley
- Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman
- Victory In Jesus by Merle Haggard
- The Water Is Wide by Peter Hollens
- When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder by Dolly Parton
See below each video for audio/downloading options.
1. Amazing Grace by Soweto Gospel Choir (2005)
First up on our list of traditional funeral songs is “Amazing Grace,” performed by the award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir. Hailing from South Africa, this choir consists of over 30 talented singers and performers.
In this track, they give their all to bring us a beautiful, soulful rendition of one of the most beloved Christian hymns of all time.
English poet John Newton first penned “Amazing Grace” in 1772, with the song eventually gaining popularity in the United States during the revival culture of the 1800s. People have been listening to and singing it at funerals and all kinds of religious services ever since.
Perhaps the most-recorded song in history, here are more popular renditions.
2. Ave Maria by Josh Groban (2007)
Blending the sounds of an angel chorus with the strong, clear vocals of Josh Groban, next up we bring you an absolutely heavenly version of Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”
This track is originally from on Groban’s 2007 Christmas album, Noël, but its traditional, religious undertones also make for a wonderful tribute song for the funeral of a loved one.
More recordings of “Ave Maria” here.
3. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel (1970)
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was released in 1970 by folk music masters Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The latter provided the breathtaking vocals you hear in the video above.
This moving song was released just before the duo split to go their own ways, but there’s not doubt it’s cemented their contributions to the music industry forever.
For the encouraging lyrics and gospel feel, you may choose this tune to honor your loved one at their funeral. Many other talented musicians have also released their own covers of this moving song, including Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.
The original will always be the best, but you can find alternate versions here.
4. Danny Boy by Celtic Woman (2004)
The song “Danny Boy” has been around since 1913. It was first written by Englishman Frederick Weatherly and then set to the tune of Irish theme “Londonderry Air.”
Made popular in the States particularly by singer Andy Williams in the 1960s, the song has since been picked up by countless other artists and bands, including the internationally-acclaimed Irish group Celtic Woman.
The lyrics to this song are what make it truly suitable to be played at a funeral. Whether services are to be held at a church or graveside, the words of “Danny Boy” are sure to bring up sweet memories of days gone by, as well as hopeful thoughts for the road ahead.
Here are more popular versions of this beautiful track.
5. Funeral March by Chopin (1840)
Frederic Chopin’s “Funeral March” (or “Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, opus number 35” if you want to get technical) is a piano movement first penned by the composer in 1840. A soft piece the whole way through, this track is also quite long, lasting just under 10 minutes.
Written just for funeral services, it may be the perfect option for beginning or end of your loved one’s service; when everyone is first arriving and/or getting ready to depart.
6. Go Rest High On That Mountain by Vince Gill (1994)
Christian singer-songwriter Vince Gill recorded “Go Rest High On That Mountain” in 1994. That’s hard to believe, since it seems like this song has been around for much longer.
Whether you like country music or mainstream Christian music, this track has all the elements of a traditional hymn or funeral song, making it a gem in our book and perfect for the service.
Find more versions, including instrumentals, here.
7. Hallelujah by Mike Geier (2015)
We’re talking about traditional funeral songs today, but there’s nothing really traditional about entertainer Mike Geier (aka Puddles Pity Party), except for his voice perhaps.
Here he covers Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and if you can’t get over the fact that he’s in a clown costume while doing it, we advise you to just close your eyes. And drift away.
Truly, whether you consider playing Geier or Cohen or any of the more than 300 others who’ve covered this modern classic funeral song over the years, you can bet you’ll be playing a utterly beautiful tune fit for the remembrance of your loved one.
Here are the most popular covers of “Hallelujah,” including the Jeff Buckley version which many people credit as launching the resurgence of this now-ubiquitous song.
8. His Eye Is On the Sparrow by Lauryn Hill (1993)
This song was written and composed in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel, respectively. Here, with help from Tanya Blount, Lauryn Hill provides the gorgeous vocals to the comforting lyrics.
The song reminds us just how close God keeps us under his wings in times of happiness and in sorrow; even more so than He does the birds of the air. It’s a welcome reminder when grieving a loved one.
From Casting Crowns to Whitney Houston, there are many more versions of this song here.
9. How Great Thou Art by Carrie Underwood (2014)
Country singer and American Idol alumni Carrie Underwood takes us back in time just a little bit with her cover of the age-old Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
This peaceful song has been sung everywhere from Sunday morning choirs to weddings to funerals, proving its versatility and also its grace.
“How Great Thou Art” gives us something different to focus on when we’re feeling down, struggling through something or even grieving the loss of a dearly departed loved one: He Who is greater than anything we are going through or feeling right now.
Find more recordings of this traditional funeral hymn here.
10. If It Be Your Will by Antony Hegarty (2006)
Leonard Cohen released “If It Be Your Will” in 1983 as the final track on his album Various Positions. Not too many people have covered it, and not too many have played it at funerals either. But for one who has covered it, Antony Hegarty (aka Anohni) does the song justice like none other can.
The pure emotion crooning from Hagerty’s gentle voice is a perfect match to Cohen’s lyrics, which allow us room to fall into what we are feeling without falling into our sorrow completely; an important component to any funeral song. Take a listen and you’ll see what we mean.
11. I’ll Fly Away by Johnny Cash (1982)
If your loved one was a country music fan, Johnny Cash’s comforting voice may very well be what they’d have wanted played at their funeral or home-going. Particularly this traditional Christian song, “I’ll Fly Away.”
“I’ll Fly Away” was first written in the early 1920’s by Albert E. Brumley, and has been covered and stylized in various ways by different artists, but none do it quite like Cash does it. Not too sad, but not too peppy either.
Here are some more of the most popular recordings of “I’ll Fly Away.”
12. In the Garden by Selah (2014)
Christian group Selah breathes new life into this 1912 Christian hymn, which is not necessarily known as a funeral song, but perhaps should be.
When you play their version of C. Austin Miles’ “In the Garden,” you can also take the opportunity to invite the Presence of God into the moment… a much-needed Love and Comfort in times of grief.
Find more renditions of “In the Garden” here.
13. In the Sweet By and By by Randy Travis (2003)
Play “In the Sweet By and By” at your loved one’s funeral, and you’ll be playing a gentle reminder for everyone that it’s not really “Goodbye,” but rather, “See ya later.”
Play Randy Travis’ version of this traditional funeral song, and you’ll be throwing in a country twang-ified tribute perfect for your loved one who would have really appreciated it played at their funeral.
More versions of “In the Sweet By and By” here.
14. My Way by Frank Sinatra (1969)
Finding our way out of country music for a second and into the golden oldies era, we now present to you “My Way” by the great Frank Sinatra.
Recorded in 1969, this song had all the makings of a classic to begin with, and has been considered a classic ever since. It’s an appropriate funeral song for someone who lived life on their terms, even unto the end.
Elvis Presley also does a moving cover of this song; check it out here.
15. The Old Rugged Cross by Sandi Patty (1985)
Many old hymns strike a chord and tug at the heart strings, especially when played at a funeral. Maybe the one hymn that can do it the best out of them all is “The Old Rugged Cross.“
This familiar song has been around since 1912, when composer and pastor George Bennard first wrote it. The hymn describes in emotional detail the “emblem of suffering and shame,” that old rugged cross on Calvary, which as we all know made way for the end of death as we know it.
Here Sandy Patti sings it crystal clear and in a way that could only come out of the 1980s. If you’d like to hear a country version of the song instead, here it is by Alan Jackson.
And here are even more versions of “The Old Rugged Cross.”
16. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by B.B. King (1959)
Want a celebration song for your loved one’s funeral or home-going, rather than a sad and somber one? Then you can’t go wrong with B.B. King’s version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a traditional African-American spiritual first recorded in 1909 by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Here singer-songwriter B.B. King provides the soulful vocals worthy of the song, which describe the prophet Elijah’s descent into heaven.
Discover recordings of this tune in many different styles here.
17. Take My Hand, Precious Lord by Elvis Presley (1957)
Leave it to Elvis to give us all the songs we need in life – for weddings, for funerals, and for all the life that happens in between – he’s got a song for it! “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” is a cover he first recorded in 1957.
This traditional hymn, written by Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, is perfect for playing at a Christian funeral service because it places a spotlight on the One Who can provide real peace and comfort to those who are left behind to mourn, even with a proverbial taking of the hand.
Rev. Dorsey also wrote “Peace In the Valley,” another traditional funeral song to consider.
18. Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman (1996)
Italian crooner Andrea Bocelli first popularized this song in 1995, and then joined forces with Sarah Brightman in ’96 to create the heavenly duet we have for you here.
“Time to Say Goodbye” in the original Italian is “Con te partirò,” and much of the song is sung in the original language.
Whether your loved one had Italian heritage or simply had good taste in beautiful music, this song may be the perfect choice to help you and other attendees at their funeral bid them farewell.
Find additional recordings here.
19. Victory In Jesus by Merle Haggard (2001)
Country singer Merle Haggard’s unmistakable vocals, and that that sweet twang of an old steel guitar. It’s what makes up the entirety of this traditional Christian hymn.
It’s a nostalgic, happy reminder that as Christians, we have claimed victory over death through Jesus, and will see our departed loved ones again one day soon.
More recordings of “Victory in Jesus” here.
20. The Water Is Wide by Peter Hollens (2014)
A traditional Scottish folk tune sung in a capella style – what could go wrong? Absolutely nothing.
Everything is right in Peter Hollens’ version of “The Water Is Wide,” a song first officially published in 1906. In Hollens’ version, he takes layers of his own vocals only and puts them all together to create an “instrumental” background – without the use of any instruments.
Where a funeral is concerned, it’s hard to find a reason not to play this one. Especially when you realize that the song is about losing hold of someone you once held very close.
Find more beautiful versions here.
21. When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder by Dolly Parton (1999)
Last but not least on our list of traditional funeral songs to honor your loved one with is this upbeat track from the queen of country music, Dolly Parton.
“When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” is an old, old song of course, but Dolly gives it to us fresh and in a way that makes us think we must be anywhere but a funeral.
Next, finish your funeral song search with The 100+ Best Funeral Songs of All Time.