10 songs about death to help you grieve
At some stage or another, we all come face-to-face with the harsh reality of losing a loved one.
There’s no easy way to deal with death. However, it’s important to acknowledge and accept the pain as part of the grieving process. That’s where the power of music comes in.
Music is there for us in the good times — and the tough ones. Whether you’ve just lost a family member, a close friend, or are just missing someone that has passed on, these ten songs about death will provide you with emotional support during your time of loss.
If you want to listen to this later, we’ve compiled this Spotify playlist for you, with some additional songs that we hope will help you during this difficult time.
1. Disappoint by Assemblage 23
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Assemblage 23 is essentially a one-man band composed of singer-songwriter Tom Shear, who writes and records all his tracks by himself. Disappoint comes from Assemblage 23’s 2001 album Failure, and deals with Shear’s father’s suicide.
Despite the song’s energetic dance beat, Shear manages to convey the pain and grief of loss through haunting electro melodies and devastating lyrics. The end result is a song that allows listeners to lose themselves physically and emotionally — to surrender to their feelings of grief.
2. Chelsea by The Dirty Heads
Chelsea comes from The Dirty Heads’ debut 2008 album Any Port in the Storm, and was written about the tragic loss of lead singer Dustin Bushnell’s girlfriend to a drunk driver.
An acoustically driven ballad, Bushnell lyrically spills his emotions to Chelsea as a way of getting closure after her death. Although the song was written for one person in particular, Chelsea encompasses the universal desire to find solace after the loss of a loved one.
3. Airplanes by Local Natives
The third single from Local Natives’ debut album Gorilla Manor, Airplanes is about band member Kelcey Ayer’s late grandfather, whom Ayer lost when he was two years old.
Since he wasn’t old enough to know his grandfather well, Ayer only heard about him through stories from his father. In this ballad, he encapsulates the heartwrenching desire to understand those that have come before us — and the shared feeling of grief over a relationship that could have been, but will never be.
4. Cherokee by John Moreland
Cherokee is from John Moreland’s album High on Tulsa Heat, which was inspired by his home city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. A heartbreaking acoustic track about the loss of a loved one, the lyrics of Cherokee act as a kind of push and pull that reflects the ebb and flow of emptiness and anger during the grieving process.
5. A Hole in the Earth by Daughter
A Hole in the Earth was originally written for the video game Life is Strange. However, its portrayal of loss is universal. Performed by English folk trio Daughter, A Hole in the Earth explores the new friendships that are forged as we try to escape the turmoil of life and death.
With consistent references to a ‘hole in the earth’ — symbolic of the feeling of emptiness, like something is missing — this song’s confessional lyrics and intimately personal tone offer a universal experience of loss. In an emotional crescendo, the throbbing drums in the song rise and explode like a racing heartbeat.
6. You Said You’d Grow Old with Me by Michael Schulte
Michael Schulte is a German singer-songwriter who started making music on YouTube before appearing on (and placing third in) The Voice Germany. You Said You’d Grow Old With Me is from his 2012 album Wide Awake and captures the aftermath of a loved one leaving this earth.
The original song is a piano-driven track with drums and string arrangements. However, Schulte released a new acoustic version in 2015. With its haunting vocals and powerful lyrics, You Said You’d Grow Old With Me offers an intimate look at the pain that comes from losing the one you were meant to spend your life with.
7. Someone Great by LCD Soundsystem
Without a doubt, Someone Great is one of the most poignant, beautiful songs about grief and death. The brainchild of NYC-based artist James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem was a staple of early 2000s indie music, and the band has gone on to create countless iconic tracks since — including this one.
Someone Great is from the band’s third album This Is Happening, which was released in 2010. However, the instrumentals for the song originally appeared in 45:33 a long-form music piece Murphy did for Nike as a soundtrack for runners.
Instrumentally, the song is an almost danceable electronic composition with pulsating synthesizers and kalimbas. But listen closely and you’ll embark on a somber journey through the grieving process.
8. Cigarettes and Saints by The Wonder Years
Cigarettes and Saints is a track on No Closer to Heaven, the fifth album by American pop-punk band The Wonder Years. The song, like the entire album, explores a highly personal theme: dealing with the death of one of the band’s members due to a drug overdose.
Throughout the song, lead singer Matt Brasch alternates between screaming and singing as he captures the raw grief and emotion behind the band’s loss. Lyrically, the song paints the picture of a person who crumbled under the weight of a society that doesn’t care about individuals and ultimately, a person that couldn’t take it anymore.
9. What Sarah Said by Death Cab for Cutie
An American indie rock band from Washington, Death Cab for Cutie are well-known for their accessible, universal tracks — and What Sarah Said is no different. Through this six-minute opus told through the lens of a hospital visit, Death Cab captures the helplessness that stems from the inevitable knowledge that a loved one is going to die.
Infused with melancholy at every turn, What Sarah Said is equal parts an expression of sorrow as it is of love. The best example of this is in the song’s final lines:
I’m thinking of what Sarah said
That love is watching someone die
So who’s gonna watch you die?
10. Wonderful Life by Alter Bridge
Wonderful Life is a track from Alter Bridge’s third studio album AB III, which was a radical thematic departure from the band’s early albums. As a loose concept album, AB III explored the world through a character desperately struggling to find their way — and their faith — in a world filled with sadness and doubt.
While we could go on about the meaning behind Wonderful Life, it’s best described by songwriter Myles Kennedy in his interview with Artist Direct:
“It was written to everyone that I hold dear in my life—family, friends, and my wife. It’s a last goodbye essentially. The thing about having people you cherish in your life is there’s going to come a time that you’re going to have to say goodbye. I put my mindset of, ‘What if I were standing by this person as they were about to take their last breath? What would I say to them?’ I’d want to convey how much they meant to me while they were with me in my life.”