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I swear I Want 'Em to Play That Song on the Pipes At My Funeral When I Die

By Caspar Salmon & TK | Music | June 30, 2009 |

By Caspar Salmon & TK | Music | June 30, 2009 |

Dig, if you will, the picture: you’ve died and not quite gone to heaven, and you’re watching on at your own funeral. There are all your friends, crying, and there are your Mum and Dad, and there are your work colleagues and a handful of people you had sex with, who found out about the funeral via Facebook. The congregation stands, and the person in charge of the ceremony asks everyone to stand in silence as, in honor of you, we listen to “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion. Oh god — you scream and you scream, but no-one can hear you, and the music carries on, and all of those people will associate you with the Canadian tune-horse for ever and ever.

This is just part of a self-centered nightmare that occurs to me. In reality, I’m more afraid that there will be hymns at my funeral — as a committed atheist, that would be the absolute nail in the coffin, so to speak — so I often think of what songs I’d like to be committed to the earth to. Here lieth my musical will and testament.

Miles Davis — “Concierto de Aranjuez”
This is taken from Davis’s absolutely perfect album Sketches of Spain, and is an interpretation of the famous concerto by Joaquin Rodrigo. I find the piece both heart-wrenching and joy-inducing; the crashing of the drums with the strings and trumpet is just a wonderful piece of splendour, and I find the idea of being buried as this is played, while my loved ones look on, strangely comforting. Davis’s take on it is especially lovely, because it takes away some of the pomp and fussiness of the original, and is all liquid beauty.

Iron & Wine — “Each Coming Night”
This could be played at the actual funeral ceremony. I like the idea of having the space of a song to think about someone - when my grandmother died, for instance, we played:

Fats Waller — “Your Feet’s Too Big”
This brought back some great memories of her - and I think this beautiful, beautiful song, with its deep, rolling guitar, and the soothing voice and comforting lyrics of Sam Beam, would be ideal. It’s a gorgeous meditation on death, in which the line “Light strikes a deal with each coming night” makes me feel greatly consoled that after I die, life will still carry wonderfully on for everyone.

The Carter Family — “Keep On The Sunny Side”
It’s a bit obvious, but I can’t think of anything better to send me on my way than this. If I were feeling more maudlin, I might change this slot to ‘Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?’, also by the Carter Family. Got to get them crying somehow.

The Magnetic Fields — “The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side”
This song reminds me of some people I love very, very much - and I would hope to have them there at my funeral, singing along to it and laughing at their inability to hit and maintain the long, high note at the end. The squishy, jumpy melody would be bound to make everyone cheerful, and I really think it’s important to have something to sing to at a funeral, so I would ask for these funny lyrics to be printed for everyone to have a go at.

Aretha Franklin — “Come Back Baby”
I would die happily if I could be certain that everyone would get shitfaced together after the funeral and go completely mental to this on the dance-floor.
—Caspar Salmon

Caspar’s story immediately reminded me of the scene in Love, Actually, where Liam Neeson is forced to comply with his deceased wife’s wishes by playing a Bee Gees song at her funeral. Honey, if you’re reading this, I swear I will haunt you EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. if you try that kind of shenanigans at my funeral. Because let’s be real about it - I’m incredibly clumsy, I have poor judgment and some less-than-safe hobbies. I’m gonna go first. If I do, I don’t want some derivative crap played. I want something that actually means something to me, and something that will (hopefully) mean something to the people there. Yes, this is a maudlin as hell topic.

But if you gotta go, at least go out with a killer soundtrack, right?

R.L. Burnside — “Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down”
Why not? I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love the old spirituals. And nobody does it quite like Burnside.

Dead Prez — “You’ll Find A Way”
A radically political hip hop band may seem inappropriate (although, not really if you know me), but this track, a gorgeous instrumental, makes me shiver a bit whenever I listen to it. I think it’s perfect in every way.

Rilo Kiley — “We’ll Never Sleep (God Knows We’ll Try)”
Because it’s a beautiful song. And because the line, “And how long will you stare / Before I look away / I don’t wanna go” pretty much sums it up. And because I want Jenny Lewis to be there when I go.

Simon and Garfunkel — “The Sounds of Silence”
Yes, this song is morbid as hell. But it’s also a lovely, haunting song, S & G at their best.

The Postal Service — “Sleeping In”
I can’t help it. I don’t like myself for it. But I fucking love The Postal Service. And I can never tell if this song is supposed to be happy or sad, and that in and of itself makes it right for the occasion. I don’t want people weeping constantly, I want them thinking of good things.

The Gaslight Anthem — “Boomboxes and Dictionaries”
I know it’s a goddamn funeral, but I don’t care. I want some rock and roll (you’re just lucky I didn’t pick a Lamb of God track). Truth be told, this is a song for those who live on — And if you’re scared of the future tonight,
“We’ll just take it each hour one at a time.
It’s a pretty good night for a drive,
So dry up those eyes, dry up those eyes.
Because the radio will still play loud,
Songs that we heard as our guards came down.
Like in the summertime when we first met,
I’ll never forget, don’t you forget,
These nights are still ours.”

Uncle Tupelo — “No Depression”
“I’m goin’ where / there’s no depression / to a better world / that’s free from care / I’ll leave this world / of toil and trouble / my home’s in heaven / I’m goin’ there”

Caspar and TK write about music for Pajiba, and they will live forever.

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TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.