According to a new study* conducted by online estate planning platform, Trust & Will, more Millennials (ages 25-44) are making plans for their own memorial events, including one key part: the music.
This makes sense. For a group that has meticulously curated every nanosecond of their digital lives, the last thing they want is an unexpected Celine Dion deep cut staining their personal brand for the rest of eternity.
The music should be an extension of their identity, like a lovingly Instagrammed piece of avocado toast on organic sourdough, underscoring their unique sensibility and values.
Popular funeral songs chosen by Millennials
So let’s take a closer look at some of the top picks and what they say about this remarkable generation.
To kick it off, it’s worth noting a tune that just missed the top five:
#6. “Another One Bites The Dust” (Queen)
Millennials are known for not taking things - or themselves - too seriously, and that’s the case with this ironic selection. It’s cheeky, irreverent, and a nod to this group’s value of authenticity at all costs and their ability to find light even in the darkest moments.
After all, what’s a well-lived life without a smile or two?
#5. “Three Little Birds” (Bob Marley)
This sweet and relaxed tune that Bob Marley recorded in 1977 is emblematic of a surprising theme that runs through the list: older artists. In fact, only 2 of the top 10 are Millennials themselves.
Notable snubs include mega-star Taylor Swift, Drake, Rihanna, Billie Eilish, and Lady Gaga, not to mention Justin Bieber or The Artist-Currently-Known-As Ye, neither of whom offer mainstream funeral feels.
Instead, Millennials are largely leaving this world with the help of Boomer artists, including “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison (#10), “These Three Words” by Stevie Wonder (#8), and “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac at #7.
The reason for this could be the nostalgia Millennials feel for these hits from the ’60s and ’70s that they may have first heard during formative car rides to ballet or t-ball practice.
Regardless, even as this younger demo takes control of their memorial music, they’re raising their virtual cell phone lighters to those who came before.
#4. “How Great Thou Art” (Carrie Underwood)
Many Millennials remain rooted in their faith, reflected in spiritual song choices. For those seeking a more modern vibe, Carrie Underwood’s “How Great Thou Art” is the chart-topper most often chosen to shepherd them from this realm to the next.
#3. “I Was Here” (Beyoncé)
Beyoncé enters the chart at #3 with “I Was Here,” a song written by Diane Warren in response to the 9/11 attacks, a defining moment for this generation. Queen Bey adds the depth and gravitas to every line like only she can:
I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone some happiness
Left this world a little better just because
I was here
It’s a message of strength, legacy, and of living a full and meaningful life. For Millennials, it’s also about being seen, heard, and remembered.
For those who prefer country music, song #9 - “When I Get To Where I’m Going” by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton - offers a similarly defiant tone.
And I’ll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear
Yeah, when I get where I’m going
Don’t cry for me down here
The Grim Reaper may have the power to pull Millennials from this life, but they’re going out on their own terms with their heads held high.
#2. “In My Life” (The Beatles)
To put it simply: it’s a no-brainer to include a Beatles tune in the set list of any life-affirming event, be it a wedding “Love Me Do,” gender reveal “Here Comes The Sun” or county zoo opening “Octopus’ Garden.”
The lyrics to this particular track (“In my life, I loved you more”) guarantee there won’t be a dry eye in the room.
And now, without further ado, the number one song Millennials have chosen to help them leave this world on a high note:
#1. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (Israel Kamakawiwoʻole)
This version features native Hawaiian Israel K. on his ukulele. It’s arresting in its optimism and simplicity, especially poignant considering this is a generation that has experienced terrorism, recessions, climate change, and a global pandemic.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Once in a lullaby
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true, ooh-ooh
While these lyrics may not appear to be deeply philosophical, the timeless phrases speak of dreams, hope, and a world where troubles melt like lemon drops.
It’s a reminder that even when looking ahead to their final moments, Millennials cling to the pure imagination, wonder, and innocence of their childhoods that some may feel ended too soon.
There’s something heroic and honorable in this group not letting themselves wallow in cynicism or depressing thoughts, even when facing death itself.
One final (musical) note
You’ll never regret thinking ahead. Whether it’s tonight’s dinner, your final playlist, or your estate plan, it’s never too early to make a plan.
And cheers to the Millennials for reminding us to always follow our own tune, even if it’s at our own funeral.
Full top 10 song list
10. Sweet Thing (Van Morrison)
9. When I Get Where I’m Going (Dolly Parton & Brad Paisley)
8. These Three Words (Stevie Wonder)
7. Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
6. Another One Bites the Dust (Queen)
5. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley)
4. How Great Thou Art (Carrie Underwood)
3. I Was Here (Beyoncé)
2. In My Life (The Beatles)
1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Israel K’s version)
*For this study, Trust & Will used data from 23,979 Trust & Will members who create estate plans last year, including over 7,000 individuals between the ages of 25-44.
Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.