Whether we like to admit it or not, death is all around us. From the television shows and movies we watch to the books we read to the tabloid stories that catch our eye, the topic of death is everywhere.
It’s interesting to note that while no one enjoys being faced with their own mortality, we have no problem embracing death as an idea or an element to drive a plot in our favorite episode of Bones. Maybe it is easier for us to think of death as something only talked about on screen, printed in books and newspapers or even sung about in songs.
Whatever it is, death is inevitable, both as the ultimate destination we will all reach at the end of our journey and as something that poets, authors and songwriters will be talking about until the end of time.
Before this post gets you completely down, remember that death is also an inspiration – to live and to create, as was the case for these songs about death.
Ships of Heaven – Blackhawk
Singer-songwriter Van Stephenson was just coming off some moderate success as a solo artist in the 1980’s when he helped form the band, Blackhawk. Along with Van’s soaring tenor and the band’s unique three-part harmonies beside him, they saw some moderate success in the 1990’s as a country trio.
In February 1999, Van was diagnosed with melanoma, and while he battled bravely, he lost his battle with cancer in 2001. Shortly before his death, Van was able to pen and record a final farewell for the world to hear, entitled “Ships of Heaven.”
How Can I Help You? – Patty Loveless
All of us have a relative or friend in our lives like the mother sung about in this stirring ballad by Patty Loveless; until the very end, they are comforting the rest of us while they should be worried about themselves. I think that’s what makes this song so bittersweet.
If I Die Young – The Band Perry
This song isn’t as much about the experience of dying or death, but rather about making the most of the time you are given.
As lead singer Kimberly Perry once said when asked about the story behind this song, “‘If I Die Young,’ for us, is about if it all ends at this moment, look at what we’ve gotten to do. Whatever time we’re given will be absolutely enough as long as we make the most of it.”
Keep Me In Your Heart – Warren Zevon
It could be argued that Keep Me In Your Heart is the ultimate farewell song especially when you realize that Warren wrote it when he was facing terminal cancer for just that purpose: to say goodbye to his wife and to comfort her in his absence.
Whether it is the ultimate farewell song or not, you can’t deny how raw, honest and sweet this song is.
Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
We don’t often think about it, but Blue Oyster Cult penned this tune to be more than just a rock anthem; they were really trying to spread the message that death is nothing to be afraid of and our time will come when it is supposed to.
And, besides, what would a good list of songs about death be without the one rock song that put the cowbell on the map as a musical instrument?