Bright Side of Life

The Final Countdown: Funerals march to a different tune as Brits “look on the bright side of life”

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Funerals are marching to a different tune as Brits “look on the bright side of life” and pick music from personal playlists when the curtain closes and it’s time to say goodbye, new research from The Co-operative Funeralcare reveals.

For the first time, Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life tops the chart while the most popular group is Queen with nine tracks requested including Who Wants to Live Forever and Don’t Stop Me Now. Elvis Presley is the most requested solo singer.

The research, carried out by the UK’s largest funeral director, is based on over 30,000 funerals and charts the tunes of choice being played at services to celebrate and remember the lives of loved ones.

Data shows how humour, anthems from the football terraces, film and TV scores and, poignant pop songs are evoking emotions and providing the soundtrack to people’s lives, making up 60% of the ten most popular choices and ahead of many traditional hymns and classical compositions.

For the first time in over a decade, Frank Sinatra’s My Way has been toppled from the top of popular choices by Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from The Meaning of Life by Monty Python – a comedy troupe that said farewell themselves this year after a series of reunion concerts. Only Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings has achieved this feat before in 2002.

Technology is bringing about another significant change with almost one in five funeral homes highlighting the use of original music either penned by or performed by the deceased.

More than 84% of Funeral Directors say that hymns or classics are declining in popularity quicker than any other music or performance type. The most requested hymn is The Lord is My Shepherd, followed by Abide with Me. The most popular classical piece remains Elgar’s Nimrod – Enigma Variations.

David Collingwood, Operations Director, The Co-operative Funeralcare, said:

“We think we may be seeing a generational shift in attitudes towards funerals, and the choice of music being requested. Music plays such an important part in people’s lives that it now acts as the theme tune to their passing.  Modern funerals are very much about personal choice, which can be reflected in the choice of music, dress, coffin, flowers, hearses or memorials.

“We provide families with a wide range of options and choices to help them to plan and create a fitting tribute, and to ensure that final wishes are fulfilled. We will accommodate any individual request – no matter how unusual, providing it is legal and decent. Lyrics provide poignant words as well as a reminder of a hobby, pastime or sense of humour – the variety of songs played at funerals today illustrates how more and more people are choosing to personalise funerals, and celebrate their loved one’s life with a fitting farewell.”

Fewer songs are also being refused on the grounds of taste. In 2012 one in four funeral homes reported a declined music request while the figure has now dropped to 16% nationwide, with Scotland only having one in ten songs refused.

TV talent show winners have fared their best ever with Susan Boyle, One Direction and Sam Bailey all featuring in the lower reaches of the charts. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera, and Lily Allen’s Christmas hit Somewhere Only We Know, both appear for the first time. While ever-presents include, Robbie Williams, Angels (Number 2), Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli, Time to Say Goodbye (Number 3) and Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On (Number 13).

The football league of mourners playing their club’s music at a funeral is topped by You’ll Never Walk Alone (adopted by fans of Liverpool FC, Celtic FC), followed by Simply The Best (Rangers FC), I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (West Ham United) and, Blue Moon (Manchester City).

While Frank Sinatra still tops the pop, rock and golden oldies genre, notable new entries in this top 20 include Ellie Goulding – with her first appearance since breaking through in 2010 – with How Long Will I Love You (12), and Sarah McLachlan, with Angel (10).

And, Queen (with nine), followed by Elvis Presley (6), Eva Cassidy (4) and Westlife (4) are the artists with the most tracks requested. However, a number of performers have two or more tracks listed with Coldplay (Fix You, Paradise), Adele (Someone Like You, Make You Feel My Love), Pink Floyd (Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Another Brick in the Wall) and Snow Patrol (Run, Chasing Cars) alongside more traditional numbers by Vera Lynn, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole (each with three tracks).

The top TV Soap theme is Coronation Street, while music from Downton Abbey and Strictly Come Dancing appears for the first time.

All the Charts, and Other Key Findings:

  • Songs refused on the grounds of taste or inappropriate lyric include: Imagine, John Lennon; My Way, Frank Sinatra; Bat out of Hell, Meat Loaf; various Black Sabbath tracks; Eminem; Another one bites the dust, Queen; Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and God Save the Queen by The Sex Pistols
  • Performances by singers / musicians (other than organist) remain popular: The most common requests are for pipers / bagpipes in Scotland (25%), and male voice choirs in Wales (33%)
  • Around a third of funeral homes have received unusual or quirky requests, including: mourners to wear fancy-dress such as : Abba theme, Beach Boys / surf theme, Elvis Presley theme, Blues Brother theme, Star Wars music and dress: a request for One direction t-shirts to be worn, football strips to be worn, and guitar shaped floral tributes

Overall Chart:

PositionTrackArtist/ Composer
1Always Look on the Bright Side of LifeEric Idle – From Monty Python’s 1983 film “Meaning of Life”
2The Lord is My Shepherd(Psalm 23/Crimond) Traditional
3Abide with MeTraditional
4Match of the Day themeTheme Tune
5My WayFrank Sinatra
6 All Things Bright and BeautifulTraditional
7AngelsRobbie Williams
8Enigma VariationsNimrod Elgar
9You’ll Never Walk AloneGerry and the Pacemakers (Adopted by fans of Liverpool FC, and Celtic)
10Cricket Theme / Soul LimboTest Match TV Theme / Booker T. & the MG’s
11 Canon in DPachelbel
12Love Theme from Titanic / My Heart Will Go OnCeline Dion
13=Last of the Summer WineTheme Tune
13=Only Fools and HorsesTheme Tune
14Time to Say GoodbyeSarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli
15Four SeasonsVivaldi
16 Ave MariaSchubert
17Coronation Street TV ThemeTheme Tune
18=You Raise Me UpWestlife
18=Over the Rainbow Eva Cassidy
19Rugby Theme / World in UnionDame Kiri Te Kanawa (and other versions)
20=Nessun DormaPuccini


1Enigma VariationsNimrod Elgar
2Canon in DPachelbel
3Time to Say GoodbyeSarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli / Katherine Jenkins
4Four SeasonsVivaldi
5Ave MariaSchubert
6=Nessun DormaPuccini
7Pie JesuFaure
8Air on a G StringBach
9Clair De LuneClaude De Bussy
10Cavalleria Rusticanna IntermezzoMascagni
  • Nimrod has remained the most popular classical piece over the last decade
  • In Wales, Katherine Jenkins’ Time to Say Goodbye is the most popular classical piece


1The Lord’s My Shepherd (Psalm 23/Crimond)
2Abide with Me
3All Things Bright and Beautiful
4How Great Thou Art
5Amazing Grace
7Old Rugged Cross
8Morning Has Broken
9=The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended
9=I Watch the Sunrise
10Ave Maria
  • The Lord is My Shepherd has regained the top spot from Abide With Me, it has occupied the number one position in all but one listing since 2005

Pop, Rock and Golden Oldies:

1My WayFrank Sinatra
2AngelsRobbie Williams
3Time to Say GoodbyeSarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli / Katherine Jenkins
4You Raise Me UpWestlife
5Over the RainbowEva Cassidy
6Wind Beneath My WingsBette Midler
7Simply the BestTina Turner
8You’ll Never Walk AloneGerry & The Pacemakers
9I Will Always Love YouWhitney Houston/Dolly Parton
10AngelSarah McLachlan
11UnforgettableNat King Cole
12How long will I love youEllie Goulding
13My Heart Will Go OnCeline Dion
14 Stairway to heavenLed Zeppelin
15We’ll Meet AgainVera Lynn
16Flying Without WingsWestlife
17Dancing QueenAbba
18Fields of GoldEva Cassidy
19Who wants to live foreverQueen
20Smile NatKing Cole
  • Artists with the most tracks listed are: Queen (9); Elvis Presley (6); Eva Cassidy (4): Westlife (4); Frank Sinatra (3); Susan Boyle (3); Elton John (3); Vera Lynn (3)
  • This is Ellie Goulding’s first appearance since her breakthrough in 2010.


PositionPieceArtist / Composer/Sport or Team
1Match of the Day themeTheme Tune
2You’ll Never Walk AloneGerry and the Pacemakers (Adopted by supporters of Liverpool FC, and Celtic FC)
3Cricket Theme / Soul LimboBooker T. & the MG’s (Test Match TV Theme)
4Rugby Theme / World in UnionDame Kiri Te Kanawa (and other versions)
5Nessun DormaLuciano Pavarotti / Puccini (BBC Coverage of 1990 FIFA World Cup)
6The ChainFleetwood Mac (Synomous with Motor Racing)
7Simply The BestTina Turner (Adopted by supporters of Glasgow Rangers FC)
8I’m Forever Blowing BubblesWest Ham Utd
9Blue MoonManchester City FC
10Grandstand(TV Theme) Theme Tune
  • Other football club’s outside the top 10 include: Chelsea, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City, Cardiff City, Kilmarnock, Bristol Rovers and Everton’s “Z Cars” Theme.


1Always Look on the Bright Side of LifeEric Idle – From Monty Python’s 1983 film “Meaning of Life”
2Bring me SunshineSynonymous with Morecambe & Wise
3Another one bites the dustQueen
4Ring of fireJohnny Cash
5Don’t worry be happyBobby McFerrin
6Great balls of fireJerry Lee Lewis
7Wish me luck (as you wave me goodbye)Gracie Fields
8Drink up thee ziderThe Wurzles
9Bat out of hellMeat Loaf
10Disco InfernoThe Trammps
  • Countdown and The Great Escape appear in both the humour and TV and Film lists

Film and Television:

PositionTV/FilmArtist / Track
1Monty Python / Meaning of Life Eric Idle / Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
2Match of the DayTheme Tune
3TitanicCeline Dion / My Heart Will Go On
4= Last of the Summer WineTheme Tune
4=Only Fools and HorsesTheme Tune
5Coronation StreetTheme Tune
6Morecambe & WiseBring me Sunshine
7The Dam Busters (Film)The Dam Busters March
8EastendersTheme Tune
9EmmerdaleTheme Tune
10The BodyguardWhitney Houston / I will always Love You
  • Coronation Street is the top TV soap theme tune requested
  • Requests for Downton Abbey and Strictly Come Dancing have been recorded for the first time
  • The Archers is the only Radio show to feature, although outside the top 10.