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

21 November 2014

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 today (Friday, 21 November).

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.

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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:

Position Track Artist/ Composer
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life   Eric Idle - From Monty Python's 1983 film "Meaning of Life"
The Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23/Crimond) Traditional
Abide with Me  Traditional
Match of the Day theme  Theme Tune
My Way  Frank Sinatra
6  All Things Bright and Beautiful  Traditional
Angels   Robbie Williams
Enigma Variations Nimrod Elgar
You'll Never Walk Alone  Gerry and the Pacemakers (Adopted by fans of Liverpool FC, and Celtic)
10  Cricket Theme / Soul Limbo  Test Match TV Theme / Booker T. & the MG's
11  Canon in D  Pachelbel
12  Love Theme from Titanic / My Heart Will Go On  Celine Dion
13= Last of the Summer Wine   Theme Tune
13=  Only Fools and Horses  Theme Tune
14  Time to Say Goodbye  Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli
15  Four Seasons  Vivaldi
16  Ave Maria  Schubert
17  Coronation Street TV Theme  Theme Tune
18=  You Raise Me Up  Westlife
18=  Over the Rainbow  Eva Cassidy
19  Rugby Theme / World in Union  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (and other versions)
20=  Nessun Dorma  Puccini
20=  Adagio  Bizet/Albinoni


Position   Piece  Composer
1 Enigma Variations Nimrod Elgar
Canon in D  Pachelbel
Time to Say Goodbye  Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli / Katherine Jenkins
4 Four Seasons  Vivaldi
Ave Maria  Schubert
6=  Nessun Dorma  Puccini
6=  Adagio  Bizet/Albinoni
Pie Jesu  Faure
Air on a G String  Bach
Clair De Lune   Claude De Bussy
10  Cavalleria Rusticanna Intermezzo  Mascagni

  • 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


Position Piece
The Lord's My Shepherd (Psalm 23/Crimond)
Abide with Me
All Things Bright and Beautiful
How Great Thou Art
Amazing Grace
Old Rugged Cross
Morning Has Broken
9=  The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended
9=  I Watch the Sunrise
10  Ave 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:

Position   Track  Artist/Composer
My Way  Frank Sinatra
Angels   Robbie Williams
Time to Say Goodbye  Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli / Katherine Jenkins
You Raise Me Up  Westlife
Over the Rainbow  Eva Cassidy
Wind Beneath My Wings  Bette Midler
Simply the Best  Tina Turner
You'll Never Walk Alone  Gerry & The Pacemakers
I Will Always Love You  Whitney Houston/Dolly Parton
10  Angel  Sarah McLachlan
11  Unforgettable  Nat King Cole
12  How long will I love you   Ellie Goulding
13  My Heart Will Go On  Celine Dion
14  Stairway to heaven  Led Zeppelin
15  We'll Meet Again  Vera Lynn
16  Flying Without Wings  Westlife
17  Dancing Queen   Abba
18 Fields of Gold  Eva Cassidy
19 Who wants to live forever  Queen
20  Smile Nat King 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.


Position Piece  Artist / Composer/Sport or Team
Match of the Day theme  Theme Tune
You'll Never Walk Alone  Gerry and the Pacemakers (Adopted by supporters of Liverpool FC, and Celtic FC)
Cricket Theme / Soul Limbo  Booker T. & the MG's (Test Match TV Theme)
Rugby Theme / World in Union  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (and other versions)
Nessun Dorma  Luciano Pavarotti / Puccini (BBC Coverage of 1990 FIFA World Cup)
The Chain  Fleetwood Mac (Synomous with Motor Racing)
Simply The Best  Tina Turner (Adopted by supporters of Glasgow Rangers FC)
I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles  West Ham Utd
9 Blue Moon  Manchester City FC
10  Grandstand (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.


Position Track  Artist/Composer
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life   Eric Idle - From Monty Python's 1983 film "Meaning of Life"
Bring me Sunshine  Synonymous with Morecambe & Wise
Another one bites the dust  Queen
Ring of fire  Johnny Cash
Don't worry be happy  Bobby McFerrin
Great balls of fire  Jerry Lee Lewis
Wish me luck (as you wave me goodbye)  Gracie Fields
Drink up thee zider  The Wurzles
Bat out of hell  Meat Loaf
10  Disco Inferno  The Trammps
  • Countdown and The Great Escape appear in both the humour and TV and Film lists

Film and Television:

Position   TV/Film  Artist / Track
Monty Python / Meaning of Life  Eric Idle / Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Match of the Day   Theme Tune
Titanic  Celine Dion / My Heart Will Go On
4=  Last of the Summer Wine  
Theme Tune
4=  Only Fools and Horses  Theme Tune
Coronation Street   Theme Tune
Morecambe & Wise  Bring me Sunshine
The Dam Busters (Film)  The Dam Busters March
Eastenders  Theme Tune
Emmerdale  Theme Tune
10  The Bodyguard  Whitney 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


Notes to Editors:

The Co-operative Group, which is the UK’s largest co-operative business with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services, has a clear purpose of “championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities”. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-operative Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of approximately £11 billion. For more information go to


For further information please contact:

Andrew Torr
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 07702 505551