2. Angels - Robbie Williams
3. I’ve Had the Time of My Life - Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley
4. Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
5. Pie Jesu - Requiem
6. Candle in the Wind - Elton John
7. With or Without You - U2
8. Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton
9. Every Breath You Take - The Police
10. Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers
I wouldn’t say that any of these are always inappropriate to a funeral, but the notion that of all the music that has been produced over the centuries this represents the best choice for the occasion is frankly ludicrous. “Every breath you take”, for example, is a song about obsession, not love. And I’ve always thought that “Wind beneath my wings” is just plain offensive. “Candle in the wind” was a decent enough song until it was torpedoed by ‘Diana mania’. I could go on, but I won’t.
The serious point here is that there is a real danger that our society is losing the vocabulary to express grief in a meaningful, realistic way and at the same time retain hope and joy in the face of death. My experience is that Christians are often no better at this than those of no faith, sometimes attempting to make the funeral an occasions for an enforced jollity that leaves no room for sorrow to be articulated.
My worst experience in this respect was of having been told that there would be some music from a CD at the close of a service in the crematorium, only to discover after I had said the Benediction that what was played was Monty Python’s ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. There can be few who are bigger fans of Monty Python than I am, and for my money ‘The Life of Brian’ is their best work. But whilst it might be funny at the close of a film, it isn’t a song which has any place in what had been a service of Christian worship.
I’m sure that it is the right thing for the bereaved to have as much input into planning a funeral service as they feel they need. But it is surely the case that there have to be limits of acceptability and appropriateness. Drawing those limits is getting more and more difficult.