GERRY and the Pacemaker’s emotional melody ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ has hit the top spot in Co-op Funeralcare’s annual music chart of most popular farewell songs – knocking perennial favourite, Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ from the number one position – as Co-op Funeralcare’s data reveals it has been played at an estimated 9,500* funerals over the past year.
The Gerry & The Pacemakers hit, which spent four weeks at number one in 1963, captured the nation’s Covid-stricken heart last April when it was covered by Michael Ball, Sir Captain Tom Moore and the NHS Voices of Care Choir last April to raise money for charity. The evocative anthem is also famously the team song for both Liverpool F.C., winner of the 2020 Premier League, and Celtic F.C., meaning its appeal spans the generations.
In another shift, the top ten features a number of surprisingly upbeat new entries including Tina Turner’s feelgood hit ‘Simply the Best’ at number four and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ – whose electric riffs are used in Grand Prix television packages – at number seven.
Meanwhile, The Greatest Showman’s rousing theatrical showstopper ‘This Is Me’ enters the chart for the first time at number ten, proving that for many, sad downbeat and melancholic songs could be falling out of favour.
The historical music chart, which is now celebrating its 20th year having first launched in 2002, is based on data and insights from Co-op Funeralcare’s own funeral directors and arrangers, who conduct approximately 100,000 funerals a year.
Among the more controversial requests received by Co-op Funeralcare colleagues are ‘W.A.P’ by Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion, ‘Girl on Fire’ by Alicia Keys, ‘F*** Forever’ by Babyshambles, ‘Ha Ha You’re Dead’ by Green Day, and ‘Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead’ from The Wizard of Oz. Potentially offensive songs are often refused by a third-party, such as the chosen venue or person ordaining the funeral.
In the top ten contemporary pop songs, hits by Snow Patrol, Freya Ridings, Amy Winehouse and Christina Perri all enter the chart for the first time, whilst film classics such as Titanic’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, Dirty Dancing’s ‘(I’ve had) The Time of My Life’ and Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ from The Bodyguard all enter the top ten film and television chart.
When it comes to sport and small screen, football anthems and television theme tunes remain popular songs, capturing the loves and lives of those who have passed but traditional hymns do not feature in the top ten, suggesting a shift in musical tastes.
Restrictions imposed on funerals due to the pandemic meant the way music was played at funerals needed to change in some instances. Over the past year, pre-recorded music has been the most popular way to play music at funerals, with bagpipers and organists shortly after. Buglers were also amongst the most requested and where restrictions allowed, friends or family members performed live at the final farewell of their loved one.
Sam Tyrer, managing director of Co-op Funeralcare, said: “Music plays such a big part in all of our lives, it’s no surprise that our favourite songs play a role in the way we say goodbye too. The songs we choose for a funeral all hold unique and personal meaning for ourselves and loved ones but naturally some songs remain more popular than others and we’re delighted to unveil this year’s music chart.
“Each element of a funeral is a very personal choice and we’re encouraging the nation to be more open about their funeral wishes – music is a really simple and comforting place to start.”
Pauline McAvoy, funeral service manager at Co-op Funeralcare, added: “‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ really has been a stand-out song over the last year – it’s sentiments around weathering the storm of life by coming together and supporting one another have really struck a chord with so many after the extraordinary events of the last eighteen months. It’s a beautiful melody which carries such deep meaning.”
Hannah Ingram-Moore, daughter of Captain Sir Tom Moore and Co-founder of The Captain Tom Foundation, said: “My father loved the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ because, just like him, it was full of hope. Right up until his passing, his priority was always to make sure that no-one should feel alone or helpless no matter their age or life circumstance, and that’s one of the reasons he started to walk his laps of our garden last year.
“Whether to me and my family, a stranger in the street, or someone reading about his fundraising on the other side of the world, my father had the unique ability to inspire hope where it was needed most and give a sense of companionship to many. That’s what a powerful song can do as well, which is why I’m comforted to know that my father’s collaboration with Michael Ball and the NHS Voices of Care Choir is continuing his legacy of hope at funerals across the UK when families and loved ones face loss and grief, a feeling that my family knows only too well over the past year.”