Monty Python Tune Named Top Song to Play at Funerals

Samantha Flaum
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When planning a wedding, one of the most stressful decisions you have to compromise on is what song will be your first dance. Frank Sinatra’s a classic and Celine Dion’s a modern standard. But what about when you’re planning a funeral?

Believe it or not, the same beloved crooners that may serenade you the night of your nuptials can also be popular choices for gloomier affairs. For some people facing a deadly deadline, or for some in full health who want to plan for the future, choosing which song or a soundtrack to play at their funeral is an important decision. What’s the best way to have the last word? Sinatra’s “My Way” is an understandably good choice. Short, sweet, and to the point, “My Way” is a jaunty way of reminding mourners of the deceased’s sass and independence.

Frank Sinatra, 1957

Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” did the wedding circuit for a while in the booming wake of Titanic’s release. Over time, people began to have a closer listen to the bleak lyrics which clearly reference loss of a love one and its popularity changed scenes. There’s an even more popular choice for funerals these days, though. In England, the Co-operative Funeralcare compiled a list of the most popular burial ballads. Topping the chart incontestably at the number one slot is “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.”

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It may sound like a sweet, comforting message to send out in a time of grief, but anyone recognizing the title will know it’s a spunky and snarky tune taken from the film The Life of Brian, one of the full-length features of the cult comedy troupe Monty Python.

Graham Chapman comemorative Blue Plaque. Photo by Spudgun67 CC BY-SA 4.0

Anyone who knows the group will have had a good laugh, but for those who aren’t familiar with the lyrics, they contain bits like:

Forget about your sin,
Give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it, it’s your last chance anyhow.

To further emphasize the absurdity of the song, it is performed when the main character of the film, Brian, is captured by Roman soldiers who crucify him. Nailed upon a cross, he sings:

“Keep ’em laughing as you go,
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.”

The first use of this upbeat tune was at the memorial service of one of Monty Python’s own founding members, Graham Chapman. The character of Brian was played by none other than Chapman, so the song was sadly jocular. Suffice to say this certainly reflects a new outlook on funeral planning. It is now the time that rebellious souls who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s are having to face the woe of mortality. Leave it to the generation that completely shaped modern pop culture to begin to change the way we look at funerals.

According to the Telegraph, a spokesperson from Co-op Funeralcare said, “There’s been a general shift towards people trying to find some way of celebrating the life of their loved ones,” noting that Monty Python isn’t the only bizarre choice. Queen is also popular, especially given that they have several appropriately named options (“Another One Bites the Dust,” “Who Wants to Live Forever,” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” to name a few).

Queen on stage at the Oakland Arena, Oakland, California, July 1980. Photo by Mark James Miller CC BY-SA 3.0

Some make inappropriate choices as well, and funeral homes have been finding themselves having to deny certain requests. Operations Director of Co-op Funeralcare, David Collingwood, said, “We will accommodate any individual request, no matter how unusual, providing it is legal and decent.” Denied artists include the Sex Pistols and Eminem.

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For traditionalists, there’s no need to worry about flippant decisions that may be regretted by loved ones later. These pop and parody songs balance out pretty evenly with classic dirges like “The Lord is My Shepherd” and “Abide With Me” which come in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, after Monty Python.