Musical Memorials

This article was written by admin, on February 7, 2023

A collection of songs written about true grief experiences

Many songwriters confess that their songs describe or reference real events in their lives, and it’s been said that music grows from powerful emotions. Grief and loss are certainly powerful emotions, so it’s no wonder that so many musicians channel their grief into their music. Here is a list of a few such examples:

Tears in Heaven-Eric Clapton

It’s no secret that Clapton’s most emotional song is also his most personal. Written about a year after his 4-year-old son Conor tragically fell to his death out of a 53-story window, Clapton came up with the first verse of the song while alone in a hotel room. “Would you hold my hand/If I saw you in Heaven?” is how this gut-punching song begins. He had a strong melody in mind and a completed first verse when he was approached to write a song for the action movie Rush, directed by Lili Fini Zanuck. In collaboration with Will Jennings (“My Heart Will Go On,” Titanic), “Tears in Heaven” was finished for the movie. Clapton says that it was a difficult song to record, as he sang and played the guitar and dobro on the track. “I almost subconsciously used music for myself as a healing agent, and lo and behold, it worked…” says Clapton in an interview with ABC television years later, “I have got a great deal of happiness and a great deal of healing from music.”

Supermarket Flowers-Ed Sheeran

While working on his album Divide, Sheeran’s grandmother passed away, and his soft, moving ballad “Supermarket Flowers” was written about her death from the perspective of his mother. He takes a lot of specific details about losing a loved one, and connects them with an emotional, minimalistic melody mostly created by a single layer of light and pensive keyboard. The singer wasn’t convinced he wanted this deeply personal song he wrote about the unimaginable loss his mother was feeling handed over to the public, but at his grandmother’s funeral, he said, he changed his mind. “That’s the most special song on the record for me,” Sheeran said during a radio interview. “My grandfather just turned to me [at the funeral], he was like you have to put that out, that has to go on the record. It’s such a good memory, that’s why it’s ended up on there.”

Candle in the Wind-Elton John

Elton John is well-known for evoking emotions in his songs. “Candle in the Wind” was originally written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, after her tragic drug overdose in 1962. “Goodbye Norma Jean” is how John’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, begins the ballad, referencing Monroe’s birth name as part of an extended allusion to the fact that she sacrificed her identity and her privacy for a life in the spotlight. The loss and mourning evoked in this song fit for listeners in many situations. In fact, Taupin changed the lyrics after Princess Diana’s death in 1997, and the new version beginning with “Goodbye England’s Rose” was sung by Elton John at her funeral.  

Angel-Sarah McLachlan

After touring for two years straight in 1996, McLachlan was taking a much-need break in Montreal when she read about the death of Smashing Pumpkins’ keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin. He had overdosed on heroin, and McLachlan said she connected with the story immediately. “I felt a flood of empathy for him and that feeling of being lost and lonely and desperately searching for some kind of release.” She was inspired to channel that feeling into “Angel,” which she wrote in two days and released in 1998, where it landed on the top 5 Billboard charts.

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