Funeral Music

By Louise Ure

“That’s it,” I told my husband last night. “That’s what I want you to play at my funeral.”

We were watching The Great Escape for the 161st time, and I finally realized how important that soundtrack was to me. It’s a tune of no consequence, in fact a bit too martial and full of rosy-cheeked optimism, but it makes me happy whenever I hear it. It’s the tune I whistle when I’m alone.

When my mother turned 75 (almost a quarter century ago) I mixed a tape of all the songs I remember her singing around the house –the songs that were the soundtrack to her life. “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” for her courtship with my father. “Blue Bayou” for finding her True Love late in life. “Summertime” because she’d never left the heat of Arizona. “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” for some now inexplicable reason.

What other music would define my life?

I know I’d include the soundtrack to the Perry Mason TV series.

When I moved to France, my mother sent me a Care Package so that I wouldn’t feel so alone: a paperback mystery, a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and a loop audio tape of the Perry Mason theme song. It was my lullaby.

I’d have to include “Looking For Love In All the Wrong Places,” to commemorate my wild years.  And “Brown-Eyed Girl” for the relationship that song reminds me of.

And finally, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s haunting medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” An anthem to all things important and all things gone.

And now we have another important thing gone.

My Tuesday partner, Ken Bruen, has decided that he can’t be blogging on a regular basis anymore. In truth, I don’t know how he found the time to begin with, with all the writing and goings-on in his life.

I know I speak for all of us in saying how much we’ve looked forward to his posts. I treasure the time and love he’s given us, even though he often made us cry. We will miss him like a lost limb.

We have a wonderful new Tuesday regular in the wings (Pari will tell you more about that later), and a few guest bloggers in the meantime (like next Tuesday’s LJ Sellers, author of The Sex Club), but today we say goodbye to a warm and wonderful Murderati friend. Maybe … if we ask very sweetly … he’ll come back from time to time with another tale of angels, or serendipity, or grace.

So, my Rati’ friends, what would your funeral music be?

And if you were to pick a farewell song for Ken, what would that be? I’ll put the whole list together on a CD and send it to him.


49 thoughts on “Funeral Music

  1. Sharon Wheeler

    I have already told my friends and family that I want Faithful Departed by The Radiators and Thousands Are Sailing by The Pogues played at my funeral!

    I’m sorry to hear Ken’s moving on to other things, but it’s been a privilege to read his blog entries — no other writer can make me laugh and cry (often within a couple of pars of each other) like he can. Come to think of it, Faithful Departed might be a good farewell song for Ken.

  2. Sharon Wheeler

    Oops, sorry, forgot to add the line from the song which always make me think of Ken’s writing: “The ghosts of the saints and the scholars will haunt you in heaven and in hell.”

  3. R.J. Mangahas

    Okay, not an easy thing to pick. I mean after all, it could be the song that I’m forever remembered by, so here are three possible choices:

    — Israel Kamakawiwo’ole: Rainbow-Wonderful World Combo.

    — Louie Armstrong: What a wonderful world

    — Jordan Hill: Remember me this way

    For Ken: “On Eagle’s Wings”. Simply because many of Ken’s posts have been very moving and inspiring.

  4. Louise Ure

    Shaz, of course you’d pick The Pogues. As it should be. But that line about “the ghosts of the saints and the scholars” is so damn appropriate for our Mr. Bruen! Thanks for the idea.

    R.J., I think we have the same taste in music. “On Eagle’s Wings” is going on Ken’s list. Too cool.

  5. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Louise,Wow. What a way to start the day.

    For me — Kodaly’s “Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello”It’s my favorite piece of music in the world.

    For Ken — Oh, hell. I don’t know. Actually, I do. It’d be the same Kodaly composition because it evokes every known emotion . . . and then some that hitherto didn’t exist.

    God’s speed, Ken. We’ll miss you.

    I’m so grateful we’ve found such a wonderful person to share Tuesdays with Louise. It makes the heartbreak a little easier to bear.

  6. Kaye Barley

    My funeral will be the last time I’ll be surrounded by my favorite people in the world. I can’t bear the thought of everyone crying and being sad instead of celebrating my time here and remembering the good times. Some of my very best times and special occasions have been celebrated by attending concerts, the most memorable being one of the Willie Nelson 4th of July concerts many, many years ago. Outrageous. So I’ve asked Donald to please make sure Willie Nelson is singing “Uncloudy Day,” “Good Hearted Woman” and “The Party’s Over.”

    and a send off for Ken? man, i just hate that. For real. No one in the world makes me enjoy a good cry as much as Ken Bruen. How ’bout we have Willie Nelson sing for this sad occasion too. My choice? “Stay a Little Longer?”

  7. Louise Ure

    Pari, I can’t find the Kodaly version of that song, only Janos Starker. Will that do? Or can you give me the name of the album it’s on? (The Starker version is beautiful. I can see why you’ve picked it.)

    And Kaye, you’re a woman after my own heart. I want people to dance and laugh at my funeral. (And while the theme song to Perry Mason won’t exactly get their feet tapping, it sure will make them laugh.)

    I’m adding “Stay a Little Longer” to the list. Perfect choice.

  8. Tom

    Louise, I think you have the right recording; Kodaly wrote the music, Starker (and other cellists) play it. Classical music citations are usually ‘composer first, then performer.’

    The selfish part of me wants to yowl “Bruen! You faithless bugger!” while the better part of me knows he’s keeping faith somewhere more urgent. It’s been grand and a joy reading you here, sir.

    But truth to tell, LU, it was your writing that got me here. Then I read the rest of you, and now I read the blog every day. BTW, that bastard Battles owes me two nights’ sleep, he and his CLEANER.

    Music; for today, “When The Saints Go Marching In.” For later, “Didn’t He Ramble.”

  9. Rob Gregory Browne

    Am so sorry to see Ken go. Not only is he a wonderful writer but a true gentleman, as well. And anyone who walks into his local bookstore and shifts your book to the “bestseller” shelf is a friend forever…

    Thanks, Ken. ““May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far” — Irish Blessing

    Music: Farewell Song by Janis Joplin.

  10. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Louise,Yes, the Starker version is the one I’m thinking of. My daughter’s cello teacher says that Kodaly actually wrote it for him. I heard it performed live in Ann Arbor; it’s the only piece of music that has moved me to tears.

    It was stunning.

    Actually, another good one for Ken would be “In these shoes” by Kirsty MacColl. Ken would appreciate the humor.

    Sharon,MacColl does one heck of a job on a Fairytale of New York with the Pogues

  11. Louise Ure

    Tom, you are a joy. May I add the “Didn’t he Ramble” to Ken’s list? Fine song for a fine man.

    Got it now, Pari! And I don’t know if Ken can identify with “In These Shoes” but I think it’s a howl!

    Brett, the Farewell Song is just the best. As is the blessing. Good one.

  12. toni mcgee causey

    Sometimes, we are very lucky in life to have someone of grace and wisdom walk among us and we recognize that moment as rare and precious; that’s how I feel about our time with Ken. Grace and wisdom, a touchstone that will always be remembered.

    For Ken, Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah,” Bill “Withers Ain’t No Sunshine” and Gary Allen’s “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful”

  13. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I didn’t get to sing “Brown Eyed Girl” for Ken at Thrillerfest last year so I still owe him that one (and will hunt him down to do it…) And throw in “In the Name of Love” on top of that.

    At my funeral? “Lady Marmelade”, please!

  14. Louise Ure

    Alex, “Lady Marmelade” is so you. They’ll be dancing in the aisles.

    And I would pay good money to see you serenade Ken with the other two. A CD version of them will have to suffice until you do.

  15. Louise Ure

    Dear RGB: Ruh roh. Sorry about that. See what happens when I’m squinting at my iPhone to reply to comments?

    Gregory, I just listened to “Sweet Thing.” What a fine tribute.

  16. billie

    I have no idea about music for my funeral! I think I’ll let whoever plans it pick something out.

    Funny – for Ken I picked Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah as well. It popped into my head the moment I read your blog this morning.

    Thanks to Ken for so many beautiful posts.

  17. Louise Ure

    And thanks to you, too, Billie, for your continuing insightful and delightful comments. Maybe I’ll both start and end the CD with Hallelujah.

  18. Tom Barclay

    Folks, I do want to point out – so far as we know, Ken’s not dead!!

    ‘Course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t throw an online Irish wake . . .

  19. Louise Ure

    Very funny, Tom. Yes, I can vouch for the fact that, as of our last communique thirty mintues ago, he’s alive and well and hard at work.

    But I’m still bummed. Thinking about an Australian friend’s plaint: “I see you leaving and I’m missing you already.”

  20. Tom Barclay

    If I may make a mix suggestion . . . use Leonard Cohen for the first ‘Hallelujah.’ He wrote it, and his voice sounds a bit more in character with your intent.

  21. Kaye Barley

    Ooooh – the CD is going to be terrific! Louise, you may have to consider making several and marketing them. “The Ken Bruen Farewell CD #1 – Limited Edition.” Everyone knows that these days a farewell might be only temporary. How many farewell tours has Streisand had, after all? So perhaps Ken’s farewell will end up being temporary. Then, if he leaves again, well shoot – we can do Farewell CD #2.

  22. Louise Ure

    Great suggestion, Tom. And even better rationale, Kaye. We’ll have continuing farewell CD’s, and maybe a few celebration CD singles as he returns for guest appearances!

  23. Elaine Flinn

    Late to the party – up all night with the famous Oregon ‘spring has sprung’ alergy. 🙂

    Great, great post, Louise! Although I must say the title threw me for a minute. 🙂

    For my funeral? I love NESSUN DORMA as well – but I want Aretha Franklin’s version, and then Manheim Steamroller’s SILK ROAD.

    I too am sorry to see Ken leave, but can certainly understand. As much as he is in demand, it’s a wonder he was able to post at all! So Louise – please add Aretha & Steamroller to the CD.

    And to Ken:

    Oh Kenny boy, the pipes, the pipes are callingFrom glen to glen, and down the mountain side

    The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying’Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.

    But come ye back when summer’s in the meadowOr when the valley’s hushed and white with snow’Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadowOh Kenny boy, oh Kenny boy, I love you so.

  24. Rae

    Such a great post, Louise….

    You’ve reminded me of my all time favorite funeral – my mother’s. It was such a celebration, and at the end, they played her favorite song, “Deep Purple”. I still tear up when I hear it – in a good way.

    For my own funeral, a mix of Aerosmith and Miles and Judy Garland would be nice, I think.

    And best wishes to Ken – the song I’d contribute is I Could Write a Book from Miles Davis’s 1956 Prestige sessions, because I love both the title and the tune 😉

  25. Louise Ure

    Aretha and Steamroller are now on the list! (This is going to be one eclectic CD.)

    Feel better, Elaine!

    It’s supposed to hit 100 here in the Bay Area today. (Not at my house; I’m in the catch-a-sea-breeze-85-degree zone.) Spring has definitely sprung.

  26. Louise Ure

    “Deep purple fog, over sleepy garden walls …” Rae, that’s the most upbeat elegy I’ve ever heard. And I adore your blend of Aerosmith, Miles and Garland. It’s a medley that suits you, my dear.

    “I Could Write A Book” is happily now on the list.

  27. Tammy Cravit

    For my funeral, I want happy, upbeat music. Oddly, Gretchen Wilson’s “I’m Here for the Party” pops into my head at this moment. Celebrating life is infinitely preferable to grieving death, in my view. Of course, I hope death comes for me at the end of a long life well lived, with much to celebrate and a thousand funny stories and fond memories to share.

    As for a farewell tribute to Ken…I can’t pick a song thematically appropriate to departure or farewells or any of that. But as tributes go, my pick would have to be Mary Black’s “Song for Ireland”.

  28. Tom, T.O.

    I request not to have a funeral; however, if that is ignored, the music should be “The Dutchman” and “All God’s Children Got a Place in the Choir”–both by Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers–and “They Call the Wind Mariah.” THE GRAND CANYON SUITE is on the list too, as is BOLERO.

    For Ken: “All God’s Children Got a Place in the Choir” for the sheer fun and exuberance, and “The Rambles of Spring” for the same–both by Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers.

    I’ll miss your posts, Ken.

  29. Cornelia Read

    I’d like “Bye Bye Blues” by Les Paul and Mary Ford at my funeral, and Mozart’s “Serenade No. 10 for Winds in B Flat Major ‘Gran Partita,’ K. 361 (K. 370a): III. Adagio”

    For Ken… wow. “Route 66,” Stones version… “Take Five,” String Cheese Incident version… and I think I speak on behalf of the entire backblog, here: “Your Cheating Heart,” Hank Williams.

  30. Louise Ure

    Patty, it looks like this is going to be a double CD farewell. Well chosen!

    Tom, it looks like you’re going to have a musical tribute even it there’s no funeral. Great songs for Ken’s CD. Both reflect the spirit of the man and his writing. I guess we’ll just have to go buy more of his books now!

  31. Catherine

    One of the saddest funerals I’ve been to was for a man called Hugh. A man I knew as a poet, and fine woodcraftsman. He was a man that enjoyed one on one conversations. I hadn’t realised till his funeral how many of these he must of had ,or of how many sides he shared of himself. The church was filled with a very eclectic mix of people all greatly moved to the first 7 sections(before the bit about Louisianna) of You are my sunshine, played. I had previously had no idea how plaintive that sounds at a funeral.

    No real clue what I’d like played at my own.

    For Ken’s blog send off though, I’d recommend Atmosphere by Joy Division, with the hope of a few drop in visits.

  32. Fran

    I so want a party for my passing, with lots of fun, lively music filled with laughter and memories. But for Lillian I’d have someone play Melissa Etheridge’s “I’ve Loved You Before” so she knows I’ll see her again.

    And for Ken? “Harry’s Game” by Clannad sums up my sadness at the thought of no more posts, along with Hollie Smith’s “Light From a Distant Shore” with the hopes his spirit too is refreshed and renewed.

  33. Lisa

    Louise,I’ve no idea what I’d want at my funeral — all that comes to mind at the moment is “If I had a Boat” by Lyle Lovett and the title theme to Band of Brothers as it served as soundtrack to an important moment in my life as a writer.

    But for Ken, no question — “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. With thanks and love.

  34. Louise Ure

    The String Cheese version of “Take Five,” Cornelia? At first I thought that was blasphemy. Then I listened to it. Brilliant.

    Catherine, that’s one powerful video. But the melancholy image of that churchful of people singing “You Are My Sunshine” is even stronger. Thanks for both suggestions.

  35. Louise Ure

    Fran, that’s such a beautiful thought. And your suggestions, as sad as those songs are, will be a balm.

    Lisa, I think “Chasing Cars” may be his anthem. Too right.

    Thanks to everyone for contributing ideas for the CD. If it winds up sounding as good as I think it will, I’ll list it as a mix on iTunes in case anybody wants a copy for themselves.

  36. Zoë Sharp

    Sorry to come late – my habitual opener these days. For Ken? Why so sad, people? He’s still there, still writing those glorious, raging words of his. So, ‘How Wonderful You Are’ by Gordon Haskell would be my choice for Ken.

    And at my funeral? Three choices:

    The Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, which is what Andy and I played at our wedding.

    Pie Jesu by John Rutter’s Requiem, which makes me cry every time I hear it.

    And Rest Stop by Matchbox Twenty, ‘cos somebody must have finally stopped the car and said, “Get out. Your ride is over.”

  37. Jena Snyder

    For Ken, one of my all-time favorites from the Pogues, “The Boys From County Hell.” For me, “Un bel di” from Madama Butterfly. And the Pogues. 🙂


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