Among the favourite five farewell songs sent in by a visitor to My Last Song was the Tom Waits version of Somewhere, from West Side Story.
It made me think of just how suitable some of the numbers from the great musicals would be as funeral songs, so I asked a friend of mine who is a lover of musicals to come up with a list, and what great songs she selected.
I encourage those who are interested in the My Last Song mission of ensuring the right music is played at the end to go through the list. There are 23 in all and while there’s not enough space in this blog to comment on all of them, I want to describe what might be called the show stoppers.
And if you think I’ve not highlighted the right songs, or that there are some great musical tracks missing, please let me know.
Third on the list after Somewhere and the rightly popular You’ll Never Walk Alone is the less well known but equally appropriate If Ever I Would Leave You, from Camelot. This is a beautiful song, with a lovely, haunting melody and the most poignant of lyrics. Lancelot is saying that it is inconceiveable that he would ever leave Guenevere. And suitable for a farewell because the message is that love goes on forever.
Contrast this with the next track, The Party’s Over, from Bells Are Ringing. This describes the wistful, almost cold, acceptance that the affair is over, “it’s time to call it a day.” While it lasted it was fun, but in the cold light of morning, “the candles flicker and dim.” A more realistic though less positive view of life after a loved one has passed.
Similarly bleak is Who Can I Turn To, which featured in Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd. This is about the stark fear of impending loneliness: ‘With no star to guide me and no one beside me, I’ll go my way and after the day, the darkness will hide me…maybe tomorrow I’ll find what I’m after…’ Many will understand the pathos of that lyric.
Another poignantly sad love song featured in the list is This Nearly Was Mine, a Rogers and Hammerstein classic from South Pacific. The lyric tells of the idealistic love Emile thought he would share with Nellie, but snatched away because she could not accept he had fathered children by a Pacific Islander. The melody is mesmerisingly beautiful, and the combination makes the hairs stand on end. I can see this becoming a popular and affecting farewell song.
Another standout from the list is I Have Dreamed, from the King and I. A similarly powerful combination of sentimental lyric and memorable melody, the interest here is the ambiguity. Did the love which in this song is dreamt about, ever really exist? In the future, will the love only be in dreams because a loved one has parted?
Less ambiguous are Thank You For The Music, from Mama Mia, It’s Raining In My Heart, from Buddy and Noone But You (Only The Good Die Young) from We Will Rock You. But for fans of Abba, Buddy Holly and Queen these songs have a special message, and that’s the point.
The Lloyd Weber numbers, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, Think of Me and No Matter What all have suitable lyrics for the final call, and the first two have powerful melodies and arrangements that will stir the emotions. No Matter What wouldn’t have been my choice, but I can see why others might choose it.
Anyway, have a listen, and bear these wonderful tracks in mind when choosing last songs, advising on last songs, or just wanting to listen to some of the finest numbers that have graced the stage and screen.
When the final curtain closes, they may well be show stoppers. They will certainly be tear jerkers.