There is a lot of rock songs about life, love and of course death. Death is part of the life everyone lives, whether it’s worrying about their own death or the death of loved ones, so it’s no wonder so many artists have written about death in songs and music over the years.
Some of the best songs are about death, and personally, I don’t think those songs always have to be sad or depressing. These would be great choices for a funeral or wake or a way to remember a loved one once they’ve passed away.
Here are some of my favorite rock songs about death, see if you agree!
1. “Into the Mystical” – Van Morrison (1970)
Let’s start with a beautiful number – it’s Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” from his 1970s album Moon Dance. This song is a positive song about death, the idea of not fearing death and moving happily “towards the mystical”.
You can’t help but feel ethereal and spiritual listening to this song, and that beautiful acoustic guitar really helps to add to that effect. This song is regularly played at funerals and gives mourners a positive association with death.
2. “Videotape” – Radiohead (2007)
Now we are heading down a slightly more melancholic route. The first line of “Videotape” by Radiohead 2007 album In the rainbows features “the pearly gates”, so we know exactly what this song is about before it really begins.
The distinctive voice of Thom Yorke tells us the story of a man who says his last goodbyes and records them on technology that will soon be outdated. It’s a haunting song actually and one of my favorites.
3. “Until the Day I Die” – Story of the Year (2003)
“Until The Day I Die” by American band Story Of The Year is a nostalgic number for anyone growing up in the early 2000s. It’s a classic pop-punk/rock number that explores themes of sacrifice and death for the one you love.
Lyrics such as “over the years I race against time with you” and “I’ll pour out my heart for you” give those deadly connotations that accompany a great rock song about death.
4. “Dark Star” – David Bowie (2015)
Perhaps one of the most haunting songs on our list is David Bowie’s iconic “Black Star,” from his latest album of the same name. This album came out when Bowie knew he was dying, and the song “Black Star” in particular seems to be the most poignant of them all.
The lyrics include “the day of the execution” and “something happened the day he died”, encouraging many fans to believe that was Bowie’s way of saying goodbye.
5. “Roses for the Dead” – A Friend’s Funeral (2005)
Funeral For A Friend’s “Roses For The Dead” was released on the album Hours in 2005 and is known to be on the death of close friends.
This post-hardcore rock band even means death in their name. If you love this style of music, this would be the perfect funeral song or way to get over the grief of a loved one.
6. “Go, Go, Gone” – Bob Dylan (1974)
Next on our list is a very underrated song by the amazing Bob Dylan. “Going, Going, Gone” is a beautiful Dylan song planet waves album released in 1974, and analyzes themes of death in lyrics such as “close the book” and “I just gotta get loose before it’s too late”.
Suicide has been strongly linked to this rock song about death and has been covered by many other artists such as Emma Swift, Gregg Allman and Steve Howe.
7. “Dancing with Mr. D” – Rolling Stones (1973)
As soon as this song’s iconic riff begins, you’ll know exactly what’s playing. “Dancing With Mr. D” is the first song on Rolling Stone’s 1973 album Goat’s head soup. It’s quickly discovered that Mr. D is an alias for death, with “One of these days he’s gonna set you free” mentioned quite early in the song.
This song is very poignant for Rolling Stones fans, as it took on new meaning when the band’s drummer, Charlie Watts, passed away in 2021.
8. “The Show Must Go On” – Queen (1991)
Then we have an emotional question, particularly if you are a Queen/ Fan of Freddie Mercury. “The Show Must Go On” was released in 1991 on Queen’s album Insinuation and was written by Brian May shortly before Freddy Mercury’s untimely death in 1991.
By this point in his life, Freddie’s condition had deteriorated due to his HIV/AIDS diagnosis, and the song was released just 6 weeks before his death. The song was widely acclaimed and spent five weeks on the UK top charts before and after Mercury’s death.
9. “Tears in Heaven” – Eric Clapton (1992)
If that last song didn’t make you cry, then this one sure will! Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” is a beautiful ballad written about the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son. He was featured on the 1991 Rush soundtrack to the film and is a tragic song about Clapton’s pain at living without his son.
Many people who have lost loved ones turn to this song in grief, and it’s one of my favorite of my best rock songs about death.
10. “Sol” – System of a Down (1998)
We’ll now end on a high, with a punchier number from the incredible System Of A Down. “Soil” was released on the album Floor in 1998, and lyrics such as “make a death decision” and “trust, death, insecurity, your men don’t come true” all carry connotations of death and death.
When presenting the song at a concert, the band’s vocalist, Serj Tankian, explained that the song was about “death, friends dying and life dying”. That’s a big number to end our journey through the best rock songs about death!