Funeral Industry: To Heck with Tradition – Let’s Play Rock n Roll
Today?s funeral music would make my grandfather turn over in his grave. He was accustomed to tradition and propriety and would have been aghast at some of the songs we use today. He MAY have been exposed to Ethyl Merman?s version of ?God Bless America?, but even that would have been considered radical. How has traditional music morphed into today?s version of acceptable?
There has definitely been a history of change at our funeral home and I am sure you have seen it also. What happened to the staff organist, grinding out her dark, lacy magic on the Hammond? For us it began with music systems offered by a company offering a wide variety of taped songs performed by a single artist. The problem was that the company adhered rigidly to their policy of only renting – not selling either the tapes or the specialized equipment required to play them. That was an example of short sighted marketing at a time when the public began purchasing eight tracks of the same songs sung by known artists. Soon we added a cassette tape player and thought we had the world by the tail ? until the advent of the CD.
Along with the wonders and fabulous sound quality of the systems that backed up the new technology, came the regulatory boards making certain that the artists were compensated for their efforts. We gladly paid the annual fee. And now, who can predict the next step? I have already encountered families arriving with laptops programmed to the hilt with presentations of pictures set to music, the music for the service, for the reception and for the after-party at the family home ? luckily we had the vision to purchase the docking equipment required to facilitate their needs. Why shouldn?t we? It?s readily available and they certainly have it at home.
Please don?t think I am hung up on the traditional stuff too much, but what has happened to the seriousness of funeral music? How did we abruptly pass the melancholy of the dirge? Funeral and wedding music often forged a strange fellowship but both have fallen to the ?modern needs? of today?s families. Frank Sinatra?s ?My Way? has far outdistanced ?Abide with Me? and Lois Armstrong?s ?What a Wonderful World? has replaced ?Beautiful Isle of Somewhere? hands down. Did I say ?modern needs? of today?s families? Popular songs you say? Popular when ? 1969?
When Willie Nelson sings of ?All the Girls? he has loved before, waves of giggles resonate through the chapel at the service for a confirmed bachelor. Garth Brooks? song ?The Dance? and Whitney Houston?s ?I Will Always Love You? both speak of failed love, but who cares ? the chorus has impact. So many inappropriate songs are used these days ? and for whatever reasons we must arm our systems for R.E.M.?s ?That?s Me in the Corner ? Losing My Religion?, when requested.
But we have the last laugh. When they come for visitation they?re going to get tradition whether they like it or not ? but chances are they like it because they heard it before at Granny?s service and it offered a comfort zone at that time. ?Jesu Joy of Man?s Desiring? with nature sounds ? ?Ave Maria? with birdsong ? ?She?s A Lady? played on the ? oh well ? two out of three ain?t bad.