Music and memory are strongly intertwined. Hearing a familiar song can transport you to a different time and place, and help you to remember an event, a feeling... or a person.
As part of To Absent Friends, a festival of storytelling and remembrance taking place across Scotland between 1-7 November, we're putting together a playlist made up of songs that remind us of loved ones who have died. It's a tribute to them, and a mark of remembrance by us. We want your suggestions!
They can be funny or sad, old or new, uptempo or downbeat. There are as many different reasons for remembering someone as there are people to remember.
Would you like to be on the playlist? Add your song and share a story below...
I lost my beautiful son Sam on January 6th 2011. He was just 24 years old and died very suddenly from meningitis. It had attacked his brain with such a ferocity, there was no way back for him. Sam was a very beautiful young man and was so loved by so many friends and family. On the night after his funeral which had so many people left standing, the whole town went mad. It was awash with Chinese lanterns and people all in the street chanting his name. Sam was always know as “Bear” to his friends and so to raise money for meningitis, we held a music festival to remember him called “The Big Bear Fest”. It was a huge success and Sam’s favourite tribute band to The Killers, The Fillers played. Sam loved the Killers and had seen them many times but his favourite song by them was A Dustland Fairytale. He loved it because it always reminded him of me, especially as my name is Cindy and I often get called Cinders and the song refers to Cinderella. It would mean so much to have this song played for him. Sam’s brother Nathan was heartbroken when he lost his brother, just fifteen years old and he dropped out of school. However he got it together and moved to Stirling in Scotland and graduated this year in philosophy with honours. He is back in Scotland now and starts a Masters in human rights in January at Stirling University again. He would be thrilled to have his brother's song played in Scotland which he has now made his home and so would I. Sam was such a beautiful funny and amazing young man who loved life and had so much more to give. He deserves to be remembered in all ways possible.
We sang this song at my Mum's funeral in 2008 and again at Dad's in 2016. The video above is of Elvis singing the song on the 9th of April 1972, Ironically, 10 days before I was born. They both loved the music of Elvis and Mum loved him in film. Dad was a fantastic singer and my earliest memory of him singing was at the new year when I was 4 years old, when he sang “You were always on my mind”
RIP Mum & Dad, missed more than words can say.
We played this at a short service for Dad when we interred his ashes. he absolutely loved music, had a very eclectic taste but he adored Joni Mitchell especially. It's only now I have come to love Joni too, recognising so much of Dad in those songs and having inherited his albums. It's sad but comforting too. My Saturday morning cleaning is now accompanied by her, and by him. I only wish we had listened to more music together.
"We are stardust, we are gold".
On the 3rd of April, 2007 I found out that my best friend Chris did not have much longer to live, following several years of treatment for breast cancer.
As she had modelled so well, I turned to music for comfort.
I opened my folder of George Harrison music, the same music that had brought Chris and I into one another's lives, closed my eyes and clicked. (This was long before 'shuffle' on portable music devices.)
'Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
And I say, it's alright...'
Nothing felt right about that moment, and the song felt like a cosmic joke, but on some level, I think it was meant as a reassurance.
We had this at our son's funeral, Cameron was only 20 when he passed away 2 years ago. He was really proud to be Scottish and was learning to play this on his guitar, we have a beautiful memory bench for him engraved with the line "let me tell you that I love you"
This was played in memory of my beautiful boy Kevin who had to go too soon at 62... he loved this song and it really made him smile. He said only me, him and his best mate John could sing all the words from start to finish off by heart. So this was played at his colourful celebration funeral and all his friends, colleagues, family had the words so they could sing along too. We all love and miss him terribly. Sleep tight and in peace my love Kevin.
To Kevin love you always love your Susie Spiers xxxxx
This is a dedication to my two parents, who unfortunately are not with me and passed away in the last year 7 months apart. Together, but have left a big void in my life.
This was my Brothers song, he was Sinatra's number one fan of all time.
My Brother died in August 2007 of lung cancer.
He lived his life his way, for his children and grandchildren. As his Sister I loved my Big Brother and miss him so much, he will forever be in my heart.
Miss you Big Bro xx
This is for my brother and other family members who have passed away
My dear Daddy, the world's greatest!
This cover version was played at his funeral, i chose this acoustic version as my Daddy was a great guitarist and the song has always made me think of him with tremendous pride 💙
I idolised you my whole life, nothing compares to the love I have for you and the heartache I feel everyday when that crippling thought that you're never coming back takes over my mind. It's like a piece of me dies every single time.
You were my hero, my rock, my guide, my wisdom and my courage, i try and be thankful that I had you but I am so devastated to have lost you and can't bear the thought of forever without you.
Life will never be the same, I will never be the same but I will do my best to keep making you proud and look after the family. Nothing will fill the void we feel but we will soldier on in your memory.
I will love and miss you every day of my life Daddy 💔
My fiancé David was taken away from me suddenly and unexpectedly in April 2015. James Taylor was his hero and Fire and Rain his all time favourite song. JT's music meant so much to David, to both of us, and we went to many concerts together. Fire and Rain is about living through dark and difficult times. Out of my own grief journey came a project I set up to organise uplifting retreats for widows and widowers. I called it Fire & Rain, after the song.
This song reminds me of my lovely dad, Alfred Bingley, and the great New Years Eve parties that we had.
The different age groups would have been out, doing their own thing, but then, we all congregated back at mum and dad's, well before the bells were due.
Mum would be rushing to get the buffet finished - pork pies, pickled onions, home made pressed tongue, and ham sandwiches, piccalilli, and trifle. And the drinks of the era - Snowballs and Babycham.
At a certain point in the evening the cry would go out to 'Get the 78's on!'
The dancing would then commence - young and old joining in.
Happy memories of not only my dad, but all my family, including Aunty Annie and Uncle Bill who sadly are no longer with us.
I won't be the only member of the family who has these wonderful memories of these happy occasions - they are part of the 'story' of our family, and the shared memories which link us tightly together.
This song holds precious memories of my dad who was the most truly amazing person. We were at a night out together and my dad asked me to dance the old fashion way. I stated I could not dance like that and he said he would show me which he did. I lost my dad twenty two years ago and I still remember this memory every time this song is played. As the words of the song say if I could have one final dance this is the song I would play and I dream of dancing with my father again. Miss you so much dad love always x
Grandad Ted listened to Beethoven every day. Despite many well-meaning gifts of CDs, he stuck to the traditional record player. His record collection was pristine.
Dad i never knew how much you loved this song until you were in hospital and told me you would love it played at your funeral to thank my mum.
You are my hero and best friend and would do anything to have you back in my arms
Love you more than you will ever know
In loving memory of the beautiful and inspiring Francesca. This song was hand picked by her, the last song played at her funeral. She was an inspiration to so many and carried out an incredible feat of fundraising for teenage cancer awareness and The Beatson Cancer Centre all the while battling the worst of physical battles. She is forever imprinted on my heart and I strive to live with as much vivacity as she did. Taken far, far too soon, always remembered, forever loved xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
In memory to our daughter Maartje who passed away on feb 6th 2015
My dad had a lovely, tenor, singing voice and sung around the house all the time. Dad was always asked to sing at gatherings and this song was always the first of his party pieces. He was a wonderful father, the best that anyone could ask for, and I have no doubts that he loved me and my mum very much.
I first heard this song a few weeks after we lost my dad in January 2015, I heard it in a clip of a wedding and it was the first time I realised if I get married my dad won't be there to walk me down the aisle. I bawled my eyes out but now it brings me comfort. Can't believe it's almost been two years dad. We miss your grumpy old face 💙 X
This song was dedicated to my son Damian when he met pussy cat dolls on tour. This was the last night out he had and the last pictures we took before he passed away. A great memory to have remembering his love for music and our love for him. Never a day goes by that we dont think about Damian missed always.
Played this as one of the songs at my husband Graeme's funeral 5 years ago , died age 56 xx we used to dance to this as our soppy song !! X
Reunited by Peaches and Herb will always be our song. I met Brian when we were young and after a year together we split up. We then got together again in 2007 and were so happy. We would talk about how we would grow old together, and travel etc Then in December 2015 aged 52 Brian was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away in February 2016. It is so hard to go on without him, but I am so thankfull to have had our second chance and am left with amazing memories. Our song was played at his funeral too. So until we are 'Reunited' love you always Brian, love Betty xx
I thought long and hard for music to play at the end of my dads funeral service, I kept going back to the theme tune of Match of the Day.
My dad loved his football, watched it religiously, any game, any team, he'd sit watching MOTD with his large mug of tea, its exactly how I remember him.
The tune always makes me smile - love and miss you dad xx
My fabulous Gran used to get up and preform big spender on nights out with friends, it was definitely her song, she even had a pink fluffy cat that sang the song! She was one of a kind, a real character. Missed by all who knew her.
This song reminds me of my mum and dad....mum passed away the east of October and dad 6 years ago...I like to think they are together again...
To Ann taken too quick think of you every day we had some good times I remember going to the ladyboys boy you sang your heart out . Cherished memories till we meet again lots of love miss tou
My son, Zac wrote this song in memory of my dad, Mike, who died by suicide on this day 7 years ago.
In the song Zac tells of a time that dad had got on a bus that Zac was already on and Zac wishes he stood up to go and sit with him.
It has many levels of meaning especially as it was written for an about my dad.
The Image is a picture drawn for me by my daughter Eva who was 6 years old when dad died. I see in it that although a branch of the family tree has gone she still feels surrounded by Love.
Dad died by his own hands which is a really difficult death to understand and come to terms with as there are many more questions than answers.
This song and image helped me understand how young people resolve their feelings around death of a Loved family member.
Dad and I loved our music so I had a hard time picking just one song but I always remember belting out Mr Brightside whenever it came on in the car or if we had the Hot Fuss album on. Dad would turn up the volume to max and we would have a mini rock out/dance in the car. If it came on just as we were getting home we wouldn't stop the engine until it reached that final note. Mum was forever getting us in trouble if she came in the car the next day and the volume was still full blast.
I can now drive (though I am forever grateful for my favourite taxi man Dad) and have the album in my own car, I continue our tradition and have Mr Brightside blaring as I smile and remember our little singsongs. I sing extra loud for the two of us :)
Love you Dad, hope you hear my 'voice of an angel' singing from up there haha!
For my beautiful cousin Laura who used to dance around to this as a baby. Makes me smile so much thinking of you, miss you lots xxx
In 1985 you were a student with spiky hair, jumble sale dresses and plimsolls. Early in the evening you used to dance like Morrissey. Later you became a social worker, and used your talents by leading probation services. You always worked out how to live, right up to the end.
This is a gaelic song my dad loved. He was a very patriotic man, loved Scotland and its culture and his clan McRae heritage. After my mum and I scattered his ashes near Dornie we had a cuppa and a scone in the cafe in Eilean Donan Castle and this song came on in the background. We both looked at each other and burst into tears. Sad at the time but I can see the funny side now. I love this song too and now perform it in my band to the memory of my much loved dad Jimmy McRae.
In memory of our precious mum & nanny, Christine Black.
We will treasure memories of you forever in our hearts
Night night Dolly xxxx
This song reminds me of my dad, and makes me smile. I remember him asking me to explain what the lyrics meant. Well, I'm still not sure but we both loved it and it gives me comfort. It also happens to be the last song we ever danced to together. x
This song was played at our friend Maya's funeral. She was 9 and had had been in remission. But she suddenly took ill after Halloween and died. We miss her everyday but her family miss her more. Xxxx
My mother died recently, so have been thinking back. Growing up in the 60s and early 70s, we thought our parents were terribly old, particularly as their taste in music seemed to be nothing but Scottish dance music and songs - heuchter, teuchter stuff. Remember being surprised when my mother produced a record with Guy Mitchell singing She Wears Red Feathers. First time I realised that she might actually have been young once! Always think of her when I hear it.
A wonderfully romantic old track that reminds me and my family of 2 beloved parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Missed by all the family xxx
The morning of the day my Mum passed away I woke with this tune stuck in my head for some obscure reason. I don't remember my mum being an Elton John fan but this song now brings back some many memories. The fact my mum was a seamstress does at least make a conection.
For my dad who died earlier this year. You used to sing this song to Jackie and I when we were little. So many songs to choose from but this was one of your favourites. I miss you so much. Take care of Jackie up there. xx
This is for my sister, Jackie who died on 22nd Dec 1998. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her. This brings back memories of being teenagers and going to see The Jam in Glasgow and Edinburgh. She always said that Paul Weller's lyrics helped her gain her O Level English and joked that she wanted "Going Underground" played at her funeral. It took a long time to listen to The Jam without a cry. Going to see The Jam exhibition in London recently brought back lots of memories and emotions. A very special part of our lives.
My gran and grandpa used to croon this song after a sherry or two. I miss them terribly. John (Jock) Gray and Nancy Gray (née Aiton), miss you and love you.
My Father James Casey 1934 - 1990 sounded so like Matt Monro and he also used to sing this to his mother, my wee Granny Agnes Cummiskey Casey 1908 - 2005... Miss the both of them so much...
When my mum was diagnosed with cancer, our local radio station used to have a segment, "Princess" for that week, and would send out a bouquet of flowers. Someone must have given my Mum's name and when they rang her up on air, they asked her to choose a song. She chose the Beatles "Yesterday" and it was a few years later that I really "linked" the words to how she must have been feeling at that time. Even though she passed away 21 years ago, I still miss her and get emotional when I hear "her song".
Our dear sister Cherry so brave throughout her illness. so missed by us all. Probably watching over us tutting at us.
If things weren't going good she would put her hands to her ears and flop them down like rabbit ears. never without a smile. x
Mum ... you are our sunshine 🌞
My dad lost his own dad before I was born. He'd always tell me stories about him and said not a day went by that he never thought of him. I felt like I knew him due to those stories. This song always made my dad quite emotional about the loss of his dad. I used to wonder what it was like for him and could never imagine feeling that loss and missing someone that much. Sadly, now, I know exactly how he felt.
Almost four years ago on the 3rd of Dec, my dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. A few days before he passed he said his dad had been to visit the hospice. That he saw him standing waiting on him at the door. Whether it was the morphine talking or not, it's a comforting thought that he felt close to his dad again in the end. We played this song at my dad's funeral...
My first baby is due on the 7th of Dec this year. He would have been my dad's first grandchild. We are naming him Thomas after my dad and I have plenty of great stories to tell him about his grandad.
When my husband was ill we spoke about the music for his funeral. He loved music of all types, but for whatever reason he never got around to choosing it. Some days after the funeral I found that he had recorded a playlist on our system for me and this was the first song...
It used to make me cry, but now 8 years on it stops me in my tracks, but it makes me smile and glad that we had 21 years of happiness together.
Reminds me of my husband and son who died as a result of a fire in our home many years ago. The song was popular at the time... it seemed oh, so, a propos. I like the melody, the words... and it brings to me a little memorial service in my mind whenever I hear them.
Mum and Dad
Dad wanted this played at his funeral. He died on 11th July 2001, the day before his 59th birthday. We lost our Mum just 4 months earlier. I don't think I had heard the song before. Our family were absolutely heart broken and all Dad wanted was for us to keep smiling. The lyrics are incredible. So here's to Dad, Mum and incredible memories.
Stuart Maitland McGregor (12/7/42 - 11/7/01) and Margaret McGregor (23/11/44 - 5/3/01).
In memory of Sharon Margaret Stewart, daughter, sister and mum, taken too soon. I remember her singing this song a lot.
My beautiful wife Elizabeth (Betty) Stewart, mum to Rosemarie, Sharon and George, and gran to Barry, Jade, Lauren, Liam, Jordan, Alannah, Jordan, Jamie and Ben. Betty was a strong woman, always full of laughter and fun. She adored her grandchildren and her family, she has left a big hole in our life and she will always be remembered. She was my lady.
My dad died in 2012 at the age of 61. It was so unexpected and he is very much missed. We played this at his funeral. I could not listen to this song after the funeral. It was too painful. Then earlier this year (2015) me and my daughter were very lucky to see Queen perform. This song was played and as emotional as it was I can now listen to this song and smile and think of my wonderful dad.
To the best Mum and Dad in the world - Joe and Jenny McDade. Hope you are singing together in Heaven. All our love from your five children and loads of grand and great grand children. Xx
My husband and I were lucky to hear this performed at Live Aid in the mid 80s. Peter used to love to holler, at the top of his voice, a varied repertoire of favourites, and this was the most frequent song we would be subjected to in the car (no escape). My son, who was 7 when Peter died 8 years ago can still remember his Dad singing this one from start to finish, and we both smile a lot when it comes on the radio/TV. Thankfully, it often does. A great memory.
Whenever I hear this song it reminds me of my cousin Susannah. It was released in 1993, the year she died aged 17 following a short illness.
She loved the song and sang along when it came on the radio. One of many memories of her being happy, carefree and full of life.
The lyrics had little significance for me until after she died. Following this the words were more meaningful as I struggled to understand how something so terrible could happen to someone I loved.
In the end the song for me is about trying to get on with life following her loss.
Reminds me of the day I found out my best friend had died. It was the song playing on the radio at the time. He left behind a wife and 2 very young children. I'd always liked the song, but now the words have so much meaning and I cry every time I hear it now. I miss him every day but know he will be wherever I am.
This seems so honest and appropriate at such a sad time
These words by Burns just sum up the way my dad saw the world and the values that he lived by and instilled in us. Playing this at his funeral was the only clear instruction he gave us. He had a very broad taste in music and I was quite keen on playing Teenage Kicks by the Undertones which he also loved but I was out voted by the rest of the family! Probably for the best.
Every time I hear this song it’s a reminder from my dad: “You’re as good as anyone else… but don’t think you’re better”. Ah well, that puts me back in my place…
My brother and me dancing around the living room with our Grandma, Kitty, in full voice and worn-out slippers.
For an 18 year old cousin killed in a road traffic accident forty years ago. He was Scottish but lived in America and his family had someone play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at his funeral. It still gives me goose bumps.
For an elderly relative who died aged 100 - this was played as we went into funeral service and it made us all smile.
"Please release me, let me go..." always reminds me of my Grandad and not for any long suffering illness reasons you might think. My mum’s dad never approved of his baby girl marrying my old man and always felt she could have done better (he was right!). Back in the 1970s he slammed my dad in an argument saying that song would be my mother’s anthem if she ended up marrying him. Every time it came on TV my dad would be fuming and I always remember while growing up, whenever they argued my mum would always play it to wind my dad up!
'Congratulations' reminds me of my Grandma because once when my dad got a promotion she enthusiastically met him at the door and, in typical mix up stylee, sang 'congratulations and constipations'. This is the same lady who made us laugh so much at the market cafe that they came out of the kitchen to see what was funny. She'd been trying to remember a dish she mis-ordered once that came out as something rude. Once we got over the diversion of 'is it sausage?'; it turned out to have been entrecote steak - mis-ordered as 'intercourse steak'.
Grandma used to play (and sing along to) Elvis loudly while she cooked in the kitchen. She'd tell me how much clearer the words were in comparison to modern music.
My Dad's best friend and ex CEO of software giant CMG (now Logica) was one of the most down to earth and funny men I ever met. He lived up the road from us in Holland (where I spend a large chunk if my childhood) and spent a lot of time at our house singing this. Still makes me laugh. After he died, my Dad started to learn the banjo
Dad used to sing it to my brother Michael.
My dad loved this song. Still makes me cry when I hear it.
The kids song Bingo (about the dog) reminds me of my Grandad who wrote a parody of it about the Bingo gambling craze. I was really disappointed when I learnt that the song about the dog had been written first! Now that we have Lenora, I hear that song for kids often and always think of him when I do.
After my Grandad died, my Auntie Rosie brought me an old wooden record case that he had. This was the only record that was in it. It reminds me of all the old-timey stuff I used to hear him listening to on Radio 2 as a kid, back when Radio 2 was still old fogeyish. It's the only record I have of his, so will always remind me of him.
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