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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life tops over 50s funeral chart

Posted on 13 December 2016

Queen has the most songs in the top 20 including ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’

  • Eight out of 10 over 50s would NOT choose a hymn
  • Women are 50% more likely to choose a hymn than men
  • One in 20 aged 50-54 want a dance track at their funeral
  • Over 50s in Northern Ireland are most traditional with 57% choosing a hymn compared to just 12% in the Midlands
  • Visit My Perfect Send-Off to ensure the right song is played at your funeral

New research by SunLife has found that 82% of over 50s don't want a hymn at their funeral and that 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' from Monty Python’s 'Life of Brian' is the song most would choose to have played at their funeral.

Over 50s clearly have a sense of humour when it comes to their funerals. Comedy or ‘funny’ is one of the most popular song types chosen with Queen’s 'Another One Bites the Dust' and Meatloaf’s 'Bat Out of Hell' also making the top 10.

Queen were by far and away the most popular choice in terms of artists; one in 25 over 50s said they would choose to have a Queen track played at their funeral – 'Another One Bites the Dust', 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'I Want to Break Free', 'We Are the Champions' and 'Who Wants to Live Forever' all made the top 20.

After 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life', the most popular song choice was the hymn 'Abide With Me', while Led Zepplin’s 'Stairway to Heaven' was number 3.

Top funeral songs for over 50s

Top 10 funeral songsTop 10 funeral song genres
1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life 1. Hymn
2. Abide With Me 2. Classical
3. Stairway to Heaven 3. Pop
4. Jerusalem 4. Rock
5. My Way 5. Country
6. The Lord's My Shepherd 6. Comedy / Funny
7. Another One Bites the Dust 7. Blues
8. Bat Out of Hell 8. Song from a Musical
9. Beethoven’s 6th Symphony 9. Dance
10. I Vow to Thee My Country 10. Folk

Hymns are falling out of favour

While hymn was the most popular genre (18%) overall, more over 50s (33%) would prefer to have either a rock, pop or country track. Across the regions, pop was the most popular in the East Midlands, North West and South West, classical in the East, London and the West Midlands and rock was the most popular in Wales. Hymns were the most popular genre in Scotland, the South East and Yorkshire, but people were still less likely to have a hymn than have one. The only place where most over 50s would still choose a hymn was Northern Ireland, with almost three in five (57%) saying they would have a hymn at their funeral.

Top funeral song genres in each region
  East Midlands East/East Anglia London North East North West Northern Ireland Scotland South East South West Wales West Midlands Yorkshire and the Humber
1 Pop
(20%)
Classical (22%) Classical (17%) Hymn (23%) Pop (16%) Hymn (57%) Hymn (22%) Hymn (21%) Pop (17%) Rock (18%) Classical (21%) Hymn (22%)
2 Classical (14%) Hymn (16%) Hymn (15%) Pop
(15%)
Classical (14%) Rock Pop Classical Heavy Metal Folk Blues (7%)* Classical (20%) Rock (15%) Hymn (15%) Classical (18%) Hymn (20%) Rock (13%)
3 Rock/Hymn (13%) Pop (12%) Pop (15%) Classical (14%) Hymn (14%)   Country (11%) Classical (13%) Classical (13%) Hymn (14%) Country (11%) Classical (11%)

*Small sample - 7% represents 1 person

The age group most likely to still choose a hymn are the over 65s - a quarter would - while only 12% of the 50-54s would want a hymn at their funeral. Amongst the 50-54s, classical and pop are joint first in terms of most popular genre, followed by hymn and rock with heavy metal next!

Women over 50 are more likely to have a hymn than men (22% compared to 15%), men are 25% more likely to choose a piece of classical music than women – Beethoven’s 6thSymphony being the most popular choice. Women are also more likely to choose pop, RnB or a song from a musical than men, while men are more likely to opt for a folk song, heavy metal, or jazz. Men are also twice as likely as women to choose a sports theme or a ‘funny’ song.

 WomenMen 50-5455-6465+
1 Hymn Classical Pop / Classical Pop Hymn
2 Classical Hymn   Rock Classical
3 Pop Rock Rock / Hymn Hymn Country
4 Rock Pop   Classical Pop
5 Country Country Heavy Metal Country Rock
6 Musical Comedy / Funny RnB Comedy / Funny Folk
7 Blues Heavy Metal Blues Heavy Metal Musical
8 RnB Folk Comedy / Funny Blues Blues
9 Dance Jazz Dance RnB Dance
10 Comedy / Funny Blues Indie Folk Comedy / Funny

Ian Atkinson, head of brand at SunLife said: “The research shows that the over 50s have a sense of humour when it comes to thinking about their own funerals with a comedy song topping the funeral song chart.

“Sadly, what it is also telling us is that while most funerals do still include hymns, more than eight in ten people would NOT choose a hymn, which means people are not getting what they would have wanted at their funerals.

“In fact, our Cost of Dying 2016 report reveals that just 26% of people organising a funeral know what songs and readings the deceased would have wanted.

Ian concludes: “It is never too early to think about what you would like at your funeral, which is why we have created My Perfect Send-Off - a free and easy way to record your funeral wishes so that you can ensure you have the perfect send-off.”

About the research

The SunLife Cost of Dying report is one of the most significant pieces of ongoing research in its field. It has been conducted annually since 2004, using a consistent methodology to ensure data comparability over time. The 2016 Cost of Dying research was conducted by Critical Research, an independent market research company, specialising in financial research. The quantitative side of the project consisted of an online survey carried out between April 2016 and May 2016, which was asked to 1,509 consumers. This was supported by 100 telephone interviews of Funeral Directors from across the sector. The questions asked were the same set of questions used in previous years of this project.

The funeral songs research was carried out separately by Atomik research in October 2016; 1,002 over 50s were asked which genre of song they would choose for their funeral (from a list of 22 genres) and to name the song they would choose if they had one in mind (free choice).

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). 

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.