If I Die Young….

On the heels of Sunday’s VMAs, conversations have been swirling about music and culture.  Who’s to blame about Miley’s performance?  Will Taylor Swift ever stop bad mouthing her exes? Well, music has a place in conversations about Death and Dying, too!  Too often our spoken language shies away from death.  We are a culture that avoids talking about death over holidays and at the dinner table.  Instead, we hold conversations about death and dying in hospitals, nursing homes, and other corners of society.  But music, as do most forms of art, makes us talk about controversial topics.  Instead of tip toeing around the issue, art spearheads a discussion about sensitive issues.  Take, Picasso’s Guernica.  The chaos in the painting makes you want to talk about it.  But what is it that we are suppose to talk about?  Well, for Guernica its DEATH–the deaths that were caused by the bombings on Guernica.

The same is true for music.  A few years back, the Band Perry hit it big with a song that included DEATH its title–IF I DIE YOUNG.

How is it that artists aren’t scared to express their feelings about death, but too often we relegate such discussions to dark hallways of hospitals?  What songs have you heard that talk about death?  Does music make it easier to talk about death?  Be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts!


21 thoughts on “If I Die Young….

  1. In a way I believe that music is the best reflection to our purest and most truthful emotions; it filters what we want to scream out to the world in the most poetic way. To be honest, I had no interest in country music until about 3 years ago when I began college. At that time I met a young Colombian fella who introduced me to the beauty of it all! The one song that ties my feelings about facing death is Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink”. Our life flies literally past us as the years go by, and every once and I while ” I been trying to slow it down and take it easy”. I look forward to sitting down at the dinner table with a friend or family member, I embrace my mother when I go back home on vacation, I stare at my father to hopefully memorize his features and most importantly I stay up all night listening to the voice of a friend who needs me as much as I need them. We truly can not appreciate time until its pulled from underneath us and we notice the wrinkles, or ponder why we never decided to try something when it crossed our path. So I look forward to every day by “take every breath God gives you for what its worth”. Death will come to us all, but the way we chose to live to our fullest is worth every breath to its end.

    • Its interesting how often songs just mention the notion of death without coming right out and saying it. Take, Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory for instance.
      Another shot before we kiss the other side
      Tonight, yeah baby, tonight, yeah baby
      I’m on the edge of something final
      We call life tonight, alright, alright
      In a few short words, she brings to light the finality of life without ever mentioning the word death. I wonder if such a song strengthens the idea that America is a death denying culture or does it help us talk about death?

    • One of the best ways, in my opinion, music gets us to talk about death without even reazling, is by focusing our attention on life. Take for example the line “living young, and wild, and free” from the song “young wild and free” by Whiz Khalifa, everyone knows that aging (and death) is inevitable, but the artist asks you to live “young”, meaning to have fun and enjoy this life; because (without even implying it), life has an end. So when you listen, you really aren’t even thinking about death, but death IS the underlying reason why one should be “living young and wild and free”.

    • I agree death does come to us all lol. I obviously have no argument that it won’t. But here is my question to you. Being that music is always surrounding us through our radio, thoughts, heck even why I am here typing I have seriusxm playing. Why for most of us do we have to turn to music as an expression of emotional release in order to feel better rather then opening up and talking about it? Now how we mentioned that in todays society it is kinda discouraged to grive in public does the music when we here it in a public place have us suppress our emotions?

  2. Also, the song, Live like You Were Dying, by Tim McGraw tells about how you should do all things as if it was your last day. To live with no regrets in some ways. Make sure you are doing all the things you would want to say you have accomplished. Which personally I think is how you should live, live and learn, no one is perfect. We ALL make mistakes and you should live with no regrets.

    • You are right to live with no regrets, Alison… because as Amy Grant put it in Shovel in Hand” song …”Life can change in the blink of an eye; You don’t know when and you don’t know why”!

  3. Interesting. I think the freedom of music allows the artist creating it to let their expression flow thus creating the melody and mood for their inner pain, desire, or what ever they may be going through. On a different note for a band that just threw it out there Blue Oyster Cult- Don’t Fear the Reaper.

  4. I believe that Carrie Underwood’s “Just a Dream” is a great representation of how we typically respond to death. The video for the song highlights the substantial differences between how we celebrate a positive event and and how we handle a death. I think it is much easier to express feelings about death through music because music allows us to talk about death modestly. We don’t necessarily have to approach the topic head on; we can subtly confront our feelings over time.

    • I agree. Music, generally, tends to make it easier for us to cope with any (bad) situation, death included. As a an example, it is not a coincidence that slave owners/masters back in the days of slavery allowed slaves to sing, and even encouraged it.

  5. Artists try to do what most of us would want to, but cannot do — In a way, they talk about subject that most of us only discuss in our living room, or in the privacy and company of those that we are comfortable with. One of the reasons why artists aren’t afraid to express their feelings about their death is that they’re trying to get our attention through their art. All of us have had different experiences with death at one point or another, but mostly we refuse to talk about it, because the loss of someone dear is very difficult to deal with. By openly expressing their feelings on the subject, artists find a way to connect with the audience. One of the songs that I’ve heard that talk about death is “One sweet day” by Mariah Carey feat Boys II Men http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXxRyNvTPr8
    The song makes it a lot easier to talk about death, because it gives a sense of hope to whomever is mourning the death of someone dear. It’s basically saying that death isn’t the end — that one day, he/she will be reunited with the person that has passed away, and that it’ll be a “one sweet day”.

  6. Without music we would not have the amazing artists of all genres that we listen to today. The songs written by these artists, whether it be Coldplay, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, whoever you may prefer to listen to, help us better understand our feelings. Perhaps some of us may have locked up those feelings from ever reaching the surface of our conscious mind because some cultures in today’s society think it’s wrong to express how you truly feel. Coldplay has a song called The Scientist, which I immediately fell in love with since I could play it on piano. There are two videos on YouTube of this song that I think everyone should check out. There’s a live version and the original Vevo version. Listen and watch both of these videos and I hope you will experience different emotions and thoughts for each. Personally, I enjoy watching and listening to the live version of The Scientist because I see the emotion from the vocalist’s (Chris Martin) body language and I hear the compassion he has for this song, this song must mean something to him if he took the time to write it. This is the first chorus from the song:
    “Nobody said it was easy
    It’s such a shame for us to part
    Nobody said it was easy
    No one ever said it would be this hard
    Oh, take me back to the start.”
    Within the first two lines of the chorus he expresses that it’s a shame for us to part, it’s absolutely terrible that he had to lose someone that most likely meant the world to him. The very first line “Nobody said it was easy”… The loss of someone to death is not easy. The last line of this chorus shows that he wants to start over, he wants to go back experience all the bad as well as the good times with this person he lost.
    I advise that everyone should read the rest of the lyrics to the song, they sound so simple but they can mean so much to someone who has lost a loved one. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/coldplay/thescientist.html

  7. I think songwriters create lyrics and music in response to what happens in their lives — the good and the bad. When a close friend or relative dies, they write a song about it. Sometimes the experience is so powerful the song writes itself. I’ve always loved Connie Kaldor’s “Down to the River (Alan’s song)”. She wrote it on the way home from the funeral of her close friend Alan Stein. It’s vintage (1996) and she’s a Canadian folk singer/songwriter, so you’ve probably never heard of her or the song. But it perfectly captures the feelings I had and still have about the loved ones I’ve lost.

    Down to a River (Alan’s Song)
    by Connie Kaldor

    There are dinners, there is music
    There is laughter, there were tears
    There are memories that go back
    Over the years
    There are the marks made in a life
    Like only good friends do
    Now I must choose to make a mark
    For the things I loved in you

    I’ll go down to a river
    And plant a tree
    Something strong, wild and living
    Those are my memories
    And I’ll go up to a mountain
    And sing to the stars
    Can you hear me
    Where ever you are.

    And there’s phone calls and there’s crying
    And there’s clutching to the chest
    And there’s singing songs and throwing dirt
    And laying down to rest
    And there’s carving words on stone
    And making church bells ring
    But the river when it freezes over
    Still thaws and runs each spring


    Do you hear the ones who loved you
    And who were glad they knew you well
    Do the hearts you left that miss you
    Ring like a bell


    Can you hear me
    Can you hear me
    Can you hear me
    Where ever you are

  8. I think artist are able to talk about death because it is a coping mechanism for them. Getting all of their feelings out through song help them live on. The way they feel can relate to so many other people who lost loved ones as well. So many of us need a way to cope with death and music can do wonders for us. Whether it is a song that reminds us of someone or the lyrics of a song that explain our emotions, music is a great way to talk about death. It says everything that we want to say but without us actually having to speak any words. Many artist write lyrics telling us to “live like we’re dying”-Kris Allen or “Let’s make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young”-Ke$ha. They talk about death as it is best to live life carefree and happy and to always live like we’re young. It is great advice that we sometimes forget. We all know there is an end, but music makes us want to live in the moment, and I think artists feel what everybody else feels, they just know how to get it out of our head!

  9. I believe music is an outlet for our emotions. Sometimes, something as complicated as death cannot be expressed through mere words. Sometimes, we have the words, but somehow do not know how to say them. However, music has the power to bring out those difficult emotions is us, like emotions relating to death, and that is why music artists are able to sing about all these sad songs. A lot of the music today that talk about death try to shed a light on the fact that we are all going to die. Dwelling on the situation is not going to change that fact. Death can come anytime, it can be a physical or it can be emotional. In the song, Suicidal thoughts by the late Biggie Smalls, death is portrayed as an escape. Unusually, his lyrics not only describe why reality is worse than death, but it also talks about why hell is better than heaven. According to Biggie Smalls, some people do not want an after-life where they will be restricted from doing all those unacceptable things that are listed in the Bible. Some people like having pre-matritial sex, stealing, jealously, lying, and killing others. A part of the lyrics to his song goes like this:

    “don’t make sense, going to heaven with the goodie-goodies
    Dressed in white, I like black Timbs and black hoodies
    God’ll prolly have me on some real strict shit
    No sleeping all day, no getting my **** licked
    Hanging with the goodie-goodies lounging in paradise
    **** that ****, I wanna tote guns and shoot dice.”

    I think Biggie Smalls’s song, Suicidal thoughts, takes a very interesting approach on death; one that is not shown in most songs. However, I think his words are very true. Many people today do not want to take on the responsibilities of reality, and they certainly do not want to take on responsibilities when they die.

    • Great song choice. I have been a fan of biggie for a long time and his final album Life After Death (imagine that) there are multiple songs covering life and death based on the reality of his life from up bringing. Like his song Warning basically how people are wanting to take his life.

  10. One of the first songs I often think about when I try to think of “songs that talk about death” is probably candle in the wind by Elton John. I find it very beautiful that he likens life to being a candle, something that provides light for what is around it, but can be very easily snuffed out and brief. Although Elton John is not talking about himself it is a very clear and thought provoking analogy. Also I have a friend who’s husband passed away last year in Iraq, she is 23 and they had a two year old son together, and at his funeral they were playing The Band Perry’s If I Die Young, and it was a very emotional moment. I honestly will probably always think of that moment when I hear this song.

    • WOW great song choice. I agree, Elton really does express the importance of life very vividly comparing our life to a flame on a candle and in the matter of a breath it can all be over, all ways wondering what could have been rather then what should have been. Enjoy the time while we can rather then standing on the sideline.

  11. All of us express our emotions differently and I believe that music is just one outlet in which people use as a mode of such expression. Music overwhelmingly talks about death in many of its lyrics. The song from The Band perry If I die young is just one example out of a list of many songs in country music that speaks on the subject of death all speaking to the many sides of death. The Band Perry spoke about ones own death.While other songs like Lee Brice’s “I drive your truck” talks about how one person copes with the loss of a loved one. Other songs such as Carrie Underwoods ” Just a Dream” deals with the partial denial of lost love. I could continue with the many examples of such songs which stretches to many other artist not only in the country genre. I believe that without music such expressions of loss, love and yes even death would be harder for some people to express their emotions. I believe that it is very important that the music industry does have songs that are about such subjects as death beause it does make it easier for the conversation of death to be approached in scenerios other than “dark alleys” and funeral homes. When other people know that others have experianced similar situations as themselves the commonality provides an avenue for the conversation to flow easier.

  12. Art, literature and music have always been great assets and mediums through which various people are able to communicate enumerous ideas and topics.
    They pursue and enlighten opinions. It’s biologically proved that music affects the way people think, the sound waves motivating people in different manners.
    Over the years, music has revolutionized the way people think, and has accompanied the changes of each era. Artists, and musicians put in their feelings, their ideas into all this music – beats, lyrics, sounds – and they manage to get through to every individual who has open ears to music.
    Not necessarily a song on death, but almost a goodbye, bidding adieu song “Leave out all the rest” by Linkin Park absolutely entices me, and often leaves me wondering about my accomplishments, my death and how my being departed from this world would affect the people I knew.
    Here is the main chorus of the song, that almost goes along the lines of the lyrics “And when I’m gone, please speak well of me” by the Weepies.
    When my time comes
    Forget the wrong that I’ve done
    Help me leave behind some
    Reasons to be missed
    Don’t resent me
    And when you’re feeling empty
    Keep me in your memory
    Leave out all the rest
    Leave out all the rest
    These artists echo the thinking of various people, including mines. I want to depart this world as a good person, I want to be remembered when I’m gone. One of my favorite lines from the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” also adds on to the idea of the songs above and to my desires of what I wish to impart before I leave this world. Those lines are: “I don’t want to be condescended to. To become marginalized and ignored by society. “

  13. A song that instantly comes to mind about death would have to be Shinado Connor’s huge hit Nothing compares 2 U 1990 (Prince cover) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUiTQvT0W_0. The video is just here standing there singing expressing anger towards, happiness, and pain for the loss of her mother. During the course of the song 3:48 into it you start to see tears just run down her face displaying the deep hurt and loss of her mother. the video is very intense. It is as if she wish she could just have more time due to her dying in her teen years. Now you take that song and compare it to Boyz 2 Men- Mama http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tap90z44WR8 this song makes me emotional just about every time I hear it. The depth at which this song hits with emotion makes me appreciate everything she has done for me from a child-teen-young man-man. These men are expressing the love of a woman that played a key role in the development of their life. The thing is music surrounds us everyday setting the tempo for an emotion of how we feel. Songs can express the good times we had with people before they passed allowing us to celebrate their life or a song can keep us in an emotional state not allowing us to open up because it constantly makes us think of that missing loved one that is no longer here. Music plays a key role in how our tempo can be set for the day for me I choose to listen to the song that allows me to keep that up beat mood celebrating their life like I know they would want.

  14. I feel like music regularly contains controversial themes/subjects in it and this is what the artist often does in order to get exposure from that specific song. Artists do this so much that I feel that it has become acceptable for them to do so, while at the same time, people try to avoid bringing up death until it is absolutely necessary. The first song that came to mind that has to do with dying is the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult. In this song, the lyrics, “don’t fear the reaper” is rung throughout the song, and it is a metaphor meaning to not be afraid of dying and it is presented in a way that suggests dying is not as bad as people may think. This song shows that there is no reason to fear death though, because it will in fact come and it will happen to everybody eventually.

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