You can tell a lot about a family by what they play at their loved one's funeral. When disgraced ex-President Richard Nixon died in 1994, his family played Richard Rogers' rousing "Victory at Sea" during the services. Elton John performed "Candle in the Wind" at Princess Diana's funeral, making sure to substitute the name of the late princess for Marilyn Monroe's.
And, of course, there was that great funeral scene in the movie To Die For. There's Nicole Kidman, standing over the grave of the husband she just had murdered, playing a tape of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself": "When I was young/I never needed anyone/ and makin' love was just for fun/Those days are gone."
Hymns are still popular for people when saying their last goodbyes, but contemporary music is increasingly popular. To find out just how popular, we talked to a few of the county's funeral homes.
Joe Fitzgerald, O'Connor Laguna Hills Mortuary: "A lot of it has to do with the age of the deceased. But Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven' ['Would you know my name/if I saw you in heaven?'] is really popular. So is Bette Midler's 'Wind Beneath My Wings' ['I can fly higher than an eagle/for you are the wind beneath my wings']."
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Gerran Brown, Brown Colonial Mortuary, Santa Ana: "Our base is 90 percent Catholic, and there are only certain songs you can play in a Catholic church. But we still have the old-fashioned stuff like old Baptist hymns and Christian hymns. [Andrea] Bocelli—is he the blind guy who sings opera? Yeah, we've had a few songs by him."
Mark Farley, McAulay & Wallace Mortuaries, Fullerton: "Oh, 'Tears in Heaven' and 'Wind Beneath My Wings' are very popular. So is 'O Happy Day' ['O Happy day, when saints shall meet/To part no more! The thought is sweet!'] and the Titanic song, Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On' ['You're here/there's nothing I fear/ and I know that my heart will go on']. A lot of times, people will bring in CDs they've made themselves, and that's kind of neat. Of course, one time there was this young kid who died, and his friends brought in punk rock, head-banger music."
Spokesperson, MacDougall Family Mortuary, Santa Ana: "Most services here are for Hispanic families. They have traditional church music but also a lot of mariachi songs. The songs are all goodbyes to loved ones."
Spokesperson, Dilday Brothers Mortuary, Huntington Beach: "'Amazing Grace' is No. 1. But there is a trend in the industry to personalize the celebration of a person's life. They want Bette Midler or more contemporary music. Like Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' ['The record shows/I took the blows/ and did it my way']. One funny song we had one time was [Bobby McFerrin's] 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' ['In your life expect some trouble/When you worry, you make it double/Don't worry, be happy, be happy now']."