Music is one of the beautiful elements of life that humans have been gifted with. Music can help us all through the difficult times in our lives, it’s certainly done so for me.
Losing a friend through death or simply a break in the relationship is just one of those difficult times, and there’s no shortage of songs on the subject.
I’ve put together 30 of my favorite songs about losing a friend that are both poetic and heartfelt. Let’s get into it.
Best Songs About Losing a Friend
“For a Dancer” – Jackson Browne
This song is all about the conflicting emotions that come along with dealing with the death of a friend or loved one. Browne expresses his confusion and uncertainty in “For a Dancer,” and compares it to being lost.
This Jackson Browne song is still remembered and played to this day for its relatability and excellent storytelling. Some can feel confusion after the death of a friend, and Jackson Browne expresses this perfectly in this track.
“The Crossroads” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Paying homage to friends who have passed away is a common topic in hip-hop music, but no song encompasses that feeling more than this classic song from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. In fact, it’s still considered a staple in hip-hop today despite being almost a two-decade-old song. It was created in memory of hip-hop legend Easy-E, and won a Grammy in 1997.
“Beam Me Up” – Pink
Pink really stepped out of her comfort zone with this song. More famously known for mixing her rebellious attitude with pop music, Pink decided to take a more intimate route with “Beam Me Up.” This track was released later in Pink’s career on her sixth studio album, and that’s exactly what makes it such an interesting stepping stone in her career. Pink proves she gets better with age with this one.
“You Should Be Here” – Cole Swindell
This song was an instant hit when it was released in 2015. While reserved for a niche audience and not as relatable as some of the other songs on this list, it still deserves a spot on the list due to its raw emotion and the personal connection shown between Cole Swindell and his lost friend.
Cole begins by describing a perfect day surrounded by friends and family before acknowledging his lost friend. The song serves as a way for Cole to catch up with his friend by describing how his life has changed and sharing recent events.
“Brendan’s Death Song” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Considered by diehard RHCP fans as one of their most underrated songs, “Brendan’s Death Song” combines hollowing music when memorable lyrics to craft one of the greatest songs about dealing with the death of a friend. This song is made great due to excellent background vocals and incredible writing and wordplay. Fans of RHCPs are likely all too familiar with this song, but it’s worth a listen for everyone.
“Gypsy” – Fleetwood Mac
There’s a reason “Gypsy” is still one of Fleetwood Mac’s most beloved songs. While not as slow and somber as many of the songs on this list, Fleetwood Mac intends to celebrate rather than mourn. The song is about Stevie Nicks’ longtime best friend. Her friend died of leukemia, and Fleetwood Mac created this song to pay homage to their life. It’s a great song for anyone who is dealing with the loss of a friend due to cancer or sudden disease.
“Big K.R.I.T” – The Vent
Better compared to Gil Scott Heron than Jay-Z on this track, Big K.R.I.T perfectly combines blues, soul, and hip-hop in this masterpiece. The song begins with Big K.R.I.T questioning a lot of things in his life. It isn’t revealed until over mid-way through the song what’s really on his mind.
He’s dealing with the death of his best friend, and he’s having trouble keeping himself together. “I lost my friend this morning. I woke up screaming her name,” Big K.R.I.T sings. “You meant so much to me. I’m scared I won’t be the same,” he continues as he confesses what truly has him upset.
“Gone Too Soon” – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s discography is littered with songs like this once you dig deeper than his most commercial hits. “Gone Too Soon” has everything an emotional song like this needs to be great. It begins with beautiful similes as Jackson describes exactly what it’s like for a friend to die too soon. “Like a castle built upon a sandy beach,” Jackson sings as he describes the feeling of losing his friend. The music video is just as beautiful as the song itself.
“A.P.I.D.T.A” – Jay Electronica & Jay-Z
More akin to poetry than rapping, Jay Electronica and Jay-Z show exactly what hip-hop is capable of with this song. Considered by many to be the best song from Jay Electronica’s debut album, A.P.I.D.T.A was crafted the night of Kobe Bryant’s death. Jay Electronica’s vocals were inspired by the love he had for his mother, but Jay-Z’s emotion is fueled by the death of his good friend, Kobe Bryant.
“Fire and Rain” – James Taylor
Many older songs have a way of staying relative and relatable decades after their recording, and there’s no better example of this than with James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.”
This song has been helping people deal with the death of a loved one or friend for around 40 years, and it’s sure to be played for many more years to come.
Taylor describes all the highs and lows of his life, singing about everything he’s ever seen, experienced, or lost. Despite everything he’s experienced, he explains that he wasn’t quite ready for the loss of his friend.
“I Lost A Friend” – FINNEAS
Finneas sings about losing a friend suddenly and unexpectedly, like “ice in the summer heat”. He describes struggling to move on from the loss and obsessing over it in in his song-writing, stuck on the fact that there is no one he can blame for what has happened.
The lyrics of “I Lost A Friend” speak to any kind of unexplainable loss and have helped many people process the death of a close friend, but Finneas actually wrote the song about a high school friendship that had fallen apart. He has expressed that the person who the song is about is since back in his life, so it seems that he didn’t lose his friend for good.
“Moments Of Pleasure” – Kate Bush
Bush pays tribute to friends and family members who have passed away in this heart-wrenching ballad. The track begins with Bush speaking more generally about grief and how it feels to lose a friend, before she starts to speak about specific friends and fond memories she has of them.
In these lyrics, she greets her friends and describes what she’s seeing, as if they are right in front of her.
Among those referenced in the track are guitarist Alan Murphy, film director Michael Powell, dancer Gary Hurst and lighting engineer Bill Duffield. Bush also references her mother, relating one of her sayings: “Every old sock meets an old shoe”.
“See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
Puth and Khalifa speak to a lost friend in this heartfelt hip-hop track written for the Furious 7 soundtrack. Although the subject of the track has passed away, they are still saving all their stories to tell them when they eventually meet again in the next life.
The song was commissioned as a tribute to Fast & Furious actor Paul Weller and was chosen to be played at the end of the film. Whilst writing, Puth also connected the track to his college friend Vail Cerullo, who died in a motorcycle accident.
“Visiting Hours” – Ed Sheeran
Sheeran speaks to a friend who will never meet his daughter in this ballad from his fourth studio album, =. Heartbroken that he will never be able to ask for parenting advice from someone he loves, Sheeran wishes that there was a way to visit his friend and ask all the questions he never got to ask in life.
The song is dedicated to Australian music promotor Michael Gudinski. Sheeran saw Gudinski as a father figure and wrote the song as a way to process his death. He performed it to a crowd of 7,000 at Gudinski’s memorial celebration in Australia.
“Saturn” – Sleeping At Last
Ryan O’Neal remembers lessons taught to him by a friend who has since passed away in “Saturn”. A beautiful orchestral arrangement plays behind his vocal as he sings about how much he wishes he could hear those words again and how much he regrets not writing them down. He also realises, though, how true it is that a person’s influence can continue far beyond their death.
“Stars” – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Potter struggles to look up at the night sky without grieving her lost friend. Unable to understand her loss, she can’t understand where her friend has gone – all she knows is that they’ve gone too far for her to follow. Potter later said in interviews that although this song is losing about one friend in particular of hers, she wants the track to be a comfort to anyone who has ever lost someone.
“See You Again” – Carrie Underwood
Even though Underwood’s friend has passed away, she knows that it’s not the end of their impact on her life. She vows to carry their memory with her until she eventually sees them again in another life.
The country pop track is more upbeat than many on this list, signifying Underwood’s optimism that her loved one is still out there somewhere and that the two of them will meet again years down the line. Even though Underwood confesses on the track that she sometimes feels like “my heart is breaking”, she promises that she will “stay strong”.
“Song For Josh” – Frank Turner
In the wake of his friend’s passing, Turner can’t understand why Josh didn’t reach out to him for help. “Why didn’t you call?” he asks. “My phone’s always on.” The lyrics are pretty devastating, but Turner also acknowledges that he knows Josh was carrying “too much weight” with him, and he decides to remember his friend in his best moments rather than fixating on how he died.
The track is dedicated to Josh Burdette, the security guard at a popular Washington punk club who was friends with many prominent artists in the American punk scene. Burdette was also mourned by the band Green Day, who had his picture up behind them in stadiums following his death.
“Light Years” – Pearl Jam
Although the band liked the idea that “Light Years” could be interpreted differently by different listeners, Eddie Vedder dedicated the song to friend of the band Diane Muus during a live performance. The lyrics reference losing a loved one unexpectedly and not having the chance to say goodbye. The song was re-worked from an original demo titled “Puzzles & Games” and had several iterations before its final studio version.
“No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)” – Queen
Written by the band – in particular Brian May – six years after the death of lead singer Freddie Mercury, “No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)” was dedicated to Mercury and all those who die to young. The lyrics reference a deep grief and the difficulty of navigating through it, as the speaker learns to live life without a dear friend. The song was conceptualised during May’s visit to Montreux in 1996 to unveil a statue in Mercury’s honour.
“Angel” – Sarah McLachlan
Two-time Grammy Award winner Sarah Mclachlan wrote “Angel” in the wake of her friend and fellow musician Jonathan Melvoin’s death. Melvoin, the keyboard player for the iconic 90s band Smashing Pumpkins died of a heroin overdose.
Melvoin’s death influenced McLachlan to reflect on the need to numb the pain and how many people use heroin to escape feeling lost or in pain. She talks about being kind to yourself when you go through a dark time, helping others grieve, and giving compassion and understanding to those whose escape leads to their death.
“In My Life” – The Beatles
“In My Life” is a sentimental love song written by John Lennon about nostalgia for people, places, and experiences past.
Released on the album Rubber Soul in 1965, “In My Life” is a song that reiterates the fleeting impermanence of all life experiences and losing many experiences and people to death. It is also one of the most referenced songs about being let down by a friend.
The silver lining, however, is that love lasts forever, and Lennon says that although a loved one is no longer with us, the love we feel is still very present.
“Everybody Hurts” – R.E.M.
One of the most famous songs about grief and pain all humans experience at some point in their lives, “Everybody Hurts” debuted on R.E.M.’s eighth studio album in 1992. It has been lauded as one of the greatest songs ever by multiple music publications and reached the top 30 on U.S. Billboards.
The simplicity of the lyrics caters to a young crowd, but their clarity reaches audiences of all ages. They remind us that grieving and hurting are universal experiences that we all must endure and encourages us to get through them.
“Wake Me Up When September Ends” – Green Day
Written by Billy Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of the famous punk band Green Day, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a song about the loss of Armstrong’s father, who died when he was a child.
It is a popular pop punk songs about losing a friend. It went platinum in three countries and topped the Billboard charts around the world.
The music video, however, conveys the song’s relevance to the loss of loved ones to war and other catastrophes. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” became a theme song for victims of Hurricane Katrina, as Green Day performed it for a benefit concert days after Katrina hit.
“Dancing in the Sky” – Dani and Lizzy
Dani and Lizzy is a hip hop and R&B duo and twin sisters out of Canada whose breakthrough song “Dancing in the Sky” received millions of views online. “Dancing in the Sky” is a heartbreaking homage to a friend who has died.
The song’s lyrics are a conversation with the parted friend, expressing curiosity about the afterlife.
The song goes from asking about what heaven is like to expressing their solitude and grief on earth. The chorus conveys the duo’s wishes that their loved one be at peace and enjoying the infinite joys of heaven.
“I’ll Be Missing You” – Puff Daddy and Faith Evans
A popular funeral song since it came out, “I’ll Be Missing You,” won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance.
Putting a spin on the Police’s rock song “Every Breath You Take,” whose harmony comprises the chorus of this rap song about losing a friend, “I’ll Be Missing You” is Puff Daddy’s homage to his close friend and brother in rap, Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace. It is one of the most enduring songs about losing a friend to death rap fans love.
Faith Evans, B.I.G.’s wife, contributes to the song with a heart-wrenching voice that you can tangibly feel. In a rare moment of solidarity between the rock and rap worlds, Police’s frontman Sting accompanies Puff Daddy and Evans to perform the song at the 1997 MTV Awards.
“One More Day” – Diamond Rio
Often after a loved one dies, we often wish we could have one last hug, one last conversation, or one last day with them. Such is the sentiment written about in Diamond Rio’s song.
Diamond Rio’s album by the same debuted around the time of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt’s death, making it one of the most poignant songs about losing a friend to death country music lovers cherish.
“One More Day” is a comforting song about being granted that wish to spend one more day with a loved one and how it’s a wish that trumps any desire for riches or material gain.
“A Long December” – Counting Crows
The Counting Crows were a popular alternative rock band during the 90s, releasing “A Long December” on their second album Recovering Satellites in 1996. It reached number one on both Canadian and US Billboards.
Singer and songwriter Adam Duritz wrote “A Long December’s” song lyrics about death of a friend who passed in a car crash.
A Long December is an introspective rock ballad that speaks of reflections on the past and future. It is one of the most popular indie songs about losing a friend.
Tragedies cause us to relive the past with the ones we lost while also making plans for a future without them, a future of living life to the fullest to honor their memory.
“Joanne” – Lady Gaga
Not only the name of a song, but Joanne is also the name of Lady Gaga’s 5th studio album that received three Grammy nominations, including a nomination for best pop solo performance for the song “Joanne.”
Joanne is Lady Gaga’s aunt, who died long before Lady Gaga was even born. Lady Gaga observed the pain felt throughout her family at her aunt’s untimely passing, inspiring the song and the underlying theme of the whole album.
The idea of someone who you’ve never met in life but who was such a bright light for your closest loved ones inspiring you to live the life that for them was cut short is a profound feeling. Her hopes with the song were to help others deal with grief and loss.
“Freebird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lynyrd Skynyrd is a revolutionary band that essentially founded a new genre, combining country, folk, psychedelic rock, and rock n roll.
Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Allen Collins wrote “Freebird” to honor the passing of their musical colleagues and close friends Duane Allman and Barry Oakley of the Allman Brothers.
Collins discusses the concept of freedom, first as it alludes to American patriotism, and then more profoundly, as a way for the soul to fly free like a bird. The visualization of two souls that have left this earth to be free in another dimension is a comforting and beautiful notion for anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Each of these songs offer something unique, describing different situations, relationships, and feelings.
Some celebrate life, some mourn, and some pay homage. No matter the case, I’m sure you have been able to find something relatable in my top 30.
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.