Saying goodbye is hard. In this life, leaving is painful and all-too-common. And as Plankeye sang in their amazing song, “Goodbye”, Death takes many forms. Even while alive. You move away from home. Someone you love moves to a new city. Or, even more difficult, the leaving is permanent; a loved one dies. In these times of leave-taking, I have often received blessing and consolation through music. Today, I want to talk about a few of my favorite goodbye songs.
Before we dive into the list, I need to thank fellow Rambler, Gowdy Cannon, for inspiring this article. Last week, he took us down memory lane to celebrate Hootie and the Blowfish’s landmark debut album, Cracked Rear View.” In that article, he mentioned an unreleased song called, “Goodbye” that has helped him process his current state of transitioning from a 17-year ministry in Chicago. That got me thinking about some of my favorite goodbye songs and this is the result.
As I have written before, music has a way of peeling back our defenses. At its best, music can say the things we are feeling. It can express our deepest emotions while at the same time providing comfort. I’m going to do my best to keep my words short here and let the music do most of the talking.
“I’ll Remember” by Madonna
“Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for him.”Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Yes, I am starting off this list with a Madonna song. Yes, I am still a Christian. And yes, I do find much of her music and worldview problematic and/or offensive. But this song doesn’t fit those descriptors. “I’ll Remember” is a beautiful and melancholy pop song about saying goodbye to someone you love. The lyrics are vague enough that it could be about death or something less permanent, but there is a heartfelt sense of peace that permeates the song. It’s really quite lovely.
“Hear You Me” by Jimmy Eat World
A song about death that moves me every time I hear it. It’s what all good, emotional, rock and roll should sound like.
“Don’t Cry” by Adam Again
In the annals of Christian music, I doubt there has ever been a more devastating song about divorce. Perfecta, the album this song appears on, was built around the dissolution of Gene Eugene’s marriage to his band-mate, Riki Michelle. It’s raw and sometimes bitter but this closer adds a gentleness to it that is desperately needed.
“I’ll Meet You There” by WhiteHeart
This song was instrumental in getting me through the very difficult time of leaving my home and all my friends when I moved away from Panama to start college. Seriously. I listened to this song a lot during that season of my life. In the pantheon of great goodbye songs, this is probably my go-to.
“I Grieve” by Peter Gabriel
The first half of this song is about as sad as I’ve ever heard. It’s heartbreaking stuff. But Gabriel transitions from that sense of overwhelming sorrow mid-song and turns it into a celebration of life. I don’t agree entirely with the beliefs of life and death expressed in this song, but that doesn’t take away from its power. We are more than the flesh and bones that tie us to the earth.
“In My Arms Again” by Michael W. Smith
Little known fact: Michael W. Smith submitted this song for the movie Titanic. It would have been his “My Heart Will Go On” of the movie if it had been chosen. I vastly prefer Smitty’s song to Celine’s, though I don’t hate hers in the least. This is a song of loss, longing, and love. Mr. Smith flat out kills it.
“Across the Miles” by Nouveaux
Here is another song that got me through my move away from Panama. I am unashamed to admit I listened to this 80s style power ballad with tear filled eyes more than once. If you have a lighter, this is the time to raise it high.
“Into the West” by Annie Lennox (The Return of the King Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
This is the closing song to my favorite film trilogy of all-time – The Lord of the Rings. The song, inspired both by the book as well as a personal story of losing someone too young, strikes the perfect emotional tone to close out the series. It recognizes the pain and the loss we all feel but never loses sight of the hope beyond these shores.
“Streets of Gold” by NEEDTOBREATHE
I’ll end on a happier note. This wouldn’t even rank as one of NEEDTOBREATHE’s top 30 songs, but for very specific times, it is like the perfect medicine. The song, with no cheese factor, speaks to our eternal hope in Christ. We may say goodbye in the here and now but “one day, we’ll walk upon streets of gold.” Goodbyes get a little easier when we have that to hold on to.
I would love to read about some of your favorite goodbye songs. Please, post them in the comment section below or on one of our social media platforms.