What Are Some Black Funeral Songs?

The stalwart of black gospel songs for funerals is Thomas Dorsey’s “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” Written in 1932, Dorsey’s classic is perhaps the most iconic black spiritual of all time. Dorsey adapted the melody from a 19th century hymn, but composed the lyrics when mourning the deaths of his first wife and child.

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” is one of the most recorded gospel songs in history. A measure of its place in the black community is that Mahalia Jackson sang it at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Aretha Franklin sang it four years later at Jackson’s funeral, according to The Huffington Post.

The Caravans’ performance of “Lord Keep Me Day by Day,” written by and featuring Eddie Williams, is another gospel classic and a staple of black funerals. Along with a host of gospel favorites, it was sung at the funeral of another Caravans member, Albertina Walker in 2010.

“I’ll Fly Away,” a black gospel favorite, performed by everyone from Jackie Wilson to Mississippi John Hurt, is sung frequently at black funerals. While “Amazing Grace” and “Will the Circle be Unbroken” have an appeal in black and white communities beyond their use in funerals, both are nonetheless a mainstay for funerals in the black community. Andre Crouch’s “Soon and Very Soon” is also a black funeral perennial, especially as the coffin is carried from the church and the family files out from the church.