Good Funeral Music: “Smile When Your Heart is Aching”

A young lady sang “Smile” for her deceased grandfather at our funeral home yesterday and people in attendance felt their hearts dissolve. Folks buried their heads in their hands. It was gorgeous.

“Smile” was written in 1936 by Charlie Chaplin, of all people, and the melody was used in the film “Modern Times.” Nat King Cole and Judy Garland recorded it in the 1950s when lyrics were added. There are now two Garland versions online–she sang it differently every time–but what follows is the best to study (despite poor video quality) for funeral use.

“Smile” was Michael Jackson’s favorite song–or so said Brooke Shields in her eulogy to him–and his life’s story (like Judy’s) imbued his recording with extra meaning. Here’s brother Jermaine singing it with great emotion at Jackson’s funeral July 7, 2009, Staples Center, Los Angeles.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You’ll get by…

If you smile
With your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just…

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just…


One response

  1. That young lady was my 18-year-old niece and we were very proud of her. Thank you Amy for conducting such a dignified and wonderful service for my Father-in-Law. You really made the occasion special and handled all our many requests with such good grace. We will always be grateful to you. You have a gift for this important work but don’t give up the writing, your other special gift.

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