Great Funeral Music: "You Can Never Hold Back Spring" by Tom Waits

Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

When someone new to Tom Waits asked on a fan page which of the beat/jazz/folk poet’s songs were “more or less” about death, a more seasoned admirer responded “aren’t they all?” Good call. They frequently are.

But when considering which one of Waits’ epic, soulful, generous offerings is best suited to uplift people at the end of a sad funeral, we’d argue that there’s really only this: “You Can Never Hold Back Spring.”

Please listen to the peerless Waits original, but also, if you’re actively putting a funeral service together, consider this feminine cover by Jennifer Nicely to get an idea of what you might create with local female talent. There’s nothing like the Waits’ original however, which we think rivals Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” as one of the greatest how-will-I-ever-return-to-the-tasks-of-living-again? songs of all time.


—by Tom Waits

You can never hold back spring
you can be sure 
I will never stop believing
the blushing rose that will climb
spring ahead or fall behind
winter dreams the same dream every time
baby you can never hold back spring

even though you've lost your way
the world is dreaming 
dreaming of spring
so close your eyes 
open your heart
to the one who's dreaming of you
you can never hold back spring
remember everything that spring can bring
baby you can never hold back spring

Note: Tom Waits is understandably fussy about copyrights and fair use. Here’s where to properly purchase his music.