Death and dying: songs about the end

Life, man. It’s so fragile, it’s so fleeting, and so much music that makes life better is actually about the end of it. Go figure. With the bands Dehd and …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead both scheduled to play in Nashville on Friday, August 12, I thought we could spin some lovely songs about death for the August 11th #ThematicStatic.

Enjoy the full show (👇) and accompanying set list, below. Get your requests in for future themes via Instagram or Twitter, both @WNXPNashville. Thanks to Eastside Bowl for the support!


ODESZA ft. Bettye LaVette – “The Last Goodbye”

The Avett Brothers – “Die Die Die”

Yard Act ft. Elton John – “100% Endurance”

#ThematicStatic Playlist

Japanese Breakfast – “Rugged Country” – Steve Haruch, a producer on WPLN’s daily show This Is Nashville, requested this one from Michelle Zauner’s 2016 album, her debut as Japanese Breakfast, called Psychopomp, which is all about the death of her mother from cancer in 2014. Zauner has since published a bestselling memoir about her mother, too, called Crying in H Mart and I loved it.

Death Cab for Cutie – “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” – Death Cab singer-songwriter Ben Gibbard said he was inspired by the inevitability of loss, and wrote this song, from the band’s 2005 album Plans, in under 20 minutes. He told NME in 2018: “Death is an ever-present fear. If not a fear, then an impending reality in our lives. We like to think that when people leave this life, we will see them again some day.”

Madison Cunningham – “Hospital” – We’re playing this great new tune on WNXP a lot lately, and she performed it during her recent Tiny Desk Concert, but it was specifically requested for #ThematicStatic by MC. (Another listener, Daniel, requested another Cunningham song called “Broken Harvest,” the title track from her 2021 record.) “Hospital” will be on the forthcoming LP Revealer, out September 9.

Jim Carroll Band – “People Who Died” – Brian requested this on Twitter, and this song packs quite the death punch, citing the varied but all bitter ends of Teddy, Cathy, G-berg, Georgie, Sly, Bobby, Mary, Judy, Eddie and Tony.

Kendrick Lamar – “Die Hard” – Kahwit actually requested a different song, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” — on Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 release Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City — but I made an executive host decision to play one off the newest record, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers. (I promise if you listen to Marquis Munson on weeknights you’ll hear vintage Kendrick.)

Local Natives – “Airplanes” – I always forget how obsessed I was with the debut record from Local Natives, but 2010’s Gorilla Manor included this song, which Emily requested, and which includes these lyrics:

It sounds like we would’ve had a great deal to say
To say to each other
I bet when I leave my body for the sky, the wait
The wait will be worth it


Tierra Whack – “Gone” – I played a Whack song about death, but on her day of birth. You may recall that this track appears on R&B?, one of three themed EPs Whack released last year, and we covered as a bundled #RecordoftheWeek.

Mountains Like Wax – “A Lover’s Plea (Part 1)” – Local love for Mountains Like Wax plus guest vocalist Julien Baker, who appears on this song from their 2022 full-length, Before There Was Plenty. Zach made this request.

Boulevards – “Better Off Dead” – I got to play the newly released Sonic Cathedral recording of this song performed at WNXP by Jamil Rashad, from his debut album as Boulevards, Electric Cowboy: Born in Carolina Mud. Watch the entire session here!

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – “If We Were Vampires” – More local love, this request from Makenzy.

Sufjan Stevens – “Fourth of JulyCarrie & Lowell is celebrated as one of Stevens’ best recordings and it’s indisputably the most heartrending, given the whole 2015 album is a tribute to his late mother Carrie. WNXP listener Vince knew his was a “heavy” pick, but it was lovely to air the song, nonetheless. Sample lyrics:

The hospital asked should the body be cast
Before I say goodbye, my star in the sky
Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth
Do you find it all right, my dragonfly?

“Fourth of July”

More Music for Mourning

I couldn’t fit these all into our hour, but I love how many requests we got for this theme and want to give credit where credit’s due to those of you who lobbed thoughtful ideas, like:

The Smiths – “Asleep” – Elevator Vinyl (a Hendersonville record shop!) requested this on Instagram

Pearl Jam – “Just Breathe” – Carrie

George Jones – “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – Joshua

Jessica Nelson – “New Year’s Eve”

Johnny Cash – “Long Black Veil” – Rex

Sufjan Stevens – “Casimir Pulaski Day” – Briana

Jeff Tweedy – “Don’t Forget” – Joel

Little Dragon & Kali Uchis – “Are You Feeling Sad?” – Aaron

Eric Coomer – “Somewhere Along The Line”

The Chicks – “Travelin’ Soldier” – Christy

The Mountain Goats – “Woke Up New” – Isaiah

Tool – “Wings for Marie” – Akido, the martial arts academy in East Nashville (also a biz account on Instagram)

White Lies – “Death” – Crystal

Nirvana – “Seasons in the Sun” – Jill