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"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" a Hit at Funerals

Updated on August 1, 2017
UnnamedHarald profile image

As a fan of Monty Python since 1972 (when they first appeared on US television), I feel qualified to write about them... even if it's crap.

Go As You Please Funeral Home

'Go As You Please' Funeral Home offers funerals with a difference. Would they include "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"?
'Go As You Please' Funeral Home offers funerals with a difference. Would they include "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"? | Source

Most Requested

The most requested song at U.K. funerals in 2014 was Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, beating out the likes of The Lord is My Shepherd, My Way, You'll Never Walk Alone and all the rest.

The irreverent tune is the closing song sung in 1979's comedy Monty Python's Life of Brian, about a man, Brian Cohen (played by Graham Chapman), who had the misfortune to be born on the same day as Jesus of Nazerath, a next door neighbor, and subsequently mistaken for the Messiah. While Brian is hanging from the cross, fellow crucifixion victim Eric Idle (who actually wrote the song) attempts to cheer him up by saying:

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle,
And this'll help things turn out for the best, and...

At this point Eric breaks out into full song. Within a few verses all the others being crucified join in, singing, whistling and rhythmically shifting their heads side to side as best they can under the circumstances.

Monty Python Members

Monty Python 1969. Front (L-R): Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin. Back (L-R): Graham Chapman (deceased), Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam (American).
Monty Python 1969. Front (L-R): Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin. Back (L-R): Graham Chapman (deceased), Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam (American).

Irreverent, Blasphemous, Hilarious, Infectious and Uplifting

Did I say irreverent? Indeed, even blasphemous to some. And hilarious-- at least to those not mortally offended by religious parodies (though behind closed doors some might loose a guilty chuckle). And somewhat infectious, at least akin to an earwig boring into your brain. It's just so catchy.

According to a study by The Co-operative Funeralcare, the United Kingdom's largest funeral director with more than 900 funeral homes, requests for Always Look on the Bright Side of Life at funerals has risen from 13th place in 2011 to the most popular funeral song of 2014. Hymns and classics are declining, now claiming only 9 of the top 20 choices. One spokesman said "The variety of songs played at funerals today illustrates how more and more people are choosing to personalise funerals, and celebrate their loved one's life with a fitting farewell." Ah, those crazy Brits. If you really think about it though, it really is uplifting-- a kind of “up yours” in the face of the grim reaper.

Top 10 at UK Funerals (2014)

Here are the top 10 songs played at UK funerals in 2014:


  1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - Eric Idle
  2. The Lord is My Shepherd - Traditional
  3. Abide with Me - Traditional
  4. Match of the Day theme
  5. My Way - Frank Sinatra
  6. All Things Bright and Beautiful - Traditional
  7. Angels - Robbie Williams
  8. Enigma Variations - Elgar
  9. You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry and the Pacemakers
  10. Cricket Theme/Soul Limbo - Booker T & the MG's

Lest you think the Brits have completely lost their sense of decorum, some songs, like Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols have been refused based on “taste” and “inappropriate language”, though I doubt the folks at Downton Abbey would agree the banned list goes quite far enough. Also on the list of refused songs: Imagine by John Lennon. Say what???

The British Stiff Upper Lip

Perhaps part of the appeal of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is that it has that sort of “stiff upper lip” British stoicism about it. When Monty Python's Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989 at age 48, Eric Idle led the other Pythons and Graham's family and friends in a rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life at a private memorial.

During the Falklands War in 1982, the destroyer HMS Sheffield was struck by an Exocet missile on May 4 and her sister ship HMS Coventry was hit by several bombs on May 25. A total of 40 sailors were killed. In both situations, while the remaining crew members awaited rescue before their ships sank, they sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Always Look on the Bright of Life

And Now For Something Completely Different: Russian Soldiers March to SpongeBob SquarePants

Different, but in a similar same vein... the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song has hit a nerve with Russian soldiers and sailors who have adopted it to keep cadence while marching, starting with SpongeBob's captain saying: Are you ready children? One commenter said that the Russian language can make anything sound terrifying. At this time the following YouTube video showing Russians marching has over 700,000 hits.

Are You Ready Children?

And Now For Something Else Completely Different: World Record Coconut Orchestra

On April 23, 2007, 5,567 people clip-clopped their way into the Guinness World Records as the world's largest Coconut Orchestra by playing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Led by Monty Python members Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, the “orchestra” performed in London's Trafalgar Square. The idea for coconut orchestras was born when the budget for 1975's Monty Python and the Holy Grail precluded horses. To “solve” the problem, the comedy troupe had actors clop coconuts together simulating hoofbeats. The previous record for a Coconut Orchestra was 1,789 in New York City.

© 2015 David Hunt

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    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      LOL! I think you're right, UnnamedHarald. I think it's delightful! Death doesn't have to be so somber. As Forrest Gump's mom said, "Death is a part of life." So why not celebrate, be goofy, or whatever . . . ?

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks, Victoria. I've always thought of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as a big "up yours" to death.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I think playing this song at the end of a funeral would bring some chuckles through tears. Of course, there are many who would frown on it. I would love to see funerals be more upbeat. Death is sad enough without drowning in the sadness. I adore this song!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Kylyssa, can you imagine the faintings and the vapors in funeral houses across the US if it did catch on? I find it tempting, but hope the need for it is decades away. I think my family would get a kick out of it though.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I'd love to see it catch on in the U.S. What a fantastic choice for a funeral song!

    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 2 years ago

      A very interesting hub here, i do love a bit of Python, the match of the Day theme tune is my mobile phone ringtone, but i am Liverpool FC till i die and so in reckon it will be You'll Never Walk Alone at my funeral, a great share my friend, thanks, voted up, Lee

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      So you'll be going out in style, Besarien! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Three Little Birds, Let Me Ride by PFunk, I'd Rather Be with You by Bootsy Collins, Celebration by Kool and the Gang, Bob Marley's version of Knocking on Heaven's Door, The Sun by Burning Spear- I am having a funk/reggae wake for any loved ones I leave behind. If I have some notice, I'm making my own beer and wine for the party too. Nice topic for a hub!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Glad you enjoyed it, tillsontitan. The other thing I've re-discovered, having listened to it several times since writing this, is that it has burrowed deep into my subconscious and won't... go... away.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      I shouldn't be surprised being a baby boomer myself. I think it's funny and yet touching. Thanks for sharing this, I would never have known.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks, travmaj and Graham. I've a mind to request this when I shuffle off-- just to imagine the looks of shock on people's faces. But the one's who know me best will be smiling and tapping their feet.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi David. A jolly good hub here! Jolly being the operative word. I enjoyed it.

      Graham.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      This is a surprise but I don't know why - it's clearly a song to finalise with. What fun.

      I do have a soft spot for Gerry and 'You'll never walk alone.' We had the Liverpool football team here last year and the fans sang with gusto. Well these are my personal top two farewell songs! Thank you.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks, DDE. I've had quite a dry spell hub-wise. When I discovered that ALOTBSoL was the most requested funeral song, combining Monty Python and crazy Brits (I'm an ex-pat, not a Brit-basher) I dusted off my hub hat and actually published again. I hope it's the first of many more.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting and mindful. You shared a unique hub.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks, tireless. I agree completely. For life is quite absurd, and death's the final word... enjoy it, it's your last chance anyhow.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 2 years ago from California

      It's baby boomers who cut their teeth on Monty Python that are causing this trend. Excellent hub.