This Day in Music, October 26: In My Time of Dying

By , Contributor

On 26 October 1970, a wake was held at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, California to celebrate the life of Janis Joplin. The singer who died of an accidental drugs overdose had left $2,500 in her will to throw a wake party in the event of her demise. The party was attended by her sister Laura and Joplin's close friends. Brownies laced with hashish were unknowingly passed around amongst the guests. Joplin was cremated in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles; her ashes were scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach.

Now, that sounds like a great party. I’m always surprised to read how people (who have died) have gone to such great lengths to plan and organize their own send-off. Which Janis obviously did, in great detail;  $2,500 in 1970 was a lot of money. Can you imagine her writing all this in her will? “Fifty bottles of dry white wine, 10 cases of beer…2 dozen hash browines.”

My partner is obsessed by her funeral. I’ve never known anyone spend so much time and energy talking about the subject. (And I’m not planning on killing her just yet.) And it’s not just me she discusses this with; the kids get it and anyone else who will listen.

She’s going to be cremated, in a wicker casket (she doesn’t see the point in spending all that money on a nice piece of wood). I’ve suggested several times that I would pay for her to be buried in a KISS casket, but she’s not a fan, so that’s that.

Then we have the songs she wants us all to weep to, which change on a monthly basis. We went to see Glen Campbell in Manchester last week (who was excellent), so now we have one of his new songs, “A Better Place,” as the requested tune as the wicker box glides through the curtains.

One thing I know
The world's been good to me
A better place, awaits you'll see.

But I’m not going to act on this just yet as I know this will change.

And added to this, my other half is insisting we install a top quality PA system to play the music, as she’s noticed that all funeral parlors have rubbish sound systems. Well, fair point.

She once said to me as we passed a funeral procession, “Wouldn’t you be really annoyed if it was raining on your own funeral?"

“No," I replied, "you’d be dead and not bothered.”

So, what is this obsession with what happens at our last moment to impress? “Music was nice ... Good turnout ... Those hash brownies were great..."

You know something is important when lists are published on the subject, and "what song would you have played at your funeral" is one of those.

A few years back the UK's biggest undertakers, Co-Op Funeral Services, reported that bereaved families preferred pop songs to hymns at funerals. Top of the list was “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler. Other songs included "Angels" by Robbie Williams and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. They also reported some unusual choices including “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!

All I can say is, well done, Janis, for organising such a great send-off, I’m sure it was one hell of a party. I’m not planning mine yet, but It has got me thinking about songs I would choose. But I’m not saying which ones apart from that Monty Python classic, “Always Look On Bright Side Of Life”.

Life's a counterfeit and when you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's the joke, it's true
You see, it's all a show, keep them laughing as you go
Just remember the last laugh is on you
Always look on the bright side of life
And always look on the right side of life...

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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