At Your Funeral: Tom Waits – “Dead and Lovely”

At your funeral

Death is about the last thing on my mind right now. The way I look at it, my life’s only just begun. So you can imagine how difficult of a time I had attempting to decide what song should be played at my own funeral. And let’s not even get on the subject of my overwhelming indecision with everything on a daily basis (even when it comes to choosing what kind of sprinkles I want on my ice cream) or the fact that everything in life is ultimately situational. Because let’s face it, today this might be the song for me, but who knows what I’ll be saying in 30 years! Well, that’s if I make it that long.

Honestly, I must have gone through a list of 30 or more songs before settling on Tom Waits’ somber and bluesy tune “Dead and Lovely”; the title of which is more than appropriate, don’t ya think? And while I was tempted by my favorite poppy Gorillaz tune, “Last Living Souls”, and the ever so gentle and depressing instrumental theme from Twin Peaks, I couldn’t ignore how fitting “Dead and Lovely” would be for my funeral, especially since I’ve always secretly believed that finding true love would ultimately see to my demise. Now, as depressing as that may sound, it’s unfortunately true. And I must say that while writing this confession may come off a bit cliché, or even as an easy out to some, I’d bet that if any of you’d ever met some of the company I’ve kept, you’d soon realize that I’m just a hopeless romantic lost in a world of selfish, narcissistic, non-committal assholes.

“Dead and Lovely” hails from Waits’ Real Gone, released in 2004, and gained a small following from its use at the beginning of the film Wristcutters: A Love Story. If you’ve seen the movie, you may have just gotten the impression that by choosing this song I intend to go out someday by offing myself “when the time seems right.” However, that’s far from the truth. “Dead and Lovely” actually called out to me because not only is it a beautiful song and one of my top-ten favorite Tom Waits songs, but also because of its significance in my life. Plus, it’s the kind of song that while a bit sad, it wouldn’t bring a whole crowd to tears, which is the last thing I’d ever want to happen at my funeral. In fact, I’d rather people forget their sadness for a moment, and maybe even smile, as they remember lil’ ol’ me. And I strongly believe that hearing the scratchy, melancholy flow of “Dead and Lovely” on this occasion could actually bring them that peace they’re yearning for.

Waits’ raspy vocals provide a chilling sense of relief on “Dead and Lovely”, as its simple 4/4 rhythm rocks you steadily back and forth like you were adrift at sea on a small sailboat. Stamped with a musty reverb sound and drenched in wavering, distorted bluesy guitar, “Dead and Lovely” has Waits’ signature sound written all over it. The song itself is about a young girl who became entangled with the wrong fella, which tragically lead to her death. Waits’ voice carries a melancholy tone through and through, but somehow he also shows acceptance for the inevitability of her death by remaining strong and complacent whilst singing, “He had a bullet proof smile/He had money to burn/She thought she had the moon/In her pocket/But now she’s dead/She’s so dead/Forever dead and lovely now”.

While I’d like to think that finding true love wouldn’t end up killing me, I can’t shake the feeling that it might someday. Maybe it’s the men I choose, or maybe it’s the spontaneous, care-free lifestyle that I lead, but when the heat is turned up, I hope I can remember to heed Waits’ advice on this one: “Don’t let a fool kiss you/Never marry for love”. Maybe this way I’ll be able to survive a little longer. Then again, if history goes to show anything, I probably won’t be out there thinking straight when cupid plunges his fatal arrow through my heart. Instead, I’ll be on top of the world, full of happiness and unaware of my impending doom. Funny how love works.


Follow Consequence