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Death Song

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♪"Save your strength and stay alive..."♫
"Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, he sings."
— variously attributed

Death Is Dramatic. So is musical theatre. Therefore it should come as no surprise that major deaths are often accompanied by a final musical exclamation by the dying character—and frequently another, for extra duet points. Often followed, fittingly enough, by a Grief Song. Sometimes the two even overlap. Frequently a Tear Jerker or a Dark Reprise. In some works can attract Killed Mid-Sentence/Musicalis Interruptus.

It should be noted that this can describe a song a character sings as they die, or a song building up to (and ending with) the singing character's death.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop has two songs, although one of them is never actually heard anywhere in the entire series proper.
    • "Blue" plays for the ending credits of the final episode, right after we see Spike collapse on the stairs after finishing a fight to the death. Word is still out on whether he actually dies or not, but the lyrics fit this trope.
      Everything is clearer, now.
      Life is just a dream, you know?
      It's never ending.
      I'm ascending.
    • "No Reply", a song that never actually plays anywhere in the series, is part of the "Knocking on Heaven's Door OST Future Blues" soundtrack. The song details how the singer laments how he'll never be with the woman he loves, a woman who doesn't know he loves her, but has always supported him at every turn. A woman who will never know how he feels about her as he has already jumped from the top of a building.
  • One Piece has "Bink's Sake/Bink's Brew" as a recurring and well known sea shanty in-universe, but it's most famous and notable use in the series is as the song that Brook's old crew, the Rumbar Pirates, sang as they perished from poisoned weapons. Knowing Brook would come Back from the Dead due to his Devil Fruit, the crew immortalized their final performance as a recording that Brook now carries with him, intending to deliver it to a whale that followed their ship around as a baby.
  • Symphogear features this as a mechanic of its music-based Magical Girl system — the "Swan Song," a song sung as a last resort, removing all limiters on their power at cost of the singer's life.

    Comic Books 
  • In MAD's "The Mad 'Comic' Opera" (1960), Dick Tracy accidentally shoots Dagwood Bumstead. While dying, Dagwood tries to assure Tracy that it's okay because his life's been "nothing but misery, anyhow," then sings about his terrible job and wishes goodbye to Blondie and Daisy in "Old Man Dithers" (a parody of "Old Man River") before falling down dead.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, when SpongeBob and Patrick realize they made it to Shell City after all, they sing one last verse of the Goofy Goober Song before they completely dry out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "I'm Goin' Home" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, though Frank doesn't die during it, but afterwards, and isn't even aware he's going to be killed until afterwards.
  • Parodied in The Bachelor when Jimmie notes that Mariah Carey's character is singing even while she's dying.
  • "Bye Bye Life" from All That Jazz
  • "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's Life of Brian.
  • "Chromaggia" from Repo! The Genetic Opera, sung by Blind Mag in the Genetic Opera just before she rips out her own due-to-be-repossessed eyes and then falls to her death. Also "I Didn't Know I'd Love You So Much", which Nathan Wallace and his daughter Shilo sing as the former is dying from a gunshot wound.
  • "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" from The Rose. Followed up by "The Rose", which counts as a Grief Song.
  • In the movie adaptation of In the Heights, Adaptational Context Change makes it so that Abuela Claudia’s "Paciencia y Fe" is changed from a retrospective song to one of these.
  • Everyone on the Titanic in Titanic (1953) starts singing a hymn together as they wait to die. However, when the boat crashes and starts rapidly sinking all is quiet.
  • "Mother Earth and Father Time", from the 1973 film of Charlotte's Web.
  • The Finnish fantasy film Rolli – Amazing Tales has "Suuren Roskan tuho" ("Destruction of the Great Trash"), a hammy Villain Song which is sung by the Great Trash as he's about to be killed by his followers' collapsing lair.
  • "Country Roads" from Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

  • The Lady of Shalott: The lady is described as chanting a haunting choral "deathsong" as she lays dying on her boat.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Daniel Amos's "Shadow Catcher" from Fearful Symmetry, about a man standing at death's door and staring into the shadows.
  • "Love You All" by Cloud Cult is about letting your family know you love them while you die.
    I love my mother
    I love my father
    When it's my time to go
    I need you to know
    Love you all...
  • Julia Ecklar's "For the Need of the One" is Spock singing to Kirk as he dies of radiation poisoning in The Wrath of Khan.
  • The band Enter the Haggis puts a positive spin on this trope in both "One Last Drink" and "Let Me Go".
  • Forgive Durden's "The End and the Beginning", from the album Razia's Shadow, is this for Adakias when he throws himself in front of Anhura to protect her from his brother's blade. It also doubles as a Grief Song for Pallis when he realizes what he's done.
  • "Prayer for the Dying" from Lisa Hannigan's album At Swim was written about the recent death of a friend's mother. "What'll I Do" from Passenger can also be interpreted as either this or Break Up Song.
  • "See You Soon" by Lord of the Lost is sung from the perspective of a man on his deathbed.
    Will you tell me – See you soon in a while
    When my eyes fade please give me your smile
    And even dark nights are ending in dawn
    You'll have time to cry when I'm gone
  • "Count to Six and Die" from Marilyn Manson's Concept Album Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). However, "The Death Song", from the same album, is not a Death Song.
  • Klaus Nomi's "The Cold Song" from Klaus Nomi and "Ding Dong" and "Death" from Simple Man, which are all covers by the way.
  • Tears for Fears: "The Tipping Point" is about the tipping point between life and death, and it was based on Roland Orzabal's harrowing experience of watching his wife Caroline die slowly of liver cirrhosis. Curt Smith does share some of the anguish because Caroline was his Childhood Friend, hence the reason why the song is a duet. At the time of this single's release in 2021, it marked only the second time that both men's vocals carried equal weight in the band's 40-year-long history note , so it's a testament to how deeply personal Caroline's illness and eventual death were for the duo.
    Silver tongue, they'll soon be gone
    When the sunlight hits the room
    Lay down with them if you want
    Watch their breath and feel the cold

    Winter done, they'll soon be gone
    From this unforgiving place
    To that vague and distant void
    Where the sunlight splits the I

    Life is cruel, life is tough
    Life is crazy, then it all turns to dust
    Will you let 'em out?
    Will you let 'em in?
    Will you ever know when it's the tipping point, the tipping point?

    So who's that ghost knockin' at my door?
    You know that I can't love you more
    What's that shape climbin' over my wall?
    You know that I can't love you more
  • Within Temptation has "The Swan Song", in which the singer is peacefully dying.
  • Neil Young's Birds has been interpreted as this.
  • "The Farewell Song" by Rachel Rose Mitchell is a particularly tearjerking example, which sees the singer pleading for someone to live a happy life without her, despite how broken they are by her death.
  • "Remember Me" by Machinae Supremacynote  is sung to the singer's lover, and asks them to...well, remember him, while gently asking them to continue living. It's both heartwarming and tearjerking.
    Our time we had together
    We thought would last forever
    You will always know what we said and what we showed

    Stay with me in this moment
    I'll remain in your arms, in your memories and dreams
    Will you wake up and still remember me?
  • Of Monsters and Men's hit single, Little Talks tells the story of a woman wandering through the home she shared with her late husband, imagining him telling her to let him go. The dreamy instrumental and the singers' accents (by some reports, the band wasn't fluent in English when recording this song and used a phonetic translation) covers up the Lyrical Dissonance of the song's message.
  • Sabaton:
    • "Hammer Has Fallen," sung by a soldier dying of his wounds and wondering if he'll be let into Heaven.
    "Here I'm standing, darkness all around
    Thinking of past, taking my last breath, air is cold as ice
    No one close to hear my voice
    Didn't leave me with a choice
    Heaven will you wait for me?
    Will I find a way, will I find a place
    Will you let me go in peace?
    Will I find a way to the other side?"
    • "Soldier of Heaven," sung by one of the soldiers killed in the White Friday avalanche. It's actually much more upbeat and kickass than you might think, because the narrator realizes that 1) he's going to Heaven, and 2) that his frozen body will eternally guard his post, like something out of legends.
    "I won't be coming home
    I won't be going anywhere
    I will guard this post forever (forever)
    Here on the Alpine slope, where I did my final stand, I shall remain
    Among the ice and snow that binds me to this mountain
    A force of nature too strong, sent from above
    Where spirits lead the way, the winds will never fade!
    White Friday, I'll take the stairway to Heaven
    I'm sky high, when I die, I'll be immortal
    Forever, I never
    I won't return to Blood Mountain
    I am the soldier of Heaven!"

  • Jonathan Coulton has "Red Shirts," a Filk Song for John Scalzi's Red Shirts. The singer is one such Red Shirt whose Captain Kirk-analouge has led him to his death in yet another crazy adventure billions of miles away from home for no other reason than the Narrative finds it dramatic.
    "I don't hear the sound
    Everything slows
    All of it falls away
    They don't turn around
    Everyone knows
    It won't be them today
    Instead it was me
    Go down dramatically
    Stretching it out a bit
    Still no one notices
    When they write me out of it
    They said this air would be breathable
    I see the naked sky and I taste the dirt
    Dark at the edges and closing in
    I look down in my red shirt
    I look down in my red shirt
  • The Saw Doctors "Carry Me Away" is about an aquaintance of some of the band members who liked to fish on Lough Corrib. His final wish (which was carried out) was to have his ashes scattered there.
  • The Wolfe Tones have a few of these
    • “Grace” is sung from the POV of Joseph Plunkett as he awaits his execution the next morning for his part in the Easter Rising.
    • "Joe McDonnell" is sung from the POV of the eponymous hunger striker as he awaits his turn to die of starvation.

  • "How Glory Goes" from Floyd Collins.
  • "Tell Her I Love Her" from Urinetown, a duet which is half this and half Grief Song.
  • "A Little Fall of Rain", "Come to Me", "Javert's Suicide", and the epilogue from Les Misérables.
  • "Sh'ma" from Parade could be argued to be this, as Leo is about to die. The Sh'ma is the central prayer of Judaism, and the last thing a Jewish person is supposed to say before they die.
  • "I Didn't Know I'd Love You So Much" from the film version of Repo! The Genetic Opera.
  • The reprise of the titular song in Man of La Mancha — but a surprise, as Don Quixote does not know he is dying.
  • In Frankenstein (2014), when Victor's dear friend Henri goes to the guillotine in Victor's place, he sings to Victor that he will live on "In Your Dreams", and that that's enough for him. But Victor Frankenstein, being Victor Frankenstein, is not just going to let him stay dead...
  • The reprise of "Somewhere" is Tony's Death Song in West Side Story.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ends with the title character singing a reprise of "A Barber And His Wife" which is both one of these and a Grief Song given that he unknowingly killed his wife, who he had spent the entire plot seeking to avenge, because he did not know she was still alive, just before Toby uses Sweeney's own razor to slit his throat.
  • "It's Just The Gas" for Orin and "Somewhere That's Green (Reprise)" for Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors. Two other characters die, but they either do not die immediately after a song or die immediately after a song sung by someone else.
  • In Children of Eden, Abel sings a few lines of 'The Wasteland' as he dies.
  • The Crucifixion from Godspell.
  • "The Flesh Failures" from Hair is Claude's death song. He even gets a Dark Reprise of his "I Am" Song in.
  • "Last Midnight" for The Witch in Into the Woods. Of course, we're not quite sure if she's dead...
  • "No One Mourns the Wicked" from Wicked. Subverted, as we later find out she's just hiding.
  • In Kristina, the musical adaptation of The Emigrants, it's the reprise of "Out to the Sea" for Robert and "I'll Be Waiting There" for Kristina.
  • "Contact" from RENT.
  • "Stay Alive (Reprise)" from Hamilton, where Hamilton's son Philip is dying from a gunshot wound. "The World Was Wide Enough" is one for Hamilton himself. The finale, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" is a combination of this and Distant Finale, as it addresses the future and eventual deaths of a number of major characters, ending with Eliza, who sings about her achievements in the fifty years she outlived Alexander before reuniting with him in the final moments of the show.
  • Two examples in The Bridges of Madison County: "When I'm Gone" is sung by Bud and Charlie as and after they grow old and die, and "It All Fades Away" is Robert's final declaration before dying of an unspecified illness.
  • "Some Things Are Meant To Be" from the musical adaptation of Little Women acts as Beth's Death Song, even though she doesn't actually die at the end. She dies afterwards, offstage.
  • "Das Attentat" (The Assassination Attempt) builds up to Elisabeth's death, but it's not sung. Her actual death song, "Der Schleier fällt" (The Veil Falls) is sung after she's dead... and as a duet with Death himself.
  • "Mozarts Tod" ("Mozart's Death") from Mozart!. The titular character confronts Amadè about all he's gained and lost throughout his life, and gets cut off by the boy/demon stabbing him in the arm.
  • "Roses at the Station" from Grand Hotel, the Baron's Dying Dream as he sees his life flash before his eyes and frantically looks for Elizaveta at the Berlin main train station. He has been shot before the song began, and dies as it ends.
  • Fun Home has "Edges of the World" for Bruce Bechdel.
  • "Eva's Final Broadcast" and/or "Lament" (depending on production) from Evita.
  • Judas's Death from Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • In Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld, Eurydice actually demands she get to sing a death song when she realizes she's about to die. Pluto waits while she sings "La mort m'apparaît souriante" before taking her down to the Underworld.
  • Diana: The Musical: The last song, "If (Light Of The World)", follows Diana in the immediate aftermath of the car crash that killed her. She contemplates her life, accomplishments, and potential impact on the world before passing.

    Video Games 
  • Star Trek Online: Episode "Klingon War", mission "The Doomsday Machine". K'Valk, a Klingon Defense Force officer who is trying to help Starfleet Ambassador B'vat from siccing a planet killer on Federation, rams his shuttle down its throat while belting out "The Warrior's Anthem", a Klingon war hymn.
  • Any of the idol's songs, should they not pass judgement in Idol Death Game TV. That's because last place has to perform a 'Death Concert', where they die in gruesome and vicious ways... while singing their song at the exact same time. According to the official website, it's where the idol'll 'shine for the last time in her life'. Of course, the host, Doripaku does promise that if idols can complete their tasks, they could come back to life...
  • In Terraria Calamity, we have "Roar of The Jungle Dragon", the second phase theme of the Jungle Dragon, Yharon, who is implied to have realized that it is already doomed to fail, but will keep fighting anyway out of loyalty to Yharim. To quote the song itself:
    If you proceed, I will not blame you.
    I will move forth and win your war.
    But if I should die before you continue,
    You shall have heard my final dying roar.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
    • Played for darkly dissonant comedy with Mikau, the warrior guitarist of a Zora jazz band. He's first introduced to Link beached and fatally wounded by the Gerudo pirates who stole his girlfriend's eggs, and knowing his number's up, he offers Link his final message... by abruptly standing back up with his guitar out of hammerspace, giving one last jam to exposit his backstory and final request to rescue his children before he finally collapses for good. His last words are a lively "Thank you! That's all..."
    • Taken to frighteningly literal extremes with Sharp, the ghost that haunts Ikana Canyon. He plays the Melody of Darkness, a cursed song that drains the life force out of any living beings unfortunate enough to hear it, as they slowly "join the ranks of the dead" as he puts it. When Sharp plays it to Link, he takes constant damage.

    Visual Novels 
  • "Farewell at the Foot of the Hill" from CLANNAD.

    Web Comics 
  • In Lotta Svärd: Women of War, Lars' last act before succumbing to his wounds is to undo the bandages around his face and sing a traditional Finnish hymn while Lahja plays the piano accompaniment.

    Web Original 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series managed to partially do this when Melvin kills Hank Ishtar. Hank sings the events as they happen in the style of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle".
    Hank: And then he stabbed me in the torso and the cat's in the cat place and oh god, that's sharp!
    Please stop stabbing me, I'm going to die!
    When you gonna stop, son? Oh god, that hurts!
    I think you pierced my lungs there
    Yes, that was definitely my luuungs.
  • Cell sings My Way by Frank Sinatra in his final moments in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
    • In Trunk's timeline he does it again, only for it to last a few seconds, because he didn't achieve anything

    Western Animation 
  • "The Mole's Reprise", from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. It's a Dark Reprise of the earlier "La Resistance".
  • Subverted in the King of the Hill episode "Tankin' it to the Streets". As Bill floors a tank through a war games field in which soldiers are firing live artillery, he sings Free Bird in a broken voice, before seemingly being blown up by the artillery. After his friends break down thinking they've lost him, it turns out he was blown into the bushes, alive(if a bit beaten up!)
  • Also subverted in the The Simpsons episode "Bart's Comet": With the citizens of Springfield cut off from any means of escape and the comet hurtling toward the city close enough to not only be seen with the naked eye, but heard with the naked ear, Ned Flanders accepts his fate after deciding to leave the bomb shelter he himself built and let the other townsfolk use, and walks up to a nearby hill, staring at the comet and singing "Que Sera Sera." The other citizens, seeing him do this (after a heartfelt speech from Homer, of all people), gradually come join him to sing it together. Subverted in that the comet burns up in the atmosphere until it's too small to harm anyone—though as Bart discovers, it's still very hot to the touch.


Video Example(s):


A Little Fall of Rain

Marius holds Eponine as she dies; they duet "A Little Fall of Rain". Her body is then taken away.

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