Blog of Design Studies

Death in Pop-Music

When death became part of rock and pop music

In the 50th and early 60th nobody wanted to hear something about death in pop or rock music. Latest with „Leader of the Pack“ by the girl group „Shangri-Las“ in 1964 death became part of the genre.

This is the beginning part of an interesting blog of the german newspaper „Welt“ in 2010.

91 more songs about death can be found here:

Death in Classic Music

Frederic Chopin
Creator: Louis-Auguste Bisson
Public Domain

Author: Nadar
Public Domain

Gustav Mahler
Painter: Emil Orlik
Public domain

Dmitri Shostakovich
Author: Roger & Renate Rössing

Franz Schubert – Death and the Maiden

It is called on of the pillars of chamber music: The String Quartet No. 14 of Franz Schubert, created in a very critical phase of his life. He was ill from syphilis and depression and he tried at the same time to stablish himself in Vienna. We are in the year 1824. Schubert is 23 years old.
Schubert String Quartett No. 14 (Wikipedia)

The name „death and the maiden“ is based on a poem of Mathias Claudius. The maiden is fearfully confronted by death. But the death introduces himself as a friend. (in German)

The Maiden:
Pass me by! Oh, pass me by!
Go, fierce man of bones!
I am still young! Go, dear,
And do not touch me.
And do not touch me.

Give me your hand, you beautiful and tender form!
I am a friend, and come not to punish.
Be of good cheer! I am not fierce,
Softly shall you sleep in my arms!



Frederique Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2; Op. 35

It is the funeral march that illustrate the death in his creation. This march became very famous. It was used for a lot of state funerals like Leonid Breschnew, Josip Tito, John F. Kennedy, W. Churchill etc.

Metamorphosen by Richard Strauß

The last big work for orchestra of Richard Strauß named „Metamorphosen“ was composed for 23 strings. Shortly before end of World War II in 1945 the composition tells about the end of his work period and the grief about the disastrous devastation caused by the system he believed to and cites some beats of the 3rd symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Finale from symphony No. 6 by Tchaikovsky – „Pathétique“

A gorgeous symphony and his last work telling about great feeling like love, confidence and finally the ultimate death.

String quartet No. 15 – Borodin by Shostakovich

The quartet was finished in 1974 shortly before his death: A pure meditation about death with the fifth movement called „Funeral March“.

Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder

Rückert’s poem (1833-34) about grief of the illness and death of his daughter inspired Mahler for his composition. Mahler himself was familiar to death, because 7 of his siblings died during their childhood. Years after the composition was ready, his own daughter died in the age of four, too.

Danse macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns

It is written in 1874 and is based on an old French superstition: Every year at midnight on Halloween Death calls the dead from their graves to dance with him till dawn.

Richard Strauß
Public Domain

Franz Schubert
Original in Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien
Public Domain

Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowski
Author: Nikolai Kuznetsov
Public Domain