Don’t Fear the Reaper: Songs About Coping with Life and Death

By Willem Kline

It was an ironically lovely summer day when my Aunt died this year. I was at my friend’s house, the air was crisp, the room we were in was stuffy. I just woke up from a post video game binge and got the call from my mother that one of my family members had lost her fight with cancer. We didn’t know she had cancer until she died. It was tough, life seemed to move in slow motion after that. We lost others as time flew on: artists, family members, friends, nothing ever seemed to let up this year.

When we stare death in the face we tend to think not of how scary the other side might be, but how much there was still left to do. How much time we could’ve spent with those we loved. How much shelter we could’ve given to those who needed it so desperately.

The world is a cold, unforgiving place, surrounded by brief, exploding moments of happiness. We as humans have found ways to really gather that happiness into great piles of conscious acceptance, but at the end of the day we are constantly getting closer to the final tick on an ominous clock.

One of my favorite things my aunt ever said before she died was how much she dug the most recent Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories. She thought it was a masterpiece, told me that it was probably even in her top 10 of all time. As a diehard music fan, and a diehard Daft Punk fan, that made me extremely ecstatic. My aunt was one of the many people who got me into the cynical, heartwarming sides of the humor present in my writing and my performing, the reason for my love of so many interesting TV shows and movies, and the reason we as kids continued to grow up rather peacefully while she babysat us and whipped us into shape while my mom was at work.  

Below is a compilation of songs gathered from myself and some others that have helped us cope with the life and death of beloved family and friends, and other contributing artists who died this year who left an impact on the world greater than any school lesson we may ever attend. I dedicate the following playlist to not only my aunt Angel, but the countless others who have died this year and or are struggling with the concept of death.

I leave you all with the lyrics of one my Aunt’s favorite songs off of that Daft Punk album: Touch, which was sung by the extremely talented Paul Williams.


“A room within a room

A door behind a door

Touch, where do you lead?

I need something more

Tell me what you see,

I need something more.”


Though her time on this Earth is up, I can still hear her in all the music I listen to.

Rest in Peace, Angel. You’ve finally found something more.

The List of Songs:

Animal Collective- Derek

The Antlers- Wake

The Antlers- Two

Bastille- Oblivion

Childish Gambino- iii: life: the Biggest Troll

Coldplay- Yellow

The Cure- A Chain of Flowers

Daft Punk- Touch

David Bowie- Lazarus

DJ Shadow- Midnight in a Perfect World

Earl Sweatshirt- Grief

Explosions in the Sky- It’s Natural to be Afraid

Elton John- I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself

Flying Lotus- Never Catch Me

Godspeed You! Black Emperor- Sleep

Gorillaz- Tomorrow Comes Today

HOME- Decay

Johnny Cash/Nine Inch Nails- Hurt

Kendrick Lamar- Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst

The Killers- Smile Like You Mean It

LCD Soundsystem- Someone Great

Local Natives- Airplanes

Liars- Can’t Hear Well

Massive Attack- Teardrop

MGMT- Time to Pretend

Modest Mouse- Edit the Sad Parts

Neutral Milk Hotel- Holland,1945

Pink Floyd- Eclipse

The Polyphonic Spree/Nirvana- Lithium

Porcupine Tree- Time Flies

Purity Ring- Lofticries

Queens of the Stone Age- …Like Clockwork

Sisyphus- I Won’t Be Afraid

The Smashing Pumpkins- Disarm

The Strokes- Under Cover Of Darkness

Sufjan Stevens- Fourth of July

Sun Kil Moon- Carissa

Swans- Song for a Warrior

Tame Impala- The Moment

Tears for Fears- Mad World

The The- The Sinking Feeling

The The- This is the Day

Thundercat- Hard Times/Song for the Dead

Willem Kline, from Belvidere, Illinois is a first year student here at Illinois College, pursuing a double major in English and Theatre with an undecided minor. Willem is a newbie to The Rambler roster, a member of the IC Wind Ensemble, and avid pursuer and connoisseur of anything artsy-fartsy.

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