6 More Common Hospice Music Therapy Songs

By October 13, 2010Front Lines

After several more months of serving hospice clients, I have more to add to my original post, The Top 6 Hospice Songs I Use.  I have a bit more experience under my belt now, and I’ve had several more requests from patients and family members.  After doing a bit of quick math, I came to the rough conclusion that I sing between 600 and 800 songs a month, just during hospice visits!  Holy smokes!  I know some of you out there are singing just as many if not more!  Of course, there are many repeats.  I try to learn two or three new songs per week, but that can get tough.  What are your strategies for expanding your repertoire?

Here is my updated list!  Keep in mind that I practice in rural Iowa, so many of my clients prefer two kinds of music: country and western 🙂  What genres do you play in your settings?  Comments are always appreciated!

1.)  Back in the Saddle Again by Gene Autry and Ray Whitley

This song is gold with fans of OLD country.  Even non-country folks tend to know it.  I often use it to assess client’s abilities, as well as to build on their strengths.  The phrase “back in the saddle again” occurs several times throughout the song, so what I do is prompt clients to essentially fill in the blanks.  For example, I will sing “Oh I’m back in the saddle _____” and hang there, waiting for the client to sing or say “again”.  Then I increase the complexity, singing “Oh I’m back in ___________” and wait to see if he or she can complete that.  Eventually, I try to get to where the client is singing that whole phrase, if not more of the song.  I use this approach with several songs, but this one is especially good because of the repetition.

There is a name for this technique, but it is escaping me at the moment.  I think I learned it more as a technique to use with children, but it works very well with this population and provides many opportunities for success.  If you happen to remember the name of this technique, shout out in the comments.  You get bonus points!

2.)  Don’t Fence Me In by Cole Porter and Robert Fletcher

Again, because of the repetition, this song is great for using the technique described above.  It is also effective at addressing issues of feeling trapped (in a facility, in a bed, in a dysfunctional body, etc) and can be rewritten to address specific situations and feelings experienced by clients.

3.)  On Moonlight Bay by Percy Wenrich and Edward Madden

A great little diddy that I use as an intro song, especially with a paddle drum or while moving to music with a client with advanced dementia.  The melody is very simple, and the song is familiar to most older clients.  It has a nice bounce to it, for sure.  Check out this version of Bing Crosby with his son, Gary.  Sidenote: were there any songs written between 1920 and 1950 that Bing Crosby did NOT record?  That guy sang everything!

4.)  Silver Haired Daddy of Mine by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long

Another old country tune, but everyone over 80 years old appears to know it.  Apparently this was the first song Gene Autry ever recorded, and the record sold like hot cakes.  Just one of those songs, I guess.

5.)  What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, recorded by Louis Armstrong

Great lyrics, great imagery, beautiful melody.  ‘Nuff said.  Without words, it can be perfect for relaxation.  I use this song a lot with families and higher functioning clients.  The words can be used to spark discussion and reminiscence and just overall positive feelings.

6.)  ‘Til We Meet Again by Richard A. Whiting and Raymond B. Egan
Couldn’t find it on iTunes, but here is a link to a YouTube Vid

This is a World War I song, but it’s popular and a fantastic song to close a session with.  Enjoy!

Full disclosure: I have an affiliate relationship with iTunes, which means that I get a nickel per song if you choose to purchase them through the links provided on this post.  I made $0.60 from the original post several months ago. 🙂



  • Ginny D says:

    Another good one: Good Night Sweetheart (the old version–not the “Three Men and a Baby” version). It has great words and may also be World War I time period.

  • Rachel says:

    Great post! 🙂 I find that I too am learning new songs every week, usually because I get a request from a Pt. For example, Mexicali Rose goes hand in hand with Back in the Saddle… I love getting the requests. I got a request today for Johnny B Goode- that was fun. I have a Pt in hospice right now with ALS who is losing her communication abilities, but singing is such a great outlet- we are singing “Turn Turn Turn”, so she can focus on being able to successfully sing those words.
    I believe the technique you were speaking of in NMT is called Rhythmic Speech Cueing (RSC), fabulous, use it all the time. The brain is pretty awesome in how it responds to music- allowing for activity language centers that are degenerating such as in demenita.
    Keep em comin! I also love to hear what other MT’s are doing, and I didn’t know one of the songs you mentioned, so excited to learn it!

  • Great post! I’m in Kansas/Missouri, and it’s true that country and western really are separate categories here. I learned that from a hospice client – he requested western music and didn’t really know any of the Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline songs I had to offer. Being in the KC metro now, I’m learning a lot more jazz, blues and gospel. I love having clients educate me about the genres of music they prefer – I’ve had clients teach me all about the essential country, western, Southern gospel, and blues songs/artists I needed to learn, at least from their perspectives. It gives them a chance to be in control as the musical expert, and it helps me expand my repertoire.

  • LOVE this post! It’s so helpful to hear what other MTs are using during their hospice sessions (I’m in Hospice too.)

    My area of Florida is a little more eclectic – my clients usually have moved here from another region of the country so it’s really helpful for me to hear what native Iowan’s prefer.