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Mark Bates: Sing A Song Of Uncle Freddy's Funeral

The story of the funeral in "Death Sucks" is true; only the name of the deceased has been changed. Singer Mark Bates opted for a fake name ("Uncle Freddy") to protect the privacy of the dearly departed, but otherwise, his composition offers an honest and darkly funny account of his day at a close relation's funeral. The air is hot, everything is heavy, he had "no idea what the hell I was doing," an aunt got drunk -- "wish that I had thought of that," he sings. The funeral inspires Bates to come up with his own post-death plan: "Skip all that, throw me off a hill."

It's hard to argue with Bates' sentiment, or with his keen musicality. The drums conjure up a New Orleans death march, the strumming banjo brings to mind the sound of long ago and far away, and the horns alternate between mournful and joyous, all adding up to a mix of emotions familiar to many a funeral-goer. Bates plays the trumpet (his college major) and sings in his rough-and-tumble, 22-year-old voice, bewildered by the mortality of humans. Yet this isn't a sorrowful song: The music comes to a halt, but then the music kicks up again with a bouncy instrumental outro -- a reminder that, while death sucks, life goes on.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.