Final Encore: Pick Your Song For The End Of The World

May 19, 2011
Originally published on May 20, 2011 7:21 pm

Update: Thanks for all your comments here, on Facebook and on Twitter — all told, we've received more than 5,000 of them. At the audio link above, you can hear NPR Music's Frannie Kelley talk about your favorite songs for the end on All Things Considered.

[Note: Christian radio host Harold Camping (and others) say the Rapture — in which God separates the wicked from the good — will take place this Saturday, with the end of the world to soon follow.]

There are a few problems with predicting a set date and time for the world's end: For one, time has a way of passing, and nothing discredits a controversial worldview quite like getting punked by your own wristwatch. But let's face it: The world is going to end sooner or later, in one way or another, and it could theoretically happen on Saturday night, as some predict. Heck, it could happen sooner, given the universe's capacity for irony.

Now, I'm not here to tell anyone how to prepare for the End Times, or to predict when they might or might not occur. But let's just say, for the sake of discussion, that Saturday marks the occasion when the righteous ascend to heaven and the wicked are sent to writhe miserably in the eternal damnation of hellfire. What single song do you plan to play when the end arrives? "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"? "We Didn't Start the Fire"? Something by The Rapture?

Naturally, your choice may depend on where you feel you reside on the righteous/wicked spectrum, and you'd be forgiven (by me, anyway) for hedging your bets and picking outro music for several different conceivable outcomes. But however you choose, please do so in the comments section, where your decisions can be judged by your peers in advance of a different kind of judgment altogether.

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A Christian radio host has predicted the so-called Rapture will happen tomorrow night. Some of his followers believe they'll be transported to heaven as Armageddon engulfs the Earth over the next few months.

NPR M: If the world were ending, what's the last tune you'd want to hear? Editor Frannie Kelley says that drew plenty of responses.

FRANNIE KELLEY: We got a crazy, crazy response, 3,000 people, over 3,000 people on Facebook and almost a thousand on our site. Everybody who assumes they're going to hell and assumes it's going to be real rough on them tomorrow evening has been picking these angry, howling man songs.


DC: (Singing) Highway to hell. On the highway to hell.

KELLEY: And then you have the songs that explicitly deal with what's going on.


JIM MORRISON: (Singing) This is the end, beautiful friend.

KELLEY: One of our commenters, Jim Charters(ph), said that he picked this one because it ends with a whimper, rather than a bang.


MORRISON: (Singing) This is the end.

KELLEY: But there are other people that aren't exactly sure where they're going to end up, I guess heaven or hell. And so they're choosing to go out on a more cheerful note.


PEGGY LEE: (Singing) If that's all there is my friend, then let's keep dancing.

KELLEY: But some of them decided to soundtrack a perhaps more rapturous moment later that night because if they're going to go out, they're going to go out doing exactly what they want to do.


Unidentified Person: (Singing) Just let me love you (unintelligible).

KELLEY: And then a lot of people picked that song that comes at the very end of Stanley Kubrik's "Dr. Strangelove."


VERA LYNN: (Singing) We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when. But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

KELLEY: You know, I was really surprised by how many people took this exercise seriously. Of course, there were the jokesters, many of whom suggested we'll all wake up in the morning and hear...


ROGER DALTREY: (Singing) And I'll get on my knees and pray we don't get fooled again, don't get fooled again. Don't get fooled again.

KELLEY: This is Frannie Kelley, NPR Music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.