Much has been said about time, with evergreen songs on the same subject often accompanying significant moments. The fact that everyone relates to the passage of time and the changes that come along with it is a testament to the popularity that such songs come to achieve.
These songs about time are either immediately resonant or take some time of their own to emerge as timeless in the public consciousness. They bring with them loss, heartbreak, achievements, memories, pain, joy and so much more, earning them a permanent spot in the minds and hearts of people.
To remind you of these classic tunes or introduce some new music that you can learn and enjoy, here is a list that is bound to take you on the journey of time.
1. Time Is on My Side by The Rolling Stones
Written by American songwriter Jerry Ragovoy and first recorded in 1963, “Time Is on My Side” became a beloved song that the Rolling Stones covered. The English rock band released two versions of this song—one in 1964 for their 12 x 5 album and the other in 1965 for their The Rolling Stones No. 2 album.
This song ranked sixth on the Billboard Pop Singles and Hot 100 Charts. The guitar, spoken word elements and hopeful tone of reuniting with a lost lover in due time are what make the heart thrum in this song.
2. Time by Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon contains many mega-hits, with “Time” being one of them. The sounds of clocks (recorded in an antique store) and the ticking in the background emphasize the realization that so much time has passed when you were once wasting time and trying to “fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way”.
Apart from being included in the album, the song was also released as a single. It is tinged with both wistfulness and contentment about the passage of time.
3. Forever Young by Rod Stewart
One of the best songs about time is “Forever Young” by British singer-songwriter Rod Stewart. The song peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988 and became well loved across the US for being a universal wish from a parent to a child.
Growing up and cherishing time coupled with the idea that children always stay young in the eyes of their parents made this song an instant hit. The regret of missing out on watching his own kids grow up is what inspired Stewart to write this song.
4. Closing Time by Semisonic
American rock band Semisonic released this song in 1988 as part of their album, Feeling Strangely Fine. This ballad was already popular, but 2011 brought more fame to it due to its inclusion in popular media like Friends with Benefitsand the “Doomsday” episode of The Office (US).
The song seemingly talks about the closing time of bars and knowing the person you want at your side to take you home. While this makes it universal, the song is also about the birth of band member Dan Wilson’s daughter.
5. Time (Clock of the Heart) by Culture Club
Culture Club released “Time (Clock of the Heart)” in 1982 in the UK and 1983 in the US. This song is great to vibe to but is also likely to clutch at your heartstrings, signaling themes of love and heartbreak and how time is responsible for making each of them real. Ouch, am I right?
The song was re-released in 2022 as a dance/pop track.
6. Sign of the Times by Harry Styles
Released in 2017 as part of Harry Styles’ debut album, “Sign of the Times” is a slow track that combines elements of both pop and rock, making you think of the ‘70s in its sound and sensibility.
The singer used a television ad as a teaser for this song that talks about unpleasant situations serving as a sign of the times that we live in, inspired by a mother dying of childbirth. Yet, the song remains adamant about holding on and making the most of the time we have.
7. Yesterday by The Beatles
“Yesterday” is one of the most popular Beatles songs written by the Lennon-McCartney duo while also being one of the best songs about time. Released in 1965, the song is nostalgic in that the lyrics reminisce about yesterday when things were easier and the singer was still with his lover.
The heartbreak of no longer having a loved one with you and the urge to go back in time makes this song perfect for a bit of sad but shared looking back.
8. Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers
If you are looking for songs about time passing, this track from 1955 by Alex North and Hy Zaret is sure to hit all the right spots. The song became popular after being recorded and released by The Righteous Brothers in 1965.
The loneliness and hunger for the touch of a loved one are what drive this song. Its feature in the film Ghost (1990) gave it another boost.
9. Time Warp by Richard O’Brien
The musical Rocky Horror Show and the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show both feature the song “Time Warp”, written by Richard O’Brien who also wrote the musical.
The characters sing the song while dancing along to it. The song became so popular that audiences danced along to it with the cast too, while also continuing to do so at personal events due to its simple choreography.
10. The Changing Times by Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire released “The Changing Times” as part of their 1981 album called Raise!. I think of this song as an ever-relevant track about the constantly changing nature of the times and world, with a strong urge from the band to adapt, endure and prepare ourselves to face what may come.
Beloyd Taylor, Wayne Vaughn and Maurice White are credited as the writers of this Earth, Wind & Fire song.
11. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day
Written by Green Day’s vocalist, Billie Joe Armstrong, this song is both angry in its lyrics about a love that went away and accepting of the fact that it happened. If you have ever felt a similar emotion of bittersweetness after a breakup, well, this song is for you. It was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?
Funnily enough, the song became popular at proms, graduation and other occasions that mark a significant transition in one’s journey.
Also Read: Easy Green Day Songs to Learn on Guitar
12. Unbelievable by Owl City ft. Hanson
Owl City’s collaboration with Hanson gave birth to this single from the electron music project’s 2015 album called Mobile Orchestra. The song is a trip down memory lane about things that we once thought were unbelievable but later became extremely normalized, with some even vanishing to the onslaught of time.
This song is reminiscent of all those conversations you have with your old friends about the things you used to do and play with. Sheesh, talk about growing up!
13. A Hazy Shade of Winter by Simon & Garfunkel
The American duo Simon & Garfunkel released “A Hazy Shade of Winter” in 1966 as a single that later became part of their 1968 album called Bookends. The rock sound of this song is perfect for the voice of the poet and singer who thinks about his achievements in the midst of the passing seasons.
Look around and watch the seasons changing while you play this song that tells you to “hang on to your hopes” or “simply pretend”.
14. (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
That’s right. It’s the song from Dirty Dancing. How could I not include this here? Recorder by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes for the 1987 movie, this song has won an Academy Award, a Grammy and a Golden Globe.
The song went on to be a chart-topping hit and continues to be a popular love song all over the world, with the singers affirming the sense of joy and passion in love. It is also widely played with couples recovering the “lift” from the movie (thinking of Crazy, Stupid, Love?)
15. Remember the Time by Michael Jackson
The King of Pop came out with the 1992 single, “Remember the Time”, to reflect on the time of falling in love. The song is tinged with pleasant reminiscing but it is clear that it is about lost love, making it a reassuring track to listen to.
The song performed well on the charts and became popular worldwide. Its massive music video was actually a nine-minute short film.
16. Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper
Released in 1983 by Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time” gave Lauper her debut number one track on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s title was inspired by the Time After Time (1979) film but is a love ballad in which the singer talks about the memories of a loved one in tune with the ticking of the clock.
The song is about returning to a lover and always being there for them despite the difficulties.
17. It’s Time by Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons made their 2011 debut with this song, although it was only released as a single in 2012. The song has all the universal emotions and experiences involved with new beginnings, leaving the past behind, building things from scratch and growing up while still staying true to your essence.
Dan Reynolds from the band wrote this song after dropping out of college and facing a tough time of his own.
18. Time Has Come Today by The Chambers Brothers
The Chambers Brothers released “Time Has Come Today” in 1966, with the song quickly becoming a defining track for the psychedelic rock movement. The guitar on this track is absolutely marvelous.
The song serves as a call to action for young people to undertake what they have been waiting to do. It has also featured in many TV shows, such as Girl, Interrupted, Supernatural and Scandal, while also being a favorite of Anthony Bourdain.
19. California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and the Papas
Here is one of the many songs about time passing. Written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips, the most popular version of this song is by the Mamas and the Papas, who recorded this song and released it in 1965.
This timeless song dreams of warmer seasons, places and times during a cold winter in NYC. Who doesn’t dream of this?
The lyrics actually heralded the countercultural movement. The song also served as a significant presence in the film Chungking Express.
20. The Times They Are-A Changin’ by Bob Dylan
This song by Bob Dylan was released in 1964 under the album of the same name. The song is widely popular for its record of the times and all the social, cultural and political changes that the ‘60s were bringing.
It remains relevant even today, given how quickly trends and times continue to change. In this sense, it is truly timeless given that it continues to be used in various contexts and media.
21. Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer
In stark contrast to the earlier songs that point toward activity and taking charge, this track by John Mayer echoes the generational sentiment of being unable to take any form of action to improve the world.
This stems from a lack of power as well as a generational lull.
Critically, the song received mixed reviews but became a chart-topping wonder.
22. Anticipation by Carly Simon
Anticipation is a song released in 1971, written, recorded and sung by Carly Simon. This song was interestingly written in 15 minutes in anticipation of the singer waiting for her date.
The song is a good reminder to keep your thoughts in the present because “these are the good old days”. Yet, the sense of wonder, doubt and hope that comes with thinking about the future are inevitable and make this song so relatable.
23. Clocks by Coldplay
The iconic song “Clocks” by Coldplay from A Rush of Blood to the Head centers on a refrain on the piano coupled with lyrics that signal all the missed opportunities that have befallen the singer and, by extension, the listeners.
Chris Martin wrote the piano refrain, with Jonny Buckland following it up with his guitar, resulting in this popular and beloved song about wanting to go home.
24. 3AM by Matchbox Twenty
3AM by Matchbox Twenty is a song written from the point of view of a young kid whose mother has cancer. The things his mother says and the way the teenager thinks of and processes the situation form this song, resulting in an aching yet powerful song.
The song became highly popular across the world and is backed by strong vocals and instrumentals.
25. 100 Years by Five for Fighting
Another reflective and extremely engaging song, “100 Years” is full of the sentiment of the speed at which life passes us by. Turning 15 and suddenly being 23, 45 and 99 while still holding on to the sight and presence of a loved one convey the sense of eternity associated with love.
The music video also confirms how fast life can be by making the singer meet his older version.
26. Rainy Days and Mondays by Carpenters
The Carpenters released “Rainy Days and Mondays” in 1971. Everyone can relate to feeling down because of rainy days and Mondays, so take some time to share the sorrow with the lyrics the next time Monday comes around.
This song is also deeply entrenched with the feelings of not belonging and wishing you could quit, yet finding solace in being with the one you love and who loves you.
27. Time Passages by Al Stewart
A perfect end to this list is “Time Passages” by Al Stewart. The song became a hit in the US and continues to hold its popularity. I often think about moments and months gone by, as I’m sure you do too.
This song delves into a late December day changing into night, with the singer wishing to go back to the past now and then using “time passages”, hoping for someone to “buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight”.
28. Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin
“Cats In The Cradle” is a heartbreaking song by Harry Chapin that captures the fractured relationship between a father and son. Released in 1974, this folk rock song talks about a son whose dad doesn’t have time for him.
The song’s lyrics began as a poem written by Harry’s wife, Sandra “Sandy” Gaston. It became Chapin’s best-known work and a staple for folk rock music. This time song is a lyrical delight that bridges the generation gap by pointing up mutual faults.