Songs about time are about as old as songwriting itself. After all, the earliest humans were deeply concerned with what each season would bring (and when it would take place). The two things that come up again and again in these songs are the passing of time and the tears that come along with regrets. But the themes go much wider than that (including time travel, for one). Same for the genres, which span from hip-hop and R&B to rock and pop. So, without further ado, the best songs about time.
Pink Floyd – Time
Pink Floyd’s “Time” is featured as a track from the band’s hit album, The Dark Side of the Moon. Written by bassist Roger Waters, it deals with the concept of time and experiencing life in the moment. As for the ticking clock instrumental heard at the song’s beginning, each one was individually recorded at an antiques store.
Semisonic – Closing Time
“Closing Time” by Semisonic became a huge hit in 1998, as the ballad was interpreted by many listeners as an anthem to leaving a bar at the end of the night. However, as lead singer Dan Wilson would eventually reveal, it was written in anticipation of becoming a father. It received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song.
Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time
As Cyndi Lauper was creating her debut album, So Unusual, one of her biggest hits was actually the last to be finished. Lauper’s “Time After Time” has become known as a sentimental school dance staple, through uses in movies such as Napoleon Dynamite and Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. The song’s initial creation also came from cinema inspiration, after Lauper saw a 1979 sci-fi film of the same name written in a copy of TV Guide.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – Summertime
“Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was released in 1991, as an ode to the season and the carefree energy that often accompanies it. It went on to earn a Grammy in 1992 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, after being their highest charting single on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Green Day – Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by punk rockers Green Day is one of the group’s best known hits, both as the final song at their live shows and graduations across the world. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong originally wrote the song after his then-girlfriend moved to Ecuador.
Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, and Charles Gray – Time Warp
Originally written for the Rocky Horror Show musical, “Time Warp” is a dance parody performed by Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, and Charles Gray. O’Brien was also the original composer and lyricist. Fun fact: The late singer Meat Loaf is also heard on the chorus of the Rocky Horror Picture Show version of “Time Warp.”
The Beatles – Yesterday
While The Beatles’ “Yesterday” isn’t necessarily about time, it was one of the band’s most commercially successful songs. The ballad’s melody was written after a dream Paul McCartney had, but the lyrics about a breakup wouldn’t come until a few months later.
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes – (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” was recorded for the lead song of the 1987 movie, Dirty Dancing. It went on to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy. It was originally written by singer-songwriter Frankie Previte, who came up with the title while driving.
Coldplay – Clocks
“Clocks” by the English rock band Coldplay is one of their most critically-acclaimed songs. It won Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards, and was inspired by the fellow rock group, Muse. During the process of forming their second album, “Clocks” was almost left out entirely, though, as it was one of the final songs to be written and recorded.
Muse – Time Is Running Out
2003’s “Time Is Running Out” is one of Muse’s biggest hits. While it wouldn’t be released in the US until the following year, it was their crossover hit on alternative radio and peaked at No.9 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. Muse’s bassist, Chris Wolstenhome told NME that it was heavily inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Huey Lewis and the News – Back in Time
Huey Lewis and the News wrote “Back in Time” specifically for the soundtrack of the classic time travel movie, Back to the Future. Written for the end credits, “Back in Time” includes references to the movie’s characters and plot throughout.
The Zombies – Time of the Season
Originally released in 1968, British rock band The Zombies found a worldwide hit with their psychedelic song, “Time of the Season.” It captured the mood of the counterculture period of the late 60s and early 70s perfectly, but in the decades since the song has been used in a number of films, from Cruella to The Conjuring.
Culture Club – Time (Clock of the Heart)
“Time (Clock of the Heart)” by Culture Club served as the new wave band’s second single from their debut album in North America, despite being a standalone release in other countries. As a result, there are two different versions of the music video (one with a Christmas tree, one without) to capture the time of the season.
Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time
Cher’s 1989 hit, “If I Could Turn Back Time,” was first written by Diane Warren specifically for the pop star. However, their collaboration almost never happened. Cher initially passed on the song from the initial demo, until Warren convinced her to record it, and the rest was history. It became a worldwide phenomenon, and a concert staple she still performs live.
Harry Styles – Sign of the Times
When Harry Styles released his self-titled debut album in 2017, his emotional ballad “Sign of the Times” was also his first single as a solo artist. Styles drew inspiration from psychedelic rock, which bled into his trippy award-winning music video for the song.
Rush – Time Stand Still
Rush’s “Time Stand Still” was written by drummer Neil Peart about his time with the band. “All through the ’70s our lives were flying by; we spent so much time on the road that it became like a dark tunnel,” he told the Boston Globe in 2013. “So the song is about stopping to enjoy that; with a warning against too much looking back. Instead of getting nostalgic about the past, it’s more a plea for the present.”
Chicago – Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is
Chicago’s 1969 song, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” was the first song written (and eventually, performed) by the band’s founding member, Robert Lamm, for their debut album. “I wanted to write something that wasn’t ordinary, that wasn’t blues-based, that didn’t have ice cream changes, and would allow the horns to shine and give Lee Loughnane a solo. So all that was the intent,” Lamm shared in a 2017 interview.