There is nothing quite like songs about memories that take you back to a significant place in your life. They can make you feel like you’ve transported through time to experience that memory once more. Songs about the past can dredge up good feelings as well as bad feelings, but either way, they make you feel something. The following 31 songs are great examples.
1. When We Were Young – Adele
Adele is one of the most talented artists of this century. This song is about running into an ex from your youth and remembering what it was like before the weight of the world set in. In the song, she mentions that she didn’t know he would be there because she thought she he was out of the country and that he was the one that left her. For most people, running into an ex like that would trigger intense feelings and memories from the past, especially if you never got the closure you needed.
2. Photograph – Nickelback
There is no doubt that this post-grunge rock song is about past memories since the first line is, “look at this photograph.” As the name clearly indicates, the song is about having photographs that trigger memories from the past. He goes down memory lane, photograph after photograph, remembering some good and bad times. It’s a concept that everyone can relate to – old photographs that trigger memories. This isn’t a love song, but a song about his past life, learning from it, and letting it go.
3. Good Time – Niko Moon
This is a feel-good country song about hanging out in the south and having a good time with friends. It’s a slow song but has a good, up-beat vibe. The notion of sitting around a campfire with friends, passing around a bottle of whiskey in the moonlight invokes past memories for people who have experienced this. It also inspires people to give it a try in the future – the idea of such simplicity to “make your problems disappear” as the song says is attractive.
4. It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday – Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men is a 90’s r&b group that had impressive harmonies between the four memories. The title tells you exactly what this acappella song is about but what makes this song timeless and versatile is that it’s not geared towards any particular person. They could be singing about a family member, significant other, friend, or even a group of people. This song has been used at funerals, graduations, and other types of events that encompass relationships coming to an end.
5. Memories – Maroon 5
This acoustic pop song is similar to the previous song in that it’s not geared towards a particular person. That means it can be applied to many types of relationships. It’s a great song about the past that indicates that the person of interest is the center of all those memories Adam Levine is singing about. Overall, the song indicates that the memories are happy and peaceful.
6. Photograph – Ed Sheeran
Here is another song about photographs, but the concept is different from Nickelback’s song. This pop song is specifically about a love interest, and about how photographs holds their love. Ed Sheeran sings about being gone, so his love interest can keep the photo close to her as a representation of their love until he comes home. He sings that she’ll never be alone because she has the photographs while she waits for him.
7. Drift Away – The Dobie Grey
This is an oldie, but goodie! Released in 1973, this is a great R&B song about being inspired and consoled by music. The idea is that no matter how unkind the world is, no matter how hard life gets, music can heal him, transform him, and uplift him. He seems to be singing to a band, or possibly many bands (depending on how you interpret the song). However, rather than it being a direct ballad, it seems to be more of the feeling the music is giving him that he is singing about.
8. White Christmas – Bing Crosby
This song goes way back to the 1940’s and is a timeless Christmas classic. The country was in the middle of World War II so it’s understandable why people would be dreaming of the perfect Christmas filled with children, sleigh bells, carolers, and of course, snow! This song couldn’t have come at a better time for the entire world. Although it’s a slow song, it was a great way to uplift people’s spirits that Christmas. In fact, this song was so well received that, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the number one selling Christmas song of all time as well as the number one single across all genres of all time even to this day.
9. Family Reunion – The O’Jays
The theme song for family reunions across the nation, this R&B song simply celebrates coming together with family members and the simple joy it brings. The lyrics aren’t deep or cryptic – the group sings about this simple concept. Towards the end, they begin to describe the family members, naming them out – the father, the mother, the daughter, the son, etc. They talk about the role of each family member within the family, so it becomes a sort of “lesson” on a successful family (but not in a preaching way).
10. A Long Walk – Jill Scott
When it comes to songs about good times, a song about a great date can certainly be considered. Jill Scott, one of the top blues/soul singers of today, sings about the vibe she gets from her potential love interest and how a simple date can bring them closer together. It’s essentially about them getting to know each other and sharing a mental and emotional connection.
11. Strawberry Wine – Deana Carter
What better memory can a woman have than her first? That’s what this song is about – remembering, as Deana puts it in the song, “her first taste of love.” It’s a beautiful song, as she describes this special young romance from this time in her life and the impact it’s had on her life. She talks about coming back to that place year after year to remember that romance. It’s a memory that, no doubt, many women can relate to.
12. 7 Years – Lukas Graham
If you want to hear one of the best songs about the past, this is a great one. He starts from the age of seven and talks about life lessons he learned from his parents, friends, and life in general. He mentions the ages of seven, eleven, and twenty years old. Then, the song starts talking about his future, since he was in his twenties when he made the song. He mentions possibilities at the age of thirty and the age of sixty years old. It’s a well-written song that really makes you think about where you’ve been and where you’re going.
13. You’re Gonna Miss This – Trace Atkins
This country song is one of Trace Atkins’ greatest hits. The song is about a young girl who is eager to grow up. Her mother tried to explain to her that she is going to miss her youth when she grows up. As the hook to the song goes, “you may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.” The song follows the young lady into young adulthood where she has just gotten married and begins talking to her father about having kids and a house, where he proceeds (hook again) to tell her to slow down because she’ll miss this. The song goes on into the future with the same premise. It’s so true – many people miss the simplicity of their youth!
14. Here’s to the Good Times – Florida Georgia Line
Another one of the great country songs about good times, as is clearly described by the title. The song mentions a lot of moments and memories, a lot of small things that contribute to the good times. Of course, there is a main love interest but I wouldn’t call this a love song. She just happens to be a part of the good memories.
15. Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen. – Chase Rice feat. Florida Georgia Line
Country music is filled with songs about memories and good times. This one is no exception. Chase Rice sings about not being a church-going man but church found him while hanging out with buddies. The song is about spending time with friends, family, and/or significant others while relaxing the “Southern” way. When you have good conversations with good people, you’d be surprised where the conversation ends up.
16. Chicken Fried – Zac Brown Band
Everyone knows that fried chicken and cold beer is a popular meal in the south. This song is about good times in the south with friends, much like the previous song. The song says, “A little bit of chicken fried. Cold beer on a Friday night. A pair of jeans that fit just right, and the radio on.” A lot of country songs that reminisce about good times have the common theme of beer, blue jeans, and good food. This one has a catchy beat and before you know it, you’ll be tapping along.
17. Remember the Time – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, often had elaborate stories behind his songs and music videos. This song is about running into an ex and remembering the time they were in love with each other. The video took the song a step further – it was set in Ancient Egypt and Michael’s love interest was the Queen. Of course, the Pharoah didn’t take too kindly to Michael wooing his wife, so he ordered for his head to be cut off. Michael runs, outsmarting the guards, and the video leads to an amazing dance scene with lots of dancers dressed in Ancient Egyptian outfits. The whole concept was amazing and, while most people’s ex’s were not Ancient Egyptian royalty, it’s not hard to imagine yourself in a similar but modern situation.
18. Ben – Michael Jackson
If you’ve seen the 1971 movie Willard, you’ve likely heard this song. The movie is about a young boy, Willard, who trains a population of rats to attack his enemies. The leader of the rats is named Ben. While this song is specifically for the movie, it’s still a great representation of how a person would feel about a very close friend. This song is about memories with this friend – how the friend may not fit in anywhere else but still has a friend in Willard (or Michael).
19. Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is one of the most popular and successful singers of the century. His song, Glory Days, is about catching up with old friends who can’t seem to stop talking about their glory days. In the first verse, he talks about running into a buddy who used to be a great baseball player in high school. The next verse is about a woman who, “back in school [she] could turn all the boys’ heads.” They converse about life – she has kids, split up from her husband, etc. It’s such a great song because, at some point in life, we all reminisce about our glory days.
20. Memories Back Then – T.I. feat. Kendrick Lamar
Fair warning: this rap song is very explicit. It’s an interesting concept – it’s told in the form of a story where the T.I. is reminiscing about a past relationship. It’s about a girl who would do anything for him and give everything to him – her body, her money, her soul. She would do this even though she knew he didn’t feel the same. The story goes on to talk about how he essentially treated her wrong, cheated on her, and got another woman pregnant. This was the breaking point – she finally left him. Then later, he finds through a paternity test that the child wasn’t his, but it was too late to save the relationship. Hopefully this is just a made-up story, but either way it’s a great song.
21. Don’t You Worry Child – Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin
This song is a part of the EDM genre and the music will certainly get you off your feet. The lyrics to the song reminisce about childhood and lessons learned. If you’re dancing to the song, you may not pay attention to these lessons because you’re having so much fun. In the song, the singer is remembering moments from his childhood that possibly made him unsure of life. Then the soothing words of his father comes in, “don’t you worry, don’t you worry child. See, heaven’s got a plan for you”. It’s a bit heavy for a song that people are partying their face off to, but still great nonetheless.
22. One Sweet Day – Boyz II Men ft. Mariah Carey
This song is about a loved one who has passed away. The lyrics talk about not having told the person more before they passed and not being able to believe the singer has to live without the person. However, the song isn’t all sad – it emphasizes that the singer will see the person again, one sweet day.
23. I Will Remember You – Sara McLachlan
There is a reason that Sara McLachlan was chosen to do that charity commercial for the ASPCA – she has a haunting voice that can make you feels things to the depths of your soul. This country song is one of those – it’s about remembering a past relationship that went wrong. However, rather than taking an angry position, it’s more of a loving one, asking the other person to remember you and remember the good times as you both go your separate ways.
24. Family Business – Kanye West
This is an interesting hip hop song that reflects on family, but it’s more focused on keeping family business in the family. Kanye raps about many different things that could go on in a family such as someone being arrested, arguments at family functions, secrets, and more. However, the song is not a negative song, it’s a positive one that can be seen as uplifting in the right light.
25. Reflections – Supremes
This song is one of the oldies from the Motown family. It’s about reflecting on a bad relationship. They sing about how that bad relationship is still affecting them, as is indicated in a part of the song where she mentions she is still not over it.
26. The One That Got Away – Katy Perry
This is a great upbeat pop song about a past love. The title says it all, this is a common saying. In the song, she reminisces about all the great times that she had with this past love. She talks about the fact that she never thought about losing that love. The music video is centered around her ex being killed in a car wreck, but the song is a little more generic than that so it could be applied to many situations in which people broke up with their ex.
27. In My Life – The Beatles
The Beatles are arguably the most popular group in the world for their time period. This song is a great song about the past. It starts off talking about remembering people, places, and things. The second verse goes into talking to a specific love interest, letting that love interest know that even though they will always have affection for the past, they love that person more. It’s a very honest human notion. We often think about the good parts of a past relationship, but that doesn’t mean we want that relationship back. It feels good to just be honest sometimes.
28. Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams
This is a great old school rock song about, as the title says, a summer in 1969. He remembers friends, forming a band, drive through movie theaters, meeting his girlfriend, and suddenly being too busy working to enjoy all those things. He sings about those being “the days”. It’s a great song with a great beat and an amazing singer at the helm.
29. Celebration – Kool & the Gang
One of the most popular songs of the era, when this song starts, everyone instantly starts moving to the beat. It’s an upbeat R&B song about celebrating. It’s certainly one of the top songs in history about good times. In fact, the line, “we’re going to celebrate and have a good time”, which is repeated several times in the song, sums up the entire song. This song can be played at almost any function (except a funeral – it would definitely not be appropriate for that).
30. Back Home Again – John Denver
John Denver was a great folk singer, and this song is the epitome of songs about good times. The song is a bit like a story (like most folk songs). It’s about a trucker who is on the road and is excited to be back home again. He thinks about his farm, supper that’s hot on the table, his family, resting, and of course, his wife/girlfriend/significant other. It’s a great song that warms your spirit.
31. Good Old Days – Macklemore feat. Kesha
To round off the list, we’ll end with this song. It’s a great song that starts with a solo piano. Then Kesha’s voice comes in talking about missing the good old days. Macklemore then starts rapping about some things he enjoyed back then and some things that he regretted not doing. He raps about trying not to miss out on the future by thinking about the past too much. It’s a great song that really helps you to reflect on the past while not losing track of the progress you’re bound to make. In fact, this song sums up all the songs in the list.
Most people have had good and bad moments in their past. Whether it’s love, life, family, money, etc., the point is that those moments help us grow and help us look forward to a better future.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.