Here are 21 of the best songs about time that have ever been created.
Sometimes time seems to pass by all too quickly. Other times it seems to drag on. Throughout music history, artists have touched on this subject many times.
Songs about the subject of time are very relatable for listeners. Time can even be cruel and unforgiving. On the other hand, the subject of time can also be an important part of love songs.
Individuals perceive the passage of time differently depending on their attitudes and circumstances. Time itself is the same for everyone though.
1. “Time is on my Side” – The Rolling Stones
The song “Time is on My Side” was released by The Rolling Stones in the year 1964 as part of the album ’12 x 5.’ The song was originally written by Jerry Ragovoy as a jazz song. It became popularized with covers performed by both rock band The Rolling Stones and soul singer Irma Thomas. The lyrics of the song approach the subject of time with hope and faith. Check out our list of songs about hope next.
2. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – Green Day
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” is perhaps one of the softest ballads ever released by the American rock band Green Day. This heartfelt, emotional track is often used for graduation ceremonies to signify the time that has passed. In the song, the unpredictability of time is touched on. This is something that most listeners can relate to.
3. “Yesterday” – The Beatles
Songs about the future, the past, and the present are all, in a way, about time. The lyrics of “Yesterday” by The Beatles are all about longing for the recent, but irreplaceable past. The song was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon for the album ‘Help!’ “Yesterday” is one of the most covered songs of all time. You just may have heard a rendition from your own favorite artist.
4. “Time Has Come Today” – The Chambers Brothers
The song “Time Has Come Today” by The Chamber Brothers is the lead title track off of their 1967 record with the same title. This song is about the present. In the song The Chamber Brothers acknowledge that time has passed but that the present is the real time for action. Gone are the yesterdays of fear or hopelessness.
5. “If I Could Turn Back Time” – Cher
No one can turn back time, not even hit pop star Cher. The song was released in the year 1989 as a part of her 19th recorded studio album ‘Heart of Stone.’ This song received massive radio play and play in nightclubs and other venues. Even over thirty years later, many people are still familiar with the song.
6. “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” – Chicago
“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” was written and released by the rock band Chicago in the year 1969 as a part of the album ‘The Chicago Transit Authority.’ The song discusses ambivalence towards the subject of time. Even when faced with clocks and watches, the song’s lyricist cannot find it in him to really care about the concept of time.
7. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” – Fairport Convention
“Who Knows Where the Time Goes” was originally written and recorded by the English folk rock artist Sandy Denny in the year 1967. “Who knows where the time goes…” is a thought that many people have frequently. This makes the song especially easy for listeners to identify with.
8. “Time” – Pink Floyd
With a title like that, it is no surprise what the subject of the song “Time” by Pink Floyd might be. The song “Time” was an important part of their classic hit album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon.’ During the track, lead vocalist David Gilmour laments about how quickly time can pass. This is an all too familiar feeling for many people.
9. “Cats in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin
The song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin takes its interpretation of the topic of time rather literally. The song chronologically tells the story of the passage of time within a father and son relationship. This song became widely recognizable. It even received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
10. “Too Much Time on My Hands” – Styx
Most songs on this list are about running out of time or watching time pass by too quickly. The song “Too Much Time on My Hands” by Styx takes a completely different interpretation of the subject. This 1980s rock song is all about having too much time and not much at all to do with it. It was released in the year 1981 as a part of the album ‘Paradise Theater.’
Next: Best 1980s songs
11. “Clocks” – Coldplay
Coldplay released their hit pop rock song “Clocks” in 2002. The song was released as a part of the band’s seconds studio album ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head.’ The lyrics to this song are a little bit more subtle and cryptic than the lyrics of other songs that are included on this list. This allows the listener to interpret the lyrics and draw conclusions in an individualized way. Lyrics about “ticking clocks” and “missed opportunities” are part of what make this song an important inclusion on this list. The concept of clocks can also serve as a metaphor or representation that is meant to make a statement about the passage of time.
12. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” – Jennifer Warnes
In 1988, the song “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” by Jennifer Warnes received awards from three different major media entities. The song was awarded an Academy Award for Best Music (Original Song). It also received a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. This song is all about happy, good, and romantic times. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” also became widely recognizable because of its use in the hit movie ‘Dirty Dancing.’
13. “Time Warp” – Richard O’Brien
Fans of cult horror comedy musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” are probably already familiar with this selection. The “Time Warp” is a song and dance routine performed during the quirky, music loaded film for adults. Fans also often get up and perform the song and dance number along with the film at special movie theater screenings presented around the world. One of the first lyrics in the song is “time is fleeting.” Even though the song is meant to be silly, its lyrics do seem to make some good points too.
14. “Back in Time” – Huey Lewis and the News
“Back in Time” was recorded and released by Huey Lewis and the News as a part of the soundtrack for the classic 80s film ‘Back to the Future.’ The movie ‘Back to the Future’ is all about the passage and scientific/ magical manipulation of time through time travel. The song is based directly on the film’s plot. It is all about getting back in time and even features the name of one of the main characters in the film – Marty. Without ruining the plot of the film, it can still be said the lyrics “gotta get back in time” pair very closely with the action of the script.
15. “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper
Some things never change, not even after time has gone by. In the song “Time After Time”, Cyndi Lauper sings about a love that will never fade or fail, no matter how much time has passed. Lauper croons about her patience in romance in this emotional ballad. This song was frequently used as a slow dance song at weddings, proms, and other events throughout the 1980s. It was released in the year 1983 as a part of the album ‘She’s So Unusual.’
16. “Time is Running Out” – Muse
The feeling of time running out is not a good one, but it is a commonly experienced phenomenon. “Time is Running Out” was released by Muse in the year 2003 as a part of the band’s third studio album ‘Absolution.’ Songs by the UK based progressive indie rock band Muse often have an ominous or mysterious feeling to them. This song is no different but it was a little bit more radio friendly than other Muse releases had been. This caused the song to break through to United States radio stations as well. It hit top 10 charts in both the United States and the UK.
17. “Remember the Time” – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson is known for his romantic, nostalgic, quirky, and extremely catchy pop hits released throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The artist had a controversial legal life but his songs will still be remembered and enjoyed for many decades to come. The lyrics of this fun but sentimental song are all about nostalgic and beautiful romantic memories. This song was released in the year 1991 as a part of the album “Dangerous.”
18. “Dock of the Bay” – Otis Redding
The song “Dock of the Bay,” also popularly known as “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is all about wasting time. Multiple times throughout the song, Otis Redding refers to sitting on the dock of the bay as wasting time. The inner peace that he seems to feel makes it so that he is not actually wasting time at all. On the surface, this song is all about sitting around relaxing outdoors and wasting time. On a deeper level, it is about acceptance, self care, and emotional growth.
19. “Closing Time” – Semisonic
In recent years, “Closing Time” by Semisonic has become a song used to signify the ending of parties or the closing of bars. This is because the lyrics of this song are all about the literal closing of a bar. Lyrics like “turn all the lights on” and “finish your whiskey or beer” can be taken literally when the song is played at a pub as the clock nears midnight. On a deeper level, the lyrics of the song could also be about faithful, reliable love.
20. “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’Connor
The song “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor deals with the topic of time very specifically. O’Connor begins the song by explaining that it has been exactly 15 days and 7 hours since she lost her lover. Sometimes, when people are heartbroken, all they can do is count the passing time. Many people related to and enjoyed this song. It was nominated for a wide variety of awards including Grammy awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and a Billboard Music Award too.
21. “Time (Clock of the Heart)” – Culture Club
The lyric “time won’t give me time” may not make sense to listeners but it made sense to Culture Club. The new wave pop song calls time precious, but also says that it has not given anything to show. “Time (Clock of the Heart)” was released in the year 1982 as a part of the full length album ‘Kissing to be Clever.’ It was also released on its own as a single.
What is your favorite song about the passage of time? Time makes a great subject for songs in a variety of different genres, let us know which one is the best!
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.