Songs about time are about as old as songwriting itself. After all, early humans were deeply concerned about what each season would bring (and when). The two things that keep coming up in these songs are the passage of time and the tears that come with regret. But the themes go much deeper than that (including time travel, for one). The same goes for genres, which range from hip-hop and R&B to rock and pop. So, without further ado, the best songs on 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 the experience of living in the moment. As for the instrumental ticking heard at the start of the song, each was recorded individually at an antique store.
Semisonic – Closing Time
Semisonic’s “Closing Time” 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 – Hour by Hour
While Cyndi Lauper was creating her first album, so unusual, one of his biggest hits was actually the last to be completed. Lauper’s “Time After Time” became known as a sentimental school dance staple, thanks to uses in films such as Napoleon Dynamite and Romy and Michelle’s high school reunion. The song’s initial inception also came from cinematic inspiration, after Lauper saw a 1979 science fiction 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 win 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 band’s best-known hits, both as the closing song of their gigs and graduations around the world. Singer 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 vocalist Meat Loaf is also heard on the backing vocals 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 Paul McCartney dream, but the lyrics about a breakup didn’t come until a few months later.
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes – (I Had) The Time of My Life
“(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes was recorded for the title track of the 1987 film, dirty dance. He went on to win an Oscar, 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 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 fellow rock band Muse. During the process of forming their second album, “Clocks” was almost entirely shelved, as it was one of the last songs to be written and recorded.
Muse – Time is running out
2003’s “Time Is Running Out” is one of Muse’s biggest hits. Although it was not released in the United States until the following year, it was their crossover hit on alternative radio and peaked at #9 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. Muse bassist Chris Wolstenhome said 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” especially for the classic time travel movie soundtrack, Back to the future. Written for the end credits, “Back in Time” includes references to the film’s characters and plot throughout.
Zombies – Time of the Season
Originally released in 1968, British rock band The Zombies found worldwide success with their psychedelic song, “Time of the Season.” It perfectly captured the vibe of the counterculture period of the late 60s and early 70s, but in the decades since, the song has been used in a number of films, from Cruel for Conspiracy.
Culture Club – Time (Heart Clock)
Culture Club’s “Time (Clock of the Heart)” was the new wave band’s second single from their debut album in North America, although it was 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.
Dear – 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 first passed on the song from the initial demo, until Warren convinced her to record it, and the rest was history. It has become a worldwide phenomenon and a staple of the concerts 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 award-winning music video for the song.
Rush – Time stands still
Dash“Time Stand Still” by drummer Neil Peart was written about his time with the band. “Throughout the 1970s, our lives flew 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 it; with a warning against looking back too much. Instead of being nostalgic for the past, it’s more of a plea for the present.
Chicago – Does anyone really know what time it is
The 1969 Chicago 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 that would let the horns shine through and give Lee Loughnane a solo. So that was all the intention,” Lamm explained in a 2017 interview.