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Musicians have long sought to capture the complexity of time. Yet, so often, it passes by so quickly. On other occasions, it drags on slowly, with minutes feeling more like hours. The thing about time that makes us uncomfortable is change. Songwriters have echoed this sentiment, creating music about the clock’s unforgiving nature.
Here are some of the best songs about time.
What You Will Learn
- Songs About Time
- 1. Time Is on My Side, Rolling Stones
- 2. Time Has Come Today, The Chamber Brothers
- 3. Yesterday, The Beatles
- 4. Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, Fairport Convention
- 5. If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher
- 6. Good Riddance, Green Day
- 7. Too Much Time on My Hands, Styx
- 8. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Chicago
- 9. Cat’s in the Cradle, Harry Chapin
- 10. Time Warp, Richard O’Brien
- 11. Clocks, Coldplay
- 12. Time, Pink Floyd
- 13. Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor
- 14. Remember the Time , Michael Jackson
- 15. Back in Time, Huey Lewis and the News
- 16. The Time of My Life, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
- 17. Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding
- 18. Time, Culture Club
- 19. Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
- 20. Closing Time, Semisonic
- 21. Time Is Running Out, Muse
- 22. Fast, Luke Bryan
- 23. A Hazy Shade of Winter, Simon and Garfunkel
- Final Thoughts on Songs About Time
Songs About Time
1. Time Is on My Side, Rolling Stones
“Go ahead baby, go ahead
Go ahead and light up the town
And baby, I do anything your heart desires, remember
I’ll always be around
And I know, I know
Like I told you so many times before
You’re gonna come back.”
Instead of saying goodbye to love, the songwriter assures his lover that she will return. Time will bring her back to him. All he has to do is wait.
2. Time Has Come Today, The Chamber Brothers
“Now the time has come (Time)
There’s no place to run (Time)
I might get burned up by the sun (Time)
But I had my fun (Time)
I’ve been loved and put aside (Time)
I’ve been crushed by the tumbling tide (Time)
And my soul has been psychedelicized (Time).”
After fighting to keep the relationship going, the protagonist of this song admits that the time has come to let go. There is an acceptance in the lyrics that suggest the artist understands he has been fighting a losing battle.
3. Yesterday, The Beatles
via The Beatles
“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.”
Yesterday everything was going great, but today, the tables have turned. In this song, the songwriter’s relationship has ended, and he wants to go back to the past, to a time when he and the woman he loves were still together.
4. Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, Fairport Convention
“I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time.”
In “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” the protagonist is unaware of the passage of time. He only realizes that thing have changed when his partner decides to move on.
5. If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher
“If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that have hurt you
If I could reach the stars
I’d give them all to you
Then you’d love me, love me.”
Cher’s song evokes feelings of regret. She has made mistakes and said things she wishes she could take back. Unfortunately, you can’t reverse time, and she loses the person she loves.
6. Good Riddance, Green Day
via Green Day
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time.”
You will hear ‘Good Riddance’ by Green Day played at many graduations. The song addresses that period when one chapter is closing and another is about to begin. The mix of excitement, anxiety, and sadness is something that many of us can relate to.
7. Too Much Time on My Hands, Styx
“Is it any wonder I’m not crazy
Is it any wonder I’m sane at all
Well I’m so tired of losing
I’ve got nothing to do and all day to do it.”
“Too Much Time on My Hands” describes what happens when idleness takes over. Boredom can be very destructive and hard to bear. This song resonates with those who find themselves feeling rudderless in life. Without a sense of purpose, the 24 hours in a day can seem insufferable.
8. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Chicago
via Chicago Band
“Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry.”
The songwriter displays a very blasé attitude towards time. He doesn’t care about it even though everyone around him seems obsessed with the minutes ticking by.
9. Cat’s in the Cradle, Harry Chapin
“My child arrived just the other day.
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.”
“Cat’s in the Cradle” brilliantly describes a problem that fathers face in the modern age. They work to provide a good life for their children, but it robs them of time to watch their kids grow. The song portrays a father and son who do not spend time together.
10. Time Warp, Richard O’Brien
“With a bit of a mind flip,
You’re into the time slip
And nothing can ever be the same.
You’re spaced out on sensation.”
“Time Warp” was featured in the 1973 musical ‘The Rocky Horror Show.’ The dance steps described in the song are infectious and have made it a popular choice at weddings and dances.
11. Clocks, Coldplay
“The lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought me down upon my knees
Oh, I beg, I beg and plead
Singin’ come out of things unsaid.”
Time seems to have caught up with the singer. He talks about trying and failing to swim against the tide. The “closing walls” and “missed opportunities” mentioned in the song evoke feelings of losing a battle waged against the clock.
12. Time, Pink Floyd
“You are young, and life is long, and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run; you missed the starting gun.”
Pink Floyd explores the irony of wasting time when you’re younger and not having enough of it as you get older. The sentiment expressed by the artist is one that can be understood by listeners as they advance in age. The young tend to see time as endless, while older people appreciate that their time on earth is precious.
13. Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor
via Sinéad O’Connor
“I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
I said nothing can take away these blues
’Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you.”
The singer talks about filling her nights with partying while her days are spent in bed. Regardless, none of it means anything without the one she loves. “Nothing Compares 2 U” is a song about heartbreak, of time standing still when a loved one walks out of your life.
14. Remember the Time , Michael Jackson
via Michael Jackson
“Do you remember
Back in the fall?
We’d be together all day long
Do you remember
Us holding hands?
In each other’s eyes, we’d stare
“Remember the Time” is about lost love. The songwriter revisits the past, trying to remind his ex about when they were happy together. It’s a song that evokes feelings of nostalgia and longing.
15. Back in Time, Huey Lewis and the News
“Take me away
I don’t mind
You better promise me
I’ll be back in time
Gotta get back in time.”
The song “Back in Time” was recorded for the “Back to the Future” movie. Huey Lewis and his crew used the time travel plot as inspiration for this piece of music. The lyrics speak about going back in time and not missing out on any aspect of the past.
16. The Time of My Life, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
“I’ve been waiting for so long.
Now I’ve finally found someone to stand by me.
We saw the writing on the wall.
As we felt this magical fantasy.”
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes sing about how moments with loved ones are magical. This is one of the songs about time that has enduring popularity. It’s still well-known decades after it was first released.
17. Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding
“I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
A song full of despair and heartbreak, Otis Redding sings about watching the world go by. He passes each day sitting on the dock and watching ships come and go. Even though he has moved away from home for a fresh start, he still believes he has nothing to live for.
18. Time, Culture Club
via Culture Club
“Oh, in time, it could have been so much more.
The time is precious, I know.
In time it could have been so much more.
The time has nothing to show.”
In this song, Culture Club show how the passing of time can alter the perception of a relationship. The bittersweet lyrics acknowledge the precious nature of time, but how it can also have no meaning at all.
19. Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
via Cyndi Lauper
“If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting
Time after time
If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time.”
An 80s classic, Cyndi Lauper promised to hold on to love. This melody is about a steadfast romance that does not fade away, even when the couple is no longer on the same page. “Time after Time” is a song about time which has become a favorite at prom nights and weddings.
20. Closing Time, Semisonic
“Closing time, one last call for alcohol
So, finish your whiskey or beer
Closing time, you don’t have to go home
But you can’t stay here
I know who I want to take me home.”
“Closing Time” might be mistaken for a song about staggering out into the night after a bar closes. However, it is about the comfort of knowing that you are not alone at the end of the day.
21. Time Is Running Out, Muse
“I wanted freedom, bound and restricted
I tried to give you up, but I’m addicted
Now that you know I’m trapped, sense of elation
You’d never dream of breaking this fixation.”
In this song, the band desperately holds on to a love that has already turned sour. They speak of wanting freedom and of feeling suffocated. But despite all the toxicity, they can’t let go of the relationship. Unfortunately, time is not on their side.
22. Fast, Luke Bryan
via Luke Bryan
“Sixty seconds now feels more like thirty.
Tick-tock, won’t stop; around it goes.
Sand through the glass sure falls in a hurry.
And all you keep trying to do is slow it down, soak it in.
Keep trying to make the good times last as long as you can.”
Here, Luke Bryant sings about lost moments and time going by too fast. When we’re younger, this seems like a desirable quality. But as we get older, all we want is to slow down the hands of the clock.
23. A Hazy Shade of Winter, Simon and Garfunkel
“Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
At any convenient time?
Funny how my memory skips while looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka and lime.”
“A Hazy Shade of Winter” is about taking stock of life. The song reflects on how people mellow with age. You go from being hard to please to accepting that things don’t always work out as planned.
Final Thoughts on Songs About Time
Time is a phenomenon beyond our control. It takes familiar things away and replaces them with new and sometimes scary alternatives. We grow older, lose love, but gain perspective. All the while, the clock keeps on ticking, carrying us through an ever-evolving landscape. Artists have written many songs about time, attempting to capture the confusion and emotion of change. Take a listen to these tracks about time.