One of the greatest gifts a musical performer can give the audience is a piece of themselves as they sing a song straight from their own heart. Some of the best hits to ever grace the radio stations have come from artists who’ve expressed childhood memories, both good and bad, that have ultimately shaped who they’ve become as adults. As fans, many of us can relate to their stories, or at the very least, appreciate them. The collection of songs featured in the list provided comes from more than one genre as most have their own stories to tell about what life was like growing up. Sometimes, the song may not necessarily have been about them, but about someone, they know. Either way, whatever they performed from their own hearts that made its way into ours, earns the right to be called among the best. There are even a few that put a somewhat humorous spin on things but have proven to be just as entertaining.
(For those who want to listen as they read, click on the pictured video link to access the playlist and let it play itself out. Although it’s a list of 20 songs, there are 22 in the list.)
The 20 Best Songs About Growing Up
20. Get a Haircut (by George Thorogood and the Destroyers)
It’s safe enough to assume many rock music fans can relate to Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job, performed by the bad to the bone legend himself, George Thorogood and the Destroyers. In 1993, this song has served as the ideal “don’t judge a book by its cover” anthem for rebels who literally spit in the face of the stigmas placed by the expectations of certain society members who have their own idea of what a model citizen should look and act like. The album, Haircut, featured this song, despite the fact it was already written by Thorogood in 1970. It wasn’t until his 1992 recording of it onto the album where he felt mainstream society was finally ready to hear it on the airwaves.
19. Yesterday’s Dream (by Donna Cruz)
Sung by children from the Philippines, Yesterday’s Dream serves as a beacon of hope for parents whose dream is to see their children grow up under their influence to become the best possible version of themselves. Through the eyes of our own children, we have the opportunity to grow again, but this time through their eyes instead of just our own. This is what growing up is supposed to be about, as this also means growing together as a family. You, as a parent, grow with your child as they will attempt to grow in a world that’s dictated to them by how you see fit. This song serves as an inspirational anthem to spark growth within each of us that will never stop for as long as we embrace not just yesterday’s dreams, but today’s as well. (Among those who know me best reading this post, THIS LINK’s version is for you.)
18. A Boy Named Sue (by Johnny Cash)
Johnny Cash shared a life story through his comedic single, A Boy Named Sue, in a live performance on February 24, 1969. The song originally comes from the poet, Shel Silverstein. Inspired, Johnny Cash performs this with a perfect narrative where you feel sorry for the boy who was given a girly name and has to go through a life of ridicule that would ultimately bring him to grow up as an adult who vowed to get even with his father. However, upon meeting him, he realized one of the most valuable lessons while growing up. There is nothing important enough in a name that can determine what kind of character you will develop as you make choices that benefit your life instead of taking away from it.
17. Check Yes or No (by George Strait)
Some of the best love stories have been known to start as early as the earliest days of our youth. In the case of George Strait’s Check Yes or No, which was released in 1995, along with his album, Strait Out of the Box. The single itself became certified platinum twice over by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This classic boy meets girl story sees how a simple yes or no decision made, even as a small child can forever impact how we live out the rest of our lives.
16. Summer of 69 (by Bryan Adams)
Some of the best memories we have while growing up come as teenagers as this is the pinnacle moment between the last run of our youth before officially becoming adults. For Bryan Adams, sharing the memory of his first guitar purchase as he aspired to be a successful musician, serves as a trigger for every adult to take a run down their own memory lanes and remember the best of it with fondness. Summer of 69 was among the best days of Bryan Adams’ life, according to the lyrics of this song, but it also served as one of his best hits of all time when it was released in 1985, along with the album Reckless.
15. My Town (by Glass Tiger) (featuring Rod Stewart)
Reminiscing the childhood memories from his hometown, lead vocalist Andy Frew from Glass Tiger strikes a chord into the hearts of listeners as 1991’s Celtic-style My Town suggests we can travel as far away from home as we want, but there’s still no place quite like the place we first came from. Rod Stewart’s installment throughout different parts of the song as he sings along seems to elevate the emotion revolving around the song a notch or two, making the fourth single from the group’s third studio album, Simple Mission. For the full effect of the music video that goes with this song, visit THIS LINK. It doesn’t have Rod Stewart’s involvement, though.
14. Daddy’s Hands (by Holly Dunn)
Singing it as a tribute to her father, Holly Dunn performed one of the most heartfelt childhood memory songs of all time. The powerful delivery of the soulful hit, Daddy’s Hands, saw Holly Dunn at her very best as she sang memories of what her life was like growing up with her father. In 1986, it peaked at number seven on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and was later nominated in 1987 at the Grammy Awards for Best Country Song. Daddy’s Hands comes from Holly Dunn’s third studio album, which is titled after her own name.
13. When I Was A Boy (by ELO)
While Jeff Lynne was still the frontman for Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), he performed the single, When I Was a Boy. Played out as an autobiography, the song came from the 2015 album, Alone in the Universe, which was the thirteenth studio recording belonging to the group. Although the song never charted on any official music billboards, it’s still one of the best songs there is when it comes to reminiscing the life of a small boy whose childhood dreams summed up the best moments of his life while growing up.
12. In My Life (by The Beatles)
In My Life was a song performed by The Beatles, which served as an autobiographic story of John Lennon while he was growing up in Liverpool, England. The lyrics are directed as a message to someone close to him as he’s pouring his heart out like a confessional in lyrical form. The piano played in the song by George Martin sped up mid-way, agreeing to perform something that sounded baroque by Lennon’s request.
11. The Circle Game (by Joni Mitchell)
The beloved single, The Circle Game, comes from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 album, Ladies of the Canyon, depicts the tale of a boy’s life as he goes through life from a small boy who has dreams of grandeur that begin to wane as he inches towards adulthood and all the realities that come with it. The reference to the carousel serves as a symbolic reminder we can look back on our lives as much as we want with fond memories, but we are unable to turn back the wheel of time.
10. Forever Young (by Rod Stewart)
The music video shows Rod Stewart singing 1988’s Forever Young to a young boy who poses as his son. The song’s message goes from parent to child, pointing out there’s nothing more magical than the joys of youth when enjoyed to the fullest while growing up through the adventures of childhood. When adulthood comes, the loss felt when we lose our childhood youth is a bittersweet one as the message clearly dictates the key to staying forever young is to never let go of the best qualities of our youth that are supposed to shape what we become as adults. For parents, no matter what age their child becomes, will always be seen as forever young in their eyes. The album the song belongs to is Out of Order, which was Stewart’s fifteenth studio release.
9. Growin’ Up (by Bruce Springsteen)
For most kids, attending school was no picnic. For Bruce Springsteen, his performance of Growin’ Up showed he was no exception as the musical tale suggests he shared the same issues with the authority figures in his life while he was growing up. Some of the most powerful childhood memories are school-related as a huge chunk of a child’s time is spent there, having their young minds shaped by educators who are supposed to know what they’re doing but may not always be as good at it as some of Springsteen’s lyrical delivery points out. In 1973, one of America’s most influential musical artists of all time debuted with his studio album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. While the song itself may not have been one of the many charted favorites from his discography, it is among the favorites listened to by his fans. It’s a song most kids, regardless of age, can relate to.
8. There Goes My Life (by Kenny Chesney)
In 2003, through the eyes of a teenage parent, There Goes My Life plays out the drama of watching his young daughter growing up before his eyes and how it brings him to remember his own childhood and how it feels like it’s been cut short by the consequences of teen pregnancy. Growing up isn’t always about going from the stages of childhood to adulthood, but how we grow as adults, especially as parents. As parents, watching our own children grow before us brings us down memory lane of what life was like for ourselves as kids. The best part about growing up is growing in love and wisdom at the same time. There will be a mix of ups and downs, all of which become cherished memories as that’s what living life is supposed to be about. The album, When the Sun Goes Down, was Kenny Chesney’s eighth studio release, which produced six highly charted singles, including There Goes My Life, which reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
7. When You Were Young (by The Killers)
When looking back on our childhood, where we grew up as children serves as a core ingredient to those memories. Where we grew up, along with how we grew up, have always served as instrumental roles that shape who we become as adults. Looking back on our own history is always bittersweet, mixed with fond memories and heartache as we remember what was while trying to cope with what currently is. The Killers’ released their album Sam’s Town, along with the highly successful hit, When You Were Young, in 2006. It was the first time the group experienced a number one hit as it topped the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and had also become certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry and the Recording Industry Association of America.
6. Jack and Diane (by John Cougar Mellencamp)
Holding onto sixteen as long as you can is part of John Cougar Mellencamp’s message from his 1982 single, Jack and Diane. The highly successful album, American Fool, which was Mellencamp’s fifth, is a beloved classic in the rock music genre. The Recording Industry Association of America regarded Jack and Diane as one of the songs of the century and it remains as Mellencamp’s best hit single coming from his highly impressive discographic career.
5. Changes (by David Bowie)
Even as adults, we’re still growing up as we grow older. We go through changes, exactly as David Bowie’s1971 single, Changes, points out. It was the final song he performed on stage before his death on January 10, 2016. As the lyrics point out, time may change us, but we can’t change time. Not only is this single one of David Bowie’s best of all time, but also one of the best examples of what growing up is about. Growing up doesn’t always mean transitioning from baby to child, then child to teen, and from teen to adult. It’s about adapting to the challenges everyday living gives us as the sign of the times may keep on changing, but how we cope with those changes defines our growth as adults as we grow older. Due to its popularity, this song is featured on many compilation albums, as well as cover songs by a number of artists who agree this is one of their all-time favorites from Bowie as well.
4. Time (by Pink Floyd)
The alarm clocks going off, plus the mighty grandfather clock’s intro going into Pink Floyd’s cult classic, Time, is one of the most powerful musical messages any artist can deliver when it comes to looking back at the wheel of time and our earliest childhood memories. The beautiful playout of the instrumentation is the iconic group’s trademark, which adds one wave of soulful release after another, as it feels like a psychedelic float in the vast space of childhood memories. In 1973, Pink Floyd released its eighth studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon, which is not only regarded as one of the band’s best of all time but within the genre of progressive rock that earned its very definition by one of the most revered bands in pop culture history.
3. The Coat of Many Colors (by Dolly Parton)
Music fans of classic country music most likely regard Dolly Parton as a household name, along with one of the most childhood memory songs ever recorded in human history. The best part about 1971’s The Coat of Many Colors is not about the coat itself, but the message of love she felt from her mother at the timing she received it as a child. Despite the ridicule she received from schoolmates who couldn’t see beyond superficialities, Parton’s love she felt for her mother and how she looked after the entire family despite financial hardship comes through loud and clear in one of the best singles she’s ever produced. It was the lead single from the album with the same name and also appears on a number of compilation albums that feature the best of country music, regardless of what era it comes from.
2. Landslide (by Fleetwood Mac)
Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac recorded the 1975 single, Landslide, which is one of the most honored tracks from the group’s self-titled studio album. The single’s popularity was so impactful that it sold over two million copies as of 2017. In an interview, Nicks admitted she wrote the song at a timing where she considered going back to school instead of continuing as a performer. For her, looking upon her youth felt like a landslide as the wonderment of childhood memories finds itself buried underneath the avalanche of growing up and growing old as time goes by. The song has been covered by a number of artists, including the Dixie Chicks and the Smashing Pumpkins.
1. What a Wonderful World (by Louis Armstrong)
With the grace and charm only the legendary Louis Armstrong can pull off, 1967’s What a Wonderful World is not simply a song. It is one of the most important pieces of cultural appreciation as the thankfulness to enjoy a world full of wonderment is brought forth in one of the most soulful performances of all time. As one of the godfathers of jazz, Armstrong’s view on life from the earliest days of his youth to this very day is what truly makes the world as wonderful as it can be. In 1999, What a Wonderful World was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for the song’s qualitative or historical significance.
Everybody has their own collection of childhood memories, both good and bad, that sums up the kind of person they are today. True growth doesn’t come with age. It comes with wisdom as we strive to learn as we grow. While many seem to do this will, this isn’t always the case. Who you were then and who you are not may not necessarily be the same people. It depends entirely on how you used your growth. Did you use this to your advantage, or did you fumble along the way? Fumbling is normal. What isn’t normal is the failure to grow from it. What helps a child, regardless of age, is igniting the pioneering spirit within so that you can grow to the full potential even I know you have, even if chance has it you don’t.