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We all go through transitions in life. We all grow old, and in doing so learn a variety of lessons about life and our purpose.
These lessons are what help us develop into the people we are destined to become. Some of these lessons are difficult and painful, while others are happy. Regardless, they are all important parts of the growth process.
As we grow older and learn more about life, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to listen to songs that talk about growth and development?
In this article, we share with you the 25 best songs about growing up and coming of age. This list is a mix of old-school classics and modern indies—it has something for just about everyone.
Let’s get to it!
What You Will Learn
- 1. The Circle Game, Joni Mitchell
- 2. 1979, Smashing Pumpkins
- 3. What’s My Age Again?, Blink 182
- 4. Jack and Diane, John Mellencamp
- 5. Never Get Old, Sinead O'Connor
- 6. Time, Pink Floyd
- 7. Breed, Nirvana
- 8. Fade Away, Oasis
- 9. I Don’t Want to Grow Up, Ramones
- 10. Changes, David Bowie
- 11. When You Were Young, The Killers
- 12. Ready, Set, Don’t Go, Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus
- 13. Ghost, Kid Cudi
- 14. Hold You Down, Childish Gambino
- 15. Bros, Wolf Alice
- 16. Same Drugs, Chance the Rapper
- 17. Patience, Tame Impala
- 18. Boys Will Be Boys, Dua Lipa
- 19. Give Yourself a Try, The 1975
- 20. Wake Me Up, Avicii
- 21. Forever Young, Bob Dylan
- 22. Isn’t She Lovely, Stevie Wonder
- 23. There Goes My Life, Kenny Chesney
- 24. Class of 2013, Mitski
- 25. Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton
1. The Circle Game, Joni Mitchell
“We're captive on the carousel of time; we can't return. We can only look behind from where we came.”
“The Circle Game” was written to inspire children as they grow up and become part of a bigger world. It has been called a song that “will always be relevant” as long as kids grow up.
Joni Mitchell says that it is actually a response to Neil Young’s song “Sugar Mountain,” but it provides a more hopeful perspective. “Sugar Mountain” was the story of a man who laments the end of his teenage years, while “The Circle Game” is a song of hope for a new chapter in life.
“That we don't even care, as restless as we are. We feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts.”
“1979” is considered by Rolling Stone readers to be Smashing Pumpkins’ second-best song. It was written by front man and vocalist Billy Corgan, reminiscing about the year 1979, when he was just 12 years old and transitioning into adolescence.
This song is quite different from the band’s normal music, but it is a crowd favorite because of how meaningful the lyrics are.
“Nobody likes you when you're twenty-three and you still act like you're in freshman year. What the hell is wrong with me?”
Blink 182 originally titled this song “Peter Pan Complex,” since it’s about immaturity and not wanting to get old. The song is about the onset of adulthood and the difficulties that come with it.
“Let the bible belt come and save my soul, holdin' on to sixteen as long as you can. Change is coming 'round real soon.”
This classic song from John Mellencamp perfectly encapsulates the experience of young people in mid-America and that fleeting transition from childhood to being an adult.
“She moves with the music 'cause it never gets old. It's the only thing that never gets old.”
The song is about a boy who O’Connor had a crush on when she was just 16. Even though it’s pretty simple, it has gained a deeper meaning for many people as the years have gone by. Songs can be interpreted in many different ways, and this is one that touches a lot of people, regardless of what they think it is about.
“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.”
Written by the band’s bassist, Roger Waters, this song talks about how time passes by so quickly, especially when you are in the middle of life and feel like you no longer have anything to prepare for.
The song is notable for its long introduction, with clock ticks and alarm rings. The lyrics are rather sparse, but the music is heavy and deep. It perfectly sums up what it intends its listeners to feel—lifeless and stationary.
“I don't care, I don't care, I don't care. I don't care, I don't care, care if it's old. I don't mind, I don't mind, I don't mind.”
Breed addresses the themes of apathy and fear among American middle-class teenagers. It is a brilliant example of Kurt Cobain’s talent as a lyricist.
Pavitt describes this song as being hypnotic and stylistic, making it all the more interesting for the fans and listeners.
“While we're living, the dreams we have as children fade away.”
Many fans agree that “Fade Away” is one of Oasis’s most underrated songs. Some have called it “energetic but ultimately sad.” We couldn’t agree more. While it is upbeat, the song’s lyrics communicate how difficult the growing up process can be.
“Seems that folks turn into things that they never want. The only thing to live for is today.”
The original version of this song was made by Tom Waits and was about fighting against conformity. It tackles how humans are bound to feel isolated in one way or another, so they opt to stop participating in what the world has to offer.
The Ramones covered it on their 1995 farewell album entitled ¡Adios Amigos!, and it has since become one of the great songs about growing up and coming of age.
“Strange fascination, fascinating me. Changes are taking the pace I'm going through.”
This song is an incredible reflection of David Bowie’s experimentation with various musical styles. Just as he transformed his art into something better and brighter, we all grow up and become the people we are meant to be after many trials and challenges.
“Changes” was initially a flop, but it soon became a hit upon the release of its follow-up song, titled “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” It became a trademark of Bowie and was the last song he performed before he died.
“And sometimes you close your eyes and see the place where you used to live when you were young.”
This single is one of The Killer’s most successful songs, alongside Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me. It maintained its top position on the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks and reached number one on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks.
The song is all about growing up and moving on, even when your life has become stagnant. It talks about how our perceptions change as time goes by and how we have to deal with this while moving beyond childhood.
12. Ready, Set, Don’t Go, Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus
“She's waitin' on my blessings before she hits that open road, but baby, get ready, get set, please don't go.”
Get some tissues ready if it’s your first time listening to this song. It’s the perfect father-and-daughter song for those who are about to start a new chapter in their lives, with their parents supporting them every step of the way.
The original version of this song was a solo by Billy Ray. He wrote it for his daughter, Miley, when she was about to move to LA to pursue her acting and singing career. It was like a coming-of-age gift for her.
13. Ghost, Kid Cudi
“The people I met and the places I've been, all will make me the man I so proudly am.”
Our interpretation of this song is that the narrator sees himself as a ghost, especially to those who he cares about. He is unnoticed, but that’s all right because the depression and rejection he feels are shaping him into the man he is becoming.
14. Hold You Down, Childish Gambino
“We warriors, we all need senseis. Change everything that we've done so far. I don't mean makin' B.E.T. T.E.R. I mean just the way that we see each other.”
Childish Gambino (aka Donal Glover) was in and out of foster homes as a child, but eventually became his own man and found success through his own through patience, grit, and a dream to make the world a better and happier place.
This back story is what makes this song interesting. It tackles stereotyping and racism against Black people and explores a Black man’s transition into adulthood, including the effects that stereotyping can have.
15. Bros, Wolf Alice
“Oh, jump that 43. Are you wild like me? Raised by wolves and other beasts, I tell you all the time.”
This song was originally from Wolf Alice’s 2013 album (demo version), but it was re-released on their 2015 debut album, Love Is Cool, as the second single. The song is dedicated to the duo’s friendship. The band considers the song to have evolved along with their career and the bond between them as friends.
16. Same Drugs, Chance the Rapper
“You were always perfect, and I was only practice. Don't you miss the days, stranger? Don't you miss the days? Don't you miss the danger?”
This song isn’t actually about drugs—it is about a love that has been lost.
Chance sings about how he and his partner are no longer on the same page (no longer using the same “drugs”). The narrator and his lover are on different paths now that they have grown up.
17. Patience, Tame Impala
“I've been waiting here, waiting for the day to come. Take us to the place takin' us where we have gone.”
This song is about the band’s hiatus in 2015. It is about how growing up can make the destination seem vague sometimes, but about how it is the journey that matters the most.
The song was written as a response to all the people asking the band about how they were doing and whether they had been progressing in their music. Patience is a virtue that both the performer and the audience needs to master.
18. Boys Will Be Boys, Dua Lipa
“Boys will be, boys will be, boys will be, boys will be boys. But girls will be women. If you're offended by this song, you're clearly doing something wrong.”
This song from Dua Lipa was quite the controversy. Initially, the artist wanted to point out how rampant gender bias is among girls and women. She raised the issues of sexism and inequality, saying that women are not weak and should be treated fairly. But some people think that the song is quite prejudiced against men. We think it depends on how you to interpret it. Regardless of your opinion, there’s no denying that it is a powerful song.
19. Give Yourself a Try, The 1975
“You learn a couple of things when you get to my age. Like friends don't lie and it all tastes the same in the dark.”
Healy wanted to emphasize the importance of self-worth and self-improvement in this song. He encourages people to “give themselves a try” while staying true to who they are. He speaks as an authority, telling people to acknowledge their past mistakes because that is key to self-appreciation and improvement. Growing up is never easy, but it can be less challenging if you know where you’re going.
20. Wake Me Up, Avicii
“So wake me up when it's all over when I'm wiser and I'm older. All this time I was finding myself, and I didn't know I was lost.”
“Wake Me Up” collaboration between DJ Avicii and Aloe Blacc. Blacc wrote his part while he was on a tour in Europe and realized how surreal his life was.
While this song speaks from the perspective of a young person who is just coming of age, it also serves as a wake-up call for adults who have already been through a lot in life. It’s a reminder to keep their feet on the ground and not waste all that they worked for when they were younger.
21. Forever Young, Bob Dylan
“May you always be courageous. Stand upright and be strong. May you stay forever young.”
“Forever Young” was dedicated to Bob Dylan’s eldest son, Jesse. It talks about how a father can feel so much joy and strength upon the birth of his child.
Some of the song’s lyrics were taken from the Book of Numbers in the Bible, which Dylan added a bit of flair to. He also released two other versions of this song—one is a lullaby, while the other is a rock version.
22. Isn’t She Lovely, Stevie Wonder
“I can't believe what God has done. Through us, he's given life to one. But isn't she lovely, made from love.”
Similar to the previous entry, this masterpiece from Stevie Wonder was written upon the birth of his daughter, Aisha Morris. It is included in his 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life, in which his instrumental talents were also emphasized.
23. There Goes My Life, Kenny Chesney
“There goes my life, there goes my future, my everything. Might as well kiss it all goodbye.”
At first glance, you might think that this song is about love, pain, and regret, but it is actually a song about gratitude and forgiveness. It is about the love that a father has for his daughter and how a man’s priorities can change over the course of his life.
24. Class of 2013, Mitski
“Mom, I'll be quiet. It would be just to sleep at night. And I'll leave once I figure out how to pay for my own life too.”
“Class of 2013” is one of Mitski’s most popular songs. It is the story of a young girl asking her mother for a bit of support while she tries to figure out what to do now that she has graduated college.
Many listeners find it relatable, which is why it is so relatable. There is a mixture of fear and sadness in Mitski’s performance of it.
25. Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton
“Now I know we had no money, but I was rich as I could be in my coat of many colors, my momma made for me.”
Dolly Parton’s hits always seem to have a way of reminding the listener of home. “Coat of Many Colors” is a personal song based on her childhood experiences, when her mom made her a colorful coat out of ragged materials.
Did you find a song kin this collection that reflected your life and experience growing up? Regardless of who we are or what we go through, life can be a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. We need to make the best of it while it lasts.
We hope that these songs about growing up and coming of age have made you realize what is important in life. Enjoy every moment you have—after all, you only live once.