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Top 9 Songs about Growing Up

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Growing up, whether we like it or not, is a part of life. So, it isn’t a surprise then to know that there are plenty of songs about growing up.

In some respects, it is the hardest thing we ever do, and it carries its trials and tribulations. It can be exciting as well as challenging. And, for those around us, parents, for example, it can be a very worrying time.

From One Stage To Another

Songs about Growing Up

It seems that one minute we are considered a child, and the next, we are an adult with all the responsibilities that holds. Are we ever taught how to be adults? No, because in an ever-changing world, what applies today didn’t yesterday. Bob Dylan had a few words to say about that.

Growing up is getting older, but it isn’t just that. The number that is applied to you doesn’t mean you have matured, it’s just a recognition of the passage of time. 

How Do We Grow?

We grow in different ways. In relationships, in our understanding, and in our careers, growing is about gaining experience from life. We shall see songs about growing and learning.

We will see songs that not only refer to growth but also consider what we have done with it later in life. That is still a learning process even in our later years, so it can be considered as still growing.

How boring life would be if we didn’t continue to experience growth? If we just stopped growing mentally and stagnated at a certain age. As I said, it is a subject where our songwriters have been very active. So, let’s take a look at some of the things they have said.

Top 9 Songs about Growing Up

Forever Young by Bob Dylan

This was a track taken from his 1974 album, Planet Waves. For that album, he got together again with The Band. If people were expecting the same style of music he generated with them before, they would be disappointed. 

This has a relaxed style to it that is almost anticlimactic. I suppose that was created by the style of the songs, which were simple songs about life at home. The whole album was recorded in three days which adds to its unassuming nature. 

Two Variations On The Same Album

It isn’t often you get the same song recorded in two different ways on the same album. But, there are two versions of “Forever Young” back-to-back on Planet Waves. One is a little more uptempo than the other.

It was written during the time that Dylan had become a father and took a break from live performance. He wrote the song for his son Jesse who was born in 1966. It was intended as a lullaby for him, and the slower version certainly gives off that feeling.

When he returned to the stage, he included it in his stage set. Appropriate, because not only had Dylan become a father, it is possible that quite a few of his audience had as well. 

Amongst singers and musicians…

The song became a respected piece of work and was covered by many people. Perhaps the best of the bunch was Joan Baez in 1974. Her version reached #13 in America.

Additionally, the lyrics became a children’s book that was illustrated by Paul Rogers. The illustrations in the book do not just cover the aspects and meaning of the song’s lyrics. They also include some references to Dylan’s life as set in the political and social climate of the time. 

The song has since been used in alternative ways… 

I remember seeing it on the gravestone of a young man killed in a car accident in England. I suppose the sentiment is that in the eyes and memories of his family, he will always be young. 

A timeless Dylan classic that shows a sentimental side of his character often overlooked. And, a proper place to start this list of songs about growing up.

Grow Old With Me by John Lennon

This one, it has to be said, is probably not his greatest song. Some called it over-sentimental and with naive lyrics. I suppose you could say that, but this was Lennon. He was speaking about how he felt at the time he wrote the song. He would have been unlikely to apologize for feeling sentimental.

Lennon sings about the joys of having a life companion, and he speaks of commitment to that person. His words are romantic, and you can feel the optimism in what he is saying. And his appreciation of her.

The arrangement is gentle in its approach, and it has some well-arranged strings to add to the mood. This is not a growing-up song from an adolescent. This is a song about growing up when you are older. Of recognizing what and who you have and cherishing every moment with that person.

When You’re Young by The Jam

The Jam was an interesting band that was born out of the British Punk movement. They were formed in Surrey by Paul Weller and a few school friends. 

In ten years of concerts and recordings, they produced 18 consecutive Top 40 singles, four of which were #1. Their final album before they split, The Gift, went to #1 on the UK album charts.

Interesting?

As I said, they were born out of the Punk movement, but they wore the sharply tailored suits of the 60s Mods. They were known at the time as a “Mod-Revivalist” band. The music was represented by their clothes. High energy 70s Punk but with a smooth 60s style.

Leader and songwriter Paul Weller was a “Who-fanatic.” Weren’t we all? But, interestingly, The Who never saw themselves as a Mod band. 

The only people that thought they were, were the Mods themselves. The Small Faces with Steve Marriott were probably more Mod if you want to attach labels.

Speaking of The Small Faces…

The Jam drew their influences not only from The Who but also from The Small Faces and The Kinks. Someone once said The Jam was the best band that many people have never heard of. He may well have been right, they were very good.

A Cautionary Tale

Weller wrote a lot of songs about growing up and the disillusionment of being misled. He wrote songs about society telling you one thing, but the reality as you get older is quite different. This is one of those songs.

He always had a tendency to be harsh with his lyrics, and in this song, the narrator wants to be grown up and can’t wait. He is anticipating his acceptance into a capitalist-driven world, and he sees his future as exciting. 

But then, the reality… 

“And you find out life isn’t like that – It’s so hard to understand – Why the world is your oyster but your future’s a clam – It’s got you in its grip before you’re born – It’s done with the use of a dice and a board – They let you think you’re king but you’re really a pawn.”

Pete Townshend would have been proud of those words. Maybe so would the great George Carlin. Easily one of the best tracks The Jam produced. As well as a great song about having to get older.

Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin

Mary Hopkin was a young singer from Wales who was one of the first to be signed to The Beatles’ new Apple label. This is another song following on from The Jam but in a slightly less aggressive mode. 

It talks about how you are looking forward to your future as you are growing up before life can knock you back if you let it. In many ways, it is a very sad song about how life can pass us by while we are growing up if we aren’t careful.

An Old Song

The song wasn’t written by Paul McCartney, as some thought. It is a romantic Russian song written in about 1900 with English words put to it.

It speaks of a tavern where two friends would meet, raise a glass, and talk about the future. But busy lives meant they no longer spent so much time together. The future had arrived, and they didn’t know it. 

The final verse looks back, “Just tonight I stood before the tavern – Nothing seemed the way it used to be – In the glass, I saw a strange reflection – Was that lonely woman really me?”

The song was a huge hit… 

It was #1 in the UK and sixteen other countries and #2 in America. Many other countries also adopted the song, and their popular singers made recordings of it in their own languages.

Time by Pink Floyd

A song that is taken from the iconic 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. It is a song that looks, typically in a dark way, at the passage of time as we grow up. The song starts with multiple ticking clocks signifying the passage of time. 

It is a poignant reminder that just because you are young, you haven’t got forever. To make the most of every moment as we are growing up and not waste what time we have.

I don’t think too many young people think about that point… 

They often waste their time on pointless activities or even doing nothing at all. Growing up isn’t easy, as we have already said, but we often make it harder than it needs to be.

Then one day, we’ll look back and remember our growing-up years and wonder where the time has gone. How many things did you hope to do as you were growing up that you never did? Perhaps delaying them because there was “always tomorrow.” One day there won’t be a tomorrow.

It is a reminder that we can spend so much time planning our lives and forget to live them.

Sugar Mountain by Neil Young

This is a song that goes way back in Neil Young’s career while he was still playing in Canada with a band called The Squires. He wrote the song in its basic format in 1964 on his 19th birthday.

It is a song about growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. An interesting song in that most of it he finished two years later. He wanted to go to a club to be with his friends but couldn’t get in because it was for under-21s only. He was too old.

That got him thinking about his youth and his growing-up years… 

He realized that part of his youth had gone, and he is too old to do some things now. That ended up with him writing 126 verses to the song. He picked just four.

It was never an A-side but was placed as a B-side twice. In 1969 coupled with “The Loner” and again in 1970 with “Cinnamon Girl.” And it inspired another Canadian legend, Joni Mitchell, who is next on our list of the best songs about having to grow up.

The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell 

Joni Mitchell wrote this song about growing up and divided the experience into three timeframes. She tells the story of a boy’s life at 10, 16, and 20. 

It has a story that creates a few emotions… 

There is some sadness about the inevitabilities of life, about youthful dreams that fade with time. But there is also hope for the future.

Typically creative in her lyrics and descriptions, she uses a carousel to describe the passing of time in a metaphorical way. Intimating that we grow up and sometimes look back, but we can never go there again.

It was released on her excellent 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon. Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell… there must be something in the water in Canada.

Father And Son by Cat Stevens

Growing up in some cultures can be even harder for the child. This is the case in this song, which is a semi-autobiographical account of Cat Stevens growing up. It is taken from his album, Tea For The Tillerman.

He was born and grew up in West London, where his family owned a restaurant, the Moulin Rouge, in the West End, on posh Shaftesbury Avenue. His father was a Cypriot, and the family traditions meant that it was hoped that Stevens would one day work in the business. Thus handing it down through the family.

A Clash Of Wills

But what the father wanted and what the son wanted were two different things. Stevens wanted his life in music, but his father couldn’t understand. It took great courage for him to pursue his dream as he grew up in the face of his father’s disapproval.

He talks about growing up in a strict family. “From the moment I could talk – I was ordered to listen.” Growing up can be hard, and sometimes some decisions must be made. As Stevens writes in his lyrics, “You may still be here tomorrow – But your dreams may not.”

A great song where he takes both father and son parts in the dialogue.

Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chaplin

And so to the last song. There have been some great storytellers in music. Bob Dylan, of course, a master at work, but following behind, in my opinion, was Harry Chapin. This is an epic song with a warning about growing up. It is from his 1974 album, Verities & Balderdash.

It is seen through the eyes of the father, who, because of the importance he places on his work, has little time for his growing son. “A 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.”

The son is growing up… 

But, the father seems to know nothing about it and doesn’t realize his grown-up son needs him. “My son turned ten just the other day – He said thanks for the ball dad come on let’s play – Will you teach me to throw, I said not today, got a lot to do – He said that’s ok.”

And so the situation goes on until the tables are reversed… 

The father has retired, and the son has left home and has his own family. The father then finds his son has no time for him. 

He phones him, saying he’d like to see him, but the response is brutal as he says he hasn’t the time. The final few words of the song say it all – about growing up and a child often imitating their parents without knowing,

“And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me – He’d grown up just like me – My boy was just like me.” A message there from another angle. Children need their parents when they are growing up to teach them the right and wrong ways and what are the important things.

Looking for More Great Songs about This Thing Called Life?

Well, have a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About LifeSongs About HomeSongs About FamilySongs About Time, and Songs About Being 16 for more incredible song selections.

Of course, you’ll need to listen to them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.

Songs about Growing Up – Final Thoughts

A big message is what comes across from these songs. Growing up is an important part of life and something we all go through. How we react and deal with it, will depend on many things and not just things we have any control over.

But growing up can be a magical time, even though some of these songs paint a dismal picture. Perhaps the songwriters recognized this and just wanted to just make sure we heed the message of how important it is. As the child, but also as the parent.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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