Nostalgia is a beautiful way to remind you of the carefree days of childhood. Music has the incredible ability to take us back and also bring back old feelings. Here, we've collected a few of the best childhood memory songs to take you back to your early years.
1. “Summer of '69” by Bryan Adams
Song Year: 1984
There is no other song in music that brings up the pangs of nostalgia like this hit from Canadian Bryan Adams. Released in the '80s, “Summer of '69” is all about the simple days of growing up, forming a band, receiving a first kiss, and learning about life. What sets this song apart from the others is its optimistic vibe. Memories may be in the past, but this tune still has our feet tapping.
2. “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley
Song Year: 1984
Summer vacations are instant memory makers, and the Eagles' Don Henley knew how to capture those memories with this catchy tune. Of course, summers can also be about those budding romances that seem to fizzle as the days get colder.
Regardless, summer love as a child or a teen is something we all know something about. This Henley hit proves that the feelings are the same for everyone.
3. “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin
Song Year: 1974
If there has ever been a song that led to more tears shed and leaky noses, then we'd like to see it. “Cats in the Cradle” is the song that many people immediately conjure up when thinking about childhood memories. The repetition of lines from iconic nursery rhymes in the chorus reminds many people of the times that are now behind them.
This hit by Harry Chapin is about regret and the desire to be a better parent. But the most crucial portion of this song is the understanding that cycles can repeat, regardless of the best intentions.
4. “Strawberry Wine” by Deanna Carter
Song Year: 1996
This saccharinely sweet country hit from the '90s is all about first loves and the first taste of wine as a young teenager. While we wouldn't encourage teenagers to drink wine, there's something unique and memorable about small moments of teenage rebellion that make this time of life special.
The song begins with Carter reminiscing about her first kiss with a boy named Johnny. Then, she talks about summer days that seemed to linger forever and the sweet taste of strawberry wine she and Johnny shared. Carter's lyrics evoke a feeling of innocence and longing as she remembers the warmth of the summer sun and the joy of being young and free.
5. “In My Room” by The Beach Boys
Song Year: 1963
A child's room can create a sense of comfort and safety like a warm blanket. Still, this tune from The Beach Boys is about those moments of quiet solitude and reflection in your bedroom as a child and teen.
This song tells the story of a young boy who escapes to his room whenever he feels overwhelmed. He can be in this space and free from the world's worries. The song also speaks to how special a child's room can be. It is a place of comfort and refuge where imagination can run wild.
6. “For Youth” by BTS
Song Year: 2022
BTS is one of the most prolific groups in the world and they got to where they are today by writing songs aimed at the younger generation. Their powerful lyrics relate to the struggles that many young people have with today’s world but provide hope for the future.
“For Youth,” one of the last songs the group released before they went on hiatus, talks about the band’s journey over the last decade. It reminds the listeners how far they have come in their youth and reminisces on the ups and downs of this period of life.
7. “Fifteen” by Taylor Swift
Song Year: 2008
The queen of youth and young love, Taylor Swift, finally appears on this list! The song speaks of the innocent love between two fifteen-year-olds, full of naivety and optimism. However, it also speaks of the growing pains of entering adulthood, when many of us learn lessons the hard way.
The lyrics are full of the good times spent in high school while also recognizing the struggles faced. Swift speaks of the mistakes we make in life and how we must learn to forgive ourselves and others. “Fifteen” is a powerful reminder of how fragile our teenage years can be and how we must take the time to appreciate the people we meet and the memories we make.
8. “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart
Song Year: 1988
There is only one message you can take from this 1988 Rod Stewart hit: enjoy your childhood and cherish it forever. The song has become an anthem for the young at heart, reminding us to cherish life's moments and enjoy each day we have. It's a timeless classic that will continue to bring hope and joy to many for years to come.
9. “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins
Song Year: 1995
Aimlessness as a teenager is a built-in feature of growing up, and The Smashing Pumpkins' “1979” is an anthem for those feelings. Lead singer Billy Corgan wrote the song based on his experiences growing up in the Chicago suburbs. As a result, the song is an emotional reflection of teenage angst and nostalgia.
10. “When I Was a Boy” by Electric Light Orchestra
Song Year: 2015
A fan favorite from Electric Light Orchestra, “When I Was a Boy” was the lead single off their album Secret Messages. Jeff Lynne wrote and produced the song, which peaked at number 16 on the UK Singles Chart. The song is a nostalgic reflection of the innocence of childhood, with its simple and uplifting melody making it an enduring classic of modern rock and roll.
11. “We Are Young” by fun
Song Year: 2012
An explosive pop hit with powerful vocals and an equally powerful arrangement, “We Are Young” by fun is a shot in the arm like the energy of youth. The song captures the joys and innocence of growing up and how those memories can stay with us for a lifetime.
The lyrics vividly depict the past and how small moments can be so significant. It has become an anthem for young people and appeared in various television shows and movies. The song also helped fun win two Grammy awards.
12. “Photograph” by Nickleback
Song Year: 2005
Put your pitchforks away, music snobs. The band that launched a thousand think-pieces on why they are the worst band of all time has a catchy song about those bygone days. The Canadian group's hit is all about the treasured memories of the teen years that always seem to come flooding back whenever you look back at the photos of that era.
13. “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen
Song Year: 1984
Bruce Springsteen isn’t the Boss for nothing. Bruce Springsteen hit it big in the 1980s thanks to songs like “Glory Days.” With an instantly hummable composition and Springsteen's unforgettable voice, this hit helped propel the Boss further into superstardom. This song is about remembering the good times of youth and realizing how quickly life passes by.
14. “In My Life” by The Beatles
Song Year: 1965
This classic Beatles hit is a self-reflection and meditation on the importance of enjoying every moment as a child and teenager. John Lennon wrote the song in 1965 as part of the band's album Rubber Soul.
The song is a poignant reflection on the past and a look toward the future. Lennon writes of people and places in his life that has been and gone and those still to come. He expresses a deep appreciation for the moments and people who have made him who he is.
15. “When You Were Young” by The Killers
Song Year: 2006
“When You Were Young” is now a classic anthem of nostalgia. The song is about looking back on the past and reflecting on a time of innocence and freedom. The lyrics tell a story of a person who is now older and wiser but still wishes they could go back to when they were young.
The upbeat tempo, catchy chorus, and anthemic lyrics make this song an instant classic. While the music might make you sad, it's a great reminder that life is short and we should make the most of every moment.
16. “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert
Song Year: 2009
It's time to swing back to country music with this hit from Miranda Lambert. “The House That Built Me” is a powerful song released in 2009. The song quickly rose to the top of the country music charts. The song is about the narrator's childhood home and how it was a safe and happy place for her.
“The House That Built Me” is powerful in its simplicity, as it speaks to the nostalgia of childhood memories and the feelings of safety and comfort associated with a childhood home. The lyrics and melody are heartfelt and sentimental, and people often listen to this song to remember a particular place or time.
17. End of the Innocence by Don Henley
Song Year: 1989
If he appears twice on this list, there must be something about Don Henley and nostalgia. Henley's title song off his 1989 album is about protecting your innocence and remembering the good times of youth. It is also a reminder never to lose youthful optimism and never give up on childhood dreams.
18. “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton
Song Year: 1971
We're back on a Dolly Parton kick with this classic from 1971. The song tells a story of a young girl receiving a patchwork coat made by her mother from scraps of cloth and rags. The music speaks of the love and warmth a mother can give and the courage and strength it can give her child.
The song is a testament to the power of motherly love and kindness. This song is warm, comforting, and compassionate, like the titular coat itself. It can help you remember winter days with your family.
19. “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran
Song Year: 2017
Ed Sheeran's “Castle on the Hill” is an emotional, nostalgic tune about his hometown of Framlingham, England. The song takes the listener on a rose-tinted journey back to Sheeran's teenage years, remembering his hometown friends and the places he used to hang out.
The song paints a vivid picture of the countryside, the castle on the hill, and the nostalgia of those memories. This song has quickly become a modern classic by the English rock singer and a variety of artists have covered it due to the beautiful melody and the powerful feelings the song evokes.
20. “These Are the Days of Our Lives” by Queen
Song Year: 1991
This hit, released in 1991, is a timeless classic that perfectly captures the nostalgia of childhood memories. The song speaks to the joys and sorrows that come with growing up through poignant lyrics. It conveys the bittersweet emotions of passing time and the realization that life is fleeting.
The lyrics evoke images of days spent playing in the sun and the bittersweet joy of remembering those days. The song also speaks to the importance of making the most of our time and the need to cherish each moment.
21. “I'm Just a Kid” by Simple Plan
Song Year: 2002
It was about time for a song about a snot-nosed punk kid. The song begins with a nostalgic reflection on the days of youth and innocence and the realization that those days are gone. The chorus expresses the sentiment that the singer wishes to return to the days without worrying about the future.
The song paints a vivid picture of a life full of simple pleasures, such as playing video games, riding bikes, and spending time with friends. The lyrics capture the bittersweet feeling of growing up and realizing that life can be much more complicated than in the past.
22. “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard
Song Year: 2003
“Ocean Avenue” is another song that you can’t help but jam out to when you hear it. This pop-punk nostalgia piece reminisces about a specific place where the singer grew up and all the memories he has there. He wishes that he could have remained with the person he loved when he was young and wonders how their lives would be if they had stayed together.
23. “Stressed Out” by Twenty-One Pilots
Song Year: 2015
Another rock hit, “Stressed Out” speaks of the longing to return to the days of youth when life was safe and carefree. The song's lyrics discuss the struggles of growing up, such as having to take on responsibilities and making critical decisions.
The song also talks about how life can become complicated, and even the little things can cause anxiety. Anxiety aside, this sweet song by Twenty-One Pilots is a reminder to remember the days when sweating the small stuff didn't matter.
Top Childhood Memory Songs, Final Thoughts
Whatever your view on nostalgia and pining for the “good ol' days,” music can transport us to simpler times and remind us that the everyday grind of life does not always drown things out. These songs all evoke powerful images of nostalgia, freedom, safety, security, and pleasant memories.