Wise Czar

10 Most Nostalgic Songs Ever Written

Posted on: August 27, 2014

I love learning and writing about the past. It should come as no surprise then, that one of my favorite emotions is nostalgia, or a sentimental longing for the past. This emotion is bittersweet. On one hand, it can elicit sadness by causing you to long for events and people that are long gone. On the other hand, it can resurrect cherished memories and experiences that make you feel wonderful.

A major avenue for experiencing nostalgia is music. With its melodies and lyrics, music can bring out nostalgic emotions like nothing else. Below I have compiled a list of what I believe to be the 10 most nostalgic songs in existence. I have also added links to all the lyrics to give you a fuller experience. Of course, there’s millions of songs I haven’t heard. If you think that different songs should be on the list, please share your suggestions in the comments. But for now, sit back, relax and maybe grab a tissue before experiencing this massive dose of nostalgia.


10. Asia-Heat of the Moment (1982)

Do you remember when we used to dance? That line seals this song as a nostalgic hit. It’s about recalling a time, long in the past, when you lived in the moment. Time had no meaning for you because you were young and had years of life ahead of you…


9. Buggles-Video Killed the Radio Star (1979)


Many people think this song is annoying. I can understand that, but I also believe that it depicts how fleeting technology is, and how things that seem so new today will eventually seem old. This music video launched MTV back in 1981 and reflected a technological breakthrough. No longer was music exclusively to be heard. Now it could be seen on your television set! The sounds and images seemed very futuristic and hip back in the 1980s. Now they seem campy and old. Back then, video had killed the radio star. Today, advances in digital technology are killing traditional video. But this too shall pass…


8. Del Shannon-Runaway (1961)


Despite the people dancing in the video, this song is chilling. It’s a man reminiscing about a woman who he loved that left long ago. His sadness and confusion reach across space and time and relate to people today whose loved ones “have run away.” Indeed, the haunting melody makes this song sound timeless, even though it is quite old. Remember, those young people dancing in the video are now probably in their seventies…


7. Bryan Adams-Summer of 69 (1984)


This is another song where a man is reminiscing about the glory days of his youth—his friendships, romances, rebelliousness, etc. “Those were the best days of [his] life.” It makes you think how quickly your teenage years fly by. Everybody will reach that point when they’ll be lying down (though maybe not on a hammock) and realizing that their youth is gone forever. If you were a teenager in 1969, you are now in your sixties…


6. Judy Garland-Somewhere Over the Rainbow (1939)


Everybody recognizes this as the famous song from The Wizard of Oz. The music is dreamlike. Judy Garland is young and innocent, beautifully staring into the infinite distance. Toto the dog is absolutely lovable. It seems so relatable. Then you remember that this video was filmed nearly seventy years ago. Judy Garland died in 1969 of a drug addiction. Could she have known this in 1939? Of course not.  She was so young there. So many people were young before us, and where are they now? Perhaps somewhere over the rainbow…


5. Bruce Springsteen-The River (1980)


The River in this song represents a place of innocence, long buried in the past, that is capable of bringing forth haunting memories from one’s youth. The singer recalls how the river brought him and his girl together long ago and gave them some wonderful experiences. Now, years later, the cruelties of life have washed that innocence away. The river has become part of a past that can never be returned to, and instead it brings forth painfully nostalgic memories. Indeed, the river is dry…


4. Cyndi Lauper-Time After Time (1983)


This song’s lyrics are brimming with nostalgic language—time, memories, fading—that extols love’s permanence, reaching across time. The girl in the music video has multiple flashbacks where she recalls falling in love, experiencing disappointment and her mother’s comforting embrace. She’s thinking about all the things that led up to her being in that cabin with her man. As we watch her nostalgia trip, we are tempted to go on one of our own. What led us to where we are today, and will we someday look back on today with that same sense of nostalgia?…


3. Cliff Edwards-When You Wish Upon a Star (1940)


Disney’s most famous song survives through the decades as a rhapsody celebrating the innocent dreams of childhood. It connects children in 1940 with those of today, joining past, present and future in the wonderful message that dreams can come true. While listening to this song, you cannot help but get swept away by the hauntingly calm sound of the chorus. Close your eyes as you listen to this song, and think about yourself when you heard it for the first time all those years ago…


2. Alphaville-Forever Young (1984)


As the video opens with the screen zooming into the infinite recesses of space, it’s easy to think of how short our lives are compared to the life of the universe. Those of us who are young now will be old in a heartbeat, and the universe will have hardly aged. The singers in the video themselves are all middle aged now, and they were so young back then. At the video’s end, we see all the people, clearly from various points in history, walking together into the light. Where are they headed? Where are any of us headed? The present will soon become the past as we move toward an infinitely vast and unknown future…


1. Celine Dion-My Heart Will Go On (1997)


The most nostalgic song ever written is fittingly the theme song of one of the most nostalgic movies ever made—Titanic. An old, old women recalls memories of youth, romance and tragedy on the ill-fated ship nearly a century ago. Life is so short and the emotions we experience today are the same ones countless individuals have experienced stretching back to the beginning of time. You cannot watch this video and listen to this music without a shiver running through your spine. You cannot help but think of yourself as an old man or woman looking back upon your youth and reliving the memories that are now the present. One day we will long for today, but it will be nothing but history…

2 Responses to "10 Most Nostalgic Songs Ever Written"

“This emotion is bittersweet. […] it can resurrect cherished memories and experiences that make you feel wonderful.”

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