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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Be Here Now: Songs about Time and Appreciating the Present Moment

last updated April 6, 2021

posted by Catharine Hannay

Continuing the popular series of song playlists for teachers, here are songs about growing up, seasons changing,  remembering the past, and taking action in the present.  I've included singers both young and old, as well as a few instrumental songs from two of my favorite guitarists.

As always, please preview the full lyrics and video before sharing any of these with your students.  And scroll to the bottom of the list for questions that can be used as prompts for discussion or writing.

All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
lyrics; video (audio with album cover); cover by Allie Farris
"Sunrise doesn't last all morning.  A cloudburst doesn't last all day... All things must pass away."

Awake, Josh Groban
lyrics; video of live performance

"A beautiful and blinding morning. The world outside begins to breathe...  Give me more time to feel this way. We can't stay like this forever, but I can have you next to me today."

Be Here Now, George Harrison
lyrics; video (audio with album cover); video of instrumental version by Kathryn Cox
"Why try to live a life that isn't real...  A mind that wants to wander 'round a corner is an un-wise mind...Be Here Now."

Beautiful, Empty Hands Music 
lyrics and free mp3 download;  official video 

"The light is shining outside my door. It never looked so beautiful before."

Cat's in the Cradle, Harry Chapin
lyrics; video (audio with album cover); video of cover by Ugly Kid Joe
"'Dad, come on, let's play'... I said, "Not today, I got a lot to do"...  I called him up just the other day...  He said, 'I'd love to [see you] if I could find the time.'... He'd grown up just like me."

Chelsea Morning, Joni Mitchell 
lyrics; video of cover by Kathryn Hallberg (song starts at :20)
"Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew there was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too.  And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses.  Oh, won't you stay.  We'll put on the day.  And we'll talk in present tenses."

Circle GameJoni Mitchell 
"Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now. Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town. And they tell him 'take your time it won't be long now 'till you drag your feet to slow the circles down. And the seasons they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down. We're captive on the carousel of time."

Coffee Time, Ken Medema
lyrics not available; audio + album cover
"There will be time enough to fight the windmills, and all those battles that never seem to end. So from now 'til quarter after, or from now 'til twenty after, thirty after, forty after. Or from now 'til ever after, it's a cup of love and laughter. So come on, old friend, it's coffee time again."

Downside of Growing Up, Maddie and Tae
lyricsaudio with album cover
"Pack your bags and hug your mom.  Been dreaming about leaving for so long... Fixin' up your brand new place.  First day in and something breaks.  Your dad ain't there to get you unstuck. Yeah, that's the downside of growing up... It's the road you gotta take to get where you're going."

Dust in the Wind, Kansas
lyrics; audio + album coveracoustic version by Sungha Jung
"I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone... Now, don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky... All we are is dust in the wind."

Earnest Went Out of His Mind, Larry Gallagher
(lyrics not available); video (audio with album cover)
"He stepped outside and he opened his eyes to the blue of the sky and the clouds rolling by… and he noticed the breeze and he noticed the trees… 'The message is clear.  The kingdom is here, and although I have the run of it none of it is about me'… and he knew if he found himself pointlessly and uselessly confined, he could always go out of his mind."

For a Short Time, Dean Musser
audio with album cover
instrumental guitar music

Getting Good, Lauren Alaina
lyrics; audio

"Once I fall in love, then I'll be happy. But then you fall in love and there's still a hole. Once I get some money, it'll all be easy. But when you get that money, you still feel broke. Once I get a little older, I won't worry. Then you get older and it don't feel like it should. I'm thinking once I learn to grow right where I'm planted. Maybe that's when life starts getting good."

Got the Time, Joe Jackson
lyrics; youtube video with images of clocksofficial video by Anthrax

"Wake up, got another day to get through now... No such thing as tomorrow... Time, got the time tick tick tickin' in my head."

Heavenly Day, Patti Griffin
lyrics; youtube video with images of nature
"Tomorrow may rain with sorrow. Here's a little time we can borrow. Forget all our troubles in these moments so few... Lay here and watch the trees sway."

Here Right Now, Rhea Makiaris
offical video with ASL sign interpretation by Lisa Herbert

"The best of me is gone, 'cause I've been thinking on the past and what's to come. But they take me away from the beauty of today."

I Know a Man, Jeffrey Gaines
lyrics; video of live performance
"It's been years, he's been here.  And time just lingers, and no one knows... For twenty years he hasn't spoken a word.  He's been silent since the accident occurred... Can't lift a finger to stop what's wrong. He can't lift a leg to dance to a Beatles' song... So many people go day by day.  Sitting on their hands constantly complaining.  I know a man who'd know what to do."

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday, G.C. Cameron

"How do I say goodbye to what we had? The good times that made us laugh outweigh the bad. I thought we'd get to see forever, but forever's gone away. It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday."

It Won't Be Like This For Long, Darius Rucker

"He didn't have to wake up.  He'd been up all night... listening to his newborn baby cry... One day soon that little girl is gonna be all grown up and gone.  This phase is gonna fly by...  It won't be like this for long."

June, Mona Lisa Twins
"Remember January,  when we first met. And a beautiful February we’ll never forget...
June, can you tell me why we had to say goodbye so soon.  Would you come along, and bring my baby home?"

Like the World is Going to End, Ben Rector
lyrics; video of live performance; audio with album cover; sweet youtube video showing one woman's interpretation of the song 
"If we found out that the world was gonna end on Tuesday morning, what would everybody do? It's funny how the thought of that can make something real important, and a lot of things pretty worthless too... I'd call everyone I loved, say what I was scared to say till then... Maybe I should always live like the world is gonna end."

Live Like We're Dying, Kris Allen

lyricsofficial video
"If your life flashed before you what would you wish you'd done. We gotta start looking at the hands of the time we've been given... We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to turn it all around or to throw it all away."

Nostalgia, Sungha Jung
video of Sungha Jung playing guitar

instrumental guitar music

Nothing, Charlotte Campbell
lyricsofficial video

"Remember that time that we did nothing? We had nowhere to be... Remember that time that we did something? Making some new memories. We both agreed it was more than we needed because all that we need comes for free."

Of Time and Rivers Flowing, Pete Seeger
lyricsrecording by Pete Seeger (audio with album cover)recording by Lehto and Wright (audio with album cover) 
"Of time and rivers flowing, the seasons make a song. And we who live beside her, still try to sing along...The circles of the planets, the circles of the moon, the circles of the atoms all play a marching tune. And we who would join in can stand aside no longer. Now let us all begin."


People Get Old, Lori McKenna

"Time is a thief, pain is a gift. The past is the past, it is what it is. Every line on your face tells a story somebody knows. That's just how it goes. You live long enough and the people you love get old."

If you like this song, you might also like  'When you're my age' by Lori McKenna and the playlist on Love for Friends and Family.

Perfect Day, Lady Antebellum
lyricsvideo (audio with album cover)
"Went walking through town just the other day with nothing much to do. As the sun came breaking down through the clouds, I never seen the sky so blue... Ain't worried 'bout tomorrow when you're busy living in a perfect day."

Perfect Day, Miriam Stockley
lyrics; video

"The rain has moved on and left a new day.  Nothing seems to move everything is still... And all of this world is for children who play. Days that never end... another perfect day."

Present Tense, Pearl Jam
lyrics; video of live performancevideo of acoustic cover by Glen Hansard
"You can spend your time alone redigesting past regrets, or you can come to terms and realize you're the only one who can forgive yourself. Makes much more sense to live in the present tense."

Right Here, Right Now, Cassandra Wilson
lyricsvideo (audio with album cover)
"All the energy we spend on motion, all the circuitry and time... Everybody seems to want to get away to someplace.  Get away from themselves.  I got a feeling if they found that someplace they'd want to go some place else...  Don't you want to be right here, right now?"

River of Time, The Judds
lyrics; live recording (audio with album cover); recording by Christie B. (audio with photo)

"I'm holding back a flood of tears, just thinking 'bout those happy years... Silence so deep only my soul can hear, says now the past is what I fear. The future isn't what it used to be. Only today is all that's promised me. Flow on, river of time. Wash away the pain and heal my mind."

Spring Song, Mia Doi Todd
lyrics; video (audio + photo)
"Laugh at all my dreams. I'll learn to hope and to try again. Here comes the springtime. Bare branches give birth to leaves. Here comes the time change. Holding a new hand, grateful for the breeze."

Summer Breeze, Seals and Croft
lyrics; video of cover by Sawyer Fredericks and Pharrell Williams on The Voice; video of original version (audio + album cover)

"See the curtains hanging in the window, in the evening on a Friday night...  See the paper laying in the sidewalk, a little music from the house next door... Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom..."

Time, Billy Porter
"Is it the autumn leaves that change? Or the snow that floats from the sky? What is Time?... Who can tell?... Gone in a blink of an eye. But with every blink, a birth."


Time, Edwin Starr
lyrics; audio; cover by Sarah Collins

"Time is the one thing everybody feels. It just expires with no regards to years. They say time can bring about a change, but I ain't see a doggone thing... The day when time brings on that blessed change. On that day the whole world will sing. Time will have washed all our fears away, and peace will have brought us a brand new day."

Time, Yuna
lyrics; video (audio with album cover)
"I remember when my only friend left me for a cooler gang...I was fifteen when I lost my sister.... I was angry with the world... I've learnt and lost along the way... And the reason why I'm here to stay is because my momma said for things to be alright, it takes time."

Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce
lyricscover by Lea Sanacore

"There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them. I've looked around enough to know that you're the one I want to go through time with."

Time Starts Over, Dean Musser
audio with album cover
instrumental guitar music

Time Trades, Jeffrey Lewis
lyrics; video (audio + album cover)

"Time is gonna take so much away, but there's a way that time can offer you a trade... It might be cabaret. It could be poetry. It might be trying to make a new happy family. It could be violin repair or chemistry.... You have no choice, you have to pay time's price, but you can use the price to buy you something nice. So I've decided recently, to try to trade more decently. "

Tom's Diner, Suzanne Vega
lyrics; video of NPR Tiny Desk Concert ('Tom's Diner' starts at 13:37)
"I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner.  I am waiting at the counter for the man to pour the coffee...  I finish up my coffee.  It's time to catch the train."

Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season), The Byrds
lyrics; video (audio with album cover)
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose, under heaven.  A time to gain, a time to lose.  A time to rend, a time to sew.  A time for love, a time for hate.  A time for peace, I swear it's not too late."

Who Knows Where the Time Goes, Fairport Convention
lyricsvideo of live performance by Rufus Wainwright
"Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving.  But how can they know it's time for them to go.  Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming.  I have no thought of time.  For who knows where the time goes?...So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again.  I have no fear of time."

Your Life is Now, John Mellencamp
lyrics; video of live performance
"See the moon roll across the stars. See the seasons turn like a heart. Your father's days are lost to you. This is your time here to do what you will do. Your life is now your life is now your life is now in this undiscovered moment."

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • Which of these songs do you identify with the most? Why?
  • Are there any songs on this list that you can't really relate to? Why not?
  • Which of these songs make you feel happy? Sad? Wistful? Grateful?
  • When you listen to any of these songs, do you want to make changes to your life or how you spend your time?
  • Do you have a favorite song about time passing or about appreciating the present moment? Why do you like this song? How does it make you feel?

related posts:

All About the Breath: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

Great Children's Songs about Mindfulness, Self-Acceptance, and Gratitude

Noticing the Five Senses: A Daily Mindfulness Log

The Sound of Gratitude: Songs for Reflection and Discussion