10 Best Songs About Growing Up

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What was your favorite song when you were a kid? When you became a teenager, what band did you start listening to with the express intention of scaring your parents? Do you still listen to those songs? Growing up requires a soundtrack, and although each person has a different set list, everyone has a handful of songs that they consider the touchstones of particular stages in their life.

Songs come to symbolize certain milestones in our lives (first kiss, first drink, and subsequent first hangover), so narrowing down the 10 best songs about growing up is difficult, as everyone listens to different music and has different experiences growing up. From rebellious anthems to sappy love songs, these songs capture the mystery that is the transition from baby diapers to adult "undergarments."

  1. “In My Life.” Originally based on an account of a bus route through his boyhood hometown, John Lennon scrapped the sentimental idea and instead crafted this timeless Beatles single in which he declares that, though he will remember all the people that have come before, he loves another even more. Though he never considered himself a melody man (that was Paul’s strong suit), “In My Life” has some of the most distinct and bittersweet melodies ever written and is definitely one of the best songs about growing up.
  2. “When I Grow Up To Be A Man.” Before the Beach Boys produced art (“Pet Sounds”) as seasoned studio musicians, they were known for their promotion of the “hip” teen lifestyle (T-Birds, surfboards and being true to school.) This song with the help of the best harmonies in the business, wasn't a huge single, but is one of the best Beach Boys songs and one of the best songs about growing up.
  3. “When I Grow Up.” When Garbage released this song in the United States in April 1999, singer Shirley Manson was (arguably) a grown up at the tender age of 32. It’s definitely not a kids song. Only a cynical Gen-Xer could  reference golden showers and get away with a pop hit during the 1990's.
  4. “Sliver.” Kurt Cobain grew up in the backwoods town of Aberdeen, Washington, spray painting the local YMCA and living semi-homeless for years. This song, Nirvana’s most overtly poppy moment, brings Cobain’s weird childhood to the surface, telling the story of a scary trip to his grandparent’s place.
  5. “Cat’s In The Cradle.” Harry Chapin stuffed this 1974 single about a semi-deadbeat dad with nursery rhyme references (“Hey Diddle Diddle” “Man in The Moon”). He scored one of the biggest folk hits ever and one of the best songs about growing up.
  6. “Fade Away.” Liam Gallagher sings the lines “while we're living the dreams we have as children fade away’ in this B-side of “Cigarettes & Alcohol” that finds Oasis at their most grungy. Surely, the band’s dreams of rock stardom didn’t fade away. It's one of the most underrated Britpop songs and one of the best songs about growing up.
  7. “When I’m Sixty-Four.” What kind of 16-year-old writes an old vaudeville number with lyrics about renting cottages and knitting sweaters by the fireside? Only one of the best songwriters of the 20th century (and only the 20th century), Beatle Paul McCartney. It’s one of the best songs about growing up if you’re an overachieving and wistful popstar.
  8. “Teach Your Children.” From the same band that brought you the domestic anthem “Our House,” comes one of the best songs about growing up from the parent’s perspective. Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, urges cherubs to help out their wrinkly elders: "And so please help them with your youth / They seek the truth before they can die."
  9. “I'm Eighteen.” Nevermind the black makeup, macabre stage antics and the fact that the dude was known as Alice, shock rocker Alice Cooper was the bane of many a parents' existence during the 1970’s, releasing songs like “School’s Out” and this hard-rock anthem which had 18 year-old burnout kids declaring they were “men. It's one of the best '70s hard rock songs and one of the best songs about growing up.
  10. “I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends.” This playful acoustic song by the Detroit blues-rock duo The White Stripes opened the film “Napoleon Dynamite” fittingly. Both the movie and song capture the innocence and quirkiness that is childhood friendship and growing up.
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