Best Songs About Yesterday – 20 Nostalgic Songs That Will Transport You Back in Time

Music has a truly unique ability to vividly bring the past back to life. Hearing familiar songs transports us instantly back to relived experiences and emotions from our younger days. Psychological research has shown music is strongly tied to autobiographical memory. We remember key life moments and moments in time through the songs that were part of that soundtrack. Hearing a song from your childhood can vividly trigger memories of specific people, places, and events.

Music also lights up emotional processing centers of the brain. Certain songs become intrinsically linked to the feelings we had when we first heard them, be it a first love, hardship, or profound joy. When that song plays again later, it reactivates the same neural pathways, bringing those emotions to the surface once more. Even when the original context fades, the emotion tied to the music remains.

Songs about the past and reminiscing on yesterday are universally relatable. We all have memories and moments from our past that hold significance. Musicians often capture these nostalgic feelings in their songs, evoking emotion in listeners. Though the songs don’t necessarily mention “yesterday” explicitly, they explore the powerful impact of past experiences. From longing for better times to missing a loved one, songs about the past cover a range of sentimental themes. Here are 20 unique songs that reflect on yesterday.

1. “Yesterday” by The Beatles (1965)

Written by Paul McCartney, this classic Beatles track is one of the most famous songs about the past. Though the lyrics are ambiguous, McCartney has said it’s about longing for a love that’s now gone.

2. “Time In A Bottle” by Jim Croce (1972)

Penned for his newborn son, Croce beautifully captures wanting to hold onto precious moments in this folk-pop hit. His time was tragically cut short when he died a year later.

3. “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand (1973)

This Oscar-winning song from the film of the same name has Streisand vividly recalling a lost love and simpler times. Her soaring vocals capture the melancholy nostalgia.

4. “Yesterday’s Songs” by Neil Diamond (1976)

In this soft rock ballad, Diamond sings about music reviving the feelings and memories of past loves. It’s a nostalgic take on how songs let us relive the past.

5. “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen (1984)

The Boss reminisces on his youth in this folk-rock single. The lyrics explore how nothing captures the freedom and excitement of better days gone by.

6. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (1987)

This hard rock love ballad has vocalist Axl Rose sentimentally singing about his girlfriend’s smile taking him back to a happier, simpler time.

7. “Yesterday Once More” by The Carpenters (1973)

With Richard and Karen Carpenter’s smooth harmonies, this nostalgic pop song has them missing the oldies music and innocent times of the past.

8. “Photograph” by Def Leppard (1983)

In this emotional glam metal ballad, lead singer Joe Elliott sings about finding an old photograph that brings back memories of a lost love.

9. “My Father’s Eyes” by Eric Clapton (1998)

Clapton wrote this blues-rock song after meeting his late father for the first time. The lyrics express feeling his father’s presence through memories.

10. “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash (1972)

Reggae artist Johnny Nash sees brighter days ahead after overcoming hard times in this uplifting pop single.

11. “Breaking Down” by Florence + The Machine (2009)

With her booming vocals, Florence Welch captures the pain of trying to recover from a past heartbreak in this baroque pop song.

12. “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley (1984)

Henley’s rock hit has him lamenting the passing of youth during an idyllic summer romance. It’s an evocative look back at innocence lost.

13. “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago (1976)

In this soft rock ballad, Chicago pleads for a lover not to leave and relive memories of better times from their past.

14. “Stan” by Eminem (2000)

Rapping from the perspective of a fictional obsessive fan, Eminem looks back with regret on past mistakes in this hip hop track.

15. “Yesterday When I Was Young” by Roy Clark (1969)

Country artist Roy Clark sings about reflecting on life and past regrets as he grows older in this melancholic ballad.

16. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash (2002)

Cash’s haunting cover of this Nine Inch Nails song has him brooding over a lifetime of grief and pain.

17. “Back to December” by Taylor Swift (2010)

Swift apologizes for a regretted breakup in the past in this breakup ballad about longing for old memories.

18. “Best of My Love” by The Emotions (1977)

This R&B track has the sibling trio asking a past love to remember the happy times they shared.

19. “Yesterday’s Gone” by Chad & Jeremy (1964)

The British pop duo harmonize on this melancholic song about trying to move beyond a lost love.

20. “Memory” from Cats by Elaine Paige (1981)

In this emotional showtune, Paige sings as Grizabella the cat, reflecting on her glorious past and former acceptance.


Songs reflecting on the past move and inspire listeners across generations. As these 20 tracks demonstrate, music has a singular power to transport us back to cherished moments and memories. Though the specific experiences vary, the nostalgia and emotion are universal. We continue looking back to yesterday through the timeless magic of song.

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