Good things come to those who wait, so the saying goes.
Personally, I hate waiting. But I accept it’s one of life’s little annoyances, like advert breaks.
Songwriters tend to have a dislike for waiting too, hence the staggering number of tracks about it.
So, for your listening pleasure, here’s an eclectic mix of songs about waiting by the likes of Tom Waits, The Velvet Underground, Bob Marley, Weezer, and Wilson Pickett.
What are you waiting for?!
- ‘Waiting in Vain’ by Bob Marley
- ‘Hold On’ by Tom Waits
- ‘The Waiting’ by Tom Petty
- ‘I Can’t Wait’ by Stevie Nicks
- ‘Waiting On You’ by Weezer
- ‘In the Midnight Hour’ by Wilson Pickett
- ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ by Phil Collins
- ‘Waitin’ For Superman’ by The Flaming Lips
- ‘I’m Waiting For The Day’ by Beach Boys
- ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ by The Kinks
- ‘Patience’ by Guns ‘N Roses
- ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ by The Velvet Underground
- ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ by Adele
- ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ by Blondie
- ‘Wait’ by The Beatles
- ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’ by Aretha Franklin ft. George Michael
- ‘Waiting on a Friend’ by The Rolling Stones
- ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ by Foreigner
- ‘I Will Wait’ by Mumford and Sons
- ‘Wait’ by Maroon 5
- ‘Sitting, Waiting, Wishing’ by Jack Johnson
‘Waiting in Vain’ by Bob Marley
One of Marley’s most popular songs, ‘Waiting in Vain,’ appeared on his 1977 breakthrough Exodus album (he’d literally been exiled to London after an assassination attempt on his life in Jamaica).
The song is about unrequited love. He’s crazy about a girl who won’t return his affection.
“It’s your love that I’m waiting on / It’s me love that you’re running from.”
‘Hold On’ by Tom Waits
From Tom Waits’ ’90s album Mule Vibrations, ‘Hold On’ is a gorgeous, bleeding heart ballad about a love affair gone wrong. It’s reminscent of Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up in Blue.’
As one of the best songwriters of a generation, there are some pearler lines: “With her charcoal eyes and Monroe hips / She went and took that California trip.”
Despite a tinge of sadness (“how I wish you were still here with me”), it’s an optimistic song. It’s really a song about hope and love. However hard life gets, better times are always around the corner, and he’s there to help: “take my hand, I’m standing right here, you gotta hold on.”
‘The Waiting’ by Tom Petty
According to Petty, the song’s title was inspired by something Janis Joplin said about touring, “I love being onstage, and everything else is just waiting.”
The lyrics could also be about waiting to find true love (“Well yeah I might have chased a couple of women around / All it ever got me was down”), or waiting for your dreams to become a reality (“every day you see one more card”). When you’re fighting for something that’s just out of reach, you need patience.
Either way, it’s one of the best songs about waiting with a catchy-as-anything chorus. Those jangly guitars (and opening riff) are a welcome throwback to The Byrds cover of ‘Mr. Tamborine Man’ too.
‘I Can’t Wait’ by Stevie Nicks
Appearing on Nicks’ third solo studio album, Rock a Little, ‘I Can’t Wait’ is about the excitement of waiting for the next time you see someone who you’re mad about. The anticipation is unbearable!
In the liner notes for her 1991 greatest hits album TimeSpace, she admits, “to understand this song, you sort of have to let yourself go a little crazy. Love is blind, it never works out, but you just have to have it.”
‘Waiting On You’ by Weezer
Do you know that feeling of waiting on a phone call from someone you’re crazy about? The agony of not knowing when (or if) they’re ever going to phone?
That’s the premise of this song from Weezer. The narrator wonders when she will “break the silence / and let me know” but “you’re nineteen days late / but still I sit and wait.”
Nineteen days? I’d say she’s forgotten about you, mate. Move on!
‘In the Midnight Hour’ by Wilson Pickett
R&B legend Wilson Pickett honed his singing style in the churches and the streets of Detroit. He released several hits such as ‘Mustang Sally,’ ‘Land of 1,000 Dances’, and ‘In the Midnight Hour.’
Here, the narrator is waiting till midnight to meet his girl: “I’m gonna wait till the stars come out / And see that twinkle in your eyes.”
‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ by Phil Collins
Originally released by The Supremes in 1966, Phil Collins’ tribute to Motown was a surprising hit for him in the ’80s.
The song is about a mother telling her young daughter to be patient and not jump into a love connection with anybody because she will find the right partner when the time is right.
Recommended: Our pick of Phil Collins’ best songs.
‘Waitin’ For Superman’ by The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips song “Waitin’ for a Superman” appeared on their breakthrough album The Soft Bulletin, which adopted a melodic ‘space-pop’ sound versus the abrasive acid-punk of before.
The song laments that there’s a lack of a real-life Superman to carry the weight of daily life and rectify wrongdoings beyond human control.
The singer reassures us that Superman “hasn’t dropped them / Forgot them / Or anything” but sometimes problems are “just too heavy for Superman to lift.” Some comfort!
‘I’m Waiting For The Day’ by Beach Boys
Waiting for someone to start loving you is usually a bad idea. However, that’s the premise of this Beach Boy’s number from their 1966 album Pet Sounds, considered one of the best albums ever made.
The song is about a guy in love with a girl who’s still in love with her ex. When her ex dumped her, he was there for her (“I came along when he broke your heart”), but he knows she is still in love with her old flame.
“I kissed your lips / And when your face looked sad / It made me think about him / And that you still loved him so.”
Despite this, he is “waiting for the day when you can love again.”
‘Tired of Waiting for You’ by The Kinks
Another song about getting strung along by someone, ‘Tired of Waiting for You,’ was written by Kinks’ lead singer Ray Davies while a student at Hornsey School of Art in London.
The raunchy guitar sound gave the song an edge, making it “the perfect pop record” as recalled Davies in the book 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh.
‘Patience’ by Guns ‘N Roses
This acoustic number by hard rock outfit Guns ‘N Roses displayed a softer, more emotional side to this band from Los Angeles.
The narrator sings about waiting it out in a relationship. He reassures her they’ll work things out if they take things slow.
One assumes that groupies were throwing themselves at Axle Rose at the time of writing this. Here he reassures her that he’ll pass: “I sit here on the stairs / ‘Cause I’d rather be alone / If I can’t have you right now, I’ll wait dear.” What a gent!
‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ by The Velvet Underground
Here’s a waiting of an altogether different kind of waiting (waiting to ‘score,’ in other words, buy drugs). ‘The man’ is a colloquial term for ‘a dealer.’
This Lou Reed penned song bears a passing resemblance to Dylan in style and is one of the all-time classic garage rock songs. You might even call it ‘proto-punk’ years before punk was a thing.
“Here he comes, he’s all dressed in black / PR shoes and a big straw hat / He’s never early, he’s always late / First thing you learn is you always gotta wait.”
‘I’ll Be Waiting’ by Adele
Influenced by Memphis soul (especially Dusty Springfield) and J Dilla-inspired drums, ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ is a song about rekindling a lost love and admitting your mistakes.
In a departure from most of Adele’s heartbreak-themed songs on her album 21, ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ is much more optimistic.
She admits her faults: “Please forgive me, for my sins / Yes, I swam dirty waters / But you pushed me in.” Nonetheless, she believes they have a future: “But now the sky has cleared and it’s blue / And I see my future in you”.
‘Hanging On The Telephone’ by Blondie
‘Hanging On The Telephone’ is a driving power-pop tune that was a huge hit for Blondie in 1978 (from their landmark Parallel Lines album).
Jack Lee wrote the song for his band, The Nerves. But, according to a 2007 interview with Mojo magazine, Lee was on the brink of financial ruin.
Lee got a phone call that Blondie wanted to cover the song at the eleventh hour (well, 4 pm on a Friday). “They were going to cut off our electricity at six o’clock, the phone too.” Lee said.
I bet that gave him the Friday feeling 🙂
‘Wait’ by The Beatles
Written while The Beatles were filming in the Bahamas, ‘Wait’ was originally written for Help! album but was pulled at the last minute. The song deals with the bugbear of many a touring musician: a tricky long-distance relationship.
We see the narrator reassuring his partner that he’s on his way home and urges her to: “wait till I come back to your side / We’ll forget the tears we’ve cried.”
He’s stayed faithful. Well, of sorts: “I’ve been good / As good as I can be.”
‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’ by Aretha Franklin ft. George Michael
In what George Michael would later call “a career highlight,” this superb duet with Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was a lovely coming together of a legend and an up-and-coming star.
In this autobiographical song, Franklin and Michael share all the pain and heartache they’ve been through in their lives: “I went through some nights consumed by the shadows / I was crippled emotionally.”
But they fought on: “When the river was deep, I didn’t falter” and kept going even when all the odds were stacked against them: “When the mountain was high, I still believed.”
As such, it’s really a song about fighting, resilience, and perseverance. Whether that’s in love, your career, or your faith – keep going!
‘Waiting on a Friend’ by The Rolling Stones
One of the best friendship songs ever written. Here Mick Jagger sings about the importance of friends over women.
Did you hear the wonderful sax solo? That’s the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins in action, who agreed to play on the track. His willingness surprised drummer and jazz aficionado Charlie Watts, who exclaimed, “He’s never going to want to play on a Rolling Stones record!”
‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ by Foreigner
A stirring power ballad from British-American rock band Foreigner.
“So long, I’ve been looking too hard, I’ve been waiting too long”
In his autobiography, singer Lou Gramm describes a gorgeous, mysterious woman who entered the studio when he was recording this vocal and inspired him to give this rousing take (better than he’d ever sung the song, he said). This fleeting beauty fled, and he’s never been able to figure out who she was!
This love, he confesses, seems like a dream: “You’re so good, when we make love it’s understood / It’s more than a touch or a word can say / Only in dreams could it be this way”
‘I Will Wait’ by Mumford and Sons
Like The Beatles ‘Wait’, or Guns ‘N Roses ‘Patience’ (see above), ‘I Will Wait’ is folk-rocker Mumford and Sons’ song about the challenges of managing a relationship while on the road.
This rousing Bluegrass tune – with banjo, horn, fiddle, and stomping drums – won them many fans on both sides of the pond and helped them bag a Grammy for Best Album of The Year (for the album Babel where this song appears) in 2013.
‘Wait’ by Maroon 5
At one point or another, most of us have been in a failed relationship and fooled ourselves into thinking it’s salvageable.
Here we find singer Adam Levine trying to make amends with an ex-girlfriend: “Let me apologize / I’ll make up, make up, make up, make up for all those times”
He wants her to wait, as he thinks they can turn this around.
Personally, I’d be worried about the dirty looks from her mother. Better take her some flowers next time you pop round.
‘Sitting, Waiting, Wishing’ by Jack Johnson
From Johnson’s 2005 hit album In Between Dreams, ‘Sitting, Waiting, Wishing’ was inspired by one of his friends’ mindless pursuit of a woman.
As his mate, he could see his friend was fooling himself: “loving somebody don’t make them love you.”
His words of advice: “if I was in your position / I’d put down all my ammunition / I’d wonder why it had taken me so long”
Do you think his friend listened? No, I don’t think so either 🙂