21 Best Songs About Waiting for Something or Someone Special

person holding an hourglass

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

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.”

This single featured a non-album B-Side, the song ‘Roots’ from the Rastaman Vibration sessions.
 

‘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.”

Despite lacking mainstream commercial success, Jim Fusilli in the New York Times said Waits “has composed a body of work that’s at least comparable to any songwriter’s in pop today.” Nicely put.
 

‘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.

The Heartbreakers drummer (Stan Lynch) left the band in 1994. Who should step in to cover for him? None other than The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl. He sat in for a few performances, but decided against it in the end. Probably the right decision there, Dave.
 

‘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.”

The songwriter Rick Nowels brought over the song’s distinctive drum pattern for her to listen to, which, according to pop mythology, left her speechless. She said it was “the most exciting song that I had ever heard.”
 

‘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!

The keyboard you hear is a cheap Casio keyboard (MT-205) leadman Rivers Cuomo bought second hand in a pawn shop.
 

‘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.”

Co-writer of the song Steve Cropper has a joke he tells audiences when he plays this song live. He tells them “playing guitar is real simple, you just follow the dots”. Funnily enough, the intro to this song by played by literally following the dots on a guitar fretboard!
 

‘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.

Holland-Dozier-Holland, a well-known songwriting team, wrote this. The song was the first of a string of consecutive #1 American hits for the Supremes. Collins’ version reached #10 in the US and topped the charts in the UK in 1982.
 

‘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!

Singer Wayne Coyne’s songs received appreciation for their intellectual depth and honesty. This track was written around after he lost his Dad to a long term fight with cancer.
 

‘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.”

Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind The Beach Boys, lost most of the hearing in his right ear when he was young.
 

‘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.

One of the most underrated bands of the ’60s, at their height the Kinks were an absolutely hit machine. This was their third straight big hit (#1 in the UK, #6 in the US).
 

‘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!

Guns N’ Roses’ hedonistic and rebellious attitude was likened to that of The Rolling Stones, leading them to be dubbed “the most dangerous band in the world.”
 

‘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.”

Reed said of the song in a 2004 Rolling Stone magazine interview: “Everything about that song holds true,” said Reed, “except the price.”
 

‘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”.

Paul Epworth, the song’s co-writer, won Producer of the Year, Non-Classical at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards for his efforts on “I’ll Be Waiting” and “Rolling in the Deep.”
 

‘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.

Rather ironic that, considering the name of that song.

At only 2 minutes 17 seconds in length, it’s over before you know it.
 

‘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.”

In the Beatles’ Canon, this song is one of the rare examples of John and Paul alternating sole vocal roles. They generally sung in unison or one of them took the lead vocal role.
 

‘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!

Franklin and Michael won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for this song in 1987.
 

‘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!”

The house where Jagger and Richards meet in the video is 96–98 St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan. It was also the cover of Led Zeppelins’s Physical Graffiti album in 1975.
 

‘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”

It’s possible that this is the biggest hit single in US chart history that never reached #1. It stayed at #2 for an incredible ten weeks! They eventually got their #1 hit 4 years later with “I Want to Know What Love Is”.
 

‘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.

Mumford and Sons were part of the ‘West London folk scene’, along with acts like Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale.
 

‘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.

The origin of the name ‘Maroon 5’ has never been disclosed. Frontman said in an interview on the David Letterman Show: “The origin of the name is so bad and such a terrible story that we decided that shrouding it in mystery will make it a better story than the actual story… it works!”
 

‘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 🙂

Like Coldplay’s The Scientist, the music video is played backwards and entailed Johnson having to mouth the words backwards. Not easy to do!
 

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