Best Graduation Songs of the Past 25 Years - Rolling Stone
Home Culture Culture Lists

The Best Graduation Songs of the Past 25 Years

From Green Day to Miley, the best songs for moving on

Graduation Playlist

Eric Charbonneau/Shutterstock, Matt Sayles/AP/Shutterstock, Steve C Mitchell/EPA/Shutterstock

Though much of graduation season is soundtracked by the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, the stuffy layer of tradition is occasionally punctured by pop hits that strike the right emotional chord. Over the past few decades, a select number of songs have captured the proper feelings of pride, nostalgia, excitement and sadness that accompany such a rite of passage. As this year’s class figures out how to celebrate amid a global health crisis, here are the 20 best graduation songs to celebrate one of life’s pivotal milestones.

[A version of this list was originally published in May 2015]

Green Day

Youtube

Green Day, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”

“That was really the first time we attempted a ballad,” Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong told SPIN in 2010. “The first time we ever played that song was during an encore in New Jersey — I had to pound a beer backstage to get up the courage. I knew we were gonna take a tomato to the face.” The snotty punks left this tune off their 1994 breakthrough, Dookie, for sounding too different from the rest of their repertoire, but it was eventually released on the 1997 album Nimrod and quickly became a pop culture touchstone, soundtracking Seinfeld‘s 1998 farewell broadcast as well as countless graduation ceremonies.

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.