Looking for songs to help celebrate a retirement? Or bring up fond memories of the place of work before leaving? Well, these are the best retirement songs you can use to mark this significant occasion perfectly.
1. “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles
Song Year: 1967
Although arguably more of a children’s song by its styling, this classic tune from the legendary Beatles is all about hellos and goodbyes, repeated constantly throughout the song. You can easily hear this about a difference in places or opinions, with neither of the people indicated on the song on the same page.
However, you can also hear it as one person saying goodbye and feeling wistful, while the other person is greeting new opportunities. Retirement is a significant change for most people, and it’s worth remembering that there’s a lot to look forward to.
2. “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas
Song Year: 2009
Although not a retirement song on the first hearing, this pop hit from one of the better-known bands in the genre is particularly accurate for a retirement day. It starts with a focus on repeating the feeling that a good night is coming before finally deciding what to do with it.
That’s an essential part of any retirement day. More specifically, what are you going to do when you feel like nothing is weighing you down? The lyrics follow interesting pacing, too, with a middle section that’s significantly different from the starting and ending portions.
3. “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor
Song Year: 1982
Easily recognized in its first two seconds, Eye Of The Tiger is a hard rock song that, in many ways, is the perfect retirement tune. It talks about holding on to dreams, doing your time, and rising to face new challenges. While it may be most associated with the Rocky boxing movies, the truth is this song can apply to an incredible range of situations.
Eye Of The Tiger is arguably one of the most iconic songs in rock, with incredible public recognition. Its distinctive intro lets you know what you’re hearing, and that’s a claim even many songs with more listens can’t claim. This is an excellent song by practically any metric, and it easily deserves a place on this list.
(For more on rock, check out our list of the best classic rock songs ever.)
4. “Can’t Stop” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Song Year: 2002
Can’t Stop starts with an instrumental section to build up the feeling and pacing but soon transitions to its bold vocals and steady progress. The lyrics focus on moving forward, and bring in a wide range of themes and symbols. Can’t Stop can seem almost nonsensical at first hearing, but make far more sense once you begin parsing the lyrics.
At about four and a half minutes, this is relatively long for a retirement song, and it keeps a forward attitude throughout the lyrics to end on a high note. The Red Hot Chili Peppers say that life is something to be active with, not passively read through, and that’s an important thing to keep in mind if someone is retiring.
5. “My Way” by Frank Sinatra
Song Year: 1969
Frank Sinatra is one of the most legendary pop singers, and My Way is his signature song. Although he’d eventually come to see the song as a little self-indulgent, the song also shows his full range of skill. Other artists (including Elvis Presley himself) would eventually cover the song, showcasing its staying power.
My Way is fiercely independent, talking about living a full life and actively choosing things to do throughout. It’s a song for people who believe in themselves and take the initiative, for leaders and anyone who has pursued their dreams.
6. “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
Song Year: 1970
Mixing pop and rock style with some folk, this tune from the Carpenters is an excellent example of songs about retirement. Many people see retirement as an ending, but it’s also a new beginning, often with far more freedom in people’s lives than they’ve had for a long time.
Beyond that, however, the plural identities are central to this song. It’s not about the performance of an individual person like My Way, but rather what two people can be doing together once they finally have an opportunity. In some ways, this is more of a love song, which makes it an unusual twist on the overall genre.
7. “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton
Song Year: 1980
Dolly Parton is a legendary singer, with a range of hits throughout her long career. Written for a comedy film of the same name, this song focuses on the daily grind of a traditional job, including many of the problems thereof.
For retirement, this song is a reminder of what work life can be for many people and what someone is leaving. Most songs about retirement are forward-looking, but it’s good to look back and remember the good and bad of things that have already happened. For the best listening experience, though, consider watching the whole movie.
8. “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” by Green Day
Song Year: 1997
This relatively brief indie song from Green Day is rather wistful and nostalgic, with powerful guitar elements throughout that can almost overshadow its lyrics at times. It recognizes that things may not always go right, but it’s also fundamentally optimistic in expressing the hope that someone had a good time.
That theming stands out on this list. It’s easy to look back and complain and to look forward to good things in the future, but few songs represent the feelings of coworkers left behind as well as this tune. It’s worth the brief listen, while the award-winning music video version adds a visual layer to an already-excellent song.
9. “Get A Haircut” by George Thorogood
Song Year: 1993
Coming in at a little more than four minutes, this classic rock song discusses dreams and ambition from the point of success. In it, George Thorogood discusses the attitudes of many people he met when he was young, who told him to change his looks and do something different with his life.
However, if he listened to them, he wouldn’t have achieved the success he did. As a retirement song, it’s a good reminder that many of the best things in life don’t come from trying to follow a formula put down by someone else. Instead, following your passions can lead you to a much better place in the time you have left.
10. “Closing Time” by Semisonic
Song Year: 1998
The iconic end-of-the-night song, this pop-rock tune features bar and alcohol theming for a story about one ending moving to a new beginning. It’s introspective and thoughtful and emphasizes that while you don’t necessarily have to go someplace in particular, you can’t stay where you currently are.
Few songs mark endings so well, so this is often the final song people play at a retirement party. Some people even time their exit to the end of the song, heading out through the doors as it concludes to make a final statement. Whether you use it for that or not, it’s worth a listen, perhaps as the last song of your day.
11. “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by The Animals
Song Year: 1965
If you’re looking for something a little different, this classic tune from The Animals can be a tongue-in-cheek way of saying it’s time for someone to move on. The lyrics go from seeing the loss of others to the feeling of needing to do something different, an emotion that most people approaching retirement can comfortably relate to.
However, the emphasis in the song is on “we,” or the idea that it’s better to move on together instead of staying on your own. Most people think about the people they leave behind when they retire, but they often have people who are staying with them through the change. That may not be emphasized often enough.
12. “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett
Song Year: 1977
For many people, relaxing with a drink is one of the iconic parts of retirement. Sitting down, watching people pass by, and enjoying life being slower can be a significant change from the past, and margaritas are one of the classic examples of what a retirement drink can be.
The gentle mix of folk tunes with pop and rock elements makes this a relaxing tune, although the lyrics go deeper if you listen carefully to them. Jimmy mentions everything from an unknown tattoo to losing a salt shaker for the drinks, but with a nod toward drinks helping him hang on. Not everyone needs alcohol, but it’s good to have something you care about in retirement.
13. “The Best Is Yet To Come” by Frank Sinatra
Song Year: 1964
How was Frank Sinatra so good that he landed on this list twice? Sinatra popularized this song with a mix of pop and swing elements on top of its jazz base, though Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh originally made it for Tony Bennet instead. It’s since become one of Sinatra’s most popular covers, and it was the last song he ever sang in public.
As a retirement song, it’s fundamentally optimistic and focuses on the idea that even better things are in store. That’s something nearly everyone hopes for as they reach the end of their working time, and like most of the better retirement songs, it focuses on the idea of enjoying that time with someone else.
14. “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles
Song Year: 1961
If you’re looking for a funnier song to end a retirement party than Closing Time, Hit The Road Jack is probably the song you’re looking for. This #1 R&B hit features the singers telling Jack to get out and never come back, which is a feeling many coworkers can relate to when someone is heading out. Just make sure it’s known to be played for fun, rather than spite.
R&B is an unusual genre for retirement songs, which tend to be more relaxing and optimistic. The lyrics are simple and mostly repeat throughout the song, making this an easy listen despite its snappy sound.
15. “I’ll Always Remember You” by Robert Cray
Song Year: 2012
A relatively recent retirement song, Robert Cray’s gentle tune is unusually long for an option on this list, coming in at more than six minutes. It features long instrumental sections and slower vocals than many other songs, which add to the wistfulness and depth of emotion in the song.
Most of this song’s power is in the instrumentals instead of the lyrics, so it’s worth actively paying attention to the music instead of just having it on as background while you think about its song. As a retirement song, it’s also a kind way to tell a coworker who’s leaving that you’re not going to forget them or the impact they had on your life.
16. “Hard Workin’ Man” by Brooks and Dunn
Song Year: 1993
Country songs often praise the value of work, and this classic from Brooks and Dunn is no exception to that trend. As a retirement song, this tune about work is a good reminder that people who are leaving have often spent a lot of time getting where they are today, and work is about far more than showing up and collecting a paycheck.
Towards its end, this song also reminds us that getting up in the morning can involve going back to work. In retirement, that’s not always the same thing as a job, but people who are passionate and active in life rarely end up sitting still for too long. The form of the work may change, and you may call it something else, but you don’t have to sit still at any stage of your life.
17. “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack
Song Year: 2000
Lee Ann Womack’s gentle country-pop song is wistful but hopeful, ideal for any change or departure in life. It’s just as relevant to children growing up as it is to adults ready to focus on their own lives instead of work, with a particular emphasis on taking opportunities and enjoying the journey along the way.
It’s also a song full of advice, from setting goals to taking chances on love. Lee Ann won a Grammy for it, among other awards, and by that metric, it’s easily one of the best songs on this list.
18. “Gone Gone Gone” by Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet
Song Year: 2012
Quartet songs are a little different than most, with different group members coming in at various times to harmonize or perform their sections. The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet isn’t nearly as well-known as some of the other groups on this list, but their smooth rendition and outstanding jazz styling make them worth the listen for a calmer part of a retirement party.
Jazz is different from most genres and has some distinctive styling elements. If you’re curious about the way these songs stand out, check out our guide to jazz music.
19. “Thanks for the Memory” by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross
Song Year: 1938
Easily the oldest song on this list, Thanks for the Memory was written for a 1938 film, featuring a range of lyrics for two people who had previously divorced deciding to get back together. It’s a flexible song, and people have added many different lyrics in the years since. If you’re looking for a song you can customize for a specific retiree, this is the one.
In the decades since, a range of artists have produced their versions of the song. Unsurprisingly, Frank Sinatra is among them, which means that in some ways he got onto this list three times.
20. “Thnks fr the Mmrs” by Fall Out Boy
Song Year: 2007
Lacking the vowels of the previous song, Fall Out Boy’s 2007 is an interesting look at faith and willpower. It points out that it can be hard to know if there’s any God or afterlife, so whatever you believe, don’t stop it from letting you live a life you’re proud of. The lyrics focus on broken relationships and fame, both of which can be touching to someone newly retiring.
Less obviously, this song includes references to the 2004 film Closer, featuring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen as they’re embroiled in a complex web of sex and lies. Viewing the film just before listening adds a new layer to this song, and it’s worth the time spent if you want to understand all the layers in this tune.
21. “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole
Song Year: 1951/1991
Originally recorded in the early 1950s, this song eventually saw a remix as Nat King Cole’s daughter Natalie used technology to create a virtual duet that adds an entirely new layer of meaning to its verses.
It’s a positive sentiment for someone retiring, whether it’s from or to the person leaving. Its smooth jazz styling is comfortable and pleasant, reminding people that however far away they go, they’re still remembered by anyone whose life they’ve touched. However, the feelings can be reciprocal, which helps them stand out even more.
22. “I’m Free” by The Rolling Stones
Song Year: 1965
Freedom is a complicated thing, but it’s one of the main things that a true retirement provides. This song is an excellent reminder of what it means to have that freedom and to be able to do the things you want, when you want, with nothing else holding you down. It’s especially poignant if you’re saying goodbye to someone who was a little too tied to their work.
However, the most important message in this song is to not be afraid of that freedom. Retirement is such a huge change that people can feel lost or stuck, unsure of what to do with that time now that they have it. Moving forward and seizing life can make retirement far better.
23. “Work Is a Four-Letter Word” by The Smiths
Song Year: 1988
For a more comedic look at things, The Smiths have this catchy song from their 1988 album. Work Is a Four-Letter Word focuses on love and the idea of moving on from things together. It also talks about changing your life, and understanding that there’s more to it than trying to make a buck for your boss.
24. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
Song Year: 1978
Although most people think of Gloria Gaynor’s iconic disco-rock song as an anthem of independence from a relationship, it works just as well as a tongue-in-cheek farewell for a colleague who’s heading off.
For added entertainment, put this song immediately after Hit The Road Jack. The two songs work well together, emphasizing the way colleagues who are still on the job will be able to get along, so the retiree can move along without worrying about what their old companions are doing.
25. “Already Gone” by The Eagles
Song Year: 1974
The Eagles are one of the top bands of all time, a distinction their long series of hits proves they deserve. Already Gone is a bold tune, mixing traditional rock and pop elements with folk and country to create a distinctive sound.
The lyrics here focus on someone who’s leaving on their terms before they can be fired by someone else. This is a particularly good song for anyone who’s retiring on their schedule instead of a mandatory limit. Few songs focus on this point of view, so it stands out as one of the best songs about retirement.
Top Retirement Songs, Final Thoughts
Retirement songs range from wistful to optimistic, with an emphasis on new beginnings while remembering things that occurred before. Whether you’re trying to create a playlist for a retirement party or want to know the emotions you’ll be feeling in the future, the songs on this list represent the best of moving on to a new part of your life.