Looking for some awesome songs about midnight? Well lucky you, because I have just the perfect list for you. Below are my selections for the best midnight songs ever made. So let’s get this countdown list started!
The Best Songs About Midnight Ever Made
Let’s begin in the early days of heavy metal with Judas Priest.
Living After Midnight – Judas Priest
Judas Priest released the album British Steel in 1980, radically changing the course of heavy metal music. Priest and bands like Iron Maiden and Motörhead ushered in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM).
A song about late-night rock star living and excess, “Living After Midnight” was the first single was the first music video Judas Priest ever did. It ran along with videos by bands like the Police, and Joy Division, and artists like Elvis Costello and David Bowie. It was one of the first heavy metal songs to cross over to mainstream radio and is revered by metal fans as an unquestionable classic by one of the all-time best.
Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips
Easily one of the most recognizable songs about midnight trains ever made, this Gladys Knight and the Pips jam is a certified classic. Debuting in 1973, this song went on to win a grammy award the following year and is hands down Ms. Knight’s biggest and most beloved song in her entire catalog.
2 Minutes to Midnight – Iron Maiden
Much of what gets said about Judas Priest can be said about Iron Maiden albums. Certainly, the continual heavy metal reverence, as Maiden was making some MTV waves between The Number of the Beast in ‘82 and Piece of Mind in ‘83. Powerslave came out in 1984 as the middle release in what has widely been considered one of the greatest album runs in metal history (followed by Somewhere in Time in ‘86 and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in ‘88.)
Said to be a protest song about heightened tensions between the United States and Russia during the Cold War, “2 Minutes to Midnight” screams about the hands on the doomsday clock inching closer to the end of the countdown. Considering the seemingly endless uneasiness between nations, the song seems as appropriate now as it did back then.
Still, Iron Maiden’s ability to bring people together remains unchanged nearly thirty years later. People from all over the world sing that song loudly and proudly whether they understand the words or not, reminding us we’re all capable of putting our differences aside if only till the clock strikes twelve.
Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers Band
Recorded in 1970 by the Allman Brothers Band “Midnight Rider” exemplified the life of the hippie outlaw. The album it’s from, Idlewild South, shares the Allman Brothers’ unique mixture of jam band energy and deep country soul.
Duane Allman passed away in a motorcycle accident in 1971 at the age of twenty-four, perhaps adding to the bittersweetness that “Midnight Rider” had developed over the years. Written by his brother Gregg and a roadie named Kim, “Midnight Rider” tells the story of a man on the run and at peace with his ride-or-die fate.
“And I don’t own the clothes I’m wearing
And the road goes on forever
And I’ve got one more silver dollar
But I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no
Not gonna let ’em catch the Midnight Rider.”
Midnight Special – Creedence Clearwater Revival
The New Yorker recently published that Creedence Clearwater Revival was so popular between 1969 and 1971, it was “almost beyond belief.” They were adored by fans and critics alike and, though the band projected a sober well-polished image, their leader John Fogerty also enjoyed the respect of the rock and roll elite at the time. For reference, Credence played at Woodstock between the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.
This admiration was largely due to the power of his voice and unquestionable musical talent, but Fogerty didn’t have a stuffy establishment disposition. There was meaning in his voice; a California attitude with country-boy soul, which can be heard loudly on the Creedence album Willy and the Poor Boys (1969).
Credence came off as authentically to poor kids from the south as they did rich kids from the west coast, and in 1969 kids from every corner of the country were being sent to fight in Viet Nam. Those who weren’t sent were losing friends and brothers, and Creedence Clearwater Revival was a huge part of the soundtrack.
Appearing alongside popular songs like “Down on the Corner,” and “Fortunate Son,” “Midnight Special” was a modern rendition of an early 1900s folk song originally made popular by blues musicians. It’s about the light of a midnight train that provided hope to prisoners that they’d soon be released.
In the Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett
“In the Midnight Hour” was a number-one hit for Stax Records’ Wilson Pickett in 1965. In the song, Pickett is waiting for his lover to arrive by the railroad tracks.
Some have suggested the midnight hour may have been necessary for the couple to meet in secret, but the song’s upbeat nature implies the singer isn’t terribly concerned about anything because he knows the woman he loves is on her way.
“I’m gonna wait ’til the stars come out
And see that twinkle in your eyes
I’m gonna wait ’til the midnight hour
That’s when my love begins to shine.”
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Train, Train – Blackfoot
If you aren’t familiar with the opening blues harmonica of Blackfoot’s “Train, Train,” I recommend treatment of this predicament as soon as possible. After the harmonica makes room for a classic late ‘70s Southern rock guitar riff, the powerful voice of Rickey Medlocke opens the rest of the road and drives off into the night.
Blackfoot was from Jacksonville, Florida, and was named in honor of the band’s Native American heritage. As members of the Cheyenne, Cherokee, and Lakota Sioux tribes, it is perhaps not surprising (though no less unfortunate) that Blackfoot’s presence on the Southern rock scene was eventually overshadowed by contemporaries like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
It is said that the train Blackfoot sings about is the same train from Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone.” It’s the train that takes the narrator away from his troubles and would eventually inspire Chris Stapleton’s “Midnight Train to Memphis.”
“Train, train, Lord, take me on out of this town
Well, that woman I’m in love with, Lord,
she’s Memphis bound.”
Midnight Train to Memphis – Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton sang for a bluegrass band called The SteelDrivers before he found success as a solo artist. “Midnight Train to Memphis,” which Stapleton wrote with bandmate Mike Henderson, was originally released on the first SteelDrivers album (The SteelDrivers, 2008). Nine years later, Stapleton released a blues rock-tinged version of the song on From A Room: Volume 2.
Thinking about this train running with the same engine Blackfoot fired up gives the song a new dimension. Two very different-sounding versions of a story unconfined by borders and time. The enduring stories of prisoners and the miracle of seeing even a sliver of light through seemingly unending darkness.
“Well now, the whistle blows when the sun comes up
Head to floor, keep your big mouth shut
Eat your breakfast on the ground
Work like hell till the sun goes down
Forty days of shotguns and barbed wire fences
Forty nights to sit and listen
To the midnight train to Memphis.”
‘Round Midnight – Thelonious Monk
“‘Round Midnight” was written in 1936 (an early version of the song) by the great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. Miles Davis famously performed the song at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, after which Davis recorded his first album with the Miles Davis Quintet on Columbia Records, featuring John Coltrane on saxophone (‘Round About Midnight, 1957).
Miles Davis can’t be credited as the originator of interpreting “‘Round Midnight,” but Davis’s version of the song does mark an intersection of jazz music and popular culture. It stands out in what has since become a sea of “‘Round Midnight” performances and proves that a good song can guide generations of heartbroken people through difficult evenings.
“It begins to tell
‘Round midnight, midnight.
I do pretty well, till after sundown,
Suppertime I’m feelin’ sad;
But it really gets bad,
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After Midnight – J.J. Cale
J.J. Cale is responsible for some of the most famous songs in rock and roll history. Tunes like “Cajun Moon,” and “Call Me the Breeze” have been recorded by the likes of Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, the Allman Brothers, and most famously Eric Clapton with “Cocaine” and “After Midnight.”
A party song about drinking too much and causing trouble, “After Midnight” was originally released by Cale in 1966.
We’re gonna let it all hang out
We’re gonna chug-a-lug and shout
We’re gonna ’cause talk and suspicion
Give an exhibition
Find out what it is all about.”
Anti-Hero – Taylor Swift
The most current song on this list comes from Taylor Swift’s 2022 album, Midnights. From an increasingly prolific and well-respected songwriter, Midnights is an important look at some of the things that keep her up at night.
Told through the eyes of a young woman who’s been awake too long feeling bad about herself, some of the people who’ve encouraged her distress, and the very real fear of being alone when the sun comes up. It is beyond me why anyone would resent that. Taylor Swift does not make light of the pain she’s been in – or how proud she is for having realized her own mistakes are forgivable.
“Anti-Hero” communicates across gender lines and age ranges by relating itself to anyone who has felt like less than enough.
“I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser
Midnights become my afternoons
When my depression works the graveyard shift
All of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room.”
Midnight City – M83
From the album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, “Midnight City” paints a picture of life on the coast.
“Drinking in the lights – following neon lights,” carefree and smiling “looking at the milky skyline.” Waiting on someone to hand out a reason to move from where you’re taking up space. In the case of M83, the year would be 2011.
Musically speaking this was the same year “Rumor Has It” by Adele took over the airwaves and Tom Waits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Trent Reznor won an Oscar for The Social Network which blended the pastimes of two very different generations; those who grew up listening to Nine Inch Nails, and those who grew up with Facebook; both equally comfortable putting M83 on their playlists.
Midnight Cowboy (Theme From) – Faith No More
The film Midnight Cowboy was released in 1969 and starred John Voigt and Dustin Hoffman as two very different occupants of New York City. The movie’s main theme was written by composer John Barry, who also wrote the music for the first twelve James Bond films. A version of the “Midnight Cowboy” theme was released by the heavy metal band Faith No More on their now legendary fourth album, Angel Dust (1992).
“Midnight Cowboy” is all part of the carnival ride and earns its place on the album, adding an air of strangeness to Faith No More classics like “Midlife Crisis” and “Easy.” Bass player Billy Gould is responsible for its inclusion on the album, as he was obsessed with late-sixties pop music.
Midnight Man – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
The music of Nick Cave occupies a special corner of the creative landscape. Dark, poetic, cinematic, and deeply personal, his lyrics paint pictures on a canvas started by artists like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and Patti Smith.
With a body of work as large and diverse as Cave’s, it’s not unusual to encounter themes of profound lamentation and kaleidoscopic perception of time. The words he wrote for “Midnight Man” exemplify this rare ability.
“The nights are long and the day
is bitter cold beyond belief.
You spread yourself like a penitent
upon the mad vibrating sand
and through your teeth
arrange to meet
your midnight man.”
Midnight Lullaby – Tom Waits
Tom Waits would be another musician to add to the pantheon of musical poets. His character is more deliberate than Nick Cave’s but no less interesting and artistically important. “Midnight City” comes from Waits’ album Closing Time (1973).
As the title suggests, the song’s purpose is to soothe its listener. It brings a sense of peace that clears the clouds away, if not uninterrupted sleep. The stillness of a space you share with a bottle and the good intentions of a friend who plays piano.
“Sing a song of sixpence, pocket full of rye
Hush-a bye my baby, no need to be crying
You can burn the midnight oil with me as long as you will
Stare out at the moon upon the windowsill
This article was written by Joel and edited by Michael.