Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

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"Who Knows Where the Time Goes?"
Song by Sandy Denny
from the album Unhalfbricking (by Fairport Convention)
Songwriter(s)Sandy Denny

"Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" is a song written by the English folk-rock singer and songwriter Sandy Denny. Denny originally recorded the song as a demo in 1967, singing and playing guitar on the track. Later that year, she briefly joined the folk band The Strawbs, and re-recorded the song, again with only her voice and guitar, for what became the album All Our Own Work, which would not be released until 1973.

American folk singer Judy Collins heard a tape of the original demo recording in 1968, and decided to cover the song. She released her recording first as the B-side of her cover of "Both Sides, Now", and then as the title track of her album Who Knows Where the Time Goes, both released in 1968. Hers was the first widely available recording of the song.

In 1968 Denny joined the folk-rock band Fairport Convention. She recorded the song on her second album with the band, the 1969 album Unhalfbricking. This version had more of a rock influence.

"Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" became a signature song for both Denny and Fairport Convention, and has been covered by many artists.

In 2007, the Unhalfbricking version was voted "Favourite Folk Track Of All Time" by listeners of BBC Radio 2.[1]


The song is a slow-paced reflection in three verses on observed events ("Across the evening sky all the birds are leaving"[2][3]) Having described these observations, Denny then writes that for her, some things are timeless ("Before the winter's fire, I will still be dreamin'; I have no thought of time"[4]) and in the last line of the short chorus asks rhetorically "Who knows where the time goes?".

The song is in the key of E major and employs relatively complex jazz-like chord progressions.[4]

Cover versions[edit]

Cover versions have been recorded by, among others, Mia Doi Todd, 10,000 Maniacs, Mary Black, Eva Cassidy, Judy Collins, Nana Mouskouri, Lonnie Donegan, Nanci Griffith, Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet, Deanna Kirk, Charlie Louvin, Cat Power, Eddi Reader, Julianne Regan (with Fairport Convention), Kate Rusby, Nina Simone (on her 1970 live album Black Gold), Barbara Dickson, Kate Wolf, Lumiere w/Sinéad O'Connor, Heather Masse (on the radio program A Prairie Home Companion),[5][6], Dez Mona.[7] and Itsuwa Mayumi

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

The Fairport Convention version was used as the closing music for the 2017 final episode of the Netflix series Grace and Frankie and the closing music in the 2009 film Don't Worry About Me. The Judy Collins version can be heard in the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses and the 1999 film A Walk on the Moon. The Nina Simone version is used in the 2002 film The Dancer Upstairs. In the 2011 Broadway production of Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, the song is played in its entirety towards the end of the final act. A young girl puts an LP record on a turntable and the song plays as Mark Rylance's character, Johnny Byron, dances with her and is then brutally beaten by the girl's stepfather and his brothers. The version used is the live recording from BBC Radio Sounds of the Seventies, recorded September 11, 1973. The song was played in the BBC's Inspector George Gently episode "The Lost Child" set in 1968. In 2018 the Nina Simone cover version was used at the end of episode 3 of "Save Me" a Sky Television programme.


  1. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Radio 2 Folk Awards 2007 winners". BBC. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  2. ^ "purple" is used in Denny's original home demo, later versions used "evening"
  3. ^ "Sandy Denny". New Musical Express. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  4. ^ a b "Who Knows Where The Time Goes Chords by Fairport Convention @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com". www.ultimate-guitar.com. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  5. ^ "Sandy Denny: Who Knows Where the Time Goes?". Reinhard Zierke. Retrieved 2017-06-02.
  6. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion for December 31, 2011". American Public Media. 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Dez Mona - Persued Sinners (2010)". Retrieved 2016-12-26.

External links[edit]