10 Great Songs About Dads

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 12, 2012 · 324 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

The relationship between fathers and their children is one of the most important and influential of all human connections. Children want to be like their fathers, or their complete opposites. They can feel protected, smothered, or abandoned by their dads. Dads can wonder if they’re doing fatherhood right, struggle to express their love to their children, or regret the things they didn’t say or do.

Any way you slice it, the father/child relationship can stir up a lot of emotions, so it’s no wonder these emotions have sometimes been channeled by musicians into songwriting gold. Fatherhood doesn’t get as many songs penned about it as romantic love to be sure, but there have definitely been some dad-themed gems put out over the decades. In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, here are ten of my favorites. I know there are many more — so be sure to share your picks with us in the comments!

“Father and Son” by the Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens

This 1970 folk rock classic by Cat Stevens captures an exchange between a young, idealistic man looking to break away and live a life of passion, and an old, but wise father telling his son to “Just relax, take it easy.”

While many assume that the bearded, pre-Muslim conversion, hippie Cat Stevens identified only with the freedom-seeking son, in an interview in Rolling Stone, Stevens said: “Some people think that I was taking the son’s side. But how could I have sung the father’s side if I couldn’t have understood it, too? I was listening to that song recently and I heard one line and realized that that was my father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father speaking.”

“Love Without End, Amen” by George Strait

Country music is filled with songs about dads, but George Strait’s “Love Without End, Amen” is surely the best of the bunch. Ever since becoming a father, I’ve definitely been learning about “the secret about a father’s love” of which good old George Strait croons.

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by The Temptations

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” is a strange musical combination: truly doleful lyrics set to a funky groove. This 1970 dance hit by the Temptations tells the tale of a man discovering that his dad was a lazy, womanizing, good-for-nothing. The song teaches us that if your dad was a bad example on how to be a man, learn from him by doing the opposite…and then get up off your thing and dance until you feel better about it.

“Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright III

I can thank Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up for introducing me to this gem of a song. Whenever I hear it, it makes me want to have a daughter. But even if you have a pack of boys (or a wild and crazy Gus), you can still relate to the pride and love that Loudon Wainwright feels for his little girl. When Wainwright sings, “Everything she knows I taught her,” the truth of how much influence you have on your kiddos really hits you. Wainwright also has another song about fatherhood called “Being a Dad” that’s pretty good too.

“Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin

The heartwrenching-est song about fathers and sons ever written. The song is based on a poem written by Harry Chapin’s wife. The couple often worked on each other’s writings, and when Harry first read the poem, he tried setting it to music, but the result didn’t grab him. It was not until his son was born that Chapin felt inspired to give turning the poem into a song another try, and “Cat’s in the Cradle” was the result.

The song tells the story of a man too busy with his career to actually enjoy the people that matter the most. He works to provide for his family, but doesn’t make an effort to build a relationship with his boy. By the time the father realizes what he’s let slip away, and wants to spend time with his son, life has come full circle — his son is too busy for him now. “My boy was just like me.”

Every time I hear this song, I start reflecting on the time I spend with my own boy and how quick he’s going to grow up. Men, if you want a relationship with your son (or daughter) when you’re old and gray, put the smartphone down, leave work at home, and go out and throw the ball around with him when he asks.

“Color Him Father” by the Winstons

Stepfathers often fill the role of the evil villain in books, movies, and music. The Winstons’ 1969 hit “Color Him Father” is a refreshing exception. The sentimental soul song is about a young boy’s love for his super stepdad who married his widowed mother and took on the father role for seven children that weren’t biologically his. The man in “Color Him Father” exemplifies the Art of Dad-liness: he works hard for his family, takes an active role in parenting, and loves his children’s mother.

“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash

Sometimes an epic bar brawl is just thing a father and son need to mend their relationship. In “A Boy Named Sue,” Johnny Cash recounts the tale of a deadbeat dad who gives his son a girl’s name (Sue) before hightailing it out of town. The boy grows up ridiculed and taunted for his feminine name and vows to find and kill his father for branding him with this indignity. When the boy, now a man, finds his dad in a Tennessee bar, a knife and gun fight ensues (see what I did there?), but by the end, the dad explains why he named his boy Sue, and Sue comes away “with a different point of view.”

I wonder how many dads have named their sons Sue after hearing this song? Any male Sue’s out there?

“My Father’s Eyes” by Eric Clapton

Understanding the backstory of this song makes it all the more poignant. Guitarist Eric Clapton grew up not knowing who his father was. In 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son fell to his death from the window of Clapton’s Manhattan apartment. “My Father’s Eyes” was Clapton’s way of exploring the grief of not knowing his father and the tragic loss of his own son. He shares in his autobiography that the song describes “the parallel between looking into the eyes of my son, and seeing the eyes of the father that I never met, through the chain of our blood.”

Clapton also wrote “Tears in Heaven” in honor of his dead son. He no longer plays both “My Father’s Eyes” and “Tears in Heaven” during concerts because they’re too emotionally draining.

“Just the Two of Us” by Will Smith

In his debut solo album, Will Smith laid down the best song ever recorded that accurately describes putting in a baby’s car seat for the first time. In all seriousness, “Just the Two of Us” is a great song about being a dad. Smith perfectly captures what a man feels when he sees his baby for the first time or when his kid starts cutting up. Thanks to the Fresh Prince, I find myself singing in my head “Tru dat tru dat, uh ah why you do that, I try to be a tough dad, but you be making me laugh,” whenever Gus gets into mischief.

“The Living Years” by Mike + the Mechanics

There’s a reason “The Living Years,” feels so real and poignant. Not only had the man who penned the lyrics lived the song — BA Robertson’s father, with whom he had a strained relationship, had died three months before his son was born — but Mike Rutherford had also recently lost his father and had a child, and Paul Carrack, who sang lead vocals on the song, had lost his father when he was 11 years old. Put those men’s experiences together, and now you know why the song hits you right in the heart.

“The Living Years” is a gentle reminder to pick up the phone, or better yet, write a letter, to tell dad how much he’s meant to you…while you still can.

What are your favorite songs about fatherhood? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 324 comments… read them below or add one }

301 Pat June 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Drive By Truckers – Eyes Like Glue

302 Robert Monroe, Jr. June 16, 2013 at 8:55 am

Horace Silver – Song For My Father; Oscar Brown, Jr. – Dat Dere; The Winstons – Color Him Father; Will Smith – Just The Two Of Us

303 Sara Windsor June 20, 2013 at 8:47 am

Okay, I am a woman, but songs about fathers and children are often so precious and true that I was drawn to this article and to comment. The more recent song by Creed, “Arms Wide Open”. There is so much love in this song from a father to his unborn child…
“Well I don’t know if I’m ready
To be the man I have to be
I’ll take a breath, I’ll take her by my side
We stand in awe, we’ve created life” and going on to say that he will show his child everything about life and living it. A must listen to for all fathers and fathers-to-be.

304 Gotne June 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Get the tissue ready.
Daddies and Daughters – Leroy Parnell
I See Me – Travis Tritt
Tough Little Boys – Gary Allen
My Little Girl – Tim McGraw
It Won’t Be Like This For Long – Darius Rucker
Watching You – Rodney Atkins
Dance With My Father – Luther Vandross

305 Heather Sch July 7, 2013 at 2:44 am

Hey I am looking for the name and artist of a song I heard on a Country radio station about a dad who is really busy but his son says please can he come throw the ball to him so he goes outside and does that in the twilight and then his daughter wants to put on a show of her dancing and Dad has to start it off with a song. It was really lovely.. Anyone???

306 Jonathan July 31, 2013 at 9:29 am

A Father’s First Spring
by Avett Brothers

307 Parker August 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Father of Mine-Everclear

308 My Dad by Paul Petersen August 12, 2013 at 10:21 am

This song is sung by a boy but this is really how I feel about my father. I wanted to dance to this song with my dad but the son/ daughter word made this an inappropriate choice. I found another song instead. “I Danced with Cinderella”

309 Kurt Davis October 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Two songs that always get me is Vince Gill’s “The Key to LIfe”, and Guy Clark’s “Ol’ Randall Knife”.

310 dru October 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Sawyer Brown – “The Walk”

311 Alex October 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm


I completely agree with you, what a poignant exploration of the father/son dynamic.

I’d also suggest Rose Tattoo by the Dropkick Murphy’s, it’s slightly more family focused, but has a great father related line.

312 steve October 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Watching Scotty Grow. Written by Mac Davis but a hit for Bobby Goldsboro.

313 Lance October 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Darius Rucker – It Won’t be like this for long
Tear-jerker for fathers of daughters.

314 Adam Champion October 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Life of Salesman by Yellowcard


315 Sam Holt November 5, 2013 at 9:19 pm

To the writer of this article, I just want to say that this is a great list but I really think that you should replace the re-make of “just the two of us” with the original version which is by Grover Washington Jr. – Thanks


316 Mike November 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

Pearl jam-release. On the album ten.

317 Andrew December 2, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Revolver- The Autonomics

318 Miroslav December 5, 2013 at 4:52 am

Well, what about Phil Collins and his “Father to Son” song? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk0IadHrDvA

319 J. Wilson January 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm

“That’s My Job”–Conway Twitty
Even if you don’t care for country music, everyone should listen to this song at least once. IMHO, it’s the best “Dad” song ever written/recorded.

320 Levi January 23, 2014 at 9:47 pm

I would add “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty. Good list though!

321 LGH64 January 24, 2014 at 8:01 am

You need to know about this awesome song Father’s Day by Weddings Parties Anything for all the Dads who may not live with their kids full time any more, due to separation or divorce, but who love their kids & treasure their time together.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYKNqftCkSQ .

322 Julian February 11, 2014 at 3:41 am

My Old Man by Steve Goodman
Daddy’s Tune by Jackson Browne

323 Brian Ribbans April 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

My parents had a very old record from the 30′s maybe.
It was called ‘Daddy’
about a young boy singing to his Dad after Mother had died. First Line
“Put your head on my shoulder Daddy”
Can anyone help with the song or lyrics, or have a recording??

324 Karl Sprague April 18, 2014 at 8:05 am

“Butterfly Kisses”, Bob Carlisle is the one for our father daughter dance.
My other favorite father song is “There goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney.

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