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
“Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright III
“Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin
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
“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash
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
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
“The Living Years” by Mike + the Mechanics
“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.