Fathers and Songs

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This Article was originally published on June 19th, 2015.

I recently had a conversation about fathers on the podcast I host, Change Your Tune. On it, my guests and I discussed our own relationships with our fathers and dived into any musical influence or connection we had with our fathers.

In honor of Father’s Day, here is a list of artists and songs that have tackled the complex relationship between fathers and their children.

Fathers & Daughters

  1. Tori Amos – “Winter” (1992)

I hear a voice
Your must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can’t always be around”
He says

When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind

Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I’ll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

  1. The Avett Brothers – “A Father’s First Spring” (2012)

The realest thing I ever felt
Was the blood on the floor and the love in your yell.
I was a child before
The day that I met Eleanor. 

When I’m in my sweet daughter’s eyes
My heart is now ruined for the rest of all times
There’s no part of it left to give.
There’s no part of it left to give.

  1. Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole – “Unforgettable” (1991)

That’s why, darling, it’s incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am
Unforgettable, too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQfyrfB2KRo

  1. Lady Gaga – “Speechless” (2014)

Written by Lady Gaga as a plea to her father, in hopes it encouraged him to get the heart surgery he kept putting off. The lyrics state that she would give the fame all up for him, if he would only get better.

  1. Loretta Lynn – “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore” (1974)

I wasn’t much more than a baby, I thought he was a bear
The way my daddy carried me around
They said, I learned to walk while holdin’ on to just one finger
On the hand of a man that stands at six-foot-three

They don’t make men like my daddy anymore
Guess they’ve thrown away the pattern through the years
n a great big land of freedom, at a time we really need ’em
They don’t make ’em like my daddy anymore

Also check out: Ben Folds – Gracie, Billy Joel – Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel), Paul Simon – Father and Daughter, Loudon Wainwright III – Daughter, Wilco – My Darling, Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely

Fathers & Sons

  1. Colin Hay – “Dear Father” (2011)

Off of Gathering Mercury, the entire album was inspired and written after the death of Hay’s father. 

Dear father I never got to say goodbye
I was singing on the River Clyde and I didn’t know

Dear father I see you dancing still
And I think I always will till the day I die

  1. John Lennon – “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” (1980)

Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monsters gone,
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here,

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy.

  1. Martin Sexton – “Friends Again” (2010)

Sexton experienced a rift with one of his own sons. The rift has since been mended and inspired this song.

I can’t tell you how to live your life, I can’t turn you into me
I can’t roll this rock back up that hill, I ain’t got the energy
So call me up when you get tired of pushing me away
I just hope we can be friends again someday

  1. U2 – “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” (2004)

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone

And it’s you when I look in the mirror
And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

  1. Luther Vandross – “Dance With My Father” (2003)

If I could steal one final glance, one final step, one final dance with him
I’d play a song that would never, ever end
‘Cause I’d love, love, love
To dance with my father again

Also check out: Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue, Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years, Cat Stevens – Father and Son

Bad Relationship w/ Fathers

  1. Jeff Buckley – “Dream Brother” (1994)

Buckley had a close friend who was considering leaving his pregnant girlfriend but Jeff tried to stop him because he himself was abandoned by his own father.

Don’t be like the one who made me so old
Don’t be like the one who left behind his name
‘Cause they’re waiting for you like I waited for mine
And nobody ever came

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMsxjMgThh0

  1. Death Cab For Cutie – “Styrofoam Plates” (2001)

It’s no stretch to say
you were not quite a father
but a donor of seeds
to a poor single mother
that would raise us alone
we never saw the money
that went down your throat
through the hole in your belly

  1. Kelly Clarkson – “Because of You” (2004)

I lose my way
And it’s not too long before you point it out
I cannot cry
Because I know that’s weakness in your eyes
I’m forced to fake
A smile, a laugh everyday of my life
My heart can’t possibly break
When it wasn’t even whole to start with

  1. Frank Turner – “Father’s Day” [explicit lyrics] (2007)

When you got home you didn’t want to talk about what I’d done.
You said I’d let you down, I’d f**ked around, when I was only having fun.
With the way that you’ve been lately, you’ve no right to scream and shout.
You and I, we’ve got a lot that we need to talk about.

  1. Wilco – “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” (2011)

The track is about the fraught relationship between a father and son. It documents small moments and big father-son lessons, going back and forth between disdain and gratitude.

Something sad keeps moving
So I wandered around
I fell in love with the burden
Holding me down

Bless my mind, I miss
Being told how to live
What I learned without knowing
How much more that I owe that I can give

This is how I tell it
Oh, but it’s long
One Sunday morning
One son is gone

Also check out: The Beach Boys – I’m Bugged At My Ol’ Man, Harry Chapin – Cats in the Cradle, Everclear – Father of Mine, Genesis – No Son of Mine, Sufjan Stevens – That Was The Worst Christmas Ever, The Temptations – Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Violent Femmes – Done Daddy Gone

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