Pop Music: The Best Songs About Dads

Jun 12, 2008 11:06am

This Sunday is Fathers’ Day. In honor of the occasion, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite songs which mention fathers or are about fathers.  A lot of thought went into this list.  I considered a lot of songs.  I’m sure there are plenty people who will say I forgot  “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross, “Daddy Daddy Daddy” by Janis Joplin, “Father Figure” by George Michael or even “Gone Daddy Gone” by the Violent Femmes.  Yes, all these songs were considered but they didn’t quite make the cut..  This is not a list to be as absolute. I am one man and this is my opinion.  If I missed your favorite, list it below. These are simply my 12 favorites.  I hope you enjoy this list.

12. A Tribe Called Quest – “Excursions” (1991)- OK, I know this isn’t really much of a father song, but it’s on of the first ones I thought of when I was compiling this list, because of its first verse where Q-Tip discusses listening to hip-hop records with his dad.  “Back in the days when I was a teenager,/ before I had status and before I had a pager, / You could find the Abstract listening to hip-hop. / My Pops used to say it reminded him of Be-Bop. / I said well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles the way that Bobby Brown is just ampin’ like Michael.”  It’s momentary, but I think it’s a worthy moment showing father and son bonding.  Plus, it opens one of the finest hip-hop albums ever recorded, “The Low End Theory.”  Unfortunately these days, classics like this are extremely rare.  11. Pepe Deluxe – “Daddy’s Blazin’ BBQ” (2003) – I’m guessing a lot of you haven’t heard this song by this Finnish electronic combo, but it’s actually an instrumental.  Why is it on here?  Well, quite simply, it is amazing!  It consists of an electronically tweaked organ solo with a kickin’ backbeat.  Imagine if Jimmy Smith was struck with a sudden bolt of electricity and you begin to get the idea.  Combined with the track’s name, I can’t listen to this without thinking of summer evenings and outdoor cooking on the grill. This track is insanely sweet and worth finding.  10. Fire – “Father’s Name Was Dad” (1967)- Here’s some great British garage rock from the sixties.  Why it wasn’t more of a hit, I don’t know, but it’s got a great, strange chorus of “My father’s name was Dad, / My mother’s name was Mum. / How can I take the blame for anything I’ve done?”  It’s really a song about a disconnected youth with “supernatural intellect.” Perhaps this chorus illustrates why the subject feels so alien.  Perhaps it’s a plea for a loving family.  Then again, perhaps, not. 9. Madonna – “Papa Don’t Preach” (1986)- Madonna’s song about teen pregnancy is centered around a conversation between her character and that of her father discussing her decision about what to do and whether to keep her baby.  It was one of the few pop songs in history to spark political and sociological discussions.  Definitely a daring move from one of the most daring women the pop world has ever seen.  Unfortunately, a few years back, the song suffered a setback when it was covered by Kelly Osbourne.  8. Paul Simon – “Father and Daughter” (2002)- This song was actually recorded for “The Wild Thornberrys” movie, and also found its way onto Simon’s most recent album “Surprise.”  It’s a great song in which he declares, “As long as one and one is two, there could never be a father who loved his daughter as much as I love you.”  It’s a loving send-up to what fatherhood should be.  It’s sentimental without being schmaltzy.  It finds that key balance which is the reason why it works so well.    7. Jordan Zevon – “Studebaker” (2004)- Jordan Zevon recorded this song, which his father Warren Zevon wrote.  It originally went on the Zevon tribute record “Enjoy Every Sandwich,” compiled after Warren’s untimely death from cancer.  Hearing his son sing his words is a stirring experience, not only because they vaguely sound alike but because it is evident that it was painstakingly recorded with love.  The track is also present on Jordan Zevon’s excellent album, “Insides Out” which was just released earlier this year. 6. Jane’s Addiction – “Had a Dad” (1988) – This is a hard-charging rocker about fatherly abandonment. “I had a Dad. / Big and strong, / I turned around and I found my Daddy gone. / He was the one made me what I am today. / It’s up to me now. / My Daddy has gone away.”  Yes, it is negative, but it’s an excellent song and worth mentioning.  5. Paul Westerberg – “My Dad” (2004) – In this song Westerberg’s description of his Dad is detailed. He’s a man of pride who loves golf, baseball, crosswords and sitting in his chair watching the flat-screen TV that his son bought for him. The former Replacements leader paints a vivid portrait of his father.  The ending is the reason why it is here.  Westerberg repeats the phrase, “My Dad I love.”  It’s a warm tribute.    4. John Lennon – “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) ” (1980)- This is one of the more heartbreaking selections on this list.  This is John Lennon’s ode to his young son, Sean.  It’s hard to hear him sing “I can hardly wait to see you come of age.”  Unfortunately Lennon didn’t get to see his son grow up. He was shot right after the song’s release.  I think if he saw Sean now and heard the records he was making, he’d probably be extremely proud.  Those of you who have heard his 2006 album “Friendly Fire” no doubt know that the legacy is continuing.

3. The Temptations – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (1972) – Unfortunately, this is another negative track but it’s undeniable.  It’s seven minutes of slinky seventies funk describing a man who was a most unsavory character.  As the famous chorus goes, “Papa was a rolling stone, / Wherever he laid his hat was his home. / And when he died all he left us was alone.” The music swells as his children demand the real truth about their father from their mother. It’s a Motown classic. 2. Harry Chapin – “Cats In The Cradle” (1974) – Harry Chapin’s song is also not the most positive. This one is about a somewhat absentee father who promises to spend time with his son but rarely seems to be around, but it’s a classic.  Chapin brilliantly draws a picture of a frustrating relationship as he discusses from the father’s point of view all the moments he has missed. There is regret in his tone. 1. Eric Clapton – “Tears In Heaven”  (1992) – This is the saddest song on this list.  Clapton wrote this after his young son, Conor, died after accidentally falling out of a window.  It’s very possibly the most beautiful, touching song he’s ever recorded.  His anguish is real.  He’s a father having to deal with unthinkable loss and tragedy and his love and loss shine through.  For that reason he deserves the number one spot.  What are your favorites?  Feel free to post your list of favorite Father songs below.  Happy Fathers’ Day!!

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