When artists become fathers, their music can shift in a different direction. Some good. Some bad… But with so many great tunes that were created I’m going to focus on some absolute bangers!
In no particular order, here are the Top 10 Songs about Fatherhood.
Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) – John Lennon
If you ignore the fact John Lennon left his wife and child and barely registered their existence again so he could protest in bed with a little-known Japanese artist, then you can probably appreciate how good this song is.
Written for Sean Lennon, it’s what Dad’s say to their little boys whenever they need to be comforted.
Julian got Hey Jude from Paul which, by any measure, is a better song. Just sucks how he got it.
Living Years – Mike and the Mechanics
In the age with a power ballad was at its absolute peak, the opening chords of this song really put a knife into the dad emotions. Perfectly constructed song just to get that Lump-In-Throat, this could easily be sitting in the back end of a John Hughes film just to make sure that you are really welled up, it even throws in a goddamn choir. The message remains an absolute necessity about talking about what you should have said to your family before it’s far too late. Even if it’s a text or just a meme, go for it.
Cats In The Cradle – Ugly Kid Joe
During the peak of ‘Amps at 11’ and the off-road vocal stylings of Grunge, came one of the best songs about fatherhood to ever be covered. I’m running with the Ugly Kid Joe version because it was the first time I’d heard it and honestly didn’t realise it was a cover until many years later. When I finally heard the original, it was pretty weak by comparison. These 20-somethings, off the back of their guitar shredding, anti-social track, Neighbor, thought to release a song about the cyclical impacts of learned behaviour of an absent parent. I learned that when I became a Dad, just throw the kid a ball and they’ll still talk to you when you’re 60.
A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash
In a genius move that became one of the greatest live albums, Johnny Cash performed in San Quinten Prison for the incarcerated population. A Boy Named Sue was by far the most popular track by a load of men from an age that had yet to experience the non-binary movement and a boy with a commonly girl’s name, was the height of comedy rock. The song centres around a young man whose father left just after naming him Sue, causing him to struggle with his emotions and lashing out in bars where, I assume, he is getting regularly wasted. His journey to destroy his father takes on Roman proportions, ending in a healthy discussion / drunken violent brawl, whereby the father set his son on a life of turmoil to toughen him up. Yep, I’m sure that mental trauma won’t filter down to the next generation.
Just the Two Of Us – Will Smith
From the king of 90s music, came a very smooth jam about a Father Son bond. Big Willie’s love rap to his son. It laid out the thoughts and fears of first-time fathers around the world, even dropping in the relationship breakdown of his son’s Mother but still calling out that unbreakable love, I honestly don’t know Trey Smith feels about having the line “Push come shove/You was conceived in love” sung at him.
But I challenge anyone in their late thirties not to drop straight into Dr Evil voice and sing the first line as “From the moment I heard Frau/Say I had a clone/I knew that I’d be safe/Cos’ I’d never be alone”
Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder
I cannot count the amount of times I have heard this song as a bride comes down the aisle, well I can, it’s twice, but by logical extrapolation that means weddings around the world have done the same. One can only imagine that none of them listen to the lyrics when it almost immediately states ‘Isn’t she lovely… Less than one minute old’
Backing back to the actual music, it’s a fantastic song by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century who was just too excited to have a child and he even included personal audio recordings of him bathing his baby girl. I’d much prefer to be involved in this level of Sharenting than the current ubiquitousness of everyone’s kids doing… nothing!
Father And Son – Cat Stevens
A song that seems to try and temper the brashness and arrogance of youth from the view of a father, is one of the most enduring go-to songs about a parenthood. In trying to reason with his impetuous child, he lets him know ‘You will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not’… Essentially saying ‘Calm the fuck down, you’ll probably be distracted by something else and eventually you’ll realise the world isn’t that bad’. Well that’s how I read it; Cat Stevens was mind altering quite heavily around this stage, so it could be about a cat he saw one for all I know.
Lullaby – Billy Joel (Goodnight My Angel)
This is a beautiful piece and I sing the first line of it to my son when I put him to bed, I can’t remember the rest because it doesn’t RHYME! I know that songs don’t have to and the fact this song is such an amazing melody and stays in my head is a testament to musical talents of Mr Joel. The origin of this one is a bit darker than you might think. As he was putting his daughter down, she asked ‘What do we do when we die?’
Now, go back and listen to the song. Initially I thought it was about sending a kid drifting off to dreamland – now it sounds like comforting someone into the Great Beyond… or is that just me?
Letter 2 My Unborn Child – 2Pac
This was not initially considered as I’d never really heard it, but in my research I discovered another moment of freakish parallels and legend surrounding Tupac. This track was penned to tell his non-existent unborn child about the perils of the life he chose in case he’s killed prior to meeting this fabled son.
The insane irony is that shortly after the track was written, he got married and decided to try for a family, only to be gunned down months later.
Was this life imitating art? Was it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Was it a nihilistic man aware of his inevitable end? Or was it a massive coincidence? I’m leaning on the latter, but you can’t fill reddit boards and sell documentaries on coincidence.
Papa Was A Rolling Stone – The Temptations
While the theme of a man being unable to be tied down to a family isn’t one that isn’t overly encouraged, having it cooly rolled out on the velvet vocals of The Temptations will make you think.
Opening with a riff that is intrinsically linked in alternative film entertainment, it moves into a story about a kid hearing nothing but the dregs of his recently passed father’s life. But whenever this comes on, any man will immediately assume he’s a lot smoother than his polo shirt and chinos let on.