This song list comprises father and son songs. It is a mixed bag in terms of both subject matter and genre, but all of the songs listed could be described as powerful and emotive. Some tracks are sentimental and laced with love. Others reflect the anger, hostility, complexities, and regret that can accompany father and son relationships.
The first nine songs are inspired by the more positive aspects of father and son relationships. To include mutual pride, love, respect, honor, and admiration.
For the later eleven songs, I have selected tunes that echo possible difficulties experienced between fathers and sons. Problems could be due to estrangement, conflict, expectations, or grief, following the loss of a father or son.
Lots (most) of these songs are tearjerkers. All of them will make you think. Some may resonate with you on a personal level. Let’s start with the cheery melodies. These first two tracks are based on the awe and wonder a father can feel when first becoming a parent.
1. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) – John Lennon
This song was written following the birth of John and Yoko’s son Sean Lennon in 1975. It was released on the Double Fantasy album in 1980. John Lennon sings about his role in protecting his son, his dreams for the future, and his obvious pride in becoming a father. This is clearly shown in the lyric “I can hardly wait for you to come of age”.
2. Kooks – David Bowie
Kooks was written in 1971, following the birth of David and Angie’s Son Zowie. It was released as track 5 on the Hunky Dory album in May 1971.
According to a press release, when Zowie Bowie was born, David said “The baby was born, it looked like me and it looked like Angie, and the song came out like, if you’re gonna stay with us, you’re gonna grow up Bananas”. The tone of the song is tender, again with a strong emphasis on pride and how a father might help his son deal with specific situations.
Expert Tip: The Kooks later took their inspiration from this song when they formed a band in 2004. These next three ballads are based on sons who have viewed their fathers as role models.
3. Not All Heroes Wear Capes – Owl City
This track was released in June 2017 by Owl City. Here, a son (Adam Young), reflects on everything his Dad has done for him. The outstanding lyric sums it up, “My Dad’s a hero to me”. He refers to his Dad as a Superman. The lyrics eclipse the admiration and respect that Adam Young feels towards his Dad.
4. My Old Man – Zac Brown Band
Once again the focus is on the positives. The father is portrayed as a role model. This is summed up by the lyric “I’m trying to fill the boot of my old man”. Now the son is older, he understands why his father tried to strike a balance between teaching him and letting him make his own mistakes.
This song comes from the album “Welcome Home” and was released in February 2017.
5. Song for my Dad – Keith Urban
“I hope even/ day I see a little more of my Father in me”. As shown by this lyric, this is another male songwriter who looked up to his father and subsequently hopes to become more and more like him as time goes by “Song for my Dad” was released in 2002.
These next songs are written from a father’s perspective. The emphasis is on how a father wants to do their very best for their son, while at the same time struggling with the responsibility aspect.
6. There Goes My Life – Kenny Chesney
This is the first single from Kenny Chesney’s album “When the Sun Goes Down”, which came out in 2004. Here, Kenny Chesney sings about the sacrifices a Father makes when having a child. Essentially the songwriter feels he is too young to become a parent, “Hell I’m just a kid myself. How’m I gonna raise one”.
I believe that most fathers (and mothers) can relate to these feelings. This is especially true when you are still a son or daughter at the same time as having your own.
7. Champion – Kayne West
This song has reggae and jazz influences. Champion (not to be confused with Champions) was released in September 2007 and as is on the “Graduation” album. These lyrics focus on the aspirations a parent has for their child and how essentially they want better for their child than they had themselves.
In summary, fathers are champions, but neither themselves nor their children realize it at the time.
8. Father to Son – Queen
“I fought with you fought on your side. Long before you were born”. Here the father is talking about his son from his position. The words focus on the continuation of time and the life cycle, whereby attributes are passed from father to son. “Father to Son” was written by Queen’s guitarist Brian May in 1975 and is on the Queen II album.
I am now moving on to the tracks which deal with problematic father and son relationships. A recurring theme is the absence of time. Whatever the reason, the fathers and sons featured in these songs didn’t get to spend enough time together.
9. Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chaplin
This 1974 folk song focuses on regret. The father featured in the song doesn’t have time to spend with his son because his job takes up all his time. He keeps saying that when he has time, they will have a good time. The son regularly says “I’m gonna be like you Dad. You know I’m gonna be like you”.
He then graduates and his dad wants to spend time with him. The son responds by asking for his father’s car keys. When the father retires, he wants to spend time with his son. The son is then too busy with his work and life to spend time with his father. In essence, he has become his father”.
10. Father and Son – Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens
“From the moment I talked I was ordered to listen”. The son in this song wants to create and follow his destiny. Unfortunately, his father doesn’t understand this and wants his son to complete the same path that he did. Most of us can recognize this as a common theme between parent and child.
This song appears on Yusuf Islam/Cat Steven’s 1970 album Tea from the Tillerman”.
11. Don’t Call Him Daddy – Kenny Rogers
The original version of this song was recorded by Kenny Rogers in 1987, as part of his “In the Moonlight” album. The crux of this song is where a son of divorced parents will only call his biological father Daddy. The song talks about the problems a biological father has resulting in not getting to spend enough time with his son.
Although he doesn’t get to be called Daddy, the stepfather still takes care of things.
12. My Father’s House – Bruce Springsteen
This is one of many songs that Bruce Springsteen wrote referencing his father. This track was partly inspired by Springsteen’s habit of driving through his old neighborhood, due in part to mental health difficulties. It also touches on the distant relationship he had with his father.
Expert Tip: The lyric, “I’m sorry son but no one by that name lives here anymore” highlights the sadness of the situation. “My Father’s House” was released in September 1982. It was the final track to be written for his album “Nebraska” also released in September 1982.
13. Father of Mine – Everclear
This song was released in 1997 and is from the album “So Much for the Afterglow”. It is autobiographical and talks about the lead singer Art Alexis’s feelings about his father leaving him and his family when he was a young boy.
The lyrics emphasize the long-term damage his father has done by leaving him now and Alexis clearly states how he will not make the same mistakes with his children. The lyric, “then he walked away highlights his father’s negative impact.
14. My Father’s Eyes – Eric Clapton
Released as a single in 1968, this track is from the “Pilgrim” album. Eric Clapton grew up not knowing his father. He was raised by his grandparents. His father only got in touch after Clapton became famous.
One day Eric Clapton looked into his young son’s eyes and immediately recognized his father. Here the focus is on genetics. Hence, you will always be your Father’s Son.
15. The Living Years – Mike & The Mechanics
This track talks about the unresolved conflict between father and son. The essence of this is characterized by the lyric, “It’s too late when we die. To admit we don’t see eye to eye”. “The Living Years” was released in December 1988 as the second title in the album “Living Years”.
These last few songs are all about grief. Both from the perspective of a son who has lost his father and from the very sad perspective of a father who has lost his son.
16. Wake me up when September ends – Green Day
This song was released in June 2005 and is on the group’s seventh album “American Idiot”.The lyric “As my memory rests. But never forgets what I lost” epitomizes what this song is about.
September is the anniversary of the songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong’s father’s death and the memories are so painful for him, that he just wants the time around this anniversary to be over.
17. Dance with my Father – Luther Vandross
The Album “Dance with my Father” was released in June 2003 in the US. Its prime song “Dance with my Father” focuses on Luther Vandross’s memories of his father dancing with his kids. Unfortunately, Luther Vandross’s father died when he was young.
Expert Tip: The lyric “Before life removed all the innocence” sums up the impact his father’s death had on Luther Vandross.
18. Sometimes You Can’t Make it on your own – U2
Released in February 2005, this track on the “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” album, is a tribute to Bono’s late father. The lyric “Listen to me now I need to let you know you don’t have to go it alone”, signifies the comfort that can be sought by believing that the loved one who has passed is by our side when we are having a bad day.
Hopefully, this potential for comfort resonates with readers who have lost a parent.
19. That’s my Job – Conway Twitty
This song again talks about the grief experienced by a Son when they lose their father. It focuses on the responsibility a father has and continues to believe he has even following on from his death. Here, fatherhood is described as a job, “to keep you safe with me, that’s my job you see”.
That’s my Job was released in November 1987, as the third track from the album “Borderline”.
20. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
This ballad was written by Eric Clapton following the tragic death of his four-year-old Son in 1991. It’s a position that no parent believes they will ever be in. Here Clapton believes that he and his son will meet again and that there will be no more “Tears in Heaven”.
In summary, the tracks on this list are a mixture of “happy” and “sad” songs, with the list being slightly biased towards “sad” songs. Such is life. Notably, the songs have been written over a large time scale, with some songs being released as early as 1968 while other songs were released during the past few years.
Please do not hesitate to comment if you have any questions about any of the tracks discussed in this article. It’s fair to say that songs about the father and son relationship cover a wide range of highs and lows. Most of us regardless of whether or not we are fathers or sons will have some insight into some of the issues covered.