Playlist of Songs About Fatherhood

A Father's Day playlist of songs about fathers good and bad

Father teaching son to play guitar
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Songs about fathers are a more problematic subject for oldies music than mothers, namely because dads sometimes leave the family behind and mothers almost never do. Yet the search for father figures continues regardless, and the music of the 50s, 60s, and 70s produced plenty of country, pop, R&B and rock hits about the role, good and bad, that fathers can play in their children's lives. This Father's Day playlist features music you can download right here.

  1. Brian Wilson, "Child Is Father of the Man" A gorgeous snippet rejected and then resurrected as part of the famous, nearly lost SMiLE project.
  2. Eddie Fisher, "Oh My Papa" Perhaps the most famous of the pre-rock odes to father and also Fisher's signature song.
  3. Paul Petersen, "My Dad" The "Donna Reed Show" star's lone big hit, it's a fairly standard bit of father worship.
  4. Gene Autry, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" One of the earlier examples of the country and western father tributes, this time tinged with a great deal of a regret from an errant son.
  5. Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, "Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher ManIn much the same vein as Johnny Cash's hit "Daddy Sang Bass," though this C&W hit focuses on the power of a father's faith.
  6. Hank Williams, "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy" A typically Southern gothic tale from Hank -- the father's in jail and watching his son being raised by a better man.
  7. Eddy Arnold, "My Daddy Is Only a Picture" Another heartbreaker, this time about a little boy whose (deceased) father exists only as a memory.
  8. Sheb Wooley, "That's My Pa" A comic novelty where Sheb tells the story of a drunken yet lovable dad, complete with loony imitation.
  9. Donna Fargo, "Daddy" In which Donna reveals that a simple call home to see how Dad is doing is actually a cry for Father's help.
  10. Clarence Carter, "Patches" A heartbreaking General Johnson tune about a father's early exit and the passing on of his family legacy.
  11. Gladys Knight and the Pips, "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare" Proving that you don't have to be "Leave It to Beaver" wholesome to raise children well.
  12. Horace Silver, "Song for My Father" A hard-bop classic later appropriated by Steely Dan ("Rikki Don't Lose That Number") and Stevie Wonder ("Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing").
  13. James Brown, "Papa Don't Take No Mess" James' reminiscence is not exactly all sunshine ("Papa beat the hell out of us"), but it's positive (and super funky) anyway.
  14. The Temptations, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" Probably the most famous song here, a sad tale of a fatherless family without even good memories to hang on to.
  15. The Winstons, "Color Him Father" A happy and unique twist on the "missing father" genre, with the singer taking to his "new" father after the death of his biological one.
  16. Wayne Newton, "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" Probably the best-known hit of the genre, a teary tune of near-abandonment from the child's point of view.
  17. Elvis Presley, "Don't Cry Daddy" A real weeper from Elvis' historic Memphis sessions, where a widower takes comfort from his children's love.
  18. The Monkees, "Daddy's Song" It sounds carefree, but listen close and you'll find songwriter Harry Nilsson is revealing the scars of an early abandonment.
  19. The Beach Boys, "I'm Bugged at My Ol' Man" Just for comic relief, here's another Brian Wilson number where he dramatically embellishes the extent of his father's grounding -- just like a real teen would.
  20. Giorgio Moroder, "Son of My Father" The electro-disco producing pioneer had his lone solo hit with this, a surprisingly lyrically complex number about shaking off a father's legacy to find one's own identity.
  21. Harry Chapin, "Cat's in the Cradle" A huge hit in which the son whose father never had time for him finds out that he's repeating his family history with his own child.
  22. Cat Stevens, "Father and Son" A moving folk tale of the generation gap: a father with the best intentions and and a son who feels compelled to find his own way anyway.
  23. John Lennon, "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" One of John's most tender ballads, which is saying something — a touching lullaby that turns into a meditation on life.