30 Songs About Dads

Juli Thanki | June 1st, 2009

When it comes to songs written about family, it seems Mama gets the lion’s share of the credit. It’s time to show some love to the dads–both good and bad–of country music. Whether it’s unconditional love, a kick in the pants or a valuable life lesson, the dads in these songs are pretty dang awesome…for the most part. Make a copy of this playlist for your dad this Father’s Day. Hell, fill up an iPod with all the songs we left off the list. And then get a haircut, dammit.

  • John Michael Montgomery - What I Do Best 30. “I Miss You A Little” – John Michael Montgomery
    Written after Montgomery’s father died, this one always gets us a little teary. Anyone who says grief eases with age needs to hear the chorus. “I miss you a little, since you’ve been gone/A few little memories keep hangin’ on/I miss you a little, I guess you could say/A little too much, a little too often, every day.”
  • Paul Burch - East To West 29. “Daddy Rhythm Guitar” – Paul Burch
    Sure, flashy lead guitar and facemelting solos get all the attention, but it’s the rhythm player who keeps the band on track. Steady and sure, the guitar player is equally stable in his second job as Daddy.
  • T. Texas Tyler - The Best of T. Texas Tyler 28. “Dad Gave My Dog Away” – T. Texas Tyler
    Another sad one here. The title says it all: Dad takes his son’s dog and replaces it with a bicycle. There’s a reason that dogs are man’s–and woman’s–best friend, and a bike just doesn’t cut it. For shame, Dad.
  • Holly Dunn - Milestones: Greatest Hits 27. “Daddy’s Hands” – Holly Dunn
    Daddy always loves you–especially when he smacks ya ’round. Awww?
  • Drive-By Truckers - The Dirty South 26. “Daddy’s Cup” – Drive-By Truckers
    From before I could walk I had a wrench in my hand/I was my mama’s little angel/My daddy’s second chance.” Amazingly this doesn’t result in a lifetime of psychotherapy. Instead, the main character of this Mike Cooley song dedicates his life to racing in hopes of making his dad’s crushed dream come true. And even if it kills him, he’ll do it for his dad.
  • Keith Whitley - Wherever You Are Tonight 25. “Daddy Loved Trains” – Keith Whitley
    Mama loved Daddy, but Daddy loved trains/The steel rails controlled him like whiskey in his veins.” There’s something poignant about Keith Whitley singing about the effects of whiskey, but there’s also a brief glimmer of hope at the end of the song when he reveals, “I’ve grown to love somebody like my daddy loved those trains.”
  • Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska 24. “My Father’s House” – Bruce Springsteen
    This one is a spooky and sparse track from the Boss’ Nebraska album. Even as the child becomes an adult, the image of a father can offer strength and comfort “like a beacon” shining through the dark night.
  • Gram Parsons - GP 23. “Kiss the Children” – Gram Parsons
    Here’s a bad dad. Actually “bad” doesn’t even begin to describe lyrics like, “Don’t play this crazy game with me no longer/’Cause I won’t be able to resist my rage/And the gun that’s hanging on the kitchen wall, dear/Is like the road sign pointing straight to Satan’s cage.” But at least he cares enough to ask his wife to give the kids a kiss before she goes. Creepy.
  • Del McCoury - The Company We Keep 22. “Fathers and Sons” – Del McCoury Band
    If anyone’s qualified to sing about harmonious father-son relationships, it’s Del, who’s made music with sons Ronnie and Rob for decades without any of the struggles that would land a typical family band their own Behind the Music special.
  • Hank Williams - The Original Singles Collection...Plus 21. “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” – Hank Williams
    Knowing what we know about Hank and his troubled marriage with Audrey, this song is especially poignant. Considering his early death and Junior’s fatherless childhood makes lyrics such as “My son calls another man daddy/He’ll never know my name nor my face” feel like a punch to the gut.
  • Ernest Tubb - The Early Years 1936-1945 20. “My Baby and My Wife” – Ernest Tubb
    A hard day’s work doesn’t seem so bad when you come home to the ones whose love is like “a guiding star.” “My Baby and My Wife” is a must-listen from early in Tubb’s career; those who only know him as the singer of “Walking the Floor Over You” must give this one a spin.
  • Red Sovine - 20 All Time Greatest Hits 19. “Daddy’s Girl” – Red Sovine
    Songs don’t get much sweeter than this, even as it reinforces some tired stereotypes: girls like dolls and butterflies, but hate baseball and fishing. We won’t hold it against Red, though.
  • Randy Travis - No Holdin' Back 18. “He Walked on Water” – Randy Travis
    Grandfathers and great-grandfathers are just as important as fathers. Travis’ song perfectly nails that sense of hero worship that only kids can have, while his eye for detail makes the man in a starched white shirt buttoned at the neck come alive for listeners.
  • Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton - The Essential Porter and Dolly 17. “Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man” – Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner
    Here’s a man who “preached hell so hot you could feel the heat.” This is one of country music’s best duets, featuring stunning vocal turns from Parton and Wagoner.
  • Buck Owens - 41st Street Lonely Hearts Club 16. “Weekend Daddy” – Buck Owens
    Though the divorce rate is the highest it’s ever been right now, there sure were a lot of divorce songs thirty-some years ago. Depressing, yes–but worth a listen nonetheless.
  • Flatt & Scruggs - Foggy Mountain Gospel 15. “Father’s Table Grace” – Flatt & Scruggs
    Here is a lovely recitation by Lester Flatt about a religious, taciturn father and a less-than-devout son ready to strike out on his own. Dad knows he won’t be there to protect his son from the world, so he calls for the assistance of a higher power. Sniffle.
  • Robert Earl Keen - A Bigger Piece of Sky 14. “Daddy Had a Buick” – Robert Earl Keen
    With dads, cars and Keen’s brand of wink-and-nudge songwriting, you can’t go wrong with this one. “Daddy has a Buick and Mama loves to ride,” indeed.
  • Reba McEntire - Room to Breathe 13. “He Gets That from Me” – Reba McEntire
    Songs dealing with the struggles of widows and fatherless children are automatically sad. 2004’s “He Gets That from Me” is a beautiful, if slightly overwrought, song that only peaked at #7, probably because radio listeners didn’t want such a downer interrupting blocks of music featuring songs about sippy cups, front porches and unicorns–or whatever the hell Lonestar has spent the last decade singing about.
  • Jamey Johnson - The Dollar 12. “The Dollar” – Jamey Johnson
    Allegedly based on an incident between Johnson and his young daughter, here a boy saves every penny in hopes that his money-chasing father will come home and spend some time with him. It’s pretty sweet, but to be honest we’d rather Johnson sing about coke and whores.
  • George Jones - Burn Your Playhouse Down 11. “You and Me and Time” – George and Georgette Jones
    Father and daughter duet on this gorgeous and extremely personal song about repairing their relationship and bridging the distance that once existed between them; they may never get back the years lost to fame and various illicit substances, but they’re sure going to try to make up for lost time.
  • Conway Twitty - 20th Century Masters 10. “That’s My Job” – Conway Twitty
    There’s no more important job than being a parent (well, unless you are the President or Jonas Salk, but they don’t write country songs about them). Come to think of it, presidents and polio-curers have “keep you safe” written in their job descriptions too.
  • Lefty Frizzell - Look What Thoughts Will Do 9. “Mom and Dad’s Waltz” – Lefty Frizzell
    This is a fella who is willing to make any sacrifice and face any hardship for his parents’ happiness. Either he really loves his mom and dad, or he’s been the recipient of the world’s biggest guilt trip. Let’s say it’s the former.
  • Paul Overstreet - The Best of Paul Overstreet 8. “Seein’ My Father in Me” – Paul Overstreet
    We always say we’ll never be like our parents. More often than not, we’re wrong. And one listen to Overstreet’s song proves that it isn’t always such a bad thing.
  • Alan Jackson - Drive 7. “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” – Alan Jackson
    My fondest memory of my beloved grandfather was when he took me driving through a cornfield in a beat up old Jeep, his hand over mine on the gearshift. Anyone with similar memories will find themselves choking up during “Drive.”
  • Loretta Lynn - Gold 6. “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore” – Loretta Lynn
    From the beginning of her career, Lynn has defined herself through her father–after all, she is proud to be the Coal Miner’s Daughter. Here we learn a little bit more about her hardworking daddy and just why Lynn thinks he hung the moon.
  • Charlie Louvin - Less and Less and I Don't Love You Anymore 5. “See the Big Man Cry” – Charlie Louvin
    “See the Big Man Cry” is probably Louvin’s best known song as a solo artist, and for good reason. This one’s a tearjerker, courtesy of a man who sees his young son on the sidewalk–only he’s under judge’s orders not to come near his kid or wife. The boy’s heartbreaking observations give the song its title.
  • Gene Autry - The Essential Gene Autry 4. “That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” – Gene Autry
    This singing cowboy didn’t have the best dad; according to biographer Holly George Warren, Papa Autry spent more time rambling than he did at home, forcing young Gene (then known by his birth name of Orvon) to support his family from a young age. But you’d never know it from this song, which has been covered by numerous country singers including Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.
  • Guy Clark - Dublin Blues 3. “Randall Knife” – Guy Clark
    A damaged family artifact becomes the tool a son needs to grieve for his deceased father. Clark’s songwriting has never been better than it is right here; music just doesn’t get much better than,”My father died when I was forty and I couldn’t find a way to cry/Not because I didn’t love him, not because he didn’t try/I’d cried for every lesser thing/Whiskey, pain, and beauty/But he deserved a better tear/And I was not quite ready.”
  • Johnny Cash - At San Quentin 2. “A Boy Named Sue” – Johnny Cash
    Sometimes even deadbeat dads have something to offer. In this Shel Silverstein song an absentee father gives his son an important life lesson through his name. And then the two end up trying to kill each other upon first meeting. But have no fear: There’s a happy ending.
  • George Strait - Livin' It Up 1. “Love Without End, Amen” – George Strait
    The circle of life gets the country music treatment here as the wild son becomes the patient father. The final verse has spiritual resonance, revealing that no matter how old you get, you’re still someone’s child.

2 Pings

  1. [...] you’re at it, we’d love to know your favorite dad song – check out Juli’s 30 Songs About Dads list from last year to get you started. Karlie Justus is a The9513.com contributing writer, and can [...]
  2. [...] chose 10 country classics for Father’s Day listening. If you need more, there’s always this playlist from The 9513’s [...]
  1. Chris D.
    June 1, 2009 at 8:20 am

    I love the comments on the songs. xD

    Great list!

  2. Lee
    June 1, 2009 at 8:20 am

    “Louisiana Man” by Doug Kershaw could have made the list too.

  3. Tristan
    June 1, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Great list! I’m glad to see “A Boy Named Sue” made the list!

  4. Debbie
    June 1, 2009 at 9:13 am

    There’s “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” by Doug Supernaw. The video turns up occasionally on CMT Pure.

  5. Erik
    June 1, 2009 at 9:20 am

    No “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”?

  6. Andrew Lacy
    June 1, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Excellent choice at #1.

  7. nm
    June 1, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I absolutely, positively cannot believe that Tanya Tucker’s version of “Daddy and Home” isn’t on this list.

  8. Jim Malec
    June 1, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Keep in mind–this is not a “best” of list compiled by our staff (that’s why it doesn’t say “best songs about…”) The list is entirely compiled by the author.

  9. Lanibug
    June 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Every time I hear “That’s my Job” I think of my dad, because I have heard him say that to me so many times — when he has gone above and beyond.

    I have to agree, how could “The Greatest Man I never Knew” not be on the list….

  10. Matt
    June 1, 2009 at 10:57 am

    “Song for Dad” by Keith Urban gets me every time.

  11. highwayman3
    June 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

    What about ‘The Best Day’ by George Strait. Thats my essential song about dad

  12. Jim Malec
    June 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Not to speak for Juli, but I feel like she’s interested in introducing readers to a number of songs which they may be unfamiliar with.

  13. Clemson Brad
    June 1, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Great Great list, I was also thinking of George Strait “So Much Like My Dad”

  14. Juli
    June 1, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Not to speak for Juli, but I feel like she’s interested in introducing readers to a number of songs which they may be unfamiliar with.

    Yep, that’s pretty much it; in addition to covering a wide time period and various country subgenres, I also want to put some lesser known songs out there, as we’ve all read or seen “Best of” playlists before. Maybe folks’ll find a new favorite song somewhere in here…or at least some songwriter will respond to my plea for a Jonas Salk-themed tune. But this attempt to introduce new songs means a few old favorites have to be left off the list, no matter how big it is.

  15. J.R. Journey
    June 1, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Dolly Parton’s ‘To Daddy’ – which Emmylou Harris does a fabulous job on too – is another great one. And I second ‘The Greatest Man I Never Knew’.

  16. Michael
    June 1, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Great list! Before I even clicked “Read More” I knew what the top two would be. I just didn’t know the order. I love the suggested “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”, “Daddy and Home” and “I Don’t Call Him Daddy.” A few others that aren’t neccessarily my favorites but could be used to “fill up that iPod” would be Heartland’s “I Loved Her First”, Chuck Wicks’ “Stealing Cinderella” (Ok, it kind of kills me to mention that one. I HATE it.), John Anderson’s “I Wish I Could Have Been There” Toby Keith’s “Who’s That Man” or “I’m So Happy…” and Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Busy Man”

  17. Nicolas
    June 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    I like “I Love You This Much” by Jimmy Wayne <3

  18. Noeller
    June 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Supernaw’s “I Don’t Call Him Daddy”, Urban’s “Song For Dad”, and Twitty’s “It’s My Job” are probably my all time favourite Dad Songs. All brilliantly powerful.

  19. Leeann Ward
    June 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    When I grow up, I wanna be Juli!

    I especially love your blurb for the Holly Dunn song.:)

  20. Stormy
    June 1, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    26. “Daddy’s Cup” – Drive-By Truckers
    “From before I could walk I had a wrench in my hand/I was my mama’s little angel/My daddy’s second chance.” Amazingly this doesn’t result in a lifetime of psychotherapy. Instead, the main character of this Mike Cooley song dedicates his life to racing in hopes of making his dad’s crushed dream come true. And even if it kills him, he’ll do it for his dad.

    Compared to his granddaddy’s “cup” his daddy’s was probably downright plesant.

    19. “Daddy’s Girl” – Red Sovine
    Songs don’t get much sweeter than this, even as it reinforces some tired stereotypes: girls like dolls and butterflies, but hate baseball and fishing. We won’t hold it against Red, though.

    Its easier to forgive Red Sovine than say, Carrie Underwood in American Girl, because he was writing in a culture where little girls were socialized differently. A little girl who preferred baseball to dolls back then would have been a strange duck indeed.

  21. Anna K
    June 1, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    No “Small Town Southern Man” ?

    I was surprised by that omission, but loved the rest of the choices!

  22. Rick
    June 1, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Lane Turner’s “Horses” is a great song about a divorced dad looking out for his little boy. Sadly it was never commercially released, but it just might be on the 9513’s private music server if Juli was interested in taking a listen…

  23. Ben Milam
    June 1, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    another mike cooley song partially based on a poem his daddy wrote was called where the devil don’t stay. very powerful writer that cooley.

  24. Scott
    June 2, 2009 at 5:30 am

    Twenty years ago – Montgomery Gentry

    Startin With Me – Jake Owen (Not totally about dads, but there’s a section that is…)

  25. Grizzly Adam
    June 2, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I heard this one on Merle Haggard’s Chicago Wind album and it kicked my ass. Here’s Chet Atkins’s version of I Still Can’t Say Goodbye

  26. SMB
    June 2, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Fantastic list! Although it does make me sad that most songs about Dad are negative or heartbreaking. We need more happy daddy songs!

  27. Ben Milam
    June 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    if you set out to write a happy song, does that make it any more or less real?

  28. stacy
    June 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    one of my favorites is the one by rod adkins

  29. Ollie
    June 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I’d add Emmylou Harris’s “Bang The Drum Slowly”

  30. Jacob R.
    June 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Good to to Johnny Cash on there but he should be number 1. Come on hes the KING.

  31. coolrain44
    July 9, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    an excellent list with a few wonderful gems – “lost” selections of years ago – there are a few more tearjerker-type tributes by Red Sovine that could be added – you folks may also want to check out a nice compilation of “tributes to dad” at http://coolrain44.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/songs-for-dad/

  32. Steve
    June 19, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    I, too, am a little surprised that “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” didn’t make the list. I was equally surprised that one of my favorite Guy Clark songs, “Randall Knife,” did. Amazing lyrics and I’m glad it got its very deserved position high on this list.

  33. luckyoldsun
    June 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    How ’bout Confederate Railroad–“Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind.”

  34. James Morse
    January 24, 2011 at 7:25 am

    I lost my Father recently and this list of songs could not be better. He was my hero and my best friend and I sure so miss him. I love you Daddy.
    A Son Never Forgets.

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