30 Songs About Dads
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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 27. “Daddy’s Hands” – Holly Dunn
Daddy always loves you–especially when he smacks ya ’round. Awww?
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.