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Best Father’s Day Songs: 10 Tracks That Show Love For Dads
List & Guides

Best Father’s Day Songs: 10 Tracks That Show Love For Dads

Like our dads, the best Father’s Day songs can often be soft as well as strong – and they occupy a special place in our hearts.

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While family roles are, thankfully, less rigidly defined than they have been in decades past, many of us still tend to cast our father in the role of protector – the person we turn to for wisdom and advice as well as unconditional love. With that in mind, it’s no surprise to discover that dads have inspired some of music’s most enduring songs, and here we celebrate this paternal pride with the best Father’s Day songs of all time.

Best Father’s Day Songs: 10 Tracks That Celebrate Dads

10: XTC: Hold Me My Daddy (1989)

It’s certainly not always the case, but some fathers and sons (and, indeed, mothers and daughters) struggle to get along – even when they love each other. It’s a subject examined with feeling on the excellent Hold Me My Daddy, from XTC’s ninth album, Oranges And Lemons, in which a clearly emotional Andy Partridge sings, “Well, these are the right words to say/They’re difficult but still true/Well, then, hold me, my daddy/I forgot to say, ‘I love you.’”

Expounding further on these feelings in an interview, the XTC frontman said, “Most boys/men can’t talk to their fathers or show affection. It’s not what we’re supposed to do. It’s OK to say, ‘Love you, mum,’ but it’s taboo, or at least it’s not easy, to say it to your dad. I played [Hold Me My Daddy] for my father and he wondered what the hell it was about. It was a bit touchy. Maybe he was embarrassed. It was a very difficult song to write.”

9: James Blunt: Monsters (2019)

A song in which a male singer-songwriter certainly does express his feelings, James Blunt’s emotionally charged piano ballad Monsters was written in tribute to his father, Charles, who – at the time – had just been diagnosed with stage 4 chronic kidney disease.

Making for one of the best James Blunt songs, the nakedly vulnerable lyrics (“I’m not your son, you’re not my father/We’re just two grown men saying goodbye/No need to forgive, no need to forget/I know your mistakes and you know mine”) relate to the way traditional father-son roles can reverse over time, and the song’s video – which features Blunt and his father seated side-by-side – is also extremely moving. Though only a minor hit on release, Monsters is nonetheless one of the Best Father’s Day songs out there, and it shows exactly why it’s right for boys to cry, too.

8: Boney M: Daddy Cool (1976)

Boney M’s record label, Hansa Records, originally wanted the disco troupe’s cover of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry for the A-side of their second single. However, after producer/mastermind Frank Farian road-tested both the Marley cover and the song’s intended B-side – the self-penned Daddy Cool – at a hip German discotheque, the latter attracted far greater dancefloor action, forcing Hansa to allow the band to flip the songs for single release.

The label never regretted the decision, for Daddy Cool duly notched up the first of ten Top 20 UK hits for Boney M, and it remains one of the Euro-Caribbean act’s key tracks. Sure, it’s light-hearted compared with much of the material found among the best Father’s Day songs, but it’s none the worse for that. A floor-filler to this day, Daddy Cool still struts its stuff in style, and it’s the ideal salute to all the hippest daddies out there.

7: Paul Simon: Father And Daughter (2002)

Many musician fathers have famous children, and though Paul Simon’s Father And Daughter fits neatly among the best Father’s Day songs, it’s also something of a family affair. Written to order for the 2002 animated movie The Wild Thornberrys, the song is ostensibly a tribute to the film’s lead character, Eliza – a little girl on a mission to save an African cheetah cub from ruthless poachers – but it was inspired by Simon’s then seven-year-old daughter, Lulu, and also featured backing vocals from his young son, Adrian.

The lyrics feature a typical Simon-esque quirk or two (“And though I can’t guarantee there’s nothing scary hiding under your bed/I’m gonna stand guard like a postcard of a golden retriever/And never leave till I leave you with a sweet dream in your head”), but this heart-melting ode to a father’s love for his daughter was still one of the straightest pop songs this masterful singer-songwriter had put his name to in years – and it rewarded him with Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

6: Neil Young: Prairie Wind (2005)

An album written partly in response to the recent death of his father, Scott, and ruminations on his own mortality, Neil Young’s 26th studio set, Prairie Wind, found the prolific singer-songwriter returning to the rootsy, semi-acoustic sound that afforded him mainstream success with 1972’s Harvest album and its latter-day successor, Harvest Moon. Nominated for two Grammy Awards, the record was greeted with widespread acclaim and it features several excellent, heartfelt moments worthy of a place among the best Father’s Day songs. Arguably the best of them, Prairie Wind’s title track matches ruminative lyrics (“Trying to remember what daddy said/Before too much time took away his head”) to a low-riding groove that hooks you in within seconds.

5: David Bowie: Kooks (1971)

Many of the best Father’s Day songs are written by younger performers in salute to their dads, but David Bowie flipped the script with the Hunky Dory classic Kooks, and paid tribute to his newborn son, Duncan Jones. Bowie freely admitted that Kooks was written under the influence of Neil Young – whose music he was listening to when he received the news of Duncan’s birth – but this delightful song’s stripped-back, semi-acoustic vibe is in keeping with the majority of the Hunky Dory material, even if its suitably childlike lyric (“I bought you a pair of shoes/A trumpet you can blow and a book of rules/On what to say to people when they pick on you”) is more in keeping with Bowie’s pre-Space Oddity catalogue.

4: Eric Clapton: My Father’s Eyes (1998)

It’s often the case that songwriters pay tribute to the father figures who have played a vital role in raising them, but Eric Clapton never knew his real father, Edward Fryer, who died of leukaemia in 1985. Nonetheless, with My Father’s Eyes, the legendary guitarist – who had previously mourned the loss of his own son, Conor, on the heartbreaking Tears In Heaven – came up with a dignified tribute that any father would be proud of. Based around an easy, lilting rhythm allowing Clapton plenty of room to solo, My Father’s Eyes had a universal appeal which led to it going Top 20 in numerous territories and rewarding its creator with a Grammy Award in 1999.

3: Tori Amos: Winter (1992)

One of the most nakedly personal of all the songs on her intimate and widely acclaimed debut album, Little Earthquakes, the luminescent Winter is a tribute to not just the one, but the two father figures in Tori Amos’ life. The singer-songwriter has said that when she started writing the song, “there was a picture of my mother’s father, Papa, and then a picture of my father, in the snow”, and the song duly honours both men – her loving, yet formidable father, the Reverend Dr Edison McKinley Amos, and her maternal grandfather, Calvin Clinton “CC” Copeland.

Both were significant – and positive – role models in Amos’ early life, and she repays their feelings in kind on Winter. One of the best Tori Amos songs, it includes numerous lines (“I get a little warm in my heart when I think of winter/I put my hand in my father’s glove”) relating to the depth of paternal love at its most unconditional.

2: Mike + The Mechanics: The Living Years (1988)

Tempestuous relationships between fathers and sons can sometimes provide the catalyst for the best Father’s Day songs. However, while many tunes of this nature enjoy a lasting legacy, few have the universal appeal of Mike + The Mechanics’ signature hit, The Living Years.

A superior soft-rock ballad written by Genesis guitarist and Mechanics founder Mike Rutherford with Scottish singer-songwriter BA Robertson, The Living Years was inspired by a son’s sadness brought on by unresolved conflict with his now-deceased father. The lyrics are loaded with regret (“It’s too late when we die/To admit we don’t see eye to eye”) but the song’s X factor is provided by Paul Carrack’s ultra-poignant vocal, which still somehow transcends place and time. The Living Years’ broad appeal was borne out when it became a global hit, and its subsequent accolades – an Ivor Novello Award and numerous Grammy nominations – have secured its reputation as a classic.

1: Madonna: Papa Don’t Preach (1986)

Most of the best Father’s Day songs are passionately written, which is usually why they’re capable of resonating down the decades. For our pick of the bunch, however, we have a Madonna hit which matched commitment with controversy when it was released as a single from her 1986 album, True Blue.

Superficially, Papa Don’t Preach is about paternal guidance – albeit control exercised with tolerance – but the lyrical allusions to teenage pregnancy (“But I’ve made up my mind/I’m keeping my baby”) stirred up something of a hornet’s nest at the time. Madonna herself believed Papa Don’t Preach worked so well because it started conversations (“There were so many opinions – that’s why I thought it was so great,” she told Rolling Stone magazine), but you could argue that it became another in her groundbreaking run of US and UK No.1 hits simply because it was a great song brilliantly executed. Certainly, that’s why it tops this list of the best Father’s Day songs.

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