(June 18, 2017). When it comes to music and parental tributes, moms usually get most of the love.
You know several of them well, like “I’ll Always Love My Mama” by the Intruders, “A Song For Mama” by Boyz II Men or “Mama Used To Say” by Junior.
A very timely example is by Tupac Shakur, whose biopic was released in theaters this weekend and who famously recorded a tribute to his mother and to moms worldwide with his 1993 classic “Dear Mama.”
But did you know that 2Pac also recorded a song about a father?
The tune “Papa’z Song” from ‘Pac’s second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., painted a much less flattering picture of a father than “Dear Mama” did of his mom. Still, it captured all the raw emotion and sincerity that Shakur was best at delivering, in this case that of a son whose father was absent during his childhood.
Father-child relationships are often tough ones to navigate, especially in circumstances like the one Tupac describes. They’re sometimes complex situations involving a father who either struggled with his responsibilities or who simply wasn’t there. Most songs describing those relationships – especially the ones by hip-hop artists – tend to tell the negative side of this story.
That sentiment isn’t limited to hip-hop though. The Temptations famously sang about an absent father whose philandering ways did nothing to endear his children to him. That song, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” became a Number One pop hit in 1972.
Madonna recorded not one, but two hit songs about the strained relationship a girl sometimes has with her father. On 1986’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” Madonna’s pregnant protagonist cannot get advice from her daddy as she struggles with telling him the news about her pending motherhood. Three years later, “Oh Father” eerily told of a daughter’s escape from the clutches of an abusive father.
And King of Soul James Brown sang about a less stark, but very familiar situation involving a father who wasn’t afraid to break out a can of whoop-ass on his kids if they acted up (not necessarily a bad thing depending upon the generation in which one grew up).
But things with Dad aren’t always bad.
Late soul crooner Luther Vandross recorded the sentimental Grammy-winning song “Dance With My Father” about his late dad and how they would dance together in his youth. Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly Kisses” gave a dad’s poignant perspective on watching his little daughter grow up.
And, of course, there’s Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” which told of the joys of being a new dad from the singer’s real-life perspective with daughter Aisha. Wonder would shower some similar love on his second child Keita in the 1980 song “Do Like You” from the Hotter Than July album, though not as memorable a tune as his first child’s tribute.
The musically prolific Wonder, whose song catalog spans more than five decades, is arguably as prolific at bringing children into the world; he has nine of them. It is still not known whether Wonder, who hasn’t released a new album in years, will record a song tribute to his youngest child, who turns 3 later this year.
Regardless, there are plenty of songs out there to celebrate (or maybe not celebrate) fatherhood and dads all over the map. And no matter what your relationship with your father is (or isn’t), you’re sure to find a song that fits your situation if you look long and hard enough.
This Fathers Day, djrobblog has done some of the work for you and found what I consider to be the Fifteen Best Dad Songs. These are all songs that are either about a father or about being one. They’re counted down in order from #15 to #1.
The rankings are based on the typical djrobblog factors, including popularity, impact, endurance, and the always subjective one of quality – which is in the eye of the beholder, in this case me.
Now you may or may not agree with the order or inclusion of some songs, but that’s the beauty of blogging – you get to tell me about it in the comment section or on the blog’s Facebook page.
So keep reading to see the djroblist of the Fifteen Best Dad Songs and scroll through to find out which one ranks the highest (and don’t forget to vote with a thumbs-up or an emoji).
Oh, and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, especially mine. Love you, Pops!
This countdown is dedicated to you!
When 2Pac angrily raps to a dad who was absent during his childhood, you can almost predict where the song is headed. And it delivers. Lyrically, Shakur doesn't hold back on this early single from his second album, and with lines like "I had to play catch by myself," you at least begin to understand the source of the hurt and anger he so emotionally conveys.
Eric Clapton wrote this song after the loss of his own son - who died tragically at the age of four - and in recognition of his own father that he never knew. Needless to say, the joys that usually accompany father-son relationships have eluded the legendary guitarist. Still, he poignantly captured his plight in this great reggae-influenced tune.
Will Smith borrowed the title and the music from Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers' big 1981 single "Just the Two of Us" for this thoughtful homage to fatherhood and his first-born son, Trey. The funniest line, "I will touch that butt when you cut outta line."
Getting a butt-whipping from Dad never sounded so okay.
James Brown's last of seventeen No. 1 R&B hits was this song about a tough dad who, quite simply, didn't take no mess. This father liked the women, liked gambling but not the fuss. And like the dad portrayed by Will Smith in his "Just the Two of Us," this daddy would "beat the hell out of us" if we "did wrong."
Now that's telling it like it is.
Bob Carlisle tugged on our collective heartstrings with this beautiful 1995 ballad about a man watching his daughter grow up before his eyes. From hair ribbons and pigtails to her wedding dress, "daddy's little girl" had one thing she always gave him alongside her bedtime prayers - butterfly kisses at night.
One listen to this one and the tears just start flowing all over again.
Nas recorded this Grammy-nominated song about the perils of a daughter who was growing up a little too fast - and his role (or lack thereof) in that situation. Clearly a song for millennials, "Daughters" spoke of his own daughter's real-life social media dalliances and trouble with boys. It didn't sit well with the child's mother, however, who criticized it as a false depiction of the daughter. But Nas claims the relationship with his daughter has been strengthened because of it.
The late Dan Fogelberg wrote this song about his own father, a disciplined man whose own love of music was passed down to his son. Rarely has there been a chorus as poignant as this one: "The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old, but his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul. My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man. I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band."
The King of Rock and Roll also had a soft side as was demonstrated in this tune about a man who loses his wife and has two kids to reassure him that everything will be alright. Elvis' own daughter, Lisa Marie, famously re-recorded this song with her father's vocals in August 1997 on the 20th anniversary of his death.
"You can't hurt me now" begins the refrain from one of Madonna's most controversial singles ever. The song, from her 1989 Like A Prayer album, told of a father's abuse and a daughter's ability to finally break away from it. The message clearly didn't resonate with everyone - "Oh Father" broke a streak of 17-consecutive top ten pop hits for Madge when it peaked at No. 20 in early 1990.
I remember hearing this as a child and crying even then about this most depressing tale of a poor Alabama boy being thrust into manhood on his family's farm after his father dies at a young age. Clarence Carter, who later gave us the unapologetic freak anthem "Strokin'," deserved not a Grammy, but an Oscar for his inspirational delivery on this top-ten hit from 1970.
It was THAT good.
Madonna, already not a stranger to controversy at this early point in her career, released "Papa Don't Preach" in 1986 to mixed reviews. Some praised her for the song's take on her "choice" to have her baby. Others criticized her for singing about the situation in the first place. It was a lose-lose - or a win-win - situation, depending on one's perspective.
That's what made it so controversial... and who better to deal with controversy than a young Madonna?
This song is as beautiful as its title suggests, with Luther reminiscing about how his own father used to dance with him and his mother during Vandross' youth. The longing for another chance to experience the love of his father is perhaps one of Luther's most poignant musical moments. "Dance," cowritten by Vandross and Richard Marx, earned Luther Vandross his last Grammy Award...for Song of the Year.
Stevie Wonder has enjoyed much space on many djrobblog countdowns, and here's yet another reason. "Isn't She Lovely" was his first ode to fatherhood, dedicated to his oldest child, Aisha, and appearing on his opus, Songs in the Key of Life. The best part of the song is near the end where we hear Aisha playing and splashing in the bathtub while Wonder enjoys her. Fewer songs celebrate life and fatherhood better than this classic from a fittingly titled album.
Check out Stevie and his grown daughter in the video performance above.
The Temptations spent the 1960s singing about love and girls, but took on more socially conscious themes in the '70s. "Papa" was in the latter vein and was a tale of a father whose wayward ways kept him away from "home" and did little to endear his children to him. It would become one of their biggest hits, topping the pop chart at the end of 1972 and winning the group its last Grammy award (R&B Vocal Group).
Rarely has there been a story-teller as thoughtful as the late Harry Chaplin, who took this song to No. 1 on the pop charts in late 1974. In it, he tells of a father who is too busy to be there while his son is growing up, only to have fate twisted years later when he wants to spend time with his now-grown son who has his own family priorities.
Every Fathers Day list likely has this sad, but ever-popular song on it. And its timelessness is why it tops this list of the 15 Best Dad Songs!