Father's Day songs: 12 emotional tracks by and about dads

14 June 2018, 16:32 | Updated: 24 June 2018, 13:14

Fathers Day songs composite

Over the years, there have been a host of songs written about relationships between fathers and their kids.

With Father's Day occurring this Sunday (June 17), we've picked out the very best songs about dads - whether they were written by or for fathers...

1. Luther Vandross - 'Dance With My Father'

A proper tearjerker. Vandross wrote 'Dance with My Father' with Richard Marx, based on his own personal experience.

It is a tribute to his father, Luther Vandross, Sr, who died due to complications of diabetes, when Luther was seven. Luther's most poignant memory of his dad was him dancing in the house with his kids, which is where the concept of the song came from.

2. Cat Stevens - 'Father and Son'

This song follows a conversation between a father not understanding his son’s desire to break away, and the son who knows that it is time for him to seek his own path.

Stevens wrote it as part of a proposed musical project starring Nigel Hawthorne, set during the Russian Revolution, but it fell through. Boyzone later scored a hit with it in 1995.

3. Harry Chapin - 'Cats in the Cradle'

This song tells of a father and son who can’t schedule time to be with each other, and it serves as a warning against putting one’s career before family. Its lyrics began as a poem written by Harry’s wife, Sandra Gaston.

It was inspired by the awkward relationship between her first husband, James Cashmore, and his father, a politician. Harry also said the song was about his own relationship with his son, Josh, admitting, “Frankly, this song scares me to death.”

4. Mike and the Mechanics - 'The Living Years'

Read more: The Story of... 'The Living Years'

This emotional song is written from the perspective of a son who has a conflicted relationship with his dad. After his father dies, he discovers that he and his dad had a much stronger connection than he realized, and he regrets not saying more while he was still alive.

The song was written by Mike Rutherford and BA Robertson after both of their fathers recently died, but the lyrics were written by Robertson, and centred on the unresolved issues between him and his father.

5. John Mayer - 'Daughters'

This song an message to fathers (and to a lesser extent mothers) to nurture their daughters in their childhood, as their connection will affect their future relationships with men as adults. He uses his own troubled lover as an example.

Mayer has given various stories about the inspiration for the song, ranging from MTVs Real World to an unnamed ex-girlfriend.

6. Robbie Williams - 'Go Gentle'

Robbie has said that this song is a promise to his daughter Teddy. He said: "It was written when she first arrived on the planet and I'd been a selfish popstar for most of my life and then all of a sudden I've been asked to take care of this whole person.

"I still am scared that I'm not up to the task! I'm doing a good job of being dad but it's scary, you have to look after this person for the whole of their life, I'm not very good at even looking after me!"

7. Paul Simon - 'Father and Daughter'

This track expresses the singer's hopes and wishes for his daughter. Paul Simon wrote it as a tribute to his daughter, Lulu, who was seven at the time. His son, Adrian, sings harmony on the song's choruses, when he was just 10. He heard his son singing along to it while driving, and encouraged him to appear.

It was written for the animated film The Wild Thornberrys Movie in 2002.

8. Billy Joel - 'Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)'

This song was inspired by Alexa Ray Joel, Billy's daughter with Christie Brinkley.

In 2004, Billy wrote a children's book entitled Goodnight, My Angel (A Lullaby), a picture book based on the song. "Reassuring children that they are not alone or could be abandoned is very important for their well-being," he said.

9. Tori Amos - 'Winter'

This is about Tori's relationship with her father and failed dreams. She said: “Roads that you thought you would go down and haven’t experienced, and all these potential experiences are gone now. Those doors are closed”.

In 2012, she collaborated with John Philip Shenale and the Metropole Orchestra to re-record several of her past tracks in an orchestral setting for her Gold Dust album. 

10. Lonestar - 'I'm Already There'

This country song is from the perspective of a man who is on the road, explaining how his family is responding to his absence. He also says how much he loves his family, and how much they mean to him.

He then says that he will always be there for them in spirit, even though he may be separated from them. The song became associated with the September 11 attacks, along with family members leaving with the army.

11. Eric Clapton - 'My Father's Eyes'

Taken from his 1998 album Pilgrim, this song is inspired by how Clapton never met his father, who died in 1985.

Describing how he wishes he knew his dad, it also refers to his son Conor. "In it I tried to describe the parallel between looking in the eyes of my son, and the eyes of the father that I never met, through the chain of our blood", he later said in his autobiography.

12. Phil Collins - 'Father to Son'

From his huge album ...But Seriously, this song sees Phil explore his connection with his own son, Simon.

The inspirational tune shows Phil hoping to guide his son through some of the trials of life and love, reassuring him that, "if you look behind you, I will be there".

13. Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole - 'Unforgettable'

Not necessarily a song about dads, but a beautiful moment between a real-life father and daughter.

40 years after first recording it, Nat King Cole's daughter Natalie recorded an album of songs made famous by her late father, having previously declined to do so. On the album included this ‘duet’, in which her vocals were placed on top of her father’s famous recording. She later did the same ‘When I Fall in Love’ on her album Stardust.