A 20-Song Father’s Day Mix About Dads of Every Kind

Rascals, Rogues, Role Models and One Mad Enough to Kill

Am I missing something, or have songs about daddy pretty much gone out of fashion? Look at the charts, listen to the radio and you’ll find very few current examples of this once pervasive genre.

Daddy apparently carried more emotional weight when he was around the house a lot, hoeing corn or washing off coal dust than he does commuting to a distant job that enables him to buy pickup trucks and cellphones for everybody else in the family.

But how long can we lyrically fixate on beach parties and babes in cut-offs? Let me rephrase that. Can’t we pause occasionally in our understandable fixation on beach parties and babes in cut-offs to give a nod to the old man? After all, he helped make us the raging successes we are.

Unlike moms, who are generally presented as admirable figures in country songs, dads are distributed almost equally between the “staying” and the “straying” kinds. The former are resolute sustainers of hearth, home and homilies, while the latter tend to be susceptible to “neon fever” and attendant pleasures of the flesh.

Be that as it may, permit me to recommend the 20 dad-centric songs listed below. They’re arranged in no particular order, but each has passed my “jukebox test,” which can be summarized thusly: If I were time-warped to a bar that had a jukebox, would I pay good money to listen to this song even though I can already hear it playing in my head?

Yes, I would. And here are those songs:

Ford Fairlane,” Bobby Pinson, 2005, written by Pinson and Kris Bergsnes)

This is pure poetry in which a battered old car serves as a vivid chronicle of a dad’s love for his son and vice versa. I’ll go out on a limb (where I have extensive real estate holdings) and say that Stephen Sondheim, that master jeweler of American lyricists, never wrote a more profound or moving song than this one. Alan Jackson’s “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” (2002) covers much the same territory but with a lighter touch.

The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” Reba McEntire (No. 3, 1992, written by Richard Leigh and Layng Martine Jr.)

The last lines say it all about this dutiful — but emotionally distant — father: “He was good at business/But there was business left to do/He never said he loved me/Guess he thought I knew.” Reba’s will always be the definitive version of this song, but give a listen to the inimitable Billy Dean’s interpretation, as well. It reveals its own set of wounds.

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