From “Chicken Fried” to “Toes” to “Knee Deep” and on and on, Zac Brown Band have celebrated the sunny side of life — as in beach-and-babes sunny. Fewer in number but greater in emotional impact, however, are Brown’s songs about the comforts and obligations of family.
Today (July 31), as Brown’s biological odometer rolls over to 41 and as beach life becomes as much a hazard as a haven for aging bodies, it seems a good time to look back at four of Brown’s more domestic-oriented songs and music videos.
“Highway 20 Ride” is heartbreakingly lonely. In it, a father separated by divorce from the son he loves faces the bleakness of a long drive every other week to see — and then to leave — the boy. Will the son misconstrue these too short and too infrequent visits, the father wonders, as lack of love? “… A part of you might hate me/but son please don’t mistake me/for a man that doesn’t care at all.”
Strictly speaking, the lyrics to “Sweet Annie” aren’t about family. But the singer clearly yearns for one — for a retreat from a minstrel’s life on the road. “Pretty girls and late night bars seem to be my line of work/Believe me when I say I can’t stay this high forever/This man’s had all he can stand, time to lay this body down.” And the music video, which was shot in and around the actual wedding of ZBB member Coy Bowles, is replete with warm family images.
“I’ll Be Your Man (Song for a Daughter)” is tenderly strong and fiercely protective in tone, as opposed to beaten down feeling in “Highway 20 Ride.” Dream, dance, play, take chances, the doting father advises his little girl, “until then I’ll be your man.” The official music video is an eight-plus minute mini-epic that traces the daughter from childhood to adolescence to loss of innocence to exposure to the perils of the world, but always with a vigilant father at hand.
Then there’s “My Old Man,” a scrapbook of paternal affection, that brings to mind such country classics as Jimmie Rodgers’ “Daddy and Home” and Gene Autry’s “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine.” The dad here is recalled as a “giant” and a “lion,” a pattern for what fatherhood should be about. It ends with the wish that the singer’s son will similarly adore and appreciate his “old man.”
In the end, it’s all in the family.