28 Emotional Songs about Dads That Cover the Highs and Lows

From the wisdom fathers pass down to their children to the strength they instill in future generations, musicians have long paid tribute to their fathers’ role throughout their lives in the songs they write.

From pop stars and rock n’ rollers to country crooners, musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Keith Urban have penned touching dedications to their fathers, especially after becoming fathers themselves.

For a story-filled compilation of songs about dads, check out these picks below.

My Father’s Eyes – Eric Clapton

Blues guitarist Eric Clapton brings full circle the pain he experienced having an absent father while growing up with the striking realization he sees his father’s eyes in his own son Connor when he’s born. ‘My Father’s Eyes’ was written while Clapton visited the remote island of Antigua after Connor tragically died from falling out of a window in a New York high rise when he was just four years old.

Related: This song features on our playlist of songs about parents.

Dance with My Father – Luther Vandross

One of the last songs Luther Vandross recorded, ‘Dance with My Father’ focuses on the singer’s earliest memories which center around his father dancing with him and his siblings around the house. Shortly before writing the nostalgic tune, Vandross had a life-altering stroke, and with the help of fellow musician Richard Marx, he could complete it.

Related: Find peace with our songs about grief playlist.

My Father’s House – Bruce Springsteen

Growing up, Bruce Springsteen was very close with his mother but didn’t have the same relationship with his father. While his song ‘The Wish’ expresses his gratitude for his mother’s dedication to their family, Springsteen’s song ‘My Father’s House’ explores his strained relationship with his dad. This tune appears on his solo album, Nebraska.

The Living Years – Mike + The Mechanics

“I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s newborn tears.” Band leader Mike Rutherford explores his strained relationship with his own father in Mike + The Mechanics’ ‘The Living Years.’ Throughout his life, his relationship with his dad became more and more distant. However, after his son was born, he realized that even though he wasn’t close with his father, he still significantly impacted his worldview.

Related: Have some regrets? Here are some songs about learning from mistakes.

Father and Son – Cat Stevens

A classic story between a rebellious teenage son and an old-school, traditional father plays out in Cat Stevens’ ‘Father and Son.’ The song evokes tension as the son is trying to leave to find a bigger purpose in life that’s more than just settling down and getting married. Though it’s autobiographical in nature, Stevens previously said in interviews there were no lasting hard feelings between him and his dad.

Related: Check out our list of songs dedicated to sons.

Winter – Tori Amos

This striking piano ballad offers a personal look into Tori Amos’s private conversations with her father, from when she was a young girl to when she reached her adult years. After chatting while visiting her family farm, her father made her realize her lack of confidence came from a lack of acceptance of herself rather than from other people’s criticisms. This kicked off the inspiration for ‘Winter.’

Related: Get cozy and enjoy the best cold weather songs.

Song for Dad – Keith Urban

Country crooner Keith Urban’s soulful track ‘Song for Dad’ took on even more meaning several years after he wrote it when he lost his father and father-in-law within a year of each other. A story about gaining a deeper appreciation of your father after becoming one yourself, the tune comforted both him and his wife, Nicole Kidman, during their grieving process.

Related: Here are some more uplifting funeral songs.

Papa Was a Rolling Stone – The Temptations

Penned by the iconic Motown songwriting duo of Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, this Temptations hit tells the story of a father with a wandering eye who can’t be tied down even though he’s got a family at home he should be looking after. After its release in 1972, ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’ reached the number one spot on the US charts.

The Best Day – George Strait

“I’m the luckiest man alive. This is the best day of my life.” This coming-of-age story is told from a father’s perspective as he looks back on his now-adult son’s life. The first verses deal with their camping trips and fishing excursions before moving on to his son’s teenage years. As the tune comes full circle, the father is standing at his son’s wedding as his son realizes he’ll pass on everything his father taught him to a future child of his own.

Related: Thinking about your kids getting older? Enjoy this music about growing up.

JCB Song – Nizlopi

Frontman Luke Concannon wrote ‘JCB Song’ in honor of his entrepreneurial father, who owned a construction company while Concannon was growing up. The musician has fond memories of helping his dad build roads and titled the song after the name of his family’s business.

Related: Get back to work with our working songs playlist.

Father to Son – Queen

Though many songwriters take on an acoustic ballad approach while writing about the complicated nature of father-son relationships, staying true to Queen’s rebellious nature, they turn up the volume knob for their prog-rock track ‘Father to Son.’ While Freddie covers a multi-octave range with this conversational piece, guitarist Brian May adds many heavy-electronic layers before softening the tone with an intimate piano solo.

Monsters – James Blunt

“I’m not your son. You’re not my father. We’re just two grown men saying goodbye.” Songwriter James Blunt wrote this tender song for his dad, who was suffering from kidney disease. Blunt’s father was a career military man, and the lyrics focus on how parents become more human as a child grows up.

Related: Our monster songs list isn’t too scary!

He Didn’t Have to Be – Brad Paisley

A breakout hit for Brad Paisley early on in his career, ‘He Didn’t Have to Be’ tells the story of a single mom who falls in love with a new man. Her new beau and her young son quickly hit it off, and he ultimately becomes the child’s stepfather. Paisley wrote the tune with fellow songwriter Kelley Lovelace, who based much of it on real-life events.

I Learned From You – Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus

Country star Billy Ray Cyrus and daughter Miley team up for the innocent number ‘I Learned From You’ for their hit show Hannah Montana. The lyrics feature a young Miley passionately singing about all the life lessons she learned from her father, despite her occasional rebellious ways.

Daddy Could Swear, I Declare – Gladys Knight & the Pips

“…though he only stood about a five feet seven, my daddy was a heck of a man.” Several lighthearted moments are found in Gladys Knight & the Pips’ ‘Daddy Could Swear, I Declare.’ The playful track is a story-rich addition to tributes involving loving yet misunderstood fathers from a more traditional generation.

Like Father, Like Son – The Game

Written after the birth of his first child, Harlem, rapper The Game was inspired to pen a tune detailing the day his son came into this world with ‘Like Father, Like Son.’ The Game started working on the song after friend and fellow musician Kanye West gave him a beat he liked. In the song, The Game confesses he hopes his son turns out better than he did.

Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna

A girl in trouble begs for her father’s forgiveness with Madonna’s controversial hit ‘Papa Don’t Preach.’ Decades later, Ozzy Osbourne’s daughter Kelly would cover the tune with her father for the project, The Osbourne Family Album.

Related: Expecting a new bundle of joy? Here are the best songs about being pregnant.

I’m Already There – Lonestar

Co-written by Lonestar frontman Richie McDonald, this emotive single will have you searching for a box of tissues by the end. McDonald began working on it when he was feeling homesick while on tour after the birth of his child. The moral of the story finds a father telling his child though he isn’t there physically, his spirit will always be around them in beautiful forms like the “sunshine in your hair” and the “whisper in the wind.”

Father to Son – Phil Collins

“When you find your heart, you’d better run with it.” Phil Collins’ introspective song ‘Father to Son’ reads like an aging father’s letter to his young son. In the lyrics, he includes many words of wisdom, from how to deal with heartbreak to how to be strong in the face of adversity.

Color Him Father – The Winstons

A touching tribute to stepfathers released by R&B group The Winstons, the story follows a young boy thanking the man he now calls his father for stepping in when they needed him most. The lyrics portray a mother of seven whose grieving the loss of the patriarch of the family due to war. But the story has an uplifting ending because a special man comes along who sweeps her off her feet and cares for the children as his own.

Related: Lift your spirits with these uplifting songs.

Letter 2 My Unborn – Tupac Shakur

“In case I don’t make it, just remember Daddy loves you.” These prophetic lyrics are found towards the beginning of Tupac’s posthumous song ‘Letter 2 My Unborn.’ As he raps about his wild ways and the “curse” he must bear, he tells his future child he will always love them no matter what happens. The rapper was killed in September of 1996, and the moving song was released years later, in 2001.

They Don’t Make ’em Like My Daddy – Loretta Lynn

Country western trailblazer Loretta Lynn first paid homage to her father with her hit song ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter.’ She sings her father’s praises once again, saying, “they don’t make ’em like my daddy anymore.” The song takes the listener on a walk down memory lane as Lynn recalls the close bond she and her father have always shared since she was a child.

Related: You can hear ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ on our list of profession song titles.

I’m Her Daddy – Bill Withers

A mysterious story with a twist at the end, Bill Withers’ lesser-known tune, ‘I’m Her Daddy,’ is full of emotions. As listeners follow along with the lyrics, they realize Withers is addressing his long-lost daughter in the tale. It turns out that her mother (his ex) has kept her from him for many years.

Love Without End, Amen – George Strait

Nashville songwriter Aaron Barker penned this heartwarming classic country hit after becoming a young father himself. Barker had to raise himself as he was also raising a child, which made the parental lessons he learned that much more potent. He wrote ‘Love Without End, Amen’ after having to discipline his child and deal with the emotions of guilt that come along with it. It quickly became a number one hit when George Strait released the track.

Related: Listen to more classics on our old country songs list.

Daddy Lessons – Beyoncé

Pop star Beyoncé touches on her parents’ heartbreaking divorce with ‘Daddy Lessons.’ Though she mentions at the song’s beginning how many things her father taught her, from being strong to standing up for oneself, by the end, she alludes to his metaphorical death. They became estranged after Beyoncé found out he cheated on her mother multiple times.

Related: Here are the best divorce songs to help you through the hard days.

The Greatest Man I Never Knew – Reba McEntire

Many classic country songs contain life lessons, and Reba McEntire’s ‘The Greatest Man I Never Knew’ is one of those examples. The story follows a child whose father is always busy, so she doesn’t have a close relationship with him. Despite this, she is still filled with admiration for him because of his work ethic. The tear-jerker of a song did just that when LeAnn Rimes covered it at a performance. Reba could be seen in the crowd weeping.

Papa Don’t Take No Mess – James Brown

A tune encompassing male masculinity and bravado, soul pioneer James Brown grooves for over fourteen minutes and even takes a piano solo in the original cut of ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess.’ The braggadocious song was supposed to be included in the movie soundtrack for Hell Up in Harlem, but the director passed over Brown’s work. Brown included this track on his album Hell, a title he picked to let the director know no one was going to keep his music from being released.

Related: If you’ve got time to kill, listen to the best long songs.

Go Gentle – Robbie Williams

Singer Robbie Williams had spent decades before the birth of his child solely focusing on his career. After becoming a father, he realized he’d have to refocus his entire mindset to become a good parent. His tune ‘Go Gentle’ is a promise to his daughter he will do everything in his power to be there for her as she grows up.

More songs about dads:

  • Father Daughter Dance – Kesha
  • My Old Man – Zac Brown Band
  • Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) – John Lennon
  • Father and Daughter – Paul Simon
  • Daddy’s Little Girl – The Shires
  • Drive (For Daddy Gene) – Alan Jackson

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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