28 Emotionally-Stirring Songs about Sons

When musicians and songwriters have children, their world opens up to even more inspiration and experience that serves their songwriting.

Many artists, from rockers like Cat Stevens and Eric Clapton to country crooners like Rodney Atkins and George Strait, have included songs about their special bond with their sons in their repertoire. Focusing on the highs and lows that can come with childrearing, check out this emotionally-stirring list of songs about sons.

Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin

’70s rocker Harry Chapin once admitted his song ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ terrified him. It began as a poem his wife wrote, but once Chapin began transforming it into a song, it symbolized his strained relationship with his son. The hit single uses imagery like “cat’s in the cradle,” “silver spoon,” and “little boy blue” to evoke nostalgic childhood memories and feelings.

Related: This song features on our list of songs about a cat.

Father & Son – Yusuf / Cat Stevens

Yusuf Islam, known by his stage name Cat Stevens, first wrote ‘Father & Son’ in the late ’60s for a movie project about the Russian Revolution. The song centered around a rocky father/son relationship, with the father wanting to shield his son from the world and the son wanting to go make a new life for himself. Shortly after the song’s release in 1970, Stevens contracted tuberculosis, so the movie project was shelved.

Related: Listen to more sentimental family songs.

Just the Two of Us – Will Smith

Rapper and actor Will Smith sampled Bill Withers’ hit ‘Just the Two of Us’ for his 1997 single release by the same name. Though Withers’ 1981 ‘Just the Two of Us’ focuses on a romantic relationship, Will Smith changed up the lyrics to focus on a father’s relationship with his son. Smith had his own son Jaden in mind during production. Jaden followed in his father’s footsteps and is now a budding actor and rapper.

Related: Hear Bill Withers’ song on our playlist of yacht rock songs.

Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton

Listed by many music publications as one of the saddest songs of all time, Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ was written under heartbreaking circumstances. After Clapton’s young son died tragically by accidentally falling out of a New York high-rise apartment window, Eric went into a period of isolation due to grief. When he was commissioned to write a song for the ’91 film Rush, he penned ‘Tears in Heaven’ for his son, who was featured in the movie.

Related: Put the best songs about challenges to the test.

Kooks – David Bowie

Indie Brit group The Kooks named their band after this Bowie tune. Written in the early ’70s for his young son Duncan, it is heavily influenced by Neil Young, who Bowie was listening to a lot at the time. He was even playing a Young record when he got word his son had just been born. The track has some serious staying power. Select lines from the song were used in the 2015 novel The First Bad Man by Miranda July.

Rockabye – Clean Bandit

The songwriter, Grace Chatto of the music group Clean Bandit, penned the highly danceable’ Rockabye.’ While working on the lyrics, she had her son in mind, which ended up being a stirring tribute to single moms. The song’s overall message highlights a woman’s drive to do anything for her children’s well-being. Sean Paul appeared as a guest on the track but had his misgivings about its potential. He was pleasantly surprised when the tune turned into a hit.

To Zion – Lauryn Hill

Written for her firstborn son Zion who now has a child of his own, Lauryn Hill tackled the beauty of surprises with ‘To Zion’ when she penned it in 1997. She had Zion while dating Bob Marley’s son Rohan Marley. The relationship ended up not working out, and she used the song to solidify her commitment to motherhood, letting listeners know she intended to do it in her own unique way.

Related: Expecting a baby? Here are some songs about being pregnant.

Daddy – Coldplay

Frontman Chris Martin’s ‘Daddy’ was inspired by many different experiences. While he knew many people with absentee fathers growing up, he also struggled with having to leave his kids to go on tour once he became a father. He also had the high incarceration rate of minority men in the US in mind while penning the tune. The song’s overall message comprises a child wishing they had a father to play with like the rest of their friends.

Related: Here are the best abandonment songs.

The One Thing – Shakira

Featured on her 2014 self-titled album, Colombia-born artist Shakira sings about her destiny for her song ‘The One Thing.’ While penning the tune, she felt her newborn son Milan and then-boyfriend (soccer player Gerald Pique) were her destiny. By writing the tune, she felt she was telling the world she had finally found her true purpose in life.

Related: Check out the best destiny songs.

Watching You – Rodney Atkins

Country songwriter Rodney Atkins had his breakout hit in 2006 with his single ‘If You’re Going Through Hell.’ Just four years old at the time, his son Elijah got into trouble at school for singing the song’s chorus. After chatting with his teacher and laughing about it with his fellow songwriting buddies, ‘Watching You’ was born. The tune is about his close relationship with his son, who watches everything he does.

You – Selah Sue

“Come a little closer. Holding on to you will save my day.” This simple tune packs a powerful punch for Belgian pop songwriter Selah Sue. Written with her children in mind, the cover art for the single ‘You’ features her smiling and strumming a guitar as one of her sons plays with the strings.

Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky) – Radiohead

“You could grow up to be president but know right from wrong.” This is one of the most popular lines from Radiohead’s song ‘Sail to the Moon.’ Frontman Thom Yorke wrote it for his son, and the band performed it for about a year before releasing it on their 2003 album Hail to the Chief. The alternate title for the track was ‘Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky.’

I Got You – Ciara

This acoustic song opens up with a lullaby Ciara wrote for her song Zahid before he was born. The recording process for ‘I Got You’ was emotional for her as production included personal moments like her laughing with her son over the music on the track. The song follows Zahid’s journey into the world, from when Ciara tells her parents to the day he’s born.

Related: Listen to these thoughtful songs for daughter from mom.

Letter to My Son (Call Your Father) – DMX

Rapper DMX explores his complicated relationship with his oldest son Xavier with ‘Letter to My Son.’ The track features intimate acoustic instruments like piano and violin as DMX raps about the estranged relationship. In 2013, a poignant reunion between the two was featured on the show Fix My Life, in which Xavier admitted he still deals with personal issues stemming from how DMX treated Xavier’s mom.

Love Without End, Amen – George Strait

“Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then. It’s a love without end, amen.” Aaron Barker, the songwriter behind George Strait’s hit song, wrote this sentimental tune about his own relationship with his son. Barker had his first child when he was just 17, which meant he had to grow up too while raising a child. During his kid’s rebellious teenage years, he had to figure out the balance between fatherly discipline and unconditional love. That’s when he wrote ‘Love Without End, Amen.’

He Gets That From Me – Reba McEntire

A family’s faith and the untimely passing of a father are themes explored in Reba McEntire’s ‘He Gets That From Me.’ Reba is known for shedding light on heavier subjects with her music than most modern country stars. The song follows the story of a little boy and his close relationship with his mother. Their strength is tested when the patriarch of the family passes away. The boy turns to prayer for comfort while they learn how to move on.

Related: It’s tough to say goodbye. Here are the best sad songs about losing someone.

Anything Like Me – Brad Paisley

Included on country performer Brad Paisley’s album American Saturday Night, Paisley was inspired to write the tune after reflecting back on his days as a young boy. When he began writing the first few lyrics for ‘Anything Like Me,’ he had his two sons in mind, Huck and Jasper. The nostalgic tune includes both Paisley’s hopes and fears his sons will turn out like him.

Related: Head over to our list of the best looking back songs.

A New Day Has Come – Celine Dion

In 2000, Canadian vocalist Celine Dion stepped out of the limelight for a couple of years to focus on giving birth to her son and tend to her family. In 2002, she returned to the studio and released the album A New Day Has Come, with a leading single by the same name. The inspirational song reminded Dion of her son, and she recorded it as a tribute. The track was originally written by Canadian musicians Aldo Nova and Stephan Moccio.

Related: Get a fresh start with these songs about rebirth.

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Beatles co-frontman John Lennon and Yoko Ono had one child together, Sean. Their tune ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ is dedicated to him. The song opens with Lennon trying to comfort the child after a bad dream. As the song and lyrics continue, the listener is transported to a beautiful world where Lennon surrounds his son with love and tells him what a joy he is to both he and Yoko.

Related: It’s good to be young! Listen to the best songs about being a kid.

My Little Love – Adele

“My little love, I see your eyes widen like the ocean.” Brit pop star Adele and her former husband, entrepreneur Simon Konecki, share a child together, Angelo. When she released her album 30, she included the deeply personal song ‘My Little Love’ in the track listing. The song focuses on Adele’s divorce from Konecki. The song even contains pre-recorded snippets of private conversations between her and her son when she told him she and his father were leaving each other.

Speechless – Alicia Keys

Rapper and R&B artist Eve provided additional vocals to Alicia Keys’ 2010 impromptu song ‘Speechless.’ After the birth of her first boy Egypt, Keys was inspired to write a song and dedicate it to him. The song featured a softer side of the female artists and first dropped only to Keys’ fan club before being released to the public, where it charted in the top 100 of the US Hot R&B Songs chart.

My Boy – Elvie Shane

“He ain’t my blood. Ain’t got my name. But if he did, I’d feel the same.” Country singer Elvie Shane sings about what it’s like adopting a son as your own with his breakout hit song ‘My Boy.’ The touching song is based on a true story. When Shane was only 25 years old, he met his future wife, Mandy, who already had a son. His song chronicles the genesis of his relationship with her son and his becoming a stepfather to him.

You Will Always Be My Son – Anthem Lights

“I’m watching my world rise and fall with every single breath.” Appearing on their 2017 album Anthem Lights, frontman Caleb Grimm penned a sweet song to his baby boy, ‘You Will Always Be My Son.’ Beginning with his son as a baby falling asleep on Grimm’s chest, he continues the song by imagining what it will be like to raise him and ultimately experience all the emotions that come with him leaving home as an adult.

Related: Slow down and enjoy these songs about the future and growing up.

Lullaby for Wyatt – Sheryl Crow

In 2007 rocker Sheryl Crow adopted a baby boy she named Wyatt. At only four months old, she took him on the road with her. While touring, she wrote a soft ballad for him, ‘Lullaby for Wyatt.’ Though it’s a beautiful tribute to him, she mentioned that it didn’t end up being what she put on to soothe him when he was fussy. He always wanted the louder, rock n’ roll music to fall asleep to.

My Wish – Rascal Flatts

Nashville songwriter Jeffrey Steele wrote ‘My Wish’ for his teenage daughter, who was about to graduate from high school. After she jokingly told him he had never written a song for her even though he writes them for her sisters, he made sure to remedy that during his songwriting session with Rascal Flatts’ Steve Robson. When they were done with their session, ‘My Wish’ was ready to record for the band’s 2006 album Me and My Gang.

You’ll Be in My Heart – Phil Collins

A song about always remaining spiritually connected even if it’s impossible to see one another physically, songwriter and hit maker Phil Collins wrote ‘You’ll Be in My Heart’ for Disney’s 1999 movie Tarzan. Tarzan finds comfort in a gorilla who is looking after him while the song plays. The song and scene represent a nod to the mother/son bond.

Related: Sing along with more Disney songs.

Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) – Billy Joel

After trying to find the words to answer his young daughter’s loaded question, “Where do we go when we die?” Billy Joel wrote the lyrics for his song ‘Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel).’ After he and his daughter’s mother, Christie Brinkley, got divorced, he viewed the song as a way for him and his daughter to stay connected even when they were apart.

Related: Find this song on our list of great funeral songs.

I’ll Stand By You – The Pretenders

Released in 1994, when Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde sat down to write ‘I’ll Stand By You,’ she was searching for a hit. A song about caring for someone close to you who is sick, the song shot up the charts in both the US and the UK, becoming one of the band’s most popular tracks. Hynde once admitted she was embarrassed about purposefully writing a hit song, but after Oasis’ Noel Gallagher told her he “wished he’d wrote it,” she was relieved.

Related: Here are some of the best songs about sisters.

More songs about sons:

  • Father Son Blues – Booker T
  • You Had to Be There – Tim McGraw
  • Child of Mine – Carole King
  • Handprints on the Wall – Kenny Rogers
  • Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons
  • Monsters – James Blunt
  • The Prodigal Son – Rolling Stones
  • Father, Son – Peter Gabriel
  • Tough Little Boys – Gary Allan
  • Blessed – Elton John

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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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