Good Dad, Bad Dad: 4 Memorable Songs About Fatherhood in Honor of Father’s Dad

This Sunday, June 16, is Father’s Day. The holiday celebrates dads, paternal bonds, and the influence male parents contribute to our society and culture.

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Many great songs have been written about fatherhood and the connection between dads and their children. Some of these tunes offer a sentimental and emotional look at the love shared between a father and his kids. Others examine the less-than-perfect relationships certain dads have had with their sons and/or daughters.

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In honor of Father’s Day, here are four noteworthy songs about different aspects of fatherhood. Two depict good dads, and two tell stories about bad or neglectful dads:

Good Dad: “Beautiful Boy” – John Lennon (1980)

“Beautiful Boy” was a song John Lennon wrote about his son Sean, whose mother is John’s second wife, Yoko Ono. The tune appeared on Double Fantasy, the collaborative 1980 album he recorded with Ono. The record was released shortly before Lennon was shot to death by a deranged fan.

The serene features Lennon expressing his deep love for his son. It also finds him embracing his role as a father, something he hadn’t done with his first son, Julian.

“Close your eyes, have no fear,” the former Beatles star sings in the first verse. “The monster’s gone, he’s on the run and your daddy’s here. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.”

Bad Dad: “Cat’s in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin (1974)

“Cat’s in the Cradle” was late singer/songwriter Harry Chapin’s best-known song and biggest hit, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December of 1974. The song is based on a poem written by Chapin’s wife, Sandra, who is credited with co-writing the tune.

“Cat’s in the Cradle” tells the sad story of a father who is too focused on his job to spend time with his son. Later in the song, as the son is growing up and then when he’s an adult, he doesn’t have time for his dad.

In the last verse, the father, who is now retired, calls up his son and tells him he’d like to see him, but son is too busy with his job and raising his own kids.

At the end of the tune, Chapin as the father sings, “As I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.”

Good Dad: “My Old Man” – Steve Goodman (1977)

“My Old Man” is true tearjerker, perhaps one of the most poignant tunes ever written by a son who is missing his late father. Singer/songwriter Steve Goodman wrote it for his dad, Bud, who died of a heart attack at age 58.

“My Old Man” first appeared on Goodman’s 1977 album, Say It in Private. In the tune, he fondly recalls his father’s “corny jokes and his cheap cigars,” then declares, “He could look you in the eye and sell you a car.”

Goodman goes on sing of his dad, “No one ever knew a more charming creature on this earth.” The lyrics also touch on his father’s experiences in World War II, the fights Steve and his brother would have with him, and how he regretted that he tuned out what his dad would say to him.

At the song ends, Goodman sings, “For the first time since he died, late last night I cried / I wondered when I was gonna do that, for my old man.”

Sadly, Goodman, a father of three, died of leukemia at age 36.

Bad Dad: “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” – The Temptations (1972)

“Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” was one of the many classic soul hits by the legendary Motown quintet The Temptations. The song was composed by the Motown songwriting team of Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 in December of 1972.

The song tells the story of a deadbeat dad who died young, leaving behind several kids who never knew him.

The tune features the various Temptations members taking on the roles of different children of the titular father, asking their mother about rumors they’d heard about their late absentee dad.

Among the “bad things” the kids tell their mother they’d heard about their father was that he was a thief, a womanizer, an alcoholic, and a polygamist.

The song’s chorus features the words that the kids’ mother says in response: “Papa was a rollin’ stone. Wherever he laid his hat was his home. And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

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