52 Songs Dads Love That Can Melt Any Heart
Happy Father’s Day. Love, BuzzFeed.
In honor of Father’s Day, I asked BuzzFeed writers to share a song that reminds them of their dads. Here are some of their memories.
1. Tracy Clayton: Sheena Easton, “A Dream Worth Keeping”
Courtesy of Tracy Clayton
I met my dad when I was very young, somewhere between 5 and 7 (I think). I was a shy kid and didn’t open up quickly, so things were very formal between us for a long time; the easy affection that flows from parent to child took time for us. Going to the movies was one of the things that seemed comfortable enough for us to do together — the dark hours made for relaxing time without pressure for much small talk. We went to see FernGully when it was in theaters in 1992, and he held my hand through the movie, and I think that’s the first time we’d ever held hands as father and daughter. He still remembers it, and when he mentions it in conversations I can feel him glowing through the phone.
Sheena Easton’s “A Dream Worth Keeping” was in the movie, and when I hear it, I think of my dad and that day.
2. Matt Kiebus: Bruce Springsteen, “Born To Run”
Courtesy of Matt Kiebus
The second concert I ever went to was a Bruce Springsteen show at Giants Stadium with my dad. I was probably a freshman or a sophomore in high school, and although I’m from New Jersey and Springsteen is my dad’s favorite musician I probably only knew the chorus to “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark” back then. At the time, my MP3 CD player (remember that shit?!) was playing mostly Jay Z, Nas, Eminem and 50 Cent — like any other suburban white kid that played basketball. Since I only vaguely knew the songs I simply absorbed the scene and watched my dad’s earnest excitement. I particularly remember during “Born to Run” when my dad giddily sang along to all the non-lyric parts of the song, like when Springsteen counts, grunts, or simply yells “oohhhhhh.” Since then I’ve gone to seven Springsteen shows (two or three of them with my dad) and I’ve become your atypical Springsteen-obsessed person from New Jersey — for which I’m forever grateful.
3. Chelsea Marshall: B.B. King, “Please Love Me”
Courtesy of Chelsea Marshall
Courtesy of Chelsea Marshall
When I was little I was OBSESSED with B.B. King, in large part because of my dad. We would listen to him on repeat whenever we’d drive somewhere. I don’t have a specific song because it was just all of his CDs in constant rotation. B.B. King was the first concert I remember going to and is still one of my favorite memories.
4. Krutika Mallikarjuna: Phil Collins, “You’ll Be In My Heart”
Courtesy of Krutika Mallikarjuna
While The Jungle Book is by far my father’s favorite Disney soundtrack (which he ranks by a very complex and intricate system know only to him), “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan is the one song that instantly reminds me of my Dad. It’s one of the few English songs he knows every single word to, and definitely the only English song that’s guaranteed to get him to burst into song (and if we’re super lucky, dance). It’s also led him to a lifelong Phil Collins addiction that frankly, suits him in all his charmingly cornball glory. Stay rad Dad.
5. Summer Anne Burton: Rilo Kiley, “With Arms Outstretched”
Courtesy of Summer Anne Burton
My dad always had rad taste in music — he introduced me to Liz Phair and Alanis Morrisette, and by the time I was in high school, I would run into him at shows, and for awhile he would say his favorite album was the Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. So it’s hard to pick just one song, but the one that I thought of first is Rilo Kiley’s “With Arms Outstretched.” I introduced my dad to the band, and it was so often the other way around that it was a pleasure that he actually LOVED their album The Execution Of All Things. We spent many afternoons talking about what a great songwriter Jenny Lewis was and debating about which were the best songs on the album. One day when we were talking about it he told me in seriousness that he would really like for “With Arms Outstretched” played at his funeral, and now I can never listen to that beautiful song without crying. “Some days they last longer than others.”
6. Anita Badejo: Funkadelic, “One Nation Under a Groove”
When I was little, my dad would often play Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove album in the car. I always loved staring at the cover sitting out on the console, mostly because the background was colorful and predominantly pink. He would begin listening to the cover song by bobbing his head in the way only he can and his intensity usually picked up quickly, when he would sing the lines, “This is a chance / this is a chance / to dance your way / out of your constrictions.” The artists he listened to — Funkadelic, Fela, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau — were always so full of energy. He’s not someone who dwells a lot — the opposite of my mom and I —a quality that has always manifested itself to me in his music.
7. Conz Preti: Frank Sinatra, “My Way”
Courtesy of Conz Preti
My dad taught me I can be anything I want to be if I stay true to myself and give it my all. Not for nothing the song that reminds me of him is “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. I remember him passionately singing in the house/car/anywhere it played. He always thought he could’ve been a singer; to his defense he has a great voice.
8. Julia Pugachevsky: Radiohead, Bjork, Depeche Mode
Courtesy of Julia Pugachevsky
My dad has waaaaay better taste in music than I do, and introduced me to Radiohead, Bjork, Depeche Mode, A-ha, The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Sinead O’Connor, and many more bands that people are always impressed that I like.
9. Julie Gerstein: The Beatles, “A Day In The Life”
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=P-Q9D4dcYng.
On my 13th birthday, my dad got me two CDs — one was the Eagles’ Greatest Hits, which is total dad rock. The other was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. He told me that “A Day In The Life” was one of the best songs ever recorded. It IS a great song, and one I’ve always associated with my dad.
10. Katie Heaney: Queen, “Seven Seas of Rhye”
Courtesy of Katie Heaney
I could really say that any song by Queen reminds me of my dad, but I’ll pick “Seven Seas of Rhye” because it’s not in the top few most known Queen songs, I think, but it’s one of my favorites, and that can only be thanks to him. He’d play his music in the house on weekend mornings while my brothers and I did chores, or in the car driving us somewhere. I always really liked riding in the car with him, especially on the rarer occasions it was just us two and I could ride in the passenger seat. There was this period of my young life (maybe ages 10-13) where I was a little girl wearing a backwards baseball cap and huge flannel shirts and listening pretty much exclusively to Queen and, like, Rush. All the girls my age were like, “Hanson!” and I thought I was soooo cool, because I thought my dad’s music was so cool.
11. Deena Shanker: Willie Nelson, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”
Courtesy of Deena Shanker
When we were on a family trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, we did some karaoke and my dad chose this song. He’s a big Willie Nelson fan in general, but I think this song hits a special chord with him, especially the chorus: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys / Don’t let ‘em pick guitars or drive them old trucks / Let ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such.” My dad is a veterinarian who sometimes pretends he’s a cowboy. His Jewish mother never would have let him be a cowboy.
12. Scott Bryan: Sheryl Crow/Alanis Morissette/Bruce Springsteen
Courtesy of Scott Byran
Every traffic jam has been accompanied with Sheryl Crow / Alanis Morissette / Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album. Just these three albums. Never a different one. For 10 years. Every car drive. For hours.
13. Emily Hennen: Manfred Mann, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”
My dad is a little bit older, so we grew up listening to bands like The Supremes and The Monkees. He used to drive us to school every morning and we’d listen to the Golden Oldies station on the radio. I will never hear “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann and not think of my dad; we’d always sing the chorus together. It’s still one of my favorite songs to this day.
14. Arianna Rebolini: LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”
Courtesy of Arianna Rebolini
My dad used to have a makeshift gym set up in our unfinished basement, and my older sister and I used to hang out down there when he would work out. Now it seems like it must have been super boring, but at the time — I was probably around 5, my sister 9 — it was like being invited to an exclusive club, and it was one of our favorite things to do. We’d bring chalk down and write on the cement walls while he was punching a heavy bag, and sometimes we’d get to try on the gloves and mess around. The whole thing made him seem kind of like a superhero. But he always had music playing too, and one of his favorites (oh god I hope I’m not embarrassing him) was “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. Now when that song comes on at a party in the middle of a ’90s hip-hop playlist, I always reflexively say something about how it reminds me of my dad, and everyone is confused.
15. Ashley Ford: The Temptations, “Silent Night”
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=D0mgk0KgI0Q.
“Silent Night” is the song that reminds me of my father.
He’s been in prison since I was 6 months old, but we’ve communicated through letters my entire life. I’ve seen him in person twice that I can remember, the first time being when I was 12. My uncle picked my brother and me up for a surprise Christmas visit to my dad. I’d been singing “Silent Night” to myself and my uncle said I had a pretty voice and I should sing that song to my dad when I saw him. So, in the visiting room, in front of all those strangers, I sang to my father. And he cried. It’s the only time we’ve heard music in the same space at the same time. Every Christmas I think of that moment. It gives me a lot of joy.
16. Rachel Zarrell: “Out Tonight” from Rent
Courtesy of Rachel Zarrell
This is a weird choice, I know. There are a lot of songs that remind me of my dad, especially Broadway songs, because our love for musical theater is our primary feature in common. My dad raised me on the Rent soundtrack after he and my family saw the original cast, so that I grew up knowing all the words but not the (often inappropriate for a 7-year-old) meanings behind them. When I got a little older, we went to see the show together like 10 times. This is his favorite song in the show, but only when sung by original cast member Daphne Rubin-Vega, who was the best at going, “Meow — HA” – naturally, his favorite part.
17. Julia Furlan: The Beatles, “All My Loving”
Courtesy of Julia Furlan
My dad would always sing to me that Beatles song “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you, remember I’ll always be true…”
The thing is, he always sings it with his Brazilian accent, and although he has a really beautiful voice, he can’t really carry a tune. When I think about my dad and about that song, I can’t help feeling nostalgia for the times he would take me home from soccer games and we would sneak to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal even though my mom disapproved. He’s the best dad in the entire universe.
He would also always sing the “Star Spangled Banner” with a slightly changed lyric that I didn’t understand until much later, but which I now realize is ACE-level word play: “Oh say can you see, oh say are you blind?”
18. Adrian Carrasquillo: Eddie Palmieri, “Vamonos pal Monte”
Courtesy of Adrian Carrasquillo
We lived on the third floor of a house in Queens, New York, and had family who lived on the first floor. We would have gatherings on the weekend and invite a bunch of people for barbecues on the terrace and the soundtrack would be my dad blasting and singing various salsa songs.
I actually called my dad to ask which songs he would sing.
“Eddie Palmieri, ‘Vamonos pal Monte,’ if I was in a salsa mood,” he said, cherishing the topic. “El Gran Combo, ‘Teléfono’ too.”
Then he sang it on the phone.
“Teléfono, suena, suena, suena.” Which means, “Telephone, rings, rings, rings.” Lol.
“Gran Combo is a staple, like steak and potatoes,” he said. “And Hector Lavoe. If you’re gonna have a salsa party you need El Gran Combo and Hector Lavoe.”
That’s my dad. Has lots of opinions but likes to have a good time. I’m going to be in Miami for work on his bday a couple days before Father’s Day, the first time I celebrate his bday with him in a few years and I’m happy about that.
19. Cates Holderness: Johnny Cash, “You Are My Sunshine”
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=JcnNb7Pnmok.
When I was a kid, when my dad tucked us into bed he’d always sing “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s such a simple, sweet song, and I can’t hear it without immediately thinking of my dad and getting a bit choked up.
20. Whitney Jefferson: The Velvet Underground, “Sunday Morning”
Courtesy of Whitney Jefferson
I was home on break from what was probably my freshman year of college listening to The Velvet Underground & Nico in the room I grew up when my dad knocked on the door. He paused after entering and asked, “Kids don’t still listen to this song and actually do heroin, do they?” I shook my head. He laughed and said, “Different times, then.” This simple exchange blew the lid off of my 19-year-old mind: Had my father’s taste in music actually been cool all along?! The answer was and still is yes.
From this point on I had a new hobby: making mix CDs for my father that were filled with all that indie rock had to offer in the early 2000s. It was the perfect Father’s Day, birthday, and Christmas present — and whenever I had an album I really enjoyed I’d burn him a copy. Our mutual respect for each other’s taste in music continues to grow. I mean, how many of your friends’ fathers have had “a spiritual experience” at a Jens Lekman concert in Brooklyn back in 2010? My point exactly.
21. Tasneem Nashrulla: Sudesh Bhonsle, “Jumma Chumma De De”
Courtesy of Tasneem Nashrulla
It’s the early ’90s and my dad had just bought a television with this cool new feature called Surround Sound. He was reallllly kicked about Surround Sound. We were watching the Bollywood movie Hum on our new TV when the song “Jumma Chumma” came on featuring Amitabh Bachchan and his gang pelvic-thrusting with mugs of beer-less foam. My dad yelled at me to turn on the Surround Sound. Late at night, in our very quiet neighborhood, “Jumma Chumma De De” (Give me a kiss on Friday) blasted from our TV as my dad ecstatically sang (shouted) along in his completely tuneless voice. He made me play the song four times on Surround Sound.
I will never forget the words to that song and I will never forget the sheer joy on my dad’s face as he sang it.
22. Mackenzie Kruvant: James Taylor, “Sweet Baby James”
Courtesy of Mackenzie Kruvant
There is no place in the world that my dad loves more than the Berkshires in Massachusetts. It also happens to be James Taylor’s favorite place as well. Every July 4 he plays a concert at the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and when he sings “Sweet Baby James” the whole crowd (filled with old school hippies) sings along with the line “Now the first of December was covered with snow and so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston.” It is one of my favorite moments of the year because the smile that creeps across my dad’s face is pure joy. I can’t hear the song without thinking of that excitement and how lucky I am to get to spend that moment with him every year.
23. Sarah Karlan: The Beatles, “Strawberry Fields”
Courtesy of Sarah Karlan
My dad is responsible for most of my music taste; he would constantly be playing me songs – anywhere from Janis Joplin to Ray Charles. When we were little he would put me down for naps by playing “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles. To this day, if I hear any Beatles song, but particularly that one, I always think of my dad and that happy calm space right before you fall asleep.
24. Krystie Yandoli: Jackson 5, “I Want You Back”
Courtesy of Krystie Yandoli
On long car rides when we were little, my dad played the same Motown hits over and over again and introduced me to the Jackson 5. “I Want You Back” is still one of my favorite songs of all time.
25. Kayla Yandoli: Darlene Love, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=vUCjOpcK_LE.
My dad watches Darlene Love perform it every year on David Letterman, and still plays it year round… it’s definitely become more than a Christmas song in my house. I took my dad to see Darlene Love at B.B. King’s this past December, and now I only associate this song and everything Darlene Love with my dad.
26. Justine Zwiebel: Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”
Courtesy of Justine Zwiebel
I always think of my dad when I hear “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones and can picture him singing it while doing his impression of Mick Jagger dancing. (Dads!) Also, when my sister and I were little and being brats about something he was known to break into a chorus of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” highly unamusing as a 5-year-old, but funny in retrospect.
27. David Bertozzi: The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
My dad’s taste in music is super refined. A typical Sunday morning for him is reading the Boston Globe, drinking coffee and listening to jazz or classical symphonies that I don’t understand. That being said, when he comes by a pop/rock song he loves, he never shuts up about it. He’s still (incorrectly) singing “I’ve Got A Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.
28. Raymond Sultan: R.E.M., “It’s the End Of The World”
Courtesy of Raymond Sultan
When I was in first grade – this would’ve been in 1988, I think – my family lived in Atlanta for the year. R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” must’ve been in heavy rotation at that point, because I have this very clear memory, formed over many Saturday mornings, of watching my dad shave while that song played through the little plastic radio he kept on the bathroom sink. I remember Michael Stipe’s voice and the smell of the shaving cream and the funny way my dad pulled down his upper lip to better get at his mustache; I remember the towel draped around his waist and the steam from the shower condensing on the mirror and lots of words I couldn’t follow. Sometimes now I play it when I shave too.
29. Erin Chack: Grateful Dead, “Casey Jones”
Courtesy of Erin Chack
Really any Grateful Dead song will make me think of my Dad, but “Casey Jones” is especially memorable for me because when I was a kid and I used to sing along with him, he never had the heart to tell me the lyric is “Drivin’ that train / high on cocaine” and not “high on propane” like I thought.
30. Kate Aurthur: Gladys Knight and The Pips, “Midnight Train to Georgia”
My father, who died when I was 9, was a huge jazz person. I have NOT inherited that. But outside of lots of hellish jazz, I have several clear memories of him singing “Midnight Train to Georgia” — but as one of the Pips, not the Gladys Knight part. There was an elaborate dance routine involved, which I now realize was very Pip faithful.
31. Alexis Nedd: The Police, “Man in a Suitcase”
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=UBJbTK2bIAE.
I remember being grumpy at a neighbor’s party one night when I was around 10, so my dad took me home early. I thought I would just have to go to bed while I waited for the rest of my family to come home but Dad let me stay up and listen to The Police albums with him. We were up for hours air-guitaring and jamming to songs like “Walking on the Moon” and “Man in a Suitcase.” I got to jump around on the couch and dance all over the place. I’m still really into The Police… and staying up late.
32. Tasmai Uppin: Kishore Kumar, “Zindagi Ek Safar”
Courtesy of Tasmai Uppin
My dad always played this song “Zindagi Ka Safar,” which is a Hindi song. It means this “Life is a Journey.” He’d always play it on road trips. This became my family’s travel anthem. It’s uplifting and is a very nostalgic tune.
33. Mariah Summers: The Rolling Stones, “Sweet Virginia”
Courtesy of Mariah Summers
The Rolling Stones are my favorite band by miles and miles; same goes for my dad, who, of course, got me into them. “Sweet Virginia” is his favorite song, and it’s off of Exile on Main St., our shared favorite album. He loves to tell me all the time about what the lyrics mean (got to scrape that shit right off your shoes = black tar heroin, etc.). My dad and I have spent many hours listening to, discussing, debating, and even playing (him on harmonica “blues harp” as he calls it, and me on piano) Rolling Stones songs, and in late 2012 we went to see them in concert, which remains one of my favorite memories with him. This photo is with my sister and him from a bar before the concert, and I will always love how much my dad taught me about music, and especially, the Rolling Stones.
34. Rachel Sanders: Willie Nelson, “Georgia On My Mind”
Courtesy of Rachel Sanders
Courtesy of Rachel Sanders
When I was little, my dad had an elaborate system for waking me and my brother up for school in the mornings; a multi-stage process involving lights, gentle nudging, and — most importantly — a rotating selection of soothing-but-also-you-have-to-get-up-now cassette tapes (including but not limited to Ella Fitzgerald, Willie Nelson, and Carole King). The song that sticks with me is Willie Nelson’s version of “Georgia on My Mind.” My dad would sometimes sing it to us, just because. I found this deeply embarrassing then (what kind of parent just BURSTS into SONG for NO REASON?) which, when I think about it now, was terrible of me. It’s a beautiful song, and he loved it, and he loved us.
35. Javier Moreno: Elton John, “Your Song”
Courtesy of Javier Moreno
When I was little, my dad had a phonograph and vinyls from when he was in college. He had a study in our house which shared a wall with my room. Every morning he would either play records or cassettes that I could hear through the wall. My favorite was Elton John’s second self-tilted album. My favorite track off that album was “Your Song.” It is still one of my favorite songs to this day. When it came time for me to take off to college I took the album with me, and the saga continued. No other song reminds me of my father more.
36. Jaimie Etkin: James Taylor, “Fire And Rain”
Courtesy of Jaimie Etkin
Though my dad would always let my sister and I listen to whatever we wanted to in his car growing up (and very patiently allowed us to play our Ace of Base CD single of “The Sign” on repeat during four-hour drives), I also loved listening to his Motown, James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Carole King CDs on occasion. Eventually, I fell in love with James Taylor and my dad I would listen to Sweet Baby James every time we were in the car together. “Fire and Rain” particularly reminds me of those drives and when I was in college, we went to a James Taylor concert together and both got a little choked up during that song. It will always make me think of him.
37. Sapna Maheshwari: Billy Joel, “For The Longest Time”
Courtesy of Sapna Maheshwari
Growing up, my parents — and in turn, my siblings and I — mostly listened to Hindi music in the house and in the car; I imagine it was a valuable piece of familiarity for them in the suburbs of Connecticut. (Both immigrated from India in their twenties.) But there were a handful of American CDs in our house that were alluring for their scarcity; oddly enough, they were more exotic to me than the music from India. My dad loved Billy Joel’s album An Innocent Man, in particular, and I vividly recall sitting on the floor by the stereo with him, listening to “Uptown Girl,” and his favorite — “For the Longest Time.” Billy Joel was an artist my friends at school recognized, and as I got older, a bit of pop culture that I was able to share with my dad, even though he grew up so many miles away from where I grew up.
38. Abe Greenwald: Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
Courtesy of Abe Greenwald
One song that reminds me of my dad is the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” When I was little and would whine to my parents about a new Transformer toy or something that I wanted, he would launch right into the chorus “You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes well you might find / You get what you need” which definitely annoyed me as a kid, but now that I’m an adult… I’m hard-pressed to think of any better advice for life than those lyrics. Thanks, Dad!
39. Alison Willmore: Simon & Garfunkel, “Homeward Bound”
Courtesy of Alison Willmore
Thanks to my dad, I know every Simon & Garfunkel song by heart. On quiet nights at home, he’d put on his records and we’d listen to “Sound of Silence,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Scarborough Fair,” and “The Boxer.” “Homeward Bound” I know best of all, and it’s the song I remember listening to the most, though now I’m not sure if it was my favorite at the time or his. At that age, I don’t think I made much of a distinction between the two.