Becoming a father doesn’t necessarily take a lot of talent. But being a good dad – well, that is a tough undertaking. And just when Pop gets it figured out, the kid gets a little older and treats him differently. Or another one comes along and changes up the family dynamics.
Parenthood is actually a rich vein for songwriters to tap, and with Father’s Day upon us, it’s a perfect time to run through some of the best songs that deal with the old man. Some of your favorites might be missing. You could argue, for example, that the Mac Davis song “Watching Scotty Grow” belongs here or that “I Saw God Today” is a better fatherly entry from George Strait than “The Breath You Take.” But hey, that’s what lists are for: starting up a conversation. If you don’t see your favorite on here, let us know what’s missing!
In no particular order, here are 20 country songs for dads everywhere:
“Love Without End, Amen,” George Strait (1990) – The father/son relationship is often used by the church to explain God. George makes those allusions here, portraying Dad – and the guy upstairs – as someone who’s strict, loving and ultimately forgiving.
“That’s My Job,” Conway Twitty (1987) – Dad as protector, Dad as financier, Dad as inspiration from the grave. It sounds heavy, and it is. Beautifully so, with Vince Gill on supporting vocals.
“Drive (For Daddy Gene),” Alan Jackson (2002) – If your dad spent a lot of time under the hood of the car in the driveway, then Alan likely hit the nail on the head for you. There are plenty of car and boat parts in the song, but they’re just a vehicle to show how Dad steered you right.
“Seein’ My Father In Me,” Paul Overstreet (1990) – “I notice I walk the way he walks / I notice I talk the way he talks.” Get used to it, guys. Unless you work really hard at it, you’re going to be more like dear old dad than you ever expected.
“Daddy What If,” Bobby Bare (1973) – There’s something distinctly schmaltzy about this quasi-lullaby that Bobby recorded with his son, Bobby Bare Jr., who was all of seven years old when it was released. That schmaltzy quality, coupled with the obvious affection between Sr. and Jr., is exactly why it works.
“Thank God For Kids,” The Oak Ridge Boys (1982) – Cartoons, endless questions and a lot of responsibility. William Lee Golden embraced what children add to the house as he assumed the role of dad in this Eddy Raven-penned song. He’s been known to put a little granddad spin on it when the Oaks do it live.
“My Front Porch Lookin’ In,” Lonestar (2003) – Still the only country hit ever to reference a sippy cup. Believe it or not, there were plenty of non-parents who had to ask around when the song came out to find out what the heck that was.
“The Breath You Take,” George Strait (2010) – Harry Chapin’s 1970s pop classic “Cat’s In The Cradle” poignantly told the story of a businessman who took his kids for granted until it was too late. This ballad is exactly the opposite: Dad gets it, and he goes out of his way to be there at the most important moments in his son’s life.
“Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy),” Rodney Atkins (2007) – If every father was as imposing as the dad in this song, teen girls would likely get a lot fewer dates. Yes, he’s good-natured. No, you don’t wanna find out if he’d really pull the trigger.
“Watching You,” Rodney Atkins (2006) – Probably the two biggest fears about being a parent: 1) Can you afford the little bugger? 2) As Rodney notes in this song, you actually become a role model to the kids. Is anyone really qualified for that job?
“My Little Girl,” Tim McGraw (2006) – Most dads are suckers for their daughters. And Tim’s got three of ‘em. Wonder where he possibly found the inspiration for this sentimental song…
“You’re Gonna Miss This,” Trace Adkins (2007) – The lyrics vacillate between mom and dad viewpoints, but with Trace’s big, booming voice, it clearly has a fatherly tone. It’s a great song, but the words are probably wasted on those who need them most. By the time many people figure out Dad was right, they’ve already lost the period in life they should have savored.
“Family Man,” Craig Campbell (2010) – Funny how kids all want to grow up, only to find adulthood is harder than it looks. Craig puts it in perspective as a dad doing manual labor for crappy pay, stretching every dollar. What motivates anyone to live that kind of life? “It’s family, man.” And he sings like he means it.
“Daddy’s Hands,” Holly Dunn (1986) – Holly got a Grammy nomination for writing a song that shows reverence for Daddy’s hands. They delivered love and the family’s daily bread, though the chorus deftly acknowledges they delivered disciplinary swats on the backside, too. Here’s a version we found on YouTube with Holly singing the song with Dolly Parton. Beautiful harmonies!
“Anything Like Me,” Brad Paisley (2010) – “I hope when you grow up, you have a son just like you, so you know what it’s like!” It’s a good bet Brad’s mom said that once or twice when he was a kid. And, with “Anything Like Me,” he ends up sentimental about the prospect.
“He Didn’t Have To Be,” Brad Paisley (1999) – Dads don’t have to be biological. As much of a stigma as it seems to have for some kids, an adopted dad actually chooses his children. That’s pretty special. And so is this song. Crying isn’t required, but it is encouraged.
“The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” Reba McEntire (1992) – There’s a whole generation of dads who were raised to believe they shouldn’t tell their kids they love them. A lot of them came to realize they were missing out. Some left their children to read between the lines.
“One Wing In The Fire,” Trent Tomlinson (2006) – If you want to become a full-blown, card-carrying adult, one of the crucial moments comes when you’re finally able to forgive your parents for being less than perfect. “One Wing” is a distinct attempt to do that with a father who was particularly taxing.
“A Boy Named Sue,” Johnny Cash (1969) – You know how Montgomery Gentry “came to blows with my old man” in “My Town”? Cash gives a detailed description of an even bigger father/son fight that involves a gun and a knife – all wrapped up with a wink in the end.