Sunday, June 16, 2013

To Daddy: 10 Songs for Father's Day

You know who really deserves to get more love? Dads. They've been on my mind, and in my line of vision, a lot lately. The first of my recent father encounters was last week on the flight from Santiago to Sydney, sitting in a row with the cutest little baby girl, who was probably around 18 months old, her mom, and her dad, who spent the entire 14-hour flight doting on her.

Maybe it's partly my own paternal instincts kicking in (as they have been since a few years ago when I cradled a naked baby while auditioning for a role as his dad in an Argentine commercial), but there's nothing sexier than a man and a baby. I wondered if that's what the other patrons were thinking a few days later at Windsor Castle in Melbourne when I was holding a friend's months-old son, who might be the most serene baby I've ever met.

Two days later, on the Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Bangkok, sitting two rows behind yet another dad and his two beautiful children (one daughter who was around three and another who looked like she was only a few weeks into this life), I decided that come rain or shine, hell or high water, someone will call me "Daddy" one day. I just need to fall in love with a great future co-parent first!

All this, and not once did I even think about Father's Day until today. As annual holiday's go, it's right down there with Arbor's Day, never warranting as much attention or fuss as Mother's Day. I mean, who can ever forget Mother's Day? If I did, I'd probably never hear the end of it, but there's little chance of that happening with all of the attention that's showered on it. A guy once almost turned down a Saturday-night date invitation with me because the next day was Mother's Day, and he wanted to be well rested for Mom. Who would ever dream of doing that for Dad?

Well, in honor of Father's Day tomorrow and fathers past, present and future (like, hopefully, me), here's a long-overdue musical homage to the other side of parenthood. Note how many of them are negative, which puts them in the same lyrical boat as so many mom songs. I guess bad parenting inspires good music.

10 Great Songs For, About and by Fathers

"Papa Was a Rolling Stone" The Temptations The biggest and greatest father song of all time?

"My Father's Eyes" Eric Clapton Coming five years after Clapton made a major career comeback with "Tears in Heaven," which he wrote after the death of his son Conor, this probably has more in common with Neil Young's "Old Man," a father song that I never cared for much. Clapton's most recent Top 20 hit (it reached No. 16 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1998), it's probably the one song that reminds me most of my relationship with my own dad.

"I Believe" Robert Plant Another great song written by an iconic dad for his dead son (Karac, who died in 1977 at age 5 from a stomach infection) from Plant's fantastic 1993 opus Fate of Nations.

"Daddy's Home" Jermaine Jackson The first of Jermaine's two Top 10 pop hits. Yes, only two. Look who else is sorely underappreciated.

"Daddy I'm Fine" Sinead O'Connor Just in case he's wondering.

"Papa, Woncha Let Me Go to Town with You" Bobbie Gentry Has anyone heard from Bobbie Gentry lately? MIA since 1978 but crazily prolific in the late '60s and early '70s, Gentry, like Sinead O'Connor, is one of the most talented singer-songwriters best known for only one song (1967's No. 1 hit "Ode to Billie Joe," which appeared on the same album, Ode to Billie Joe, as "Papa" and had nothing to do with dads).

"To Daddy" Emmylou Harris A Dolly Parton composition that, as usual, paints mom as an angel and dad as chilly and remote.

"Oh Father" Madonna Not nearly as big as "Papa Don't Preach" (it only reached No. 20 on the Hot 100, which was considered a disappointment for Madonna at the time), but in its own quiet, understated way, just as good.

"Daddy's Song" Toni Childs The brutal side of fatherhood that nobody should have to experience, explored by one of the most talented and daring singer-songwriters of the last few decades, one who is even more woefully undervalued than fathers.

"Papa, Can You Hear Me?" Barbra Streisand From her unbelievable 1971 cover of John Lennon's "Mother" to this 1983 Yentl track to her surprisingly enjoyable 2011 big-screen comeback The Guilt Trip, which I saw on the aforementioned Santiago to Sydney flight, few people have had as much artistic luck with parenthood as mother-of one Streisand.

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