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Songs Dedicated to Dad

Updated on March 12, 2020
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Music touches my soul. When I am not singing, dancing or playing an instrument, I am writing articles about the songs that I hold dear.

Father and son bike riding together.
Father and son bike riding together. | Source

Since the passing of my father, I have found music to be deeply therapeutic in my grieving process. Particular songs inspire me to reminisce about my dad, while other songs help me get in touch with my feelings about him and at times bring me to tears; these are cleansing tears that help me process his passing. I also feel a sense of camaraderie with the song writers who express their experience of losing their father. Although most people expect to lose their father at some point, this knowledge doesn’t diminish the pain and sadness that comes with the reality of the loss.

There are a few types of songs that come to mind when I think of my father now that he is gone. One type includes the songs he loved and shared with me while I was growing up. I sometimes yearn to hear these songs, while at other times they are simply too painful. Another variety includes songs written by artists who lost their father and expressed their loss through their music and lyrics. These are the songs that I have included in this list.

Too often we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.

Too often we’re too stubborn to say “sorry, I was wrong.”

Too often it seems we hurt the ones closest to our hearts, and we let the most foolish things tear us apart.

— Author unknown

Some of these songs touch on the regret felt because there were things left unsaid. Other songs underscore the ‘misunderstood’ father and how it was only after death that the song writer saw things more clearly. And still other songs focus on the sadness of losing a father and how the memory of their father will carry on. There are of course songs that express only love and thankfulness for dad. Each song touches on a different aspect of this loss, and in turn, each one can facilitate healing in its’ own right.

Father and son spend time digging and building with sand on the beach.
Father and son spend time digging and building with sand on the beach.

After losing my grandmother, years ago, whom I was very close to, I thought I had experienced the full impact of death and knew what to expect. I was wrong. The loss of a father, in his case, to cancer, was overwhelmingly profound. It was an experience that will forever change me. Losing my father has left me feeling alone in the world because even though we weren’t always close, just knowing he was there if I should need him, gave me a sense of safety and security. Now that is gone. Losing my father has reminded me to look past the little things that seem important in my relationships, and to focus as much as possible, on love, because life is short, there are no dress rehearsals, only live performances.

Many of the songs presented here not only help with the grieving process; they illuminate the fleeting reality of life, in talking about losing something and someone, they remind us to appreciate what we have. It is sometimes only through loss that we realize what life is truly about.

Dance with My Father – Luther Vandross

A Grammy award winning song with emotionally evocative lyrics that describe the longing a young son has for his father who has passed away. In the song, Vandross, as a young boy, wishes to go back in time and re-experience a cherished moment with his father, just once more. Whether or not you have lost a father, it is easy for us to relate to the loving feelings expressed in this touching song.

Lyrics to watch for:

If I could get another chance

Another walk

Another dance with him

I'd play a song that would never ever end

How I'd love love love

To dance with my father again

The Greatest Man I Ever Knew – Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson

Written by song writer Richard Leigh about his own father, this song describes the love for a child that is left unspoken. The father only becomes understood retrospectively. This song teaches us that love can take many shapes and is spoken through different languages of love. Sadly, we might not realize this about our father until it is too late. The “Greatest Man I Ever Knew” is sung here as a duet with deep heart felt emotion.

Lyrics to watch for:

How was I to know he thought I hung the moon?

The man I thought could never die has been dead almost a year.

He never said he loved me. Guess he thought I knew.

The Leader of the Band – Dan Fogelberg

This song is a beautiful homage to Dan Fogelberg’s father who actually was a band leader. In the song Fogelberg thanks his father for many things and says that perhaps he didn’t tell his father “I love you” near enough. This song expresses the emotions that many people feel towards their father, but could never say. This is part of what makes the song so exceptional. Another reason this song is so wonderful is because of the love that you can hear in Fogelberg’s voice.

I thank you for the music and your stories of the road

I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go

I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough

And papa, I don't think I said I love you near enough

Why Should I Cry for You? - Sting

Sting wrote this song in 1991 about the death of his father and how he yearned to be closer to him during his lifetime. Sting’s father was from a time and generation that didn’t express emotions, much less tears, which explains the title of the song. Perhaps because Sting’s father was a sailor, the song is written in metaphors using the sky, stars and the ocean to describe his relationship and feelings towards his father.

Lyrics to watch for

Why should I cry for you?

Why would you want me to?

And what would it mean to say,

That, 'I loved you in my fashion'?

The Living Years - Mike and the Mechanics

The lyrics of this ballad are a cautionary tale, warning the listener to place differences with dad aside and look for commonality before it is too late. Many people live in regret because they only realize after their father has passed, that there were things they wanted to say and share. B. A. Roberston and Mike Rutherford wrote the song from their personal experiences with losing their respective fathers.

Lyrics to watch for

I wasn't there that morning when my father passed away

I didn't get to tell him all the things I had to say…

I just wish I could have told him in the living years

There You’ll Be – Faith Hill

“There you’ll be” strikes a more positive note compared to the some of the other songs in this line up. Here, Faith Hill sings about keeping the memories of your dad close to your heart and in that way he lives on and even becomes an inspiration.

Lyrics to watch for

For all my life

I'll keep a part of you with me

And everywhere I am there you'll be

My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion

“My Heart Will Go On” is a beautiful and very popular song that became popular as the result of the 1997 blockbuster movie “Titanic.” This is a song about love, it is a song about how love lives on in the hearts and minds of others, even after death. Once we love someone or we are loved by someone, that love stays, it carries on, it goes on.

Lyrics to watch for

Love can touch us one time

And last for a lifetime

And never let go till we're gone

That’s My Job – Conway Twitty

'That’s My Job' is a sweet song about how a father always made his son feel safe. It is a song about building a loving bond between father and child. This bond creates a legacy that will be passed down from one generation to the next.

Lyrics to watch for:

Ev'rything I do is because of you

To keep you safe with me.

Perhaps that is what it means to be a father – to teach your children to live without you.

— Nicole Krauss

© 2015 Tracy Lynn Conway


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