Building a soundtrack for any particular holiday is usually a slippery slope, mostly because not every special event on the calendar is music-friendly. Christmas has any number of excellent songs available, and any good Memorial Day mix should kick off with Alice in Chains’ “Rooster.” But what about Arbor Day, or even Thanksgiving? The pickings are slim.
Father’s Day falls somewhere in between. There are plenty of songs dedicated to dads out there, though the majority of tunes fall in the schmaltzy, sentimental pap category. There are also a number of tunes that address fathers in quite a negative light (not surprising, considering rock and roll is 87% about rebelling against your parents, not honoring them). What we’re left with is a handful of quality selections — some more appropriate than others — that sum up the complicated relationships we sometimes have with our patriarchs. Here’s the Father’s Day playlist — crank’em up and make sure you drop your ideas in the comments.
» Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”: This epic, with lyrics by Shel Silverstein, was one of Cash’s strongest live songs (check out the version from Johnny Cash at San Quentin for proof). It starts off pretty dark but (spoiler alert!) ends up having a happy ending. A perfect song honoring the bonds of fathers and sons.
» Will Smith, “Just the Two of Us”: Sentimental? Sure. But at least it’s not a ballad!
» Ugly Kid Joe, “Cat’s in the Cradle”: Harry Chapin’s original is totally maudlin, but this remake by metal also-rans Ugly Kid Joe packs a surprisingly tear-jerking punch.
» James Brown, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”: It’s not specifically about fatherhood, but Brown did have at least eight kids, so he’s certainly the funkiest patriarch.
» Eric Clapton, “My Father’s Eyes”: Because all dads like Clapton.
» Jane’s Addiction, “Had a Dad”: Okay, so it’s probably a little too bitter to play for your pops on Father’s Day (Eric Avery wrote the song after learning that his dad was not actually his biological father), but on the other hand, it rocks hard.