Better Than Oprah: PM’s Father’s Day Playlist from an Actual Dad
Even though I’m a dad myself, I don’t know much...but I do know...no collection of dad songs should include anything by John Mayer. Tweet
Moms have fared much better. The mothers in pop songs are giving great advice...
The only way [John Mayer] could be worse is if he had included more trash lyrics...
We clearly need more quality, dad songs—and a few more quality dads wouldn’t be bad either.
Even though I’m a dad myself, I don’t know much about fatherhood with any certainty. But I do know this: No collection of dad songs should include anything by John Mayer.
You know the song I’m talking about, right? “Daughters,” in which John Mayer—a man, it’s worth repeating, who once told Playboy that his penis is a white supremacist—sings about girls becoming lovers who then turn into mothers. It’s inarguably awful and trite. The only way it could be worse is if he had included more trash lyrics like, “Be nice to the ladies, cause one day they’ll be having your babies.”
And yet, Mayer’s musical affront to fatherhood continues to show up in the annual “Best Dad Songs For Father’s Day” lists that pop up every year. And 2021 is proving to be a big year for these daddy playlists, with everyone from Country Living to Good Housekeeping to Oprah Winfey chiming in with musical suggestions for your old man.
Yes, you read that right, Oprah freaking Winfrey thinks she knows exactly what dads want to hear. (Because if there’s one thing my dad always wondered aloud before making any decision, it was “What would Oprah do?”) And guess what? John Mayer’s “Daughters” is on the list! As is a song from the 1983 Barbra Streisand movie Yentl and not one but two Beyoncé songs. I’ve never felt so seen!
The honor for most ambitious Father’s Day playlist belongs to Parade magazine, which decided to showcase 77 songs about dads. They hit all the usual culprits — John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy,” Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us,” and of course, the Harry Chapin song over which men are obliged to cry, “Cat’s in the Cradle.” No wonder cradles stink. But Parade’s ambition didn’t match the actual supply of dad songs to be found. So their list also includes Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’Mine,” a song that isn’t about parenting, much less fatherhood, but made the cut anyway because “that opening guitar riff is iconic”—plus, there’s a child lost in the title.
All these depressingly obvious lists—mostly created by patronizing women—for Father’s Day only serve to remind me of one painful fact. There are not many good songs about dads. They tend to fall into one of two categories — “My dad is dead and that makes me sad” (Mike + The Mechanics’ “The Living Years,” Luther Vandross’s “Dance with My Father,” Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”) and “My dad was a bastard and that makes me sad” (Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Name Sue,” Everclear’s “Father of Mine,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Adam Raised a Cain”).
The problem is there aren’t enough great songs about fatherhood, much less okayish songs about dads, to fill a playlist.
Moms have fared much better. The mothers in pop songs are giving great advice (The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love”), doing the best they can in difficult times (Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”), and telling LL Cool J to punch you right in your stupid face (“Mama Said Knock You Out”). Dads, meanwhile, are slapping around their kids (James Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”), giving unsolicited advice (Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach”), the existential grief of a parent losing a child (Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”), and generally just not being around (The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”).
We clearly need more quality, dad songs—and a few more quality dads wouldn’t be bad either. In fact, I can think of just one song about dads that doesn’t make me cringe or want to cry into a glass of scotch. It wasn’t included on a single list in 2021’s roundup of Father’s Day songs. Randy Newman’s “Memo to My Son,” from his 1972 album Sail Away. It’s sweet without being too annoyingly adorable, vulnerable without painting dad as a dirtbag, and funny in a “I recognize myself in those lyrics.” So does this young father, singer and songwriter, Phil Cook:
Now that’s a relatable song. He’s just a guy, sitting with a tiny version of himself, trying to make a good, first impression. It contains no, creepy lyrics about your daughters eventually growing up to bang him and have his babies, unlike John Mayer’s attempt at reflecting fatherhood.
It’s a Father’s Day miracle!