By Daniel Hong
The family is the building block of society and tomorrow is a day of honor for the head of the household, our fathers. Growing up in my late teenage years country music had a special way of portraying father-son relationships and fatherhood. It has really shaped the way I think and act, specifically it helps me to honor my father just as it did with my mother (my previous Mothers Day blog should be evidence of that).
Music is a powerful medium and it should be no wonder why culture is shaped so heavily by it in both good and bad ways. It is why country music is my favorite genre, yes banjos, fiddles, steel guitars and the sounds they produce are a big part, but its the powerful imagery, relatability and narratives that captured my heart during my late teenage years. These 7 songs were instrumental to me and I believe it captures the mood, experiences and the heart of fathers day. I hope whether one is a father or a child that these songs can touch their hearts and minds as it did mine.
Walking in my Fathers Shoes – Craig Morgan
Craig Morgan is a successful country music artist and an US Army Veteran, this song clearly speaks of his fathers role in shaping him. The “That’s what I love about Sunday” singer co-wrote this song and with a soothing ballad composition, he tells the story of his father being there for him, being a responsible man, and teaching him those same values setting the standard for him to do the same. The powerful rising chorus speaks for itself:
I’m walking in my father’s shoes
He’s never let me down
That’s a lot to live up to
Tryin’ to stand tall in
Walking in my father’s shoes
Walk a Little Straighter Daddy – Billy Currington
Billy Currington has had an interesting career after this successful hit song with a traditional country ballad composition that really put him on the map, his music has evolved to say the least for the better or for the worst. Regardless, though the singer portrayed in this song has gone through drastic changes he unlike Craig Morgan has had a more quiet but albeit still a somewhat successful career. Also in contrast with Craig Morgan who had a father that showed him the ropes, this tear jerking ballad written by Currington himself talks of his father constantly falling short, not being there for him, being an alcoholic, and one can just feel the heartbreak in this song. However, in a tremendous display of character instead of holding bitterness the singer encourages his father in this manner through this heart grabbing chorus:
Walk a little straighter daddy
You’re swaying side to side
You’re footsteps make me dizzy
And no matter how I try
I keep tripping and stumbling
If you’d look down here you’d see
Walk a little straighter daddy
You’re leading me
In a country where the family model is breaking down with fathers being a big part, this is a song that will sympathize with many sons and daughters in America on fathers day.
Watching You – Rodney Atkins
Changing the tempo going from two slow ballads we come to a moderate uptempo song co-written and sung by Rodney Atkins. If you notice a pattern here and what makes country music so special to many fans is that these artists not only write these songs themselves (not that other genre singers don’t do these things but it is a very common tradition within country music for artists to write most of their songs), but specifically write their personal experiences in a relatable manner . It brings an air of authenticity into their craft and helps the listener really connect with the artist. Speaking of which authentic and honest are good words to describe this song as Atkins was motivated by his son singing his first hit song (in the same album as this single) “If your going through hell (Even the Devil knows)” in front of his teacher school. He saw the special father-son relationship, especially the imitating nature of the child as the old adage says like father like son. He is not scared to share his shortcomings in verse 1 that his child picks up, while sharing the good in verse 2, all of that as he builds up to this catchy chorus:
He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are
We like fixing things and holding mama’s hand
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we, dad?
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you.”
Its a very fun and lighthearted song that propelled Rodney Adkins to number 1 on the Billboard Country Music Chart and gave him some traction on the Top 100 chart reaching the peak at 36 (pretty good for a country song). It was definitely a successful 2nd Album released in 2006, but unfortunately due to the climate of Country Music at the turn of the decade with Pop “Country” infiltrating the genre led by the rise of Taylor Swift and company, along with the rise of the repugnant and detestable Bro-Country and his own personal shortcomings Adkins has gone irrelevant to say the least. However, this song is definitely a good one on father’s day to reminisce on ones own experiences either from the fathers point of view as Atkins does in this song or from the child’s.
A Love Without End, Amen – George Strait
Often dubbed by fans as “The King of Country” few have reached the legendary status of George Strait (regardless of the music genre) and is debated by some to be the greatest country artist of all time. One of the leaders in bringing about what many call a golden age of country music in the 1990’s by bringing it back to its traditional roots (labeled as Neo-Traditional now) and coming to prominence with hits like “Amarillo by Morning” in the 1980’s, George Strait in 1990 (ironically) released a number 1 hit song on the Billboard Country Chart with this midtempo country ballad and really captured the heart of what it means to be a father. This song takes the listener on a journey from the point of view of the singer who starts as a child in verse 1 and learning what his fathers love is all about, then in verse 2 transitions into a father himself learning to give that same love and finally verse 3 uses religious christian imagery to bring the singer before the ultimate “father” at heaven’s gate before finally receiving the greatest love from God. Each accompanied by this short but crucial chorus talking about the father’s love:
Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don’t just love their children every now and then
It’s a love without end, amen
It’s a love without end, amen
Whats unique about George Strait from the other artists thus far is that he did not write this song and is one of the few successful country artists who rarely wrote his own songs. Regardless, Strait has shown a knack for picking hit songs and singing them like his own like no other which is also a talent for any musician in any genre, but the more important thing is the story behind this song written by Aaron Barker. The beauty and artistic nature of this song is how he’s able to work towards the core and workings of fatherhood throughout the song and it is a good contemplative song for father’s day. As a Christian myself, the religious imagery is an added bonus as human fatherhood’s foundation is the ultimate fatherhood of God, the father.
Drive (For Daddy Gene) – Alan Jackson
Other than George Strait, probably no one but Alan Jackson comes as close to the king of country in terms of popularity and leading the 1990’s wave of traditional country back into the mainstream. Jackson is your classic underdog story coming from small town rural roots and making it big debuting at a somewhat late age of 31. While George Strait was a phenom, he was cleaning tables at restaurants while trying to find an opportunity which he depicts in one of his earlier hits “Chasin that Neon Rainbow“. A true country artist down to the core, and a man with genuine authenticity and a big heart is someone you want to root for. A tall man standing around 6,4-6,5 the man is very gentle and unlike Strait has penned many of his own hits, often bringing his Christian faith, love for his fellow man and good meaning into his songs. Even many non country fans will know this man due to his heartfelt and inspiring song bringing a nation together with his well deserved hit “Where were you (when the world stopped turning)” after the tragic events of 9/11. However, a unique talent that Alan Jackson has is that he can bring in his small town roots in his songs in a simple manner, while drawing deep meaning from them using metaphors and imagery. He does this masterfully in this song which was penned as a tribute to his father who passed away by simply reminiscing on that time he learned to drive from his dad. An uptempo and exciting song he takes the listener on a journey from that time he learned to drive, to when he taught his own daughters to drive while deriving joy from that experience, which is depicted from the chorus:
It was just an old hand-me-down Ford
With three-speed on the column and a dent in the door
A young boy two hands on the wheel
I can’t replace the way it made me feel
And I would press that clutch
And I would keep it right
And he’d say, a little slower son you’re doing just fine
Just a dirt road with trash on each side
But I was Mario Andretti
When Daddy let me drive
Though not quite as exciting my driving experience despite the bickering back and forth between me and my father, it is one of those unique experiences that this song helps me reminisce on as I honor my father tomorrow. It’s unique in the sense that it symbolizes growing up and taking more responsibility as a man while still learning from a son’s first teacher in life the father. Alan Jackson like George Strait in the previous song starts as a child and becomes the father in this song and portrays that unique experience between father and son (or daughter). A simple but unique experience that one can harp on tomorrow as they celebrate father’s day.
Though, I would love to continue and go through the whole canon of country music with the theme of fatherhood, these were chosen from what I believe consists of strong lyrical presence, good musical composition and familiarity with the songs as my guide. If one is a country music fan like myself, or if this blog has helped one understand and really appreciate country music more then on a beautiful Saturday evening relaxing to some of these honorable mentions in preparation for tomorrow is not a bad idea. Though, I always try to be as objective in setting standards, these songs did have some preferential taste as I stated that familiarity was a guideline. Therefore, some of these honorable mentions may be better and some may prefer these more than the ones I have on this blog. That is fine, however, my only encouragement is whatever ones preference is that the main focus will be on really honoring their fathers. The sacrifice and love that fathers do on a daily basis should always be celebrated and remembered. Here’s to more memories and deeper ties, may these songs inspire and encourage them:
I’ll Be There – Josh Turner
The unique baritone singer, famously known for “Long Black Train” and “Your Man” depicts the father’s point of view and speaks to their child bringing up many scenarios but simply telling them no matter what I’ll be there for you.
There Goes My Life – Kenny Chesney
NFL legend Peyton Manning’s favorite country artist and probably the next most famous singer after Garth Brooks known for making the stadium rock trend within country music in the 1990’s famous has a heartfelt song about the unexpected journey into fatherhood from a circumstance that was unintended. An important note is that the chorus lyrics does not change but has a different perspective as the beginning of the song is portraying a young man who just became a father and the end where he is coming to its last legs with his daughter leaving. One sees the daughter as a burden to his life, the other sees the daughter as his life.
Daddy Dance With Me – Krystal Keith
Daughter of the famous country artist Toby Keith, depicts a daughter speaking to her father asking him to always be her daddy even when she grows up and that she will always be his baby girl.
The Greatest Man I Never Knew – Reba McEntire
One of the most famous female country artists in the modern era sings about a father who was distant from his daughter and is not the type to show physical affection with hugs and kisses but deep inside truly loves her. The daughter realizes that after he passes away.