This week, for a change, I thought I’d step away from themes related to lockdown and news items deriving from it. Here in the UK, as in 90 other countries, this Sunday was Fathers’ Day. According to Wikipedia this is marked in over 160 countries around the world on a variety of dates, though the most popular choice is the third Sunday in June. As this is used in China, India, the US and many of the other most populated countries I think it a safe bet that the majority of the world was celebrating its Dads this Sunday, hence this week’s theme for my tunes: fathers.
Unsurprisingly, you will find many songs which include father, dad, pop, papa or other derivatives in their title, though two of the best songs I know about father/child relationships don’t feature any of them. My first selection this week does, however. This is still, to my mind, one of the most profound songs ever written about the different ways parents and children see their world. It has been covered many times, including the abomination by Groaning Ronan and his band, but none, for me, has got even remotely close to the sensitivity of the original. This live performance from 1971 is heartbreakingly beautiful, especially when you know that Cat has said that the song is autobiographical:
The song was written when he was just 21 and displays a remarkable maturity for one so young, in much the same way that Richard Thompson’s song Meet On The Ledge did. No doubt you can think of many other songs which show a wisdom beyond their years, but as a description of a parting of minds between parent and child I think Cat’s song is hard to beat. It featured on his Tea For The Tillerman album, released in 1970, and was a large part of him becoming viewed as a serious singer-songwriter, compared with the pop-based earlier version of himself, before he contracted TB – from which he nearly died. He wrote a great many fantastic songs while he was recovering, and that album was the second of three that began his reinvention (the others are Mona Bone Jakon and Teaser And The Firecat). They are, to me, masterpieces and I don’t think he has bettered them since, though he has made many fine albums.
This week’s second tune is rather different, coming from a feminine perspective. It uses the ‘father’s eyes‘ metaphor that others have addressed, such as Eric Clapton. You may not know of the Webb Sisters but, on the strength of this, I think you should:
That is such a lovely song, beautifully textured and with gorgeous harmonies – the sort that siblings often excel at. It comes from their album Savages, which was released in 2011, and which I highly recommend. They have made little music together since then, but have been far from idle: they have toured extensively with Leonard Cohen, who called them ‘sublime,’ and featured in his shows with an incredible version of his song If It Be Your Will. Again, highly recommended. They were also an important part of what turned out to be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ final tour. They therefore have quite a pedigree: Cohen and Petty are no bad judges!
In recent weeks I have extended my tune choices from the original two to three, and I’m doing it again this week. My third selection is one of those that doesn’t have ‘father’ in the title, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. This song is all about how busy dads can be, to the detriment of their relationships with their children. I can empathise with this, as I often went several days at a time leaving for work before my girls were awake, and getting home after at least one of them was in bed. Thankfully we managed to work things out better than the character Harry Chapin describes here:
That was on Chapin’s fourth solo album, Verities & Balderdash, and was a #1 single in the US. Sadly, it didn’t chart here but the album came out just before my final year at university and I recall the song getting a lot of radio airplay. It feels such a sad song to me: I’m so grateful that things didn’t turn out like that for me and my two girls, who are both lovely, well rounded women balancing great home and family lives with successful careers. My now ex-wife is probably due most of the credit for that but I like to think I helped a bit. And it was good to see both of them for socially distanced visits this past weekend.
And as a little bonus piece of history, this is me and my Dad – still with us at 92 – from the days well before social distancing had been invented:
I mentioned earlier that there are two songs which, for me, are great examples of different parent/child relationships. If you want to know what the other one is you’re going to have to click on the link (to the right) to my blog’s Facebook page, as I made it my #SongOfTheDay on Sunday – the accompanying video for it is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and is a perfect fit for a lovely song.
I seem to have been in a more reflective mood with this week’s songs, but why not, for a change? That’s a wrap for this week. Maybe I’ll return to a lockdown theme next Tuesday, or maybe I won’t. But I hope you come back to find out! Until then, stay safe and well, and enjoy your gradually increasing freedom.