Tuesday Tunes 14: Fathers

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.

A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part Four

So here it is, Merry Christmas….no, wait, not that one please! Don’t worry, in keeping with the rest of Advent only two of my final set of eight choices for the remaining seven days have been chart hits. That makes a total of five out of twenty six, but I make no apologies – if you really want them the usual suspects can be found on every Christmas playlist on every streaming service! Having said that, this final set contains several of my own usual suspects, but they are so good that they deserve to be heard.

For the 19th I gave you one which I’ve featured for all five years that I have done this. It is clearly a favourite of mine, and displays my folkie roots. Kate Rusby is a folk singer-songwriter from Yorkshire, in the north of England. Her shows are full of lovely music and warm, friendly repartee, as I’ve been fortunate enough to witness. She comes from an area with a strong tradition of sharing Christmas songs and has to date released four albums of them. This is the title track from the first of those, and is accompanied by a lovely animated video – the singer in it is a very good likeness of Kate:

I went across the pond for the 20th. Continuing my choices of female singer-songwriters, I selected one from Shawn Colvin’s album Holiday Songs And Lullabies – sorry, my American friends, but I really don’t get your reluctance to call this by its proper name of ‘Christmas,’ as I said here. Again, this one is accompanied by an unofficial video, which complements the song well:

On the 21st – the Winter Solstice – I took a slightly different approach. This isn’t an obvious Christmas song, but a modern variation on the theme of a special baby with mystical powers. It seemed an appropriate choice to mark Yule:

Returning to Christian traditions on the 22nd I chose this one. I’ve seen the band perform this live and it is a magical moment. There is a video on YouTube of them from a 2004 concert DVD but I chose this version: it is the one they originally released in 1972 on their Below The Salt album, and the voice of Tim Hart can be clearly heard. Tim, sadly, died of cancer on Christmas Eve 2009, at the age of 61, and I selected this to pay my respects to him:

It being Sunday on the 23rd I kept to my habit of sharing a carol. This one is very well known and there are many versions to choose from. This, by the amazing Sinead O’Connor, is my favourite by miles, and the video is superb too:

My choice for Christmas Eve has been the same for all five years. For me, this is an absolute no-brainer and the fact that it is a lovely song helps no end! Mindy Smith deserves to be more widely known: she released five albums between 2004 and 2012, one of which – My Holiday – was a seasonal (ie. Christmas) album, and this song is from her most recent release, an EP entitled Snowed In, from 2013. Her website gives no details of any upcoming performances so it appears that she may have ‘retired’ from music – I hope not, and live in hope as she has recently been active on Twitter and Facebook. This is beautiful:

And finally to today. If you’re actually reading this on Christmas Day I thank you for being here and sharing this with me. If not, there is nothing wrong with catching up! There does seem to be a subtext of my liking for female singer-songwriters showing through my choices: this is another whom I’ve been lucky enough to see perform live, and I recommend her highly if you get the chance. She has a beautifully warm voice which is so well suited to her songs. This one is from her album Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs Of Christmas. For me this is the absolutely perfect choice for Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!

Ah, hold on. I promised you eight songs for this final compilation and if you care to count back you’ll see there have only been seven so far. I know it’s cheating, but I think I can be forgiven for adding in a bonus song for Christmas Day. This one has been a chart hit many times, including this year, but has never been the Christmas Number One – a criminal oversight by the British record-buying public, to my eyes. Even in the first year of release it only made number two, kept off the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys’ wilful destruction of a Willie Nelson song. I really think we should have tried harder! You *may* have heard this one before:

So that’s it for another year. I hope you have enjoyed my choices, especially those which may have been new to you. I do try and steer as far clear of the charts as I can, and my disappointment is that I have to leave out so many other good songs. If you are interested, my YouTube playlist is ever growing, currently standing at around 120 songs (including some alternative versions) and can be found here.

Thank you for following, reading, liking and commenting on my posts. As another year draws to a close, I marvel yet again at the wonders of modern technology that allow us to communicate like this, and to share our thoughts, hopes, dreams and, in my case, our love of music. On which point, something new for me: I will be sharing on Twitter and my Facebook page a ‘new year’ song each day from tomorrow up until New Year’s Day, when I will return here with a compilation post of these, for those who won’t have seen each daily offering as they happen. I hope you’ll join me again then.

Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year!

#ChristmasSongADay – Part 4

Merry Christmas!

If you’re actually reading this on Christmas Day I applaud your dedication to the world of blogging. Either that or I commiserate that you needed to escape the family arguments, sprout-fuelled farts and general horrors that are the staple of Christmas. (I’m joking, really I am – I love Christmas, especially the spirit it engenders in us).

For this final part of my selection of Christmas songs which I shared with Facebook friends and Twitter followers, I’m covering the seven days from the 19th up to today. So that means, of course, that there will be eight videos for you to enjoy. I’ll explain later!

For the 19th I chose a version of the well-known standard The Little Drummer Boy. This was actually written as far back as 1941, by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis, and the first recorded version was in 1951, by the Trapp Family Singers, once they had been coaxed down from the hills and had left the goatherd feeling lonely again. Probably the best known version is the one by the unlikely boy band of Bing Crosby and David Bowie, but I’m not giving you that one. My choice is by the Canadian band Walk Off The Earth, who have made a whole host of inventive videos both for their own music and a wide range of cover versions. I suggest that, if you haven’t heard of them, you visit YouTube and find their cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know – that will give you a good idea of what they get up to. And here’s another example:

On Day 20 I again went back to a traditional Christmas carol, in a modern version. This is a lovely carol and is one of my favourites, and I was spoilt for choice as to which version to share. I very nearly opted for the Civil Wars, in a live performance with just their two voices and John Paul’s guitar: it is sparse, simple and spine-tingling. But in the end I went for this one, which I think is slightly more mainstream. But, if you’re interested, I highly recommend that you seek out the Civil Wars’ version too. This is from Enya’s 2008 Christmas album And Winter Came, which also comes highly recommended by me:

For the 21st I shared a version of one of the best known carols, Silent Night. This is taken from Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album. My parents bought this for me as a Christmas present in 1967, although the album was first released in 1966. We played the album on Christmas afternoon, and it was perfect for the post-lunch stupor. Until this, the final track on the album. I would imagine that many of you will know this version but, if not, try to imagine the impact this had on a first hearing, on Christmas Day, when none of us knew what was coming. Sadly, I believe the message in the juxtaposition of the news with the song is still relevant today, possibly even more so. See what you think:

My next choice, on the 22nd, was a song which, in the strictest sense, probably doesn’t really count as a Christmas song. But I included it because I think it is actually a modern day retelling of a similar story, and that’s good enough for me! I featured this one last year in my #SaturdaySongs series, so please click here if you want to find out more about what makes it special for me.

For the 23rd I also returned to a favourite, which has also been featured here before. This is the second of my choices to feature the English folk singer Kate Rusby. I mentioned before that she has now released four albums of Christmas music. This is the title track from the first of these, from 2008, and is accompanied by a lovely animation:

Keeping with the theme of ‘tried and trusted’ I chose another one on Christmas Eve which I’d chosen in previous years. But could I possibly have found anything more appropriate than this? I don’t think so…..

And so, we finally reach Christmas Day. There are still so many I could choose, but this is to me the perfect song for Christmas Day. It is the second time I’ve featured Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come Darkness, Come Light album, and I really do recommend that you listen to it if you can: it’s beautiful! My (almost) final choice of Christmas songs is this one:

That should be the end of this, right? But cast your mind back to the beginning of this piece and you may recall that I promised you eight songs today. I also said on several occasions throughout this series that I didn’t intend to feature many songs which had been pop chart hits. So far, I’ve kept that down to just the two. But there is one more I’m sharing today as a bonus. Yes, I know its only connection with Christmas is that it is set on Christmas Day. Yes, I know that the NYPD Choir has never existed. But this is a hit every year although, as I said in my Christmas Number Twos post, it has never been a chart topper. But that won’t stop me sharing it again. I leave you with my final #ChristmasSongADay

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and have found some music which is both new and pleasing to you. Whatever you are doing, however you are spending Christmas, I thank you for reading all of my posts this year, and wish you a very