In honor of Dad Week here on the blog, we've asked our writing team to answer a very simple question: what song reminds you of your dad? Inside, you'll find the answers. Feel free to add your own tributes to your dads in the comments if you like. We'd love to read them.
Sam Kemmis Bob Dylan - Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
My dad listened to little music -- preferred books almost universally. But Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" apparently bridged the literary and musical worlds enough to justify repeated play in our house. The odd opening bars of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" stands therefore not as a reminder of my dad's abiding love of music, but rather that he was capable of enjoying it at all.
The song isn't a particularly enjoyable one. It's wheezy - jarring - funny? - angry? Whatever you think about it (and I have no idea what you think about it), it seems to give the impression that something, at least, is going on with it. Like a decent fantasy novel, there seems to be an underlying logic to the world of the song. Maybe? I don't know. It always seemed that way to me.
Mostly it just reminds me that, when my dad was my age, everybody was doing a lot of drugs and it was probably a lot of fun for a while. Weirdness qua weirdness was, at that time, virtuous for its own sake. Perhaps? Making sweeping claims like that is odd, but whatever, it seems to be what people do when they write about music like Bob Dylan's.
The closest parallel we seem to have to the unsettling weirdness of Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 is something like Tim and Eric -- disjointed, vaguely anti-social, and certainly not to be enjoyed by the older generation. Not really to be "enjoyed" by anyone, but just appreciated as existing. It's not "art" necessarily, because screw all that, but it ain't pure entertainment neither.
It's just an odd song that reminds me of you, dad.
Amy Nance Gloria Estefan - Rhythm Is Gonna Get You
I've never thought of my dad as the "musical" type. Conservative. Midwestern. Kinda uptight. I think he mostly listens to talk radio. So you can imagine my surprise the day I found a Gloria Estefan CD in the console of his car. Not that Latin pop music is especially weird or deviant. It was just really random.
Sean Adams Tom Petty - Free Falling
When I was growing up, my dad had a Mustang and then a Thunderbird. But only the lame year models, like the ones in the 80s. I don't know if he had a Tom Petty tape or something, but I feel like I remember listening to this song in one of those cars. I don't remember much else about it, except that "she loves horses" and I'm pretty sure Tom Petty burps when he says, "crazy about Elvis." Still, this one always reminds me of my dad and his lame-o American sports cars.
Randall Cleveland Peter Frampton - Show Me The Way
My dad's way into music, and has the tinnitus to prove it. For as long as I can remember, evenings and weekends were filled with records spinning, tapes playing, and later CDs doing whatever the hell CDs do. So there are actually quite a few songs I associate with my dad, and plenty of songs that conjure great memories. But one sticks out in my mind for its absurdity as much as its ear-worm factor: Show Me the Way by Peter Frampton.
I don't know what came first: my dad playing this song (and the whole Frampton Comes Alive LP) ad nauseum in our house until my mom flipped out, or my falling in love with it as a kid because of the awesome talkbox noises. Either way, it was on heavy rotation pretty much from my birth until I reached young adulthood. My dad will still periodically bust out his best "wah wah WAH wah WAH" talkbox impression.
But it's something that plays in the background of all kinds of childhood memories for me, be it dancing around the house with my folks, blasting it from the entertainment center during Saturday morning housecleaning, or hearing it over the radio from the tinny speakers of my little boombox while Dad worked on some project around the house.
It's not like my dad's a Frampton fanatic or anything. I think that might be the only album of his that my dad owns. But it's catchy enough and it found me when I was young enough that it stuck in my brain forever. And it's one of the first songs I can remember singing along to with my pops. That gives it a special place in the hallowed halls of Cleveland lore. Hopefully some day I'll dazzle my own kids with my best talkbox impression. Or maybe I'll leave it up to their grandpa.
Scott Lydon Bob Seger - Night Moves
I would have been about four or five when my dad was listening to this song. He would have been younger than I am now, a father, a homeowner, a guy with a career, and just at that point when a man starts looking back and wondering if he made the right choices. I remember him sitting by a lit fireplace, all other lights out, in our black leather recliner with this 45 on the stereo, bobbing his head and singing along.
To me, the song was full of mystery. I understood the idea of being in love, the basic concept, but I had no idea what depths "the backseat of my '60 Chevy" carried and I wouldn't for some time. I focused on words like "teenage blues" and the weather metaphors and that wistful organ. But what I really remember is the slow part at the end, and my father singing about that song from 1962. I guess I was good with context clues, because I knew he was looking back at something he'd left behind, even though I had no idea what that was. Now, when I hear this song, I have my own memories to look back on. I don't think I've shared them all with him, just as he hasn't shared all of his with me. But they're probably not so conceptually. And I've come to understand him more as I've grown.
Jason Toon The Commodores - Easy
My Dad must have performed thousands of songs in his 40+ years as a musician. When I was a kid, this was his favorite to sing around the house. He's not exactly what you'd call laid-back, and our life wasn't always easy, not even on Sunday morning. But if you ask me, he can pull this one off better than Lionel Richie.
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