by T.J. TranchellThere’s a scene in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” in which Peter Quill faces the differences in the qualities of his biological father and the man who raised him. One abandoned him and one did the best he could to raise him.
It’s a familiar scene many fathers and children play out every year in mid-June. Director James Gunn nails the scene by adding the Cat Stevens song “Father and Son.” I just about lost it in the theater.
The song randomly came up on a playlist recently, and I thought I’d be fine. But no. Amazon’s ’70s Folk station had to double-down and follow “Father and Son” with Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” and so, a week before Father’s Day, I was an absolute mess and wondering what kind of paternal nightmare they could throw at me next.
Because I believe in the power of shared pain, here’s what it would be:
“Father and Son,” Cat Stevens, from the “Tea for the Tillerman” album and also on the soundtrack to the aforementioned Marvel film. The song is laid out as a conversation between a father and a son, and in this case, it’s the son who is ready to fly the coop. Stevens’ vocals, however, make it ambiguous about who is hurting who more. It’s rough.
“Cat’s in the Cradle,” Harry Chapin. I heard this song shortly after my son was born. I had to pull the car over and just weep for a minute. It’s another story of a son who wanted to play with his dad and then grew up to be a negligent father with a negligent son. Getting these two songs back-to-back keeps the Kleenex people in business.
“Daddy’s Hands,” Holly Dunn. Here’s another weeper, and not just because of the song about Daddy being soft when he needed to be and hard when required, but also because Dunn passed away last year. At this point, if you haven’t called your dad to tell him you love him, it’s only because you can’t dial through your tears.
“How Great Thou Art,” sung by just about anyone. This was my grandpa’s (and probably your grandpa’s) favorite hymn. So of course we sang it at my ultra-modern church a couple weeks ago. I say “we” but I mean “everyone else.” I couldn’t do it. It gets me every time.
“Son of a Son of a Sailor,” Jimmy Buffet. “A Pirate Looks at Forty” is much more sentimental, but here, it is the generational reference that counts. My dad and I were both born in towns with “beach” in their names, making us both sons of beaches. Jimmy Buffet is common ground for us. This song says a lot about us, although if you asked, “God’s Own Drunk” is closer to being “our song” than any other.
So now, sing a little song and wipe the tears from your eyes. Then call your dad, if you can. If you can’t sing another song, just sing it loud enough for him to hear, wherever he is.
Tranchell is a freelance journalist and author in Moscow. He has a 4-year-old son who doesn’t know any of the above songs … yet. What song reminds you of your father? Let’s talk: firstname.lastname@example.org.