Here Comes Father’s Day!


Father’s Day is tomorrow – can you feel the excitement building?

No? I didn’t think so. Mother’s Day is the biggest day of the year for restaurants, florists and phone calls, and number two for greeting cards. Father’s Day? Not close.

It’s not too tough to figure out why – mothers are the ones who are there when you need them – they feed you when you’re hungry, patch up skinned knees, and (see my Mother’s Day post) make those coats of many colors.

Fathers are more of a mixed blessing. If they’re filling their traditional role, they’re out working somewhere. So while mom is nurturing the little ones, dad is off trading mortgage securities, selling used cars, or mining coal. It pays the rent and puts food on the table, but it’s nothing to get sentimental about, and getting sentimental is what makes those holiday cash registers ring.

When fathers are not filling their traditional role, it often means that they are no longer a member of the household. This circumstance isn’t going to get those Father’s Day cards moving off the shelves, either.

So it seems that fatherhood is not particularly well suited to a commercial holiday. It just doesn’t lend itself to a nice, simple, sentimental approach. Bad for florists, good for songwriters. Given the freedom to acknowledge a complex relationship, good songwriters have given us some pretty good father songs. I’ve got my own favorites: Judy Collins’s My Father tells how a man kept his fractured dreams alive in his children, Jerry Jeff Walker’s My Old Man is a wistful look at the loneliness a drifter leaves in his wake, and Coal Miner’s Daughter defines the “we grew up poor but we were loved” genre.

But for me, no song says it all better than Papa Was a Rolling Stone. The great songwriting team of Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield wrote this, and the Temptations’ version has become a classic. For my money, “and when he died, all he left us was alone” is the best line they ever wrote. Here’s a 1972 video of the Temps performing what was maybe their last great song. Please enjoy – and give the old man a call tomorrow, OK?

One Response to “Here Comes Father’s Day!”

  1. Callie Says:

    And let’s not forget Joni (Mitchell)–“Papa brought home the sugar; Mama taught us the deeper meaning”

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