Readers recommend playlist: songs about fathers and daughters

Artists reflecting on the relationship from both angles include Madonna, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder and Gaz Coombes

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of your suggestions last week. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

Asking for songs about fathers and daughters seemed like a good idea. Then, with your nominations, came lyrics about filicide and incest, or sexist songs “sweetened” by sentimentality. Sometimes the tunes were mawkish, often they were as dark as the misanthropic playlist we published in 2014 – but even that had Boyd Rice promising his daughter a trip to Disneyland.

Desperate for lyrics about normality, I was soothed enough by Animal Collective’s My Girls, which involves Noah Lennox’s simple desire to be a good father.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube.

On hearing Daddy Could Swear, I Declare by Gladys Knight & the Pips, my mood brightened. Here is a song that loves its subject for being a normal dad, one fondly remembered despite mishaps and mediocrity – apart from his world-class swearing ability.

Ignoring mushy melodies and sappy lines left me with Stew’s The Sun I Always Wanted, which I choose because his affection for his daughter grows year by year.

But I did shed a genuine tear when I heard Gaz Coombes’ beautiful The Girl Who Fell to Earth. The way Coombes floats little insights about his developing relationship with his daughter, who has autism, connects deeply with my own experience of realising, accepting and understanding the autism of one of my children.

Equally praiseworthy are Curt Kirkwood’s lyrics to Up on the Sun by the Meat Puppets. Kirkwood sees his daughter as a person. He recognises that while he might be like a distant sun to her, they always have something to talk about. He offers her fatherly security with the words: “the warmth that I’m weaving / Is for you alone.”

Hopefully, such attempts to understand daughters will result in fathers one day hearing: “Oh, daddy you know you’re still number one / But Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Mind you, you could do much worse than have Cindy Lauper as a daughter.

And maybe the warmth and interaction shown by the fathers above will have the positive and lasting influence Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks celebrate in Daddy Lessons.

Sometimes that guidance goes further: Camille has said that Fille à papa was written to thank her father: “I owe him for far more than just my education. I owe him for having facilitated my freedom of expression and having given me the opportunity to flourish artistically.”

But what of the father who would let boys be boys yet see desire and experimentation in young females as unwanted. Nas makes his well intentioned hypocrisy transparent in Daughters, detailing his struggles to protect his own from someone who might resemble himself in his younger days.

And what if a daughter becomes pregnant out of wedlock? Well, as Madonna advises: Papa Don’t Preach. Instead help her thrive, put your misplaced pride aside: a daughter isn’t property.

The wisdom of modern daughters is touchingly articulated in Róisín Murphy’s Scarlett Ribbons: “As long as I can cry on your shoulder / [I] Won’t be growing up / Just older / You have got to let me go.” Don’t worry Mr Murphy, she’s doing fine. She loves you.

On Magazine it seems the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn has already reached the stage of letting his daughter make her own mistakes. It’s a fraught relationship – she has her issues – but he still hopes to give her a soft-hearted kiss. Maybe he’ll get a hug instead.

Damn! Am I becoming sentimental? Would an appropriate final track be Stevie Wonder’s bundle of joy, Isn’t She Lovely? Nah! Let’s end with Daughter by Four Tet and the pretty space it invites us into so that we may reflect on this shifting, evolving and complicated relationship.

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Paul Hayes

The GuardianTramp

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