Over the past century, great pop songwriters and performers have always been adept at expressing universal truths about the human condition, and songs about family can truly resonate with people from all walks of life.
Here are ten of the best songs about those closest to us, and why these remarkable pieces of music about family have stood the test of time. For music lovers, listening to these wonderful songs can be a life-changing experience.
Elton John, “Daniel”
Describing the emotional distance that has grown between two siblings after one returns from the Vietnam War, “Daniel” is truly a remarkable ballad and one of the best songwriting collaborations to emerge from Elton John’s and Bernie Taupin’s musical partnership.
On a wider level, the song also comments on the relationship between military veterans and the communities in which they live. Pop music is rarely as profound as it is here; nearly 50 years on, the song can still bring listeners to tears.
Luther Vandross, “Dance With My Father”
Undoubtedly one of the best songs about the loss of a parent ever recorded, Luther Vandross’s “Dance With My Father” is a touching portrayal of the love we can feel for our fathers.
Cowritten with noted songwriter Richard Marx, the tune centers around Vandross’s own personal experience with loss; Vandross’s father died from complications arising from diabetes when the singer was only a child. A pop music aficionado favorite to this day, the song remains Vandross’s best composition and a standout on any radio playlist.
Jeff Buckley, “Dream Brother”
The son of legendary singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley always seemed to be trying to escape from beneath the shadow of his estranged father’s music career.
Ironically, Jeff had only met his famous father once by the time his own musical star was rising; having barely known the man, Jeff nonetheless put his emotional frustrations about his absent father into the artistic form on this standout track from his debut album “Grace.”
Indeed, “Dream Brother” sees Jeff Buckley lamenting the fate of a father who would remain little more than a mystery to him: Divided by circumstance, the song shows that the two were nonetheless joined by their musical talents.
Elliott Smith, “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud”
Released in 2000 to critical acclaim, “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud” sees Elliott Smith at his most personal and profound. Never one to relish the spotlight, the pathologically shy Smith was nonetheless happy with the attention that he received as a singer-songwriter in large part because his mother could be proud of his success.
A standout on the “Figure 8” album, the tune features the kind of sunny, Beatles-esque pop harmonies and lush instrumentation that Smith excelled at over the course of his short career.
Harry Chapin, “Cat’s in the Cradle”
Filled with dramatic lyrical irony and lovingly-crafted melodies, Harry Chapin’s signature song “Cat’s in the Cradle” remains an example of pop storytelling at its finest and most touching.
The tune describes a father who is too busy with his career to spend time with his growing son; tragically, the folly of the father’s ways are soon made apparent in the son’s behavior as an adult. But it’s Chapin’s soulful delivery on his signature song that has turned “Cat’s in the Cradle” into a bonafide classic and a pop radio fixture for generations.
Cat Stevens, “Father and Son”
As everyone knows, bridging a generation gap can almost seem impossible at times. On “Father and Son,” Cat Stevens deftly describes a form of communication breakdown between two family members. Having experienced the difficulties of the real world, a boy’s father advises him to seek out the comforts of a respectable life and a reliable job.
Charmed by the attractions of a music career and swayed by his own dreams of stardom, however, the son wants to discover for himself what life is all about. It’s a drama that has played out perhaps billions of times in human history; but the deep emotional resonance and universal truth that Stevens captures here gives “Father and Son” its powerful musical punch.
7. The Beatles, “Hey Jude”
Being John Lennon’s son wasn’t easy: By the time The Beatles were recording “The White Album,” Lennon was experiencing serious upheaval in his personal affairs and had by then left his wife for the rebellious conceptual artist Yoko Ono.
Written by Paul McCartney to comfort Lennon’s son Julian during this difficult time, “Hey Jude” remains one of the artist’s best songs. It would also serve as one of McCartney’s last musical offerings to The Beatles: Less than two years after the release of “Hey Jude,” in fact, the band broke up due to irreconcilable creative differences.
Madonna, “Papa Don’t Preach”
In family situations, it is often true that parents can be overbearing in the extreme when providing guidance to their children, and this standout Madonna song shows that even the best parental advice can go unheeded by an independent-minded person.
One of the great pop ballads from the 1980s, moreover, “Papa Don’t Preach” shows Madonna at her songwriting best, and subsequent generations have used the song as a rallying cry for emotional independence.
The Kinks, “Two Sisters”
While the bond between two siblings can remain remarkably strong in the face of personal conflict, the English pop group The Kinks realized that jealousy can often come between even the closest of family members in a big way.
“Two Sisters” describes a pair of family members who lead very different lives: One sister has wealth, status, and a group of jet-setting friends; the other sister leads a plain, workaday existence in a nondescript neighborhood.
As the less-successful sister discovers, however, jealousy is not the answer to our problems in life. This is a great song for anyone who has ever experienced sibling rivalry well into adulthood.
The Beach Boys, “Hold On Dear Brother”
By 1972, The Beach Boys were in a serious state of transition as a musical outfit. Principle Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson had long since given up his quest to push the band’s capacity for creative expression forward, and Carl Wilson was intent on revamping the band’s sound after the commercially disappointing “Pet Sounds” record failed to make a splash with audiences.
In fact, “Hold On Dear Brother” can almost be read as a plea from Carl to Brian; the song’s feeling of goodwill towards a wayward sibling is palpable in this lovely tune.
Kelly Clarkson, “Because Of You”
Kelly Clarkson’s “Because Of You” may not be the most positive song, but it’s an anthem for those who have been hurt by family members.
This song strongly states the effects on someone after being knocked down by the people who were supposed to be the ones who were supposed to be building them up. It’s a perfect song to belt out when you need to vent pent up feelings.
Sister Sledge, “We Are Family”
“We Are Family” by Sister Sledge is probably the first song that most people think of when it comes to songs about family. It’s a direct, upbeat disco song and a classic about the closeness of family.
Lonestar, “Mr. Mom”
Lonestar’s “Mr. Mom” is a lighthearted country song about learning the ins and outs of being a stay at home dad. It may have sounded easy, but the reality of staying home with kids is difficult.
This song may seem funny, but most stay at home parents would agree with the sentiment here. In the end, the dad in the song acknowledges how hard moms work and gives his appreciation.
John Mayer, “Daughters”
“Daughters” by John Mayer may be one of the sweetest songs ever written. Mayer sings of the beauty of a relationship with your daughters.
These relationships will determine how a girl loves not only in her childhood but also as a mother in the future. This song shows an overall appreciation of women and their loving nature.
Paul Simon, “Father And Daughter”
“Father And Daughter” gained popularity when it was featured in The Wild Thornberrys Movie depicting the loving relationship between Nigel and Eliza Thornberry.
It’s a sweet song about the intense love that a father holds for his daughter. Every way that she grows makes him happy and nothing could break the love he has for her.
In “Mockingbird,” Eminem raps about the difficulties that arise when having a family in less than favorable conditions. Even the best of intentions doesn’t necessarily mean that kids get a great environment.
Work can make it so kids barely see kids, finances can fall short, and addiction can take parents away from the children as well. The song is almost an apology for the imperfection of his parenting. He expresses a desire to improve and give his daughters the world.
Christina Aguilera, “Oh Mother”
Christina Aguilera’s “Oh Mother” is a real tear-jerker that focuses on the realities of being raised in a home with an abusive parent. She thanks her mother for all she did for their family.
As a single mom who was broken by an abusive man, she soldiered on for the kids and did everything for them. She held the brunt of the emotional damage to save the kids and left before the kids could become victims of physical abuse.
Because of all they’d weathered, the mother-daughter relationship was unbreakable and filled with the utmost respect. “Oh Mother” is sad and powerful all at the same time.
Jackson 5, “I’ll Be There”
“I’ll Be There” by Jackson 5 is about being the rock in the lives of your loved ones. The Jacksons sing about all they’ll do to be present for each other.
The lyrics list all kinds of ways that they’ll be there for each other. It’s a sweet, innocent, and just overall wholesome song. It’s almost impossible not to smile listening to this perfect family-oriented song.
Drake, “Keep The Family Close”
Drake’s “Keep The Family Close” is a somewhat sad song about heartbreaks and regrets. It details why he should’ve kept his family closer to him.
Friends can come and go so it’s important to keep your family as close as possible. A relationship isn’t guaranteed and neither is their promise to “just be friends.” Family is supposed to be whats forever keeping them close is the best way to never be alone.