Our grandfathers are living links to history, endless sources of wisdom that inspire us throughout our childhood and young adulthood. Most of us will experience the loss of a grandfather at some point, and those of us that have know what a hard experience it can be.
Grandfathers are hard figures to replace, but their memories can continue to inspire and sustain us as we move forward with our lives.
We’ve gathered songs about loving grandfathers, losing grandfathers, and even one about being your own grandfather. Here are 20 of the best songs about grandfathers.
Top Songs About Grandfathers
“Grandpa Told Me So” – Kenny Chesney
Grandfathers often import life lessons to their grandchildren. In this country track, Chesney details the advice that his grandpa gave him throughout his childhood, teenage years and adulthood. Chesneys grandpa teaches him how to fish, helps him to navigate his first heartbreak, and encourages him to live life to the fullest.
Even as he lies dying, Chesney’s grandpa is still passing on comforting words and lessons that Chesney carries with him. “I live by those words because grandpa told me so,” he sings. The track comes from Chesney’s sophomore album, All I Need To Know.
“He Walked On Water” – Randy Travis
There have been many country songs written about grandfathers, and Travis’ “He Walked On Water” is another example. Travis describes how he idealised his grandfather as a young boy, comparing him innocently to Jesus who walks on water in a story from the Bible. He believes his grandfather to be just as powerful, comparing him in other parts of the song to an angel and his old hat to a halo.
The song also details Travis’ heartbreak when his grandfather passes away in his nineties. He has to accept that his grandfather isn’t all-powerful, and won’t live forever. But he still thinks of his grandfather as an angel, even to this day.
“I’m My Own Grandpa” – Willie Nelson
A very (very) complicated family dynamic means that Nelson technically becomes his own grandfather. When he marries an attractive widow with a grown-up daughter, his father falls in love with the daughter and marries her.
When Nelson has a baby boy, he realises that his complicated family tree now loops back so that he is his own step-grandfather. You do the maths. Or, if you don’t feel like it, listen to the song – Nelson takes great pains to explain it all.
Nelson’s version is a cover of a novelty song written in 1947 by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe and performed by Lonzo and Oscar. The idea came from a book of Mark Twain anecdotes, in which Twain explained how it was possible for a man to technically become his own grandfather.
“Granddaddy’s Song” – The Kyle Bennet Band
Bennet details the life and business of his great-grandad, who ran moonshine in the 1920s. He details the advice that his grandfather gave him, including the encouragement to settle down, start a family, and be happy with his lot in life. Bennet’s grandfather also tells him to respect women and give everything he has to everything he does. He passes away when Bennet is ten years old.
“Immigrant Eyes” – Willie Nelson
Also from Nelson comes this touching story of his grandfather arriving at Ellis Island in search of a better life. He depicts the frustration of being so close and yet so far from freedom, and how people around his grandfather were being separated from those they loved.
Nelson sees that day reflected in his grandfather’s eyes, and reflects on how hard his grandfather has had to work every single day of his life. “So don’t take it for granted, said Grandfather’s immigrant eyes,” he sings.
Nelson feels pressure to live up to the potential of the better life that his grandfather travelled for, and even after his grandfather passes away, he continues to work hard in order to honour his legacy.
“Grandfather’s Grandson” – John Baumann
Baumann makes it clear that he’s proud of where he comes from in this country track. Describing his grandfather’s dream of making his living on a farm – a “working man’s scheme” – he talks about how privileged he feels to remain on that land still.
But with the threat of big business and “city boys” looming to buy up the land, he makes it clear that he isn’t going anywhere. “You know I’ll be here, I’m my grandfather’s grandson,” he sings. He wants to hold onto the land and pass it onto his son one day, just like his family have done for generations.
“Big Sky, MT” – Said The Whale
Many grandparents take up hobbies as they get older. The grandfather in this track is a flower enthusiast, going up the side of the mountain to gather them. He knows their names and where to find the best ones, and he gathers them all for his love.
Whether he brings them back to her or only gathers them in her memory now isn’t made clear, but his advice to his grandson that “for true love you do the best you can” is something that the singer will always carry with him.
“Alabama Sky” – Alabama
Like many of the grandfathers on this list, this grandfather seems to know everything – at least in the eyes of his young grandson. He knows when it’s going to rain and he can tell stories that keep his grandson riveted. Under the Alabama sky, he keeps working into his old age, and makes sure to keep his late wife’s memory alive.
“When they finally have to carry him away/They’ll take a lot of me,” sings Randy Yeuell Owen, in two lines that sum up loss with devastating effect. It’s a track that anyone who’s lost a beloved grandparent will relate to.
“In Colour” – Jamey Johnson
Johnson looks through old pictures with his grandfather in this ballad. His grandpa tells him the story behind each picture – the hard times he had on the family cotton farm in the great depression, his time fighting in World War II, and the day he married his wife.
He tells his grandson that if he feels like he can see the fear, hunger or joy in each of these black and white photos, then he should have seen it “in colour” – reminding his grandson that even though they have these photographs, only he will ever know what it was like to have lived his life. “You can’t see what those shades of grey keep covered,” he sings.
“Afire Love” – Ed Sheeran
Sheeran details the events surrounding and leading up to his grandfather’s death in this heart-breaking track. Detailing the harsh reality of his grandfather’s dementia and his own inability to understand it at six years old, he then depicts the funeral, in which his entire family gathers to celebrate his grandfather’s life.
Sheeran’s grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s for two decades before his death. Sheeran started writing the track two weeks before his grandfather passed away, finishing it in time for his funeral.
“Grandpa’s Groove” – Parov Stelar and AronChupa
This jaunty tune from Parov Stelar and AronChupa isn’t about a particular grandfather, but rather the style of music they’re playing. “Grandpa’s groove” refers to their electronic-swing sound, a reinvention of earlier swing music. It’s bound to get your grandfather dancing.
The song’s characters are taken from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. The lyrics describe the fishing efforts of Santiago and the career concerns of his apprentice, Manolin.
“Grandpa” – Justin Moore
Moore describes how his grandfather was there for every major milestone in his life. He stood by for his baptism, caught him sneaking a drink at sixteen, cheered him on at his football games, and held his hand at his grandmother’s funeral.
The two clearly had a special relationship, and Moore packs the song full of personal details, listing all the reasons why his grandfather is so important to him, and why he admires him so much. As Moore’s music career gets busier, he still returns to his grandpa’s porch when he needs some relief.
“I Wish Grandpas Never Died” – Riley Green
Green discusses an idealised version of the world in this song and all the changes he wishes he could make. The requests start off light – he wishes kids were taught better manners and that coolers never ran out of Bud Light – but he closes the chorus with a pretty heavy wish.
“I wish grandpas never died,” he sings over his strummed guitar. Green discusses many more desires throughout the song, but this is clearly the most important.
“Grandfather” – Stephen Lynch
Lynch’s song about the impending death of his grandfather takes an unexpected turn. “When grandfather dies, life will be strange,” he sings. He goes on to reveal that this isn’t because he’ll be grieving, but because he’ll benefit greatly from his grandfather’s will and be, in his words, “rich as hell”. The song is full of cheeky lyrics that you probably shouldn’t sing to your grandfather.
“The Rocket That Grandpa Rode” – Jimmy Buffett
Written from the perspective of an astronaut’s grandkids, this song from Jimmy Buffett describes the first moon landing and the stories that the kids hear from relatives. The song was inspired after Buffett was given an invitation to tour NASA facilities. He ended up sat behind the grandchildren of Neil Armstrong, and heard them discussing “the rocket that grandpa rode”.
“The Journey Of Your Life” – Jake Owen
Owen’s “The Journey Of Your Life” is another list of valuable life lessons from a grandfather. Owen’s grandfather tells him that he’ll need a hero to look up to and a good dog by his side, some tools, a good home to come back to, and the ability to compromise, among other things. He also tells Owen that one day they’ll meet again. He leaves Owen with a roadmap for his life that Owen strives to follow.
“Granddaddy’s Chair” – Kane Brown
Brown remembers time spend with his grandfather when he was young, and aspires to be as good of a man one day. His grandfather was a loving, friendly man who made friends with every stranger, and Brown hopes that he’ll be the same. His ultimate goal is to one day be worthy of sitting in his grandfather’s old rocking chair, but he doesn’t feel ready yet. For now, he’s just trying to model his life after his grandfather’s.
“Grandpa’s Hands” – Rob Mayes
Whilst his mother worked, Mayes was raised by his grandparents. His grandfather taught him to use his hands to make wine, build things, and play sports. These weren’t the only lessons Mayes learnt from his grandfather however – his grandpa taught him to love, laugh and take pride in his life and family. Now Mayes tries to honour his grandfather in everything he does, and remember all the valuable things that he was taught.
“Five More Minutes” – Scotty McCreery
McCreery details many times in his youth when he begged for five more minutes – playing outside, kissing his girlfriend goodnight after a date, leaving his high school football team.
But the time he wanted those five extra minutes the most is at his grandfather’s death bed. Standing there with the rest of his family, McCreery wishes for an extra five minutes with his grandfather before he says goodbye to him forever.
“Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days)” – The Judds
The Judds beg for a story from their grandfather about his youth. Dissatisfied with the way the modern world is and feeling like everyone’s gone “crazy”, they want to hear about how things worked in a more old-fashioned society. The song won two Grammys in 1987, one in the Country Duo/Vocal Group category and one in the Country Songwriting Category.
Whether they’re still standing beside us or not, grandfathers are important figures in many people’s lives. The lessons they can teach us from their wealth of experience can help us to navigate our lives successfully and get the most out of our time on earth. Don’t worry if you don’t have a grandfather though – you can always become like Willie Nelson and be your own.
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.