Songs For My Dad

Fair warning: This playlist has nothing to do with building a business. This one’s strictly personal.

Compiling the soundtrack for world domination  got me thinking about other soundtracks I could put together. I’ll probably do a few — some more relevant to motherbility than others.

But I woke up at 3:30 this morning thinking about my dad. And playlists. And this is what came together.

My dad’s birthday is coming up. He would have been 70 on Nov. 29. He died of cancer in February 2014.

Some of these songs are his favorites. Others just remind me of him. The playlist is fraught with randomness, and heavy on the ’70s and ’80s. Because, you know, childhood.

This list isn’t a tribute to his life. It’s a scrapbook. I only have a handful of pictures of my dad. Many are from the end of his life, after cancer and chemo had taken their toll.

These songs remind me of all that came before. Here’s the full playlist. 


Teach Your Children Well, by Crosby, Stills & Nash; Some artists just remind me of my dad. Crosby, Stills, Nash & (sometimes) Young? Yep.

Old Time Rock’n’Roll, by Bob Seger; So does he.

Mississippi Squirrel Revival, by Ray Stevens; Somewhere between watching him struggle with bipolar disorder and seeing the chemotherapy rob my dad of his personality, I lost memories of who my dad really was. This song reminds me of his funny side — of driving too fast over country-road hills, and turning the car clock back a few minutes so we’d always arrive “on time.” I miss that dad.

Bad Moon Risin’: by Creedence Clearwater Revival; Pretty sure the only reason this song reminds me of my dad is because we’d watch the Packers games together back when Andre “Bad Moon” Rison was on the team.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, by Meatloaf; This is the first musical memory I have my dad. Just a snippet of my dad, popping this 8-track in, while I sat in one of the very ’80s cars we owned. The old blue Volvo? The tin-can-of-a-beater brown van? Probably one of those.

Because He Lives; We sang this a lot because my mom and dad liked it a lot. Now I sing it to my kids. Simple as that.

Travelin’ Soldier, by the Dixie Chicks; I think this is my last musical memory of my dad. We were in the car in Wausau, Wis., driving to my sister’s house when this song came on. I pulled into the driveway as the song neared its end, and I looked over at my dad. His eyes were filled with tears and, overcome, he just whispered, “He died?” I nodded.

Coward of the County, by Kenny Rogers; Really ALL Kenny Rogers songs remind me of my dad, but this one is my favorite.

“Stealing Cinderella,” by Chuck Wicks; My dad had very distinct relationships with each of his four kids — my two older sisters, me and my brother. Justin is five years younger than me. But for some reason, I was always my dad’s baby. Even when I was 31, married and a mom myself. That could be frustrating. But it’s the relationship we had, and so now I try to appreciate it for what it was.

Lemon Tree, by Peter, Paul and Mary. Just a memory of listening to my dad’s many mix tapes, in our perpetually half-finished basement, with its brown paneling and cement floor.

You Can’t Chop Your Papa Up In Massachusetts, by the Chad Mitchell Trio; Randomness. You were warned!

The Garden Song, by Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger; bonus memory of my sister Heidi, who introduced me to this live version, which makes me laugh and teaches the audience the lyrics mid-song, which is an awful lot for a song to accomplish, if you think about it.

I Will Never Forget You, by Carey Landry; This is somewhat ironically named because I couldn’t for the life of me remember this song. I just remembered the guy’s distinctive voice. “What was the name of that guy who sang that Christian song sometime in the 1980’s” makes a poor Google search. But it just clicked this morning — thanks, I think, to a little heavenly assist!

Grace Wins, by Matthew West: My dad never knew this song, which was released months after his death. But no one lived this song more than my dad, who stuck by my brother’s side long after the rest of us gave up. Deep into drugs as a teenager, Justin has not only recovered, he’s excelled. From barely graduating high school, he attended community college so he could earn his way into a four-year university, which then set him up for Marquette Law School. As a criminal defense attorney, Justin lives his life, every day, fighting for those the world rejects. Grace wins.

I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry, by John Yvlvisar; Sometime in the 1980s, two Lutheran pastors ended up living right next door to each other. The result was a lifelong friendship with the Beyers, who introduced my parents to this song, and it became one of my dad’s favorites. We sang it at his funeral, and at my daughter’s baptism. It’s part of our family.

You’ve Said It All, by the University of Wisconsin Marching Band; When I was eight, my dad entered law school at UW-Madison. He took us to a Badgers football game. We sat in the student section, where we learned salty language and the sheer fabulosity of the Fifth Quarter. “When you say Wiiiiiii-sconsin,” I think of my dad.

Bang On the Drum All Day; by Todd Rundgren. Because Packers. And touchdowns. And my dad.

When The River Meets The Sea, by John Denver and the Muppets. In my family, “John Denver and the Muppets” is the soundtrack by which we all decorate the Christmas tree. It’s eternally tied to my dad. This song is my favorite.

2 thoughts on “Songs For My Dad

  1. Naomi J Dvorachek says:

    Great playlist! My dad has been gone for almost 13 years! I think I need to do a playlist… It would all be old-time hymns, cuz that was the only music he allowed 🙂 but still it’d be cool.

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