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Original Fab 5 band members circa 1970. (From left, front row): Frankie Campbell, Junior Bailey, Grub Cooper, and Conroy Cooper, (Back row): Peter Scarlett (left) and Stevie Golding. - Contributed
Original Fab 5 band members circa 1970. (From left, front row): Frankie Campbell, Junior Bailey, Grub Cooper, and Conroy Cooper, (Back row): Peter Scarlett (left) and Stevie Golding. —

As we reflect on Father’s Day and the important role that fathers play – or should play – in the family structure, we can’t help but take note of the many songs that have been written and sung about fathers in popular music. Using my record collection as a guide, it is significant that the majority of these songs portray fathers favourably.

This positive potrayal is ironic, considering the widely accepted notion that fathers have been delinquent in their duty towards their children, when compared to mothers.

As early as the mid-1950s, a white English crooner named Eddie Fisher belted out, what is perhaps the perennial Father’s Day ballad, Oh My Papa. He crooned:


“Oh my papa, to me he was so wonderful

Oh my papa, to me he was so good

No one could be so gentle and so lovable

Oh my papa, to me he understood.”


Containing several other lines with sheer paternal tributesOh My Papabecame very popular in the USA where it originated. It was also popular in Jamaica, where it rode high on the charts of both radio stations at the time, while being on the lips of many Jamaicans. To this day, the song retains a place on the playlist of radio stations in Jamaica and abroad during Father’s Day celebrations.


There have been instances where men who have afforded their stepchildren the same privileges and support as their biological children have been credited in popular music. The mid-1960s recording Colour Him Father by The Winstons is a near-perfect example of a song that portrayed that image. In the third stanza of the recording, the group explained:


“Our real old man, he got killed in the war

And she knows and seven kids couldn’t have gotten very far…

He married my mother and he took us in

And now we belong to the man with the big wide grin.

I’ve got to colour this man father, I’ve got to colour him love.”


In Jamaica it once seemed that generally fathers were held in very low esteem, having developed a reputation for non-involvement with and lack of support for their children. However, dads in Jamaica seem to have made some improvements in more recent times:


Some years ago University of the West Indies, Mona, lecturer Dr Herbert Gayle, who is heavily involved with Fathers Incorporated, said there were many misconceptions about Jamaican fathers. This was because the culture is not one which relays clear and objective information about male parents. Studies at the time, however, showed that in some aspects of parenting Jamaican fathers were better than their European counterparts, while in other areas they were on par with the rest of the world.

Gayle explained that some 65 per cent of children in Jamaica have access to their biological fathers, a statistic that ranks the island higher than some European countries, while some 55 per cent of Jamaican homes have fathers, on par with the rest of the world.

The incomparable Frankie Campbell-led Fab 5 Band added their voice in support of fathers, with a scarce and exclusive piece done during the early reggae years of Jamaican popular music, entitled Oh Dad. With vocals by the late Peter Scarlett, the lines go in part:


“Oh Dad, he solved my little problems

Always lend an helping hand

That’s why, to me he is still the greatest man who walked this land.

Oh Dad, oh Dad, I wish you were here

To wipe those tears out of your little boy’s eyes.”


RCA’s recording artist Dorothy Moore adopted a funkier approach to the topic of fatherhood in her 1976 song Daddy’s Eyes. In it, she gives credit to her child’s father:

“The clothes you wear

The style of your hair

Says your Daddy’s paid his dues…

If they only knew the dark side of you

Boy you know they’d put you down

You got your Daddy’s eyes

Your Daddy’s smile

You try to play your Daddy’s game,

But there’s just one thing you haven’t got

You haven’t got you Daddy’s name.”


Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton

In an earlier recording, Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast, singer Wayne Newton related the story of a father who planned to leave home, only to be confronted with the plea of his little daughter, “Slow down Dad, cause you making me run”. The son continues:


“If only for the sake of my sweet daughter

I just had to turn back home right there and then

And try to start a new life with the mother of my child

I couldn’t bear to hear those words again.”


There have been so many other songs written and sung about fathers. They include the Shep and the Limelites double, What Did Daddy Doand Daddy’s Home – two slow pieces, the latter being a favourite of ‘rent a tile’ dance fans during the dancehall era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Al Martino’s Daddy’s Little Girl and a bluesy piece by Joe Liggins and Candy Rivers, titled Daddy’s on my Mind are also among songs on the topic of fatherhood.


But perhaps the one that will be most indelibly etched in the memory of most music lovers is Luther Vandross’ Dance With My Father, which earned him four Grammy awards in 2004, to add to the four he had previously received. Co-written by Vandross, the song reinforced the importance of an ever-present father figure:


“My father would lift me high and dance with my mother and me

And then spin me around till I fell asleep

Then up the stairs he would carry me

And I knew for sure I was loved.”


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