August 14, 2009

In Which We Choose The Best Song For Capturing The Sometimes Strained and Tortured Relationships Betwixt Fathers and Their Sons

I was maybe 10 when I heard Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the the Cradle" for the first time. It really made me sad, and I would get choked up pretty much every time I heard it. As I got older, though, I started to feel that song was just too blunt, too manipulative, and I got over any like I used to have for the song. (To give credit where it's due, Ugly Kid Joe really helped me get over this song also.)

As is typical for me, what I'm listening to right now is heavily influenced by what I'm seeing on TV. A couple of times over the past few weeks, I've seen the trailer for the upcoming film The Boat That Rocked, about pirate radio broadcast to England in the 1960s from a boat in the North Sea. The trailer features Cat Stevens' "Father and Son", and after hearing it on the trailer a couple of times, I pulled out my Cat Stevens collection and started listening to this song over and over during the last few weeks.

In my opinion, this is the song that people should be listening to insted of that "Cat's in the Cradle". It affects me the same way as "Cat's in the Cradle" did, but in a much more poetic way that can better stand up to multiple listens. So, why are people listening to that Harry Chapin song, or worse, the Ugly Kid Joe version?

Am I wrong about this? Is "Cat's in the Cradle" actually the better song? Or, is there something else that I'm not even aware of that fits this particular micro-genre more appropriately? I'll make you a deal, dear reader. Vote for your favorite, then explain in the comments why you choose what you do. In exchange for you participation, I will embed here for your viewing pleasure the trailer for The Boat That Rocked:

The Best Song For Capturing The Sometimes Strained and Tortured Relationships Betwixt Fathers and Their Sons:


Scott said...

This is a close one, but only because of the horrible last stanza of "Cat's in the Cradle": "And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me/He'd grown up just like me/My boy was just like me." That pretty much snaps me out of any emotional state I might be in by that point.

Still, up to that point, I'm caught in the song's grasp.

Also, "Father and Son" has always struck me as a funny little number owing to my general feeling that Cat Stevens is a funny little artist. That's my fault, but it does undermine my true emotional response to his songs.

Cheeth said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Cat Stevens never wrote a bad song*.

This reminds me of when we were driving toward San Diego, approximately between Barstow and Victorville, listening to Cat Stevens.

I always thought the line "See you later, can I have them please?" was unrealistic, because the sad dad would have yielded the keys immediately, out of resignation to having lost his boy or out of a desperate need to win back the boy by compliance, so the boy wouldn't have had to ask twice.

*He did write many songs that were not good, but none that were bad.

Captain Emus said...

I'm going off the board here with my vote for "Still Fighting It" by Ben Folds. As opposed to the two candidate songs that expose the strain of the father/son relationship, "Still Fighting It" preempts the inevitable father/son angst by highlighting the commonalities that a father and his son will share in the course of battling obtstacles in life.

It has that haunting last line ("You're so much like me. I'm sorry"). But despite the hard times that the kid is going to encounter, at least Ben Folds' song contemplates a succesful navigation of it all ("Twenty years from now, maybe we'll both sit down and have a few beers.").

So it gets my vote.

wifey said...

i remember when i worked with a lady who sometimes listened to Christian country music streaming on her computer at the office. it was really bad stuff. terrible, cheesy songs that even the other really outspoken Christian girl in the office didn't like... but there was a song that always made me especially mad because it always brought tears to my eyes. i blamed it on being pregnant at the time, although i don't think i am exceptionally emotional while pregnant. my desk faced the wall, but i was always mortified someone was going to discover me trying not to bawl about this stupid song that was manipulating my feelings about this boy's feelings about his dad. it would be a strong contender for most emotionally torturous for the listener, anyway.

i wish i could remember the exact lyrics, and i don't know the "artist" or title, but it was something about a little boy that asked his mom one morning why dad had to go every morning and be gone all day. the mom answered that he had to earn a living, and dad's boss pays him for his time... so the boy goes away for a minute, and returns to ask his mom something like (with a handful of change), "in my piggy bank i have $3.85, how much of dad's time will this buy me? is it enough to go fishing tomorrow?" or something like that. anyway, SUPER pitiful. you'd really have to hear it to get the full effect. or maybe be extra sensitive.

anyone heard of this song i'm talking about? dammit, now is that a tear on my computer keyboard?...

moiety said...

My vote for Father and Son is based largely on sentimental favor and familiarity - had never heard of Harry Chapin till just now (my bad, eh?), and F&S has been a touchstone for me for decades now. But poetically they're really different stories, aren't they? Cat's in the Cradle is about a father's regret over the alienation he engenders in his relationship with his son through socially normalized/encouraged neglect; Father and Son is about the frustration and tension felt by a son over his father's refusal or inability to see the world his way, or more profoundly, to recognize that they see the world in different ways. Dunno; maybe as my son gets older, I'll start relating to Cat's in the Cradle more - if nothing else, (umm, no, that's about it, on the bullseye) it's a warning shot across the bow.