In honor of Father’s Day, I put together a brief playlist of songs that remind me of my dad. I didn’t get into the memories and motivations behind every one of them. Some things are just for family.
Mexican Radio – Wall of Voodoo
As a 30-year-old, I can appreciate the place “Mexican Radio” must have had in my dad’s life when he first heard it; it has elements of the post-punk, new-wave stuff that I know he liked when he was a young man in law school (in an alternate timeline, the song could have been a Devo, Talking Heads or They Might Be Giants song).
However, what really sticks in my mind about this song is how often my dad would hum or whistle parts of it walking around in the world. My dad is a big whistler, a big fan of mumble-singing to himself as he goes about his day. There are no stats to back this up, but I’d estimate that “Mexican Radio” was among the most-hummed songs in our house, somewhere up there with “Ohio” by the Pretenders and “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles.
Long Black Veil – The Chieftains
My dad isn’t much of a singer. Not to say that he has a bad voice or doesn’t like to sing, but he doesn’t indulge in song as often as he does, say, whistle some King Crimson song that pops into his head because he sees a road sign that reminds him of the 70s.
That said, I have a clear memory of him singing this song to my cousin Tamera when she was a newborn. A bunch of us were in the living room of my aunt and uncle’s townhouse, and my dad held my cousin, singing about deadly infidelity to a captive audience. I think my infant cousin liked it, because I remember her falling asleep. I also remember my aunt not being thrilled about all that “best friend’s wife” business.
People Who Died – The Jim Carrol Band
Sometime after Napster landed on our heads, my brother started making mix CDs for my father. “People Who Died” was one of the more obscure tracks my father requested Chris find through the music theft service. It was forever enshrined on “Dad’s Mix 2,” the single greatest mix CD to ever come from the Adams household. My brothers and I played this song for my dad at his 60th birthday a few years back. That felt pretty nice.
Hokus Pokus – Insane Clown Posse
It isn’t hard to determine what music my dad will like (basically, if it sounds like the Rolling Stones or something David Byrne would like, he’ll be interested), but sometimes he latches on to shit that vibrates on a frequency only he understands. When I brought home The Great Melinko on cassette tape in seventh grade, I didn’t expect this novelty murder-clown rap would be an endearing song. And yet, at least five times a year, my dad will play this song, seemingly coming from a sincere place.
Time is a funny thing. 18 years ago, I thought my dad was as cool as it gets for linking this song. I think he’s pretty cool now, too, for liking this song, but it’s been an up-and-down two decades.
Lawyers, Guns and Money – Warren Zevon
This song might actually mean more to me than it does to my dad at this point. This was another law-school-era hit for my parent (natch, the law school kids like the song that is essentially “Send in the Clowns” for lawyers). I like this song a lot because when I hear it, I can almost imagine my parents in their early 20s, drinking $2 beers in a shitty Albany bar, falling in love a little bit at a time. I regret that I never got to meet my parents before my brothers and I ravaged their coolness. This is a little piece of fan fiction I get to have about my own family’s backstory, so that’s cool.