Father and Son (song)  1970

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Single by Cat Stevens
from the album Tea for the Tillerman
Released 1970
Recorded 1970
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:41
Label Island
A&M Records (USA)
Writer(s) Cat Stevens
Producer(s) Paul Samwell-Smith

“Father and Son” is a popular song written and performed by English singer-songwriter Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) on his 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. The song frames an exchange between a father not understanding a son’s desire to break away and shape a new life, and the son who cannot really explain himself but knows that it is time for him to seek his own destiny.

Stevens sings in a deeper register for the father’s lines, while using a higher one for those of the son. Additionally, there are backing vocals provided by Stevens’ guitarist and friend Alun Davies beginning mid-song, singing an unusual chorus of simple words and sentences such as “No” and “Why must you go and make this decision alone?”.

Cat Stevens originally wrote “Father and Son” as part of a proposed musical project starring British actor Nigel Hawthorne, called Revolussia, that was set during the Russian Revolution, and could also have become a film; the song was about a boy who wanted to join the revolution against the wishes of his conservative farmer father. The musical project faded away when Stevens contracted tuberculosis in 1969. He was close to death at the time of his admittance to the King Edward VII Hospital in Midhurst, West Sussex. After a year-long period of convalescence in the hospital and a collapsed lung (which might have been the result of too much fast living after first achieving fame)[1] the project was shelved, but “Father and Son” remained, now in a broader context that reflected not just the societal conflict of Stevens’ time, but also captured the impulses of older and younger generations in general.

“Father and Son” received substantial airplay on progressive rock and album-oriented rock radio formats, and played a key role in establishing Stevens as a new voice worthy of attention. In 1970 it was only put on the B-side of Stevens’ single “Moon Shadow” (Island Records).

Interviewed soon after the release of “Father and Son”, Stevens was asked if the song was autobiographical. Responding to the interviewer from Disc, he said, “I’ve never really understood my father, but he always let me do whatever I wanted—he let me go. ‘Father And Son’ is for those people who can’t break loose.”

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Stevens has said he is aware that “Father And Son” and several other songs mean a great deal to a large number of fans.

“Some people think that I was taking the son’s side,” its composer explained. “But how could I have sung the father’s side if I couldn’t have understood it, too? I was listening to that song recently and I heard one line and realized that that was my father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father speaking.”

By 2007, Stevens (then known as Yusuf Islam) recorded the song again in “Yusuf’s Cafe Sessions” of 2007 on DVD again with Alun Davies, and a small band playing acoustic instruments. The performance was presented in a video with two close camera shots of his wife and daughter, holding his infant grandchild, as if to make the point that this song really is timeless.

A version of the song was released in 1972 sung by Sandie Shaw. It became her twenty-ninth and final single on the Pye Records label, which had given her a highly successful string of hits in the 1960s, making her the most successful British female singer of that decade.

Other recordings

On the 1974 album Junkie and the Juicehead Minus Me, Johnny Cash released a slightly changed version of the song with his stepdaughter, Rosie Nix Adams, with the title “Father and Daughter”, with new lyrics.

Irish Actor Colm Wilkinson (of stage fame; Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, among other musicals), released a CD, Some of My Best Friends Are Songs on EMI Records with a cover of “Father and Son” being performed as a duet, performed with Wilkinson’s son, Aron. Wilkinson sang the parts as the father, while his son sang the other parts of the song.

In 1995, Francis Dunnery covered the song on the album Tall Blonde Helicopter.

In 2001 the producers of the film Moulin Rouge wanted to use “Father and Son” underneath the opening scene, but Stevens, having converted to Islam, refused on religious grounds given the somewhat racy nature of the film.

Also in 2001, punk band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes released their version on a 7″ single entitled Stevens.

Indonesian Heavy Metal band Power Slaves covered the song for their self-titled album in 2001.

2003 saw Johnny Cash revisit the original song with Fiona Apple accompanying during the ‘son’ verses on disc 3 of the “Unearthed (album)” boxed set.

A version by Leigh Nash was released in 2004 on the Everwood original soundtrack album.

In 2006, Rod Stewart included his take on “Father and Son” on his “rock standards” album Still the Same… Great Rock Classics of our Time.

In 2007, British group The Enemy covered the song for the album Radio 1 Established 1967.

In 2008 and 2009, the cast of the serie Casi Ángeles recorded the song on his serie and concerts.

In 2010, Rocky Votolato included an iTunes-exclusive cover of the song on “True Devotion”.

In 2010, Zac Brown Band included “Father And Son” as a bonus track on “You Get What You Give