It’s not just multi-tools or Gold Bond or even children that make you a dad. Sure, those things help, but fatherhood is just as much an aesthetic as it is a stage in life. It doesn’t discriminate by age, nationality or gender. If you meet the qualifications, get fitted for some white New Balance sneakers, because you’re a dad.
A few years ago, “dad rock” became an intoxicating buzzterm, giving a name to the genre that’s been turning regular music fans into Sears-shopping, steak-charring padres for decades. With the vinyl resurgence in full effect, it’s more than likely that a few dad rock classics have worked their way into your record collection.
That’s not a bad thing. There’s a lot to be said for having the confidence to wear a grass stain on your jeans for four consecutive days — a swagger that might not be possible without the transformative dadliness of these 10 records.
There’s a reason regional Ford dealers across the country use “Go Your Own Way” in their ads. The lovesick yawp of Lindsey Buckingham is like crack for dads, and Fleetwood Mac have been responsible for more F-150 sales than they’ll ever be recognized for.
Though contrarian know-it-all dads will argue that Tusk was really Fleetwood Mac’s crowning achievement, it was 1977’s Rumours that solidified them as the kind of folksy, gypsy rock band that could transcend generations. Indelibly catchy songs like “Dreams” and “You Making Loving Fun” just beg to be grooved along with to levels that are embarrassing to all within eyeshot.
When Massachusetts rock band J. Geils Band transitioned into the 1980s, they dropped the harmonica-driven blues of their early records, opting for the glitzier, funkier sound that embodied 1981 LP Freeze Frame. Led by the flamboyant proclivities of saxophonist/harmonica player Magic Dick, the new sound gave the six-piece an element of seduction they’d lacked in their streetsier past — an innocuous, disposable sexiness that dads live for. The move rewarded the band with the two biggest hits of their career, “Centerfold” and “Freeze-Frame,” two tunes which have been drummed into the dashboards of minivans thousands of times in the decades since.
Queen: A Night at the Opera
Has there ever been a more machismo-soaked album than A Night at the Opera? The 1975 opus from Queen has a song in which drummer Roger Taylor grunts his devotion to his automobile over impassioned guitar licks and throbbing piano lines. It’s the kind of over-the-top lack of self-awareness that would mortify anyone who isn’t a dad.
Of course, ’74s Sheer Heart Attack could be considered right up here as British rock bands’ contribution to definitive dad rock, but A Night at the Opera gave us “Bohemian Rhapsody” — the king of overzealous road trip singalongs.
Fathers have long since hid their copies of Tea for the Tillerman away from their children for fear that one listen of “Father and Son” would reduce them to a quivering heap. Thus is the power Cat Stevens holds over dads.
The 1970 LP is most wistful ballads like “Wild World” and “Where Do the Children Play?” — tracks that will instantly dew the eyes of anyone who falls into the dad category (dadegory). Not sure if that includes you? Put Tea for the Tillerman on your turntable, and see if you can make it to the end of side A without turning a pile of Kleenex into a wadded memorial to your own dadliness.
Speaking of weepy dads, easy-folk idol James Taylor has sprung forth buckets of tears from tenderhearted papas in his nearly 50-year career, with the most tear-jerking moments coming from his 1970 sophomore LP Sweet Baby James. Notable for the career-defining single “Fire and Rain,” Sweet Baby James became canon to CNN’s target demographic immediately after its release, and James Taylor tickets are still the best Father’s Day gift to get for someone you want to see ugly cry in a stadium setting.
Jazz-rock is just disco for dads. Steely Dan didn’t know this when they release Aja, their 1977 masterpiece, but they’ve been reaping the commercial rewards ever since. With honking synthesizers, smooth-as-Steve-McQueen sax, and runtimes that really test the limits of human patience, Aja has become an essential record in the collection of any self-respecting dad.
There’s probably no band that has become their fanbase than Steely Dan. Have you seen a recent picture of Donald Fagen? That guy looks like he’s seconds away from scolding you for fiddling with the thermostat.
For the dad that still calls marijuana “dope,” the Doobie Brothers are a cornerstone. The constantly rotating rock band could easily double for the cast of Dazed and Confused — a film that still endures as the dad’s paradigm of cool, regardless of how outdated that association has become.
Minute by Minute is the eighth entry in the Doobie Brothers’ 14-album history, and it is objectively their coolest, winning four Grammys. It shows the hirsute California rockers at the height of their powers, dishing out jams like “What a Fool Believes” and “Minute by Minute” over bass lines that can only be described in dadspeak as “bitchin’.”
Because, in order to be a true dad, you must defy society’s expectation. You wear grease-stained Izod polos to nice restaurants. You fart theatrically at tee ball games. You sing Carole King’s cover of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” with zero irony and feel like a goddess because of it.
In the words of the Dad of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau, King’s Tapestry “[did] for the female voice what countless singer-composers achieved years ago for the male.” But as an unapologetic dad, you’re not afraid to put the needle down and let King’s candid vocals liberate the feminine spirits in you. You’ve come too far to care about social formalities like gender; you just want to feel free.
Blue jeans and white T-shirts are the official uniform of the American dad. It’s a look that was made iconic by blue-collar rocker Bruce Springsteen on the cover of his massively popular 1984 album Born in the USA. It’s the de facto soundtrack for an afternoon in the garage tinkering with the carbureter.
Replete with chest-thumping anthems like “Glory Days,” “I’m Goin’ Down,” and the title track, Born in the USA has sold over 30 million physical copies to date, making it one of the most popular albums ever made. Does this mean The Boss is responsible for creating over 30 million dads worldwide? Well, it’s probably more considering the secondhand market, but that’s probably a close estimation.
It’s just “Eagles,” no “the.” This is the kind of factoid you pull out when you’ve been ensconced in yard work and do-it-yourself plumbing that you’ve run out of pop culture anecdotes. For its timeless ability to expose the most out-of-touch person at the party, Eagles’ Hotel California is arguably the most dadly album ever pressed to wax.
Nevermind the labyrinthine title track, Hotel California is full of the Greatest Hits of fatherhood. “Life in the Fast Lane,” “New Kid in Town,” and close “The Last Resort” are all tributes to Don Henley’s ability to resonate with proud and goofy patriarchs the world over. Eagles endure as one of the archetypes of dad rock, a status that was solidified in 1976 with Hotel California.