It happens to be Father’s Day weekend, but that isn’t why I approached this topic. I was looking to dissect a couple of John Fogerty’s songs and then all of a sudden, I was on a different mission.
I am a sucker for father/son stories. They have pulled me in since I can remember. It is the reason I love Hamlet the most out of Shakespeare’s plays and why Field of Dreams remains my favorite film of all time. The father and son connection — it’s ups and downs, ins and outs, and struggles, has been well-documented throughout literature and film since the beginning of storytelling.
My starting point was “Someday Never Comes” by John Fogerty, a song that I think is one of the saddest ever written. It caused me to think about all the other songs I knew that were written about fathers and sons. The list kept growing until I had eight that I thought showed as many different facets of the relationship that I could possibly conjure up. I then named the key word for each, and decided on a piece of text to go with each one. In that text I have included some various poems as well as dialogue from Field of Dreams. Since this is part of my Lyric Series, I will include selected song lyrics, as well as my own short commentary. When including the video, I will attempt to include lyrics, either in the video itself or on the information with the video, if available.
Today’s blog will address the first three, and the rest will be posted tomorrow and Monday.
“Love Without End, Amen” written by Aaron Barker
Recorded by George Strait
Let me tell you a secret
About a father’s love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
You see fathers don’t just love their children every now and then
It’s a love without end, amen.
My thoughts: This is probably the easiest song to listen to of all the selections here. It is a sweet story about the cycles found in the father/son relationship. This one even includes God the Father. But it isn’t an overly religious song — it is simply about how we feel we fail our father figures. That is very human and down to earth.
Text Connection: from Field of Dreams, the opening monologue:
Ray Kinsella: [voice over] My father’s name was John Kinsella. It’s an Irish name. He was born in North Dakota in 1896, and never saw a big city until he came back from France in 1918. He settled in Chicago, where he quickly learned to live and die with the White Sox. Died a little when they lost the 1919 World Series. Died a lot the following summer when eight members of the team were accused of throwing that series. He played in the minors for a year too, but nothing ever came of it. Moved to Brooklyn in ’35, married Mom in ’38. He was already an old man working at the naval yards when I was born in 1952. My name’s Ray Kinsella. Mom died when I was three, and I suppose Dad did the best he could. Instead of Mother Goose, I was put to bed at night to stories of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the great Shoeless Joe Jackson. Dad was a Yankees fan then, so of course I rooted for Brooklyn. But in ’58, the Dodgers moved away, so we had to find other things to fight about. We did. And when it came time to go to college, I picked the farthest one from home I could find. This, of course, drove him right up the wall, which I suppose was the point. Officially, my major was English, but really it was the ’60s. I marched, I smoked some grass, I tried to like sitar music, and I met Annie. The only thing we had in common was that she came from Iowa, and I had once heard of Iowa. After graduation, we moved to the Midwest and stayed with her family as long as we could… almost a full afternoon. Annie and I got married in June of ’74. Dad died that fall. A few years later, Karin was born. She smelled weird, but we loved her anyway. Then Annie got the crazy idea that she could talk me into buying a farm. I’m thirty-six years old, I love my family, I love baseball, and I’m about to become a farmer. And until I heard the Voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.
Voice: If you build it, he will come.
“Someday Never Comes” written by John Fogerty
Recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival
When daddy went away he said try to be a man
And someday you’ll understand
Well, I’m hear to tell you now
Each and every mother’s son
You’d better learn it fast
And you’d better learn it young
Cause someday never comes.
My thoughts: I think this is one of the saddest songs ever. I cannot listen to it without remembering something a student wrote once: “The last thing I remember about my dad is his back walking out that door when I was five-years-old.” The cycle of trauma in this song is simply devastating, as it reaches down from father to son to grandson. I know too many people who never knew their own fathers. I have seen women twist themselves into pretzels trying to stay in marriages that weren’t working because they knew the father would desert the children. I think Fogerty’s bravery in speaking up is impressive. We always think that someday the children will grow up and understand. It isn’t always true. Sometimes there is never understanding. Acceptance maybe. But don’t be fooled. It is an endless weight that can never be lifted off their shoulders.
Text Connection: last stanza from “The Weight of Sweetness” by Li-Young Lee
The good boy hugs a bag of peaches
his father has entrusted
Now he follows
his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.
See the look on the boy’s face
as his father moves
faster and farther ahead, while his own steps
flag, and his arms grow weak, as he labors
under the weight
“Father and Son” written by Calvin Massey and Cat Stevens
Recorded by Cat Stevens
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
it’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go
Stay, stay, stay, stay, why must you go and
make this decision alone?
My thoughts: This song came out when I was in high school, on Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman album, and perhaps that is why I gained an emotional attachment to it which has never left me. I still get goosebumps at the end when the son is taking a stand, and the father is gently saying, Stay, stay, stay. This lyric was the first time I heard a song in two voices, and I thought it was masterful then, and I think it is masterful now. The fact that I fell in love with this song as a teenager when I was doing my own separating, doesn’t fully explain why I still find this song so compelling today. I have to chalk it up to excellent songwriting.
Text Connection: from Field of Dreams
Ray Kinsella: By the time I was ten, playing baseball got to be like eating vegetables or taking out the garbage. So when I was 14, I started to refuse. Could you believe that? An American boy refusing to play catch with his father.
Terence Mann: Why 14?
Ray Kinsella: That’s when I read “The Boat Rocker” by Terence Mann.
Terence Mann: [rolling his eyes] Oh, God.
Ray Kinsella: Never played catch with him again.
Terence Mann: You see? That’s the sort of crap people are always trying to lay on me. It’s not my fault you wouldn’t play catch with your father.
(I particularly like this video of Cat Stevens, even though there are no lyrics attached.)