It can be both difficult to listen to music when you’ve lost a loved one. But music has the power to heal and motivate. When listening to songs about losing your dad, it can potentially be comforting and productive—especially if you are or have previously gone through this tragic loss.
In this article, I’m going to provide you with a selection of songs on this topic that I feel really show that, as human beings, we all go through similar things. And that, slowly over time, we can heal ourselves and move forward.
Country Songs About Losing Your Dad
Let’s begin with a song by Cole Swindell.
You Should Be Here by Cole Swindell
You can have everyone you love around you to celebrate your birthday, wedding, or graduation from college, but your eye is always going to go to the empty chair and think about the person who should be filling it.
Well, that’s exactly what this song by Cole Swindell is about. The beautiful thing about this song is that it was written by someone who lost his father, and there’s an understanding or bond between what the songwriter wrote and how people like us relate to it.
After my mom died, friends of mine told me that my mom’s spirit would still be at my wedding, but that’s not how I wanted it. I wanted her with me. I wanted her in photos. I wanted her to zip up my gown, and maybe you’ll relate to that. Maybe, you want your dad to walk you down the aisle, watch you graduate college, or publish that first book.
The fact that he isn’t here in the way you want is heartbreaking—though it’s also a completely normal emotion to have. In a lot of ways, this is one of those songs that perfectly describes how you feel when you’re tired of trying to explain it to everyone around you.
It Won’t Be Like This For Long by Darius Rucker
About 12 years ago, when I was living overseas, I’d listen to this song anytime I missed my dad. The song is written from the dad’s perspective and how fast time goes with his child. When the kids are little, the time seems to drag on, but then eventually he’s going to give his daughter away through marriage and watch her grow up and move away.
After my dad died, I realized just how fast our time together went. One minute me and him were playing tennis together and the next, I was in my 30s giving his eulogy to a crowd of faces. Not only did it go by fast for me, but it also went by fast for my dad. It’s a beautiful tribute to a strong father-child relationship, but especially for daughters.
This song shows just how fast time can go. After your dad dies, you realize just how quickly life changes and you become nostalgic for what was, rather than what now is.
Songs About A Daughter Losing Her Dad
For this section, I want to first highlight a truly excellent song by Seinabo Sey.
Never Get Used To by Seinabo Sey
Seinabo Sey begins this song with emotionally raw lyrics: “I cry ‘cause I remember you. And then I cry when I forget about you.” Those simple lyrics bring up an interesting facet of losing a loved one that you don’t hear too much in music.
When you suffer a loss, you often feel sadness and perhaps a little sense of guilt. It feels like life will never return back to “normal.” But it eventually does, as time don’t eradicate pain, but it can ease the hurt a little bit.
When that happens—when you’ve pushed passed the pain and “moved on”—how do you cope? How do you deal with no longer feeling endless heartache over your loved one’s passing?
Well, that’s a little bit of what Sey touches on in this song—the complex push and pull of pain and overcoming pain. But, as Sey explicitly mentions in this song, she’s kind of fooling herself. She hasn’t yet achieved mental peace or acceptance of her dad’s loss. Or, even if she has accepted it, her life will never feel “normal” again. She’ll keep expecting her dad to call her on the phone. Call for her from another room. Or drop in unexpectedly.
As much internal healing one goes through to overcome any kind of loss, the reality is that no matter how much you “accept” reality, there are just some things you’ll never fully get used to.
Because I’ll never get used to, not having you around me
Daddy, I’ll never get used to, not having you around me
(‘Round me, ’round me, ’round me)
Calling for you is your daughter
I look for you ’round every corner
I need to hear your voice, it’s harder than ever before
Song for My Father by Sarah McLachlan
This song’s a love letter to the singer’s father and about how much support and comfort he provided her in difficult times and wishing that the same level of comfort could be bestowed on her while navigating his death. And that’s how we all feel now that we’re in this club, right? The one person who can comfort us the most is the one we can’t receive comfort from. It’s a cruel catch-22.
But the song is also much more than that: it’s a reminder of how important it is to say how you feel before it’s too late. The part of this song that really gets to me is when she sings, “You have carried me through more than you could know,” because it not only speaks to my father and I’s relationship, but it points out how there is often so much that’s left unsaid because we always think we’re going to have more time. More time to say thank you. More time to apologize. More time to make amends. Or, more time to say I love you.
Though I was fortunate to tell my dad how much he meant to me in the last few years of his life, by the time I got to the hospital on the day he died, he had already been unresponsive. So, hearing a beautiful lyric like “Oh I hope that you can hear me,” means more to me than just hoping he can hear me when I randomly speak out to him in my living room. It referred to my final push to tell him everything I needed to say before he left be for good.
This is such a beautiful song that describes the delicate relationship between you and your father and the impactful role he played in shaping you into who you are.
Rock Songs About Losing Your Dad
Let’s kick off this section with a Fleetwood Mac song.
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
I may be biased with this first entry considering this song was one of my dad’s favorites, but listening to it after he died gave it such new meaning for me. Though Stevie Nicks wrote this song as an ode to her current relationship status, she also dedicated some of the lyrics to her father, who was her former business executive. That’s why if you’ve ever listened to Landslide performed live, Stevie says, “this is for you, daddy” right before playing.
Landslide is all about getting older and having to face the hardships you don’t want and trying to analyze how they’re going to affect you. Lyrics such as, “Can I handle the seasons of my life,” speak out about the realities of grief because when the loss first happens, you’re not sure you can handle it. It feels insurmountable.
I spent the last three years taking care of my dad, and now that he’s gone, I’m trying to figure out what my new life looks like. I think this song is especially poignant for those who doubled as caretakers. Maybe it was a lot to handle while they were alive, but now it’s something you don’t really know how to live without.
Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Back in 2016, I took my dad to see Stevie Nicks perform live in Philadelphia. He had a concert bucket list: Elvis, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Petty. Having already seen Bob Dylan and Elvis in their prime (which is pretty cool, to say the least), all that was left was Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks – and as luck would have it, Tom Petty showed up as a surprise performance!
Only it wasn’t Tom Petty. It was Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders. To this day, I’ll never understand how he confused Chrissie Hynde for Tom Petty, but I wasn’t about to let the truth slip. He was happy and that was all that mattered.
Fast forward to a year or so later, and he finally realized that no, Tom Petty didn’t show up as a surprise performer at the Stevie Nicks concert, but I had managed to score two tickets to his upcoming show anyway. I had never been the biggest Tom Petty fan, but having had the good fortune to experience that performance with him and cross the final artist off his bucket list, I couldn’t help but acquaint my dad with anything Tom Petty moving forward.
The day before he died, my husband and I were stopped by one of my dad’s neighbors who gushed about how much he loved my dad and shared a few memories of him that made him smile. Earlier that day, my dad had been rushed to the hospital for the second time that week and I had been on edge, scared that the end was near. While all of this was going on, I heard Learning to Fly come on in the background and even though my dad was still breathing, I considered it a sign that everything was going to be okay.
And that’s really the meaning behind Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly. Death is such a strange and unusual path to navigate and we don’t know how we’re going to handle it until we’re in it. We’re not just learning to fly; we’re learning to navigate a new normal. And even though we may not know what to expect about how hard the road is going to be, the only way to go is forward.
Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles
When my mom died five years ago, all my dad could talk about was joining her. As a way to make peace with his impending death, I used to listen to this song as a way of convincing myself that his passing would be a good thing because he’d be reunited with her.
Now that he’s gone, lyrics such as “the smiles returning to the faces,” and “it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter” have helped me understand that, while his death brought sadness to me, it brought relief and happiness to him. He’s no longer suffering. And he’s no longer without the love of his life.
Sometimes, in grief, we have to try and convince ourselves of the positives and this song definitely does that. When George Harrison utters “little darling,” it kinda feels like it’s my dad talking to me, telling me that what happened is alright and that he’s happy. When a parent succumbs to their illness after a long battle, it’s healthy to find relief in the loss and that’s what this song offers.
Deep Blue by George Harrison
There’s a line in Deep Blue by George Harrison that describes grief so beautifully. It goes, “When the sunshine is not enough to make me feel bright…” and if there isn’t a better way of capturing what the aftermath of death feels like then I don’t know what is.
When your dad passes away, it seems like everyone is coming at you with a lesson. Platitudes abound after death and one of the most common phrases people like to say is, “Your dad would want you to be happy.” While you know it’s true, sometimes your heart is just too mangled to have that knowledge matter.
There are certain points in the grieving process where all the platitudes, words of affirmation, and happy moments just aren’t enough to pull you out of your depression. And unfortunately, it’s not always something outsiders understand until they experience the loss themselves. In this song, Harrison eloquently states that sometimes you’re just in a funk – and that’s okay.
Fear by Blue October
Some songs aren’t aimed at the loss of a father, but rather the feelings you have trying to deal with the aftermath. And that’s what this song is about. Though the song was originally written as a result of the lead singer’s battle with sobriety, the gist of the song is about trying to overcome something dark and too scary to confront – and that’s the loss of a loved one.
There’s one lyric that really encourages me when the grief is starting to get too strong and it’s “I don’t have to be afraid, I don’t have to let the damage consume me.”
If you’re suffering from the normal depression that hits after losing your dad, it can be hard not to lose yourself in it, but the further down the rabbit hole you go, the more difficult it is to get back up.
This song’s a reminder that while, yes, you can be sad about the loss, you don’t have to let it consume you. It’s something anyone grieving needs to be reminded of now and then, especially if you’ve started feeling depressed. This song serves as a reminder that you can – and will – get through this on the other side.
R&B and Rap Songs About Losing Your Dad
Let’s begin with perhaps one of the saddest songs you could ever hear on this subject.
Dance with My Father by Luther Vandross
This is, perhaps, the saddest song about losing your father. But, strangely, it’s also one of the most beautiful, as well.
On this song, Vandross sings about how it felt to be a kid with a father that, to him, probably felt like Superman. He would play with Luther, lifting him up into the air like an Eagle, bringing him endless joy.
But now Luther’s father is gone, and the sadness is overwhelming. On this track, Luther sings of wanting “another chance” or “another walk” or “another dance with him.” This is a track that begs us, as the audience, to appreciate the good times (and people) while they are still here. Once these moments are over, all we’ll have left are the fond memories and feelings.
On the chorus of this song, Luther states that if he were to get an opportunity to dance with his father one more time, he’d play a song that would “never ever end.” It’s a sobering admission. We all know life is finite, but sometimes, we just can’t accept that reality.
Father by LL Cool J
A lot of the songs on this list are about the death of a parent, and how one copes with such a loss. But sometimes, you’ve lost a parent while they’re still alive. Sometimes, a parent is a deadbeat. Sometimes, a parent is emotionally and physically abusive.
And sometimes, it’s not that you lost a parent due to their death—it’s that your parent’s actions stunted your emotional growth and crushed your soul.
That’s very much what we have here on the song “Father” by LL Cool J. On this song, LL sings of the pain the father figures in his life caused his family, particularly his mother. On this track, Cool J raps about seeing the men in his mom’s life take drugs, physically abuse her, and even shoot her in the back. That violence blew back on other family members too, as Cool J recalls seeing his grandfather get shot as well.
The chorus sees LL yearning for a real father figure in his life. You no doubt get the impression that Cool J is keenly aware that his life would’ve had a different, far more positive trajectory had his father figures been stable, drug-free men that had control of their emotions.
Touching Songs From Feature Films
Let’s begin with Phil Collins for this section.
You’ll Be in My Heart by Phil Collins
“Come stop your crying. It will be alright.” No two opening lines from a song make me burst into tears as easily and that’s because it feels like my dad’s talking to me when the reality of losing him hits me. And that was actually Phil Collins’ driving force behind the song: dedicating it to his daughter.
When you lose your dad, it doesn’t matter how old you are: you still want to be comforted by him, especially when you’re going through something as severe as grief. And when he’s gone, it can be hard to give yourself the kind of grace and protection you need to heal. And that’s why lyrics are so powerful to heal your heart after it’s been broken.
There’s a part in the song where the singer says, “When destiny calls you, you must be strong. I may not be with you, but you’ve got to hold on,” that rings true to just how challenging this period of your life is.
No, your father isn’t here with you physically. But that doesn’t mean the bond you two shared ends. It doesn’t mean that he’s not looking out at you, proud, and beaming with joy. And it doesn’t mean that the love and protection he gave to you goes away. It lives in you. It lives in your heart – and not even death is strong enough to take that away from you.
My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
I think the worst part about losing someone is that all the love you have for them suddenly has nowhere to go. While you could call their phone or send an email, you’re not going to get a response back and that feeling of not being able to express all the varied emotions you’re carrying sometimes makes you feel like there’s never going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sometimes when the grief seems all too much, it’s easy to want to try and bury those bad feelings down because otherwise, they’re just too hard to deal with. But you will eventually move on from the grief and into a space of acceptance – and that’s what this song is about.
While we all know it from the movie Titanic, My Heart Will Go On serves as a reminder that no matter the distance between you and your dad, he still lives in your heart, his stories still reside in your memories, and though you move on from the heartache, you don’t move on from how they inspired you, how they changed you, or how they loved you.
This is a great song to listen to when you’re compounded by grief and you need the reminder that yes, this all eventually will be okay. Sometimes we just need that reminder to get through to tomorrow.
Listening to songs about losing your dad can be incredibly cathartic in helping you process what happened and find solace in the fact that you’re not alone in how you feel. Your heart won’t hurt forever. The pain won’t always feel this strong. While death may be the end of a physical life, it’s not the end of loving someone.
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This article was written by Courtney, with select additions by Michael.