Reporter's Notebook

Songs Inspired by Parenthood
Show Description +

Readers pick their favorites and the memories associated with them. Submit your own to, and listen to the Spotify playlist as it grows here.

Show 0 Newer Notes

Track of the Day: ‘Daughter’ by Loudon Wainwright III

Another reader builds on a note from Barbara in which she runs through a bunch of covers of songs written by Kate McGarrigle, whose husband is Loudon Wainwright III:

Since you’re doing the genealogical and cultural history of the prolific Wainwright family, you might want to think about an addition to your long-dormant thread on songs inspired by parenthood: Loudon Wainwright III’s “Daughter.” Even though I think the kid in the song is kind of spoiled, I almost always get teary thinking about my daughter when I hear this one.

A reader writes:

I think Jack Johnson’s “You Remind Me of You” fits well in your “songs inspired by parenthood” playlist. The lyrics are self-deprecating from the point of view of Jack/Daddy (not far off from Paul Simon in “St. Judy’s Comet”), and they cleverly radiate love for both mother and daughter. It’s a very sweet and comforting message for a younger child. Plus, my kids love singing the “ba-du, ba-du, ba-dus.”

Full lyrics below:

A bittersweet entry from a reader:

Thank you for creating and curating this list of parenthood songs; my wife and I love it! (Also, Track of the Day is great for this non-musical pleb : )

Check out Everclear’s “Father of Mine” and Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle.” Both songs slay me … but hey, I’ve got absentee-dad issues. Since I’m so damn determined to break the cycle with my two miraculous sons, these songs hit me HARD. I have to spend several minutes afterwards just collecting my shit.

Full lyrics for Chapin’s song below:

A reader recommends a parenthood song by Leslie Odom Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda from the Hamilton soundtrack:

I love the way this song tenderly expresses the humbling experience of parenthood shared by two men—both quite roughened to the ways of the world and otherwise vehemently opposed. The common ground of our humanity. Ahh ...

A reader contributes to the popular new thread of songs about parenthood:

After listening to Paul Simon’s “St. Judy’s Comet” for your Track of the Day, my thought was not about a song about parenthood, but rather, in my own experience, that moment when music comes to the rescue in the midst of parenting. Like the talented Mr. Simon, my struggle was to get my young daughter to sleep. Having neither the singing skills nor even the ability to remember lyrics, the only thing that came to mind while trying to sooth the crying was James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.” It had all the makings of a great lullaby and made me smile at the line “...thinking about women and glasses of beer...”  It became my go-to song for each of my children.  

How about for your kids? Tell us about it and your favorite memory playing the song.

A reader on Friday got a new thread going on by recommending a bunch of songs inspired by parenthood, namely “St. Judy’s Comet” by Paul Simon, prompting a reader yesterday to plug David Bowie’s “Kooks.” From a reader in Cincinnati:

I guess I shouldn’t submit a song your reader already listed, but you also asked for a memory, so:

“Isn’t She Lovely” was released on September 28, 1976, the very day I became a parent. I was and still am a radio DJ, and back then we used to get new albums mailed to our homes. When I left the hospital that evening with wife and baby asleep and returned to my empty house, Stevie Wonder’s new LP was waiting for me. And that was when I sat there, astonished, listening to “Isn’t She Lovely” for the first time. I can’t remember how many times I played it before I finally went to bed.

Have a favorite song and a memory associated with it? Drop us an email.

From a young mother of two:

Thanks for posting that list of songs from your reader. I’ll use it to create a little playlist; I love songs about singers’ kids. My favorite is “Kooks” by Bowie.

Miranda July is also moved by the song and wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal last year:

Bowie wrote “Kooks” just after Angie, his wife at the time, gave birth to their son Duncan in ’71. The music is bouncy and catchy, but the lyrics are what get me. They’re written as a playful letter, advising Duncan to give his kooky parents a chance: “Will you stay in our lovers’ story? / If you stay you won’t be sorry / ’cause we believe in you.” What an impossible thing to ask of your child! But maybe all parents do this. I don’t think my parents will ever forgive me for leaving their lovers’ story.

She briefly discusses her childhood and ends with:

Now when I hear him sing the line, “We believe in you,” it makes me want to cry. They’re begging him to stay and believe in them, too. From the moment your kids are born, you’re always losing them.

A reader sends a lovely email on parenthood:

A recent Track of the Day mentioned in passing John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy.” That got me thinking about the many songs I own that were written by a songwriter about their own children.

Both “Beautiful Boy” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” always makes me cry a little. Blue Ivy got immortalized by both her parents—“Blue” by Beyonce and “Glory” by Jay-Z. The award for most unintentionally ironic song about a child definitely goes to Loudon Wainwright III’s “Rufus is a Tit Man.” Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” perfectly captures what every new parent wants to shout to every stranger they meet.

There are lots more, but my favorite song in this genre is Paul Simon’s “St. Judy’s Comet” [seen above]. Most of these type of songs are about how much the parent loves their child. But Simon’s song deals with that most dreaded of parental tasks—trying to get your kid to sleep. I’ve always loved his self deprecating lyrics “If I can’t sing my boy to sleep, it makes your famous daddy look so dumb.” After all, if even Paul Simon had trouble, I could certainly cut myself some slack.

If you have a favorite song about parenthood and a memory attached to it, drop me an email.