In honor of Dad Rockers everywhere, here are 10 songs to break out that’ll likely make your old man pretty damn happy and reminisce about the days of bell-bottoms, college parties, and an uncomfortable amount of chest hair.
1. “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan
It seems the most fitting to kick off this list with the ultimate Dad Rock band Steely Dan, who effortlessly mixed rock, funk, and jazz together to blow your pop’s mind back in 1977. “Deacon Blues,” in particular, is the crowning achievement of Dad Rock: A near-8 minute song about drinking all night long and playing the saxophone. In other words, what your dad probably did in college.
2. “Hotel California” by The Eagles
The song that launched a generation of air guitar solos, “Hotel California” was one of the first ballads to fall under the “Dad Rock” title, and is still of the best. If you ever rummage through your attic and find a dusty, white Gibson double-neck SG, there’s an 95% chance your dad bought it after hearing this song for the first time.
3. “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett
It’s a song about escaping real life and drinking yourself silly on a warm beach while wearing an obnoxiously busy Hawaiian shirt. So odds are it’s your dad’s dream vacation, the one he’ll never take as long as everyone is leeching off his damn wallet.
4. “Box of Rain” by Grateful Dead
It’s the Grateful Dead. There’s absolutely no way we could get through this list without including at least one of their songs. This band, more than anyone else on this list, channeled the hippie idealism of the 1960s with grace and emotion, so don’t blame your dad if he’s still a wreck over Jerry Garcia’s death. Hey, at least Phish is still killing it.
5. “Walk Of Life” by Dire Straits
Now we get to the 1980s, where the new generation of Dad Rock leaned more on folk and earnest southern rock than the previous decade. Case in point: This bouncy little earworm that’s probably a staple on your dad’s road trip mixtape. If you close your eyes, you can almost see a middle age dude in cargo shorts trying to square dance to this song.
6. “Jack and Diane” by John Mellancamp
Speaking of southern rock, we can’t forget one of the greatest love stories ever backed by electric guitars, and one that your parents have likely referred to as “their song” once or twice. It’s the ultimate nostalgia trip of wholesome American life and growing up with high school sweethearts and a glimmer of hope for the future.
7. “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen (and cover by The Band)
To quote your dad, “BRUUUUUUUCE!!!” But also, The Boss has always been the best at writing honest folk rock and wearing his heart on his sleeve, and “Atlantic City” is one of the few things that can bring a tear to any grown man’s eye. That and watching your life savings vanish into your kid’s college textbooks (sorry, dad).
Also, shout-out to the awesome cover by The Band, aka the ultimate “Hey, made dad loves these guys!” musical act.
8. “Layla” (Unplugged) by Eric Clapton
This is an example of an artist who wrote a Dad Rock song when he was young, eventually became a Dad, revisited that song years later, and somehow made it even more Dad Rock. The original electric version of “Layla” will always be Clapton’s best work, but the MTV Unplugged version is nothing to snuff at, and it undoubtedly inspired your dad to revisit his old Derek & the Dominos album.
9. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” by The National
These guys are one the younger side of the dad scale, but they’re dads nonetheless. It’s a slow and brooding ballad that will either restore your dad’s faith in new music, or is currently on the playlists of young, hipster dads who will stop at nothing to ensure their kid likes “real” music. Screw Elmo, start ‘em off with The National.
10. “If I Ever Was A Child” by Wilco
Jeff Tweedy is literally one of the first image results when you Google “Dad Rock.” Seriously, give it a shot. Even while there are plenty of Wilco songs that would fit this list, “If I Ever Was A Child” seemed the most fitting because it’s the lead single off the album Schmilco. That’s right, I shit you not, the album’s name is a dad joke. And on that note, I think we’re done here.