Song for All Fathers

Yesterday (21 June) being Father’s Day here in Japan, it seems appropriate to send out some belated warm wishes of the day — but not only for my own family. This tribute goes out to all the fathers of the world, that is, to the vaunted institution of fatherhood itself.

And there is really only one song I know, amongst all the songs I’ve ever heard in my life, that expresses the respect and love that we send to our fathers on their special day: “Song for My Father” by the late jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver.

The original version of “Song for My Father” was released back in 1964 on Silver’s famed Blue Note album of the same name, a true jazz classic. Silver related how the song was inspired in part by the African folk rhythms often played around the house by his father, John Silva, a musician who hailed from the island nation of Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa (and who graces the famous cover of that Blue Note record, as seen in the above clip).

As you’ll see if you do a search for the song on YouTube, an amazing number of artists over the years have done their own cover versions of “Song for My Father”. But the first one to cover it with words was apparently the late jazz vocalist (and former Santana rock band singer) Leon Thomas, who added some lyrics to the song, along with some jazz yodeling, on his 1969 album Spirits Known and Unknown:

If there was ever a man who was
Generous, gracious and good,
That was my dad —
The man...

Fast-forward to about 30 years later, and Horace Silver reclaims “Song for My Father” on his 1993 CD It’s Got to Be Funky, as sung by the ever-soulful vocalist Andy Bey, with a completely new set of lyrics:

Our mother’s love is real nice
But old Dad sacrificed
For us too
Let us give him his due...

Jazz singer extraordinaire Dee Dee Bridgewater took those same lyrics and offered up her own rendition of “Song for My Father” in the superb recording Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver, released in 1995. Silver even joined in on piano for this version of his famous tune, making it one of the more memorable moments in recent jazz history.

“Song for My Father” came back around full circle by the 21st century with yet another reworked version of the tune by Carmen Souza, a young singer from Cape Verde, the same country as Horace Silver’s father. Souza, singing in Portuguese, added new lyrics of her own to the song, telling of the joy she feels of a father’s return home after being away for so long at sea.

Horace Silver made his transition to the spirit world at age 85, just about one year ago to this very day. Thankfully, he lived long enough to see the song he originally composed as a dedication to his own dad so many years ago taken to heart by many people around the world since then. It’s one of those songs that has universal appeal — which makes sense if you think about, since every person in the world has at least one father (some of us have many of them).

So, if you’re looking for a warmhearted yet affordable gift for that special patriarch in the family, I can’t think of a better gift than sharing with them the Horace Silver tune “Song for My Father”, no matter which version of it you choose.

This blog piece, then, goes out to all the fathers out there — mine, yours and everybody else’s. Consider this write-up a song for all fathers, and feel free to share it with the papas and grandpas who have made a positive difference in your own life, just as many have in mine.

Much respect and love to them all on this day after Father’s Day!

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