Family, Music, Pop Culture

10 “Dad-songs” That Will Make The Whole Summer A Father’s Day Gift


This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern PJ Cunningham. Find him on Instagram at @peachycunningham. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

With Father’s Day weekend just finishing up, many of us are probably reminiscing on great memories with our dads, grandfathers and paternal role models, as well as planning new ones.

For many, music is an essential part of our relationships with our fathers and the memories and nostalgia that accompany them. While we all probably winced at our dads’ music being played on road trips or parties when we were young, as we matured, we realized not only that we should accommodate our parents’ music tastes, but also do a deep dive into classic rock and pop ourselves and explore what all the hype is about to begin with. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that dad rock songs and Gen X music have become trending hits with Generation Z that are shared and celebrated on social media.

Therefore, in honor of Father’s Day, it’s only fair we give dads’ favorite tunes the justice they deserve. Without further ado, here are ten songs that will make your dad feel extra appreciated this summer.

In The Summertime – Mungo Jerry

Kicking off our list is sideburn-sporting rock band Mungo Jerry’s 1970 one-hit wonder “In The Summertime.” This song, which features laid-back lyrics about warm weather and romance over a hypnotic, rhythmic beat, is the quintessential summer lounging tune. At 53 years old, this song might be middle-aged, but it’s sure to bring back your dad’s summer memories, while also enriching yours.

Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band

Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen was the biggest thing back in the ’80s and for good reason. As the son of a guitarist in an E-Street cover band, I am very familiar with Springsteen’s discography. Picking just a single song from a legend like Springsteen is a tough choice, as I believe one could fill a 100-song playlist with his works. However, it’s hard to go wrong with “Thunder Road,” a coming-of-age hit that features incredible pacing, hard-hitting lyrics and one of the best saxophone solos of all time. This 1975 ballad about a young man wanting to leave his hometown and start a new life can turn any night drive, with or without your father present, into a one-car drag race. Chances are this song was in your dad’s playlist already and trust me, you’ll want it in yours too.

Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac has been a trendy band for years, but when it comes to the band’s modern image, social media has tended to focus on the group’s dramatic intra-romantic drama or their heavier, more autumnal hits such as “Dreams” and “Rhiannon.” However, when it comes to summer vibes with a paternal twist, few songs do it better than the group’s 1977 catchy feel-good “Don’t Stop.” Furthermore, if your dad came of age in the ’90s, chances are he’ll remember the melody from its role as Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential official campaign song, which led to its resurgence and permanent place in pop culture. With a positive, uplifting message and jingle-like chorus, this classic might not be as haunting as Fleetwood Mac’s other hits, but I promise it will put both you and your dad in a great mood and serve as a fun blast from the past while making sure you don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

Don’t Believe the Hype – Public Enemy

At first glance, a rap song might seem out of place in a playlist that features mainly classic rock. However, while the ‘father’s music’ trend tends to focus on dad rock songs, there are plenty of hip-hop-loving dads out there who deserve a shout-out. Furthermore, it would be a musical malpractice to not include classic hip-hop hits that helped pave the way for a ton of modern music youth across the world enjoy today. While it is tough to pick only one classic rap hit here, 1988’s “Don’t Believe the Hype,” by controversial and talented rap group Public Enemy is a worthy choice. A pulsating beat plus politically conscious lyrics inspired by linguistics philosopher Noam Chomsky equals an empowering feeling for any listener. Chances are your dad had this classic bumping while fighting the power as a young man in the ’90s. The rebels of today can bond with their fathers this summer by believing the hype around this Public Enemy hit.

Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin

While this list up to this point is chock-full of feel goods, sometimes slower summer days require slower songs. For those slower, pensive days, Happy Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle,” a 1974 classic on fatherhood will force you to meditate on your own life and familial relationships. While it may not scream fun or positivity, growing up is a part of life, as is seeing our parents’ age. By listening to this song, both you and your dad will grow a little closer and remember to cherish every exciting moment.

Summer Breeze – Seals and Crofts

Another slower song, Seals and Crofts 1972 hit “Summer Breeze,” is, as the name suggests, the essence of a balmy, breezy summer night turned into music. It is a quintessential yacht rock piece, with few songs being able to capture the relaxed nature of a summer night better. Yacht rock songs like summer breeze are the basis for the entire dad rock song trend and therefore, it is only right that this integral piece of the genre is featured. This one is best for nights on the water, around a bonfire, or even simply sitting on the porch at dusk with a cold drink. Put simply, it is peak dad song energy.

Reelin’ In The Years – Steely Dan

Here comes the big one! If you know anything about the dad music trend, you know this is the dad rock song of dad rock songs. Staying on the yacht rock train here, or should I say boat, we arrive at the peak of the genre and of dad music as a whole in my opinion with Steely Dan’s 1972 rocker “Reelin’ in the Years.” This song, a TikTok trend in its own right, features memorable lyrics, a catchy riff and one of the best guitar solos out there. The quintessential road trip classic and a favorite of fathers everywhere, no list of dad songs would be complete without this classic. Add it to your summer playlist and reel in those years.

Saturday in The Park – Chicago

Queue this one up for the 4th of July, just trust me. A summer song through and through, Chicago (the band, not my hometown) made an instant classic when this tune dropped in 1972. Complete with their trademark big band horn section and the impressive vocal range of lead singer Peter Cetera, “Saturday in the Park,” makes one appreciate the lovely feeling of an outdoor summer’s day. It is a favorite of my dad, probably a favorite of yours already and will soon be ever present in your summer playlist, July or otherwise.

California Girls – The Beach Boys/California Gurls – Katy Perry Ft. Snoop Dogg

Okay, this is technically a two-song selection, but the differences in each song go deeper than a simple swap of U for I. Rather, they show the evolving nature of what ‘dad music’ is. The Beach Boys 1965 hit “California Girls” is a surf rock hit that dads from coast to coast, particularly the West, know and love. Being one of those classic dad rock songs with a summer-like vibe, this song had to feature. However, its similarly named counterpart by Katy Perry Ft. Snoop Dogg released in 2010 is also a classic, largely for older members of Gen Z and millennials. However, there are many young dads and soon-to-be dads among those groups. Since Father’s Day should also celebrate them, I figured it would only be fair that young dads who grew up in the aughts and lived their ‘teenage dream’ in the 21st century had a dad song that they actually came of age to.

Now I feel old. I miss 2010. Being seven was awesome. Anyways, back to the list for one final song.

Father and Son – Cat Stevens/Yusuf

Was there ever any doubt?

This is the original dad song, literally and figuratively. Released in 1970 by a musician then known as Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, this song details the relationship between father and son but is applicable to any dad-child relationship. As the last stop in this winding playlist, this song packs an emotional weight that will make even the most reserved, stoic fathers sappy. Furthermore, its light, memorizable nature makes it an instantly recognizable classic for listeners of any age. There’s a reason it plays at the end of many tv shows and movies and also plays the role of capstone here. It is a classic dad song in more than one way and belongs in your playlist this summer.

So there you have it, there are ten songs that will not only up your chops in the dad rock songs arena but will also make your summer more memorable for both yourself and your father. Happy listening!

What is your favorite dad rock songs? Does your dad prefer other kinds of music? Let us know in the comments below!

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