There are a huge number of contenders for the best Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) song of all time. After all, Stevens has been producing hits since 1967 and has received accolades like the IvorNovello Award in 2007, the BBC Radio 2 Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, and the ASCAP Songwriter of the year in both 2005 and 2006.He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. His 1970 album Tea for the Tiller man is on number 208 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and is certified triple platinum, meaning it’s sold over three million units.
In short, Stevens has had an enormously successful career – so much so that’s hard to pick the best song.
However, one stands apart – Father and Son.
With its deceptively easy guitar tab and simple, mellow pacing, it doesn’t seem to be anything special. Originally released on the aforementioned Tea for the Tiller man and later as the B-side to Moonshadow’ (the single from the album) Father and Son aren’t the obvious choices.
However, alone among all of the Stevens discography, Father and Son strikes a particular chord in how it straddles the line of a personal story and a broader societal change. This is rare in music, as most songs go one way or the other. Bruce Springsteen’s born in the USA’, for example, is about Vietnam veterans and their return home from the war – a critique of a social issue. The Beach Boys Wouldn’t it be Nice’ is about boys who want to get married. Not many songs span both of the personal and the societal. But Online Guitar Tab – Father and Son do.
At its core, it’s about the intrinsic conflict between generations. Particularly given the time it was released, when the US was experiencing generational conflict on an unprecedented scale, it’s easy to write it off as the opportunistic high-minded commentary of a contemporaneous social strife.
But it’s not. The deeply personal lyrics, the contrast between the low father and the higher son parts, and the inherent reliability of the message bring the broader concept into sharp focus.
The song is written as a conversation between a father and a son. The son is arguing that it’s time for him to strike out on his own: “I know, I have to go.” The father is arguing that he just needs to “relax, take it easy” because there’s plenty of time to go rushing off.
Most parents can relate to having this conversation with their child. Whether it’s about when they can catch the bus on their own or when they want to stay out until two AM instead of midnight, these negotiations are as old as parenting.
And therein lies the magic of Father and Son – everyone has experienced this, and the older you get, you’re probably going to experience it from both sides. The song crystallizes growing up and leaving the nest but manages to capture this rite of passage from both the perspective of the parents and the child.
Whether you’re talking your fifteen-year-old into waiting just one more year’ to go out with their friends or you’re the fifteen-year-old stating your case, this song is sure to strike a chord.