Dad Music: A Series

by Alexandra Molotkow


Welcome to The Hairpin’s first Dad Music column!

“Dad Music” is a misnomer: Stevie Ray Vaughan is definitely Dad Music, but then some dads like Crass, and some like Sade. Also, the Dads of the classic Dad Music canon are Granddads now. Actual Dads probably like ’90s rap and the Smiths. Even shitty bands like NOFX are “classic.” There are dads in fedoras and bondage pants buying tampons for their bashful daughters UGH we live in the worst possible reality but at least we have Boz Scaggs.

As a genre, however, “Dad Music” normally refers to mainstream American and British acts big from the ’60s through to the ’80s, and the Dad in question is a certain kind of middle- to upper-middle-class man who married a woman and bought a minivan and housed a reasonable number of children in a house. In this column we will be talking about “Dad Music” rather than actual music that dads listen to. We will never talk about Eric Clapton, though, except to call him garbage.

Dad Music is irrelevant music. It doesn’t reflect current issues or tastes. It reflects the concerns of a people whose best years were a few decades ago. I like this kind of music. I find it easier to mold to my emotional needs because I feel less reverence for the artist and his original intent. It makes me feel defiant, and that combination of pleasure and contempt makes for an interesting relationship to something you love. Art that you kind of hate feels a little bit chewier and a little more yours.

I feel opposed to Dad Music on an ideological level, which makes listening to it feel somewhat illicit. If our aim is to burn down the social order associated with Dads, we should totally loot their music.

I want to mention that I really love my Dad. I don’t say that to gloat, because I know there are a lot of bad dads around, but I gotta hand it to Walter. Music that reminds me of my Dad makes me happy, even though, to be honest, Dad’s Dad Music isn’t the Dad Music I like. The only time we ever agreed, musically, was on the Canadian alternative rock I listened to in middle school and rejected thereafter, and then it really embarrassed me to be in the car banging “Rico” by Matthew Good Band. He owns a Steely Dan Best Of, but he never listens to it, and I know because I stole the CD from the jewel case many years ago and he has never complained.

This concludes our introductory installment of Dad Music. The Next First Installment will be: Steely Dan.