Father and Son (song)

"Father and Son"

German single
Single by Cat Stevens
from the album Tea for the Tillerman
Released 1970
Recorded 1970
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:41
Label Island
A&M Records (USA)
Writer(s) Cat Stevens
Producer(s) Paul Samwell-Smith
Cat Stevens singles chronology
"Lady D'Arbanville"
"Father and Son"
"Wild World"

"Father and Son" is a popular song written and performed by English singer-songwriter Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) on his 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. The song frames an exchange between a father not understanding a son's desire to break away and shape a new life, and the son who cannot really explain himself but knows that it is time for him to seek his own destiny. Stevens sings in a deeper register for the father's lines, while using a higher one for those of the son. Additionally, there are backing vocals provided by Stevens' guitarist and friend Alun Davies beginning mid-song, singing an unusual chorus of simple words and sentences such as "No" and "Why must you go and make this decision alone?"


Cat Stevens originally wrote "Father and Son" as part of a proposed musical project with actor Nigel Hawthorne called Revolussia, that was set during the Russian Revolution; the song was about a boy who wanted to join the revolution against the wishes of his father. The musical project faded away with the onset of more than a year-long period of recuperation after a sudden bout of tuberculosis and a collapsed lung; the result of too much fast living after first achieving fame.[1] But "Father and Son" remained, now in a broader context that reflected not just the societal conflict of Stevens' time, but also captured the impulses of older and younger generations in general.

"Father and Son" (1969)
Sample of "Father and Son", performed by Cat Stevens. Appears on Tea for the Tillerman.

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"Father and Son" received substantial airplay on progressive rock and album-oriented rock radio formats, and played a key role in establishing Stevens as a new voice worthy of attention. In 1970 it was only put on the B-side of Stevens' single "Moon Shadow" (Island Records).

Interviewed soon after the release of "Father and Son", Stevens was asked if the song was autobiographical. Responding to the interviewer from Disc, he said, "I’ve never really understood my father, but he always let me do whatever I wanted—he let me go. 'Father And Son' is for those people who can’t break loose."[2]

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Stevens has said he is aware that "Father And Son" and several other songs mean a great deal to a large number of fans.

"Some people think that I was taking the son’s side," its composer explained. "But how could I have sung the father’s side if I couldn’t have understood it, too? I was listening to that song recently and I heard one line and realized that that was my father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father speaking."[3]

By 2007, Stevens (then known as Yusuf Islam) recorded the song again in "Yusuf's Cafe Sessions" of 2007 on DVD again with Alun Davies, and a small band playing acoustic instruments. The performance was presented in a video with two close camera shots of his wife and daughter, holding his infant grandchild, as if to make the point that this song really is timeless.

Charts and certifications

Peak positions

Chart (1971–2014) Peak
Italy (FIMI)[4] 12
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[5] 23


Region Certification
Italy (FIMI)[6] Gold

Sandie Shaw version

"Father and Son"
Single by Sandie Shaw
B-side "Pity the Ship is Sinking"
Released 1972
Genre Pop
Label Pye
Writer(s) Cat Stevens
Producer(s) Cat Stevens
Sandie Shaw singles chronology
"Where Did They Go"
"Father and Son"
"One More Night"

A version of the song was released in 1972 sung by Sandie Shaw. It became her twenty-ninth and final single on the Pye Records label, which had given her a highly successful string of hits in the 1960s, making her the most successful British female singer of that decade.

Other recordings

On the 1974 album Junkie and the Juicehead Minus Me, Johnny Cash released a slightly changed version of the song with his stepdaughter, Rosie Nix Adams, with the title "Father and Daughter", with new lyrics.

Irish Actor Colm Wilkinson (of stage fame; Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, among other musicals), released a CD, Some of My Best Friends Are Songs on EMI Records with a cover of "Father and Son" being performed as a duet, performed with Wilkinson's son, Aron. Wilkinson sang the parts as the father, while his son sang the other parts of the song.[7]

In 1995, Francis Dunnery covered the song on the album Tall Blonde Helicopter.

In 2001 the producers of the film Moulin Rouge wanted to use "Father and Son" underneath the opening scene, but Stevens, having converted to Islam, refused on religious grounds given the somewhat racy nature of the film.

Also in 2001, punk band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes released their version on a 7" single entitled Stevens.

Indonesian Heavy Metal band Power Slaves covered the song for their self-titled album in 2001.

2003 saw Johnny Cash revisit the original song with Fiona Apple accompanying during the 'son' verses on disc 3 of the "Unearthed (album)" boxed set.

A version by Leigh Nash was released in 2004 on the Everwood original soundtrack album.

In 2006, Rod Stewart included his take on "Father and Son" on his "rock standards" album Still the Same... Great Rock Classics of our Time.

In 2007, British group The Enemy covered the song for the album Radio 1 Established 1967.

In 2008 and 2009, the cast of the serie Casi Ángeles recorded the song on his serie and concerts.

In 2010, Rocky Votolato included an iTunes-exclusive cover of the song on "True Devotion".

In 2010, Zac Brown Band included "Father And Son" as a bonus track on "You Get What You Give".

Flaming Lips lawsuit

The American rock band The Flaming Lips released a song titled "Fight Test" on their 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. "Fight Test" was thought to be so musically similar to "Father and Son" that it resulted in a lawsuit. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, representing Yusuf Islam, and EMI Music Publishing, representing the Flaming Lips, agreed to divide the royalties for "Fight Test" equally between the two parties following a relatively uncontentious settlement.[1] The Flaming Lips' frontman, Wayne Coyne, claims that he was unaware of the songs' similarities until producer Dave Fridmann pointed them out.

In an interview with The Guardian, front man Wayne Coyne stated

I want to go on record for the first time and say that I really apologise for the whole thing. I really love Cat Stevens. I truly respect him as a great singer-songwriter. And now he wants his money. There was a time during the recording when we said, this has a similarity to "Father And Son". Then we purposefully changed those bits. But I do regret not contacting his record company and asking their opinion. Maybe we could have gone 50-50. As it is, Cat Stevens is now getting 75 percent of royalties from "Fight Test", We could easily have changed the melody but we didn't. I am really sorry that Cat Stevens thinks I'm purposefully plagiarising his work. I am ashamed. There is obviously a fine line between being inspired and stealing. But if anyone wanted to borrow part of a Flaming Lips song, I don't think I'd bother pursuing it. I've got better things to do. Anyway, Cat Stevens is never going to make much money out of us.'[8]

Boyzone version

"Father and Son"
Single by Boyzone
from the album Said and Done
Released 13 November 1995
Recorded 1994-95
Genre Pop
Label PolyGram
Writer(s) Cat Stevens
Producer(s) Ray Hedges
Boyzone singles chronology
"So Good"
"Father and Son"
"Coming Home Now"
Music video
"Father and Son" on YouTube

"Father and Son" became the fifth single from Irish boy band Boyzone in 1995, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart and number one on the Irish Singles Chart. The cover was the sixth biggest selling boy band single of the 1990s in the UK, selling 815,700 copies receiving a Platinum sales status certification.[9] The cover was the thirteenth best selling single of 1995 in the UK.

Track listing

  1. "Father And Son (Radio Edit)" - 2:46
  2. "Should Be Missing You Now" - 3:20
  3. "Father And Son (Live)" - 3:11
  1. "Father And Son (Radio Edit)" - 2:46
  2. "Should Be Missing You Now" - 3:20
  3. "Should Be Missing You Now (The Other Mix)" - 4:40
  4. "Father And Son (Album Version)" - 2:50


Chart (1995-96) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[10] 2
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[11] 18
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[12] 24
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[13] 27
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[14] 8
France (SNEP)[15] 11
Germany (Official German Charts)[16] 15
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 1
Japan (Oricon)[18] 12
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[19] 7
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[20] 25
Norway (VG-lista)[21] 8
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[22] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[23] 28
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[24] 2

Year-end charts

Chart (1995) Position
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[25] 79
UK Singles (Official Charts Company) 13
Chart (1996) Position
Australia (ARIA)[26] 28
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[27] 50

Chart successions

Preceded by
"Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio
Irish IRMA number-one single
25 November 1995 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Jesus to a Child" by George Michael

Ronan Keating with Yusuf Islam

"Father and Son"
Single by Ronan Keating featuring Yusuf Islam
from the album 10 Years of Hits
Released 13 December 2004
Format CD single
Recorded 2004
Genre Pop
Length 3:23
Label Polydor Records
Writer(s) Cat Stevens
Producer(s) Steve Mac
Ronan Keating featuring Yusuf Islam singles chronology
"I Hope You Dance"
"Father and Son"
"Baby Can I Hold You"

"Father and Son" was covered by Boyzone frontman Ronan Keating and released as the second of three singles from his greatest hits compilation album, 10 Years of Hits (2004). The song features guest vocals from Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens). The song peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Keating's eleventh top-ten single. Keating donated the profits from the single to the Band Aid Trust. Incidentally, "Father and Son" was the song that Keating sang when he first auditioned for Boyzone.

Track listing

  1. "Father and Son" – 3:21
  2. "When You Say Nothing at All" (feat. Paulina Rubio) – 4:20
  1. "Father and Son" – 3:21
  2. "Father and Son" (Metrophonic Mix) – 3:57
  3. "I Hope You Dance" (Video) – 3:40
  4. "Father and Son" (Video) – 3:25


Chart (2004) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[28] 41
Germany (Official German Charts)[29] 27
Ireland (IRMA) 16
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[30] 84
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[31] 37
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[32] 41
UK Singles (Official Charts Company) 2


  1. 1 2 "YUSUF Islam". YUSUF Islam. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  2. "Disc 1972 Tea For the Tillerman". Majicat.com. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  3. Gambaccini, Paul (13 September 1973). "A Happier Cat Stevens Explains 'Foreigner' and Other Mysteries". Issue 143. Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  4. "Top Digital Download - Classifica settimanale WK 8 (dal 17-02-2014 al 23-02-2014" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  5. "Dutchcharts.nl – Cat Stevens – Father and Son" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  6. "Italian single certifications – Cat Stevens – Father and Son" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 27 February 2014. Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Cat Stevens in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  7. "Biography". Colm Wilkinson. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  8. Raphael, Amy (29 June 2003). "Straight from the Lip". Guardian.co.uk. London: The Guardian. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  9. "British single certifications – Father and Son". British Phonographic Industry. Enter Father and Son in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Search
  10. "Australian-charts.com – Boyzone – Father and Son". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  11. "Austriancharts.at – Boyzone – Father and Son" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  12. "Ultratop.be – Boyzone – Father and Son" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  13. "Ultratop.be – Boyzone – Father and Son" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  14. Nielsen Business Media, Inc (20 January 1996). "Billboard".
  15. "Lescharts.com – Boyzone – Father and Son" (in French). Les classement single.
  16. "Musicline.de – Boyzone Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  17. テイク・ザットていくざっと. "テイク・ザットのプロフィール | ORICON STYLE". Oricon.co.jp. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  18. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Boyzone search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  19. "Charts.org.nz – Boyzone – Father and Son". Top 40 Singles.
  20. "Norwegiancharts.com – Boyzone – Father and Son". VG-lista.
  21. "Archive Chart: 1996-01-07". Scottish Singles Top 40.
  22. "Swedishcharts.com – Boyzone – Father and Son". Singles Top 100.
  23. "January 1996/ Archive Chart: 20 January 1996" UK Singles Chart.
  24. url=https://books.google.com/books?id=ugsEAAAAMBAJ&lr=&rview=1
  25. "ARIA Charts - End Of Year Charts - Top 50 Singles 1996". ARIA. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  26. "Billboard". Books.google.com. 2000-01-01. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  27. "Austriancharts.at – Ronan Keating – Father and Son" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  28. "Musicline.de – Ronan Keating Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  29. "Dutchcharts.nl – Ronan Keating – Father and Son" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  30. "Swedishcharts.com – Ronan Keating – Father and Son". Singles Top 100.
  31. "Swisscharts.com – Ronan Keating – Father and Son". Swiss Singles Chart.
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