Barry Saunders

Fathers, forgive me – I forgot a few classic dad songs

How could Barry Saunders have forgotten Clarence Carter and his classic hit ‘Patches”?
How could Barry Saunders have forgotten Clarence Carter and his classic hit ‘Patches”? N&O file photo

My, what a cruel insult the caller left on my phone. The worst part about it?

She was correct.

After I penned this week a piece about the paucity of positive papa songs in pop culture – and how “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” is typical of the genre – one reader responded with, “You need to be locked in a room and made to listen to (that one) for forgetting ‘Patches’ by Clarence Carter. Now, that was a good man.”

Nay, that was a “great” man. Says so right in the line: “My papa was a great old man.”

Marvin Waldo of Raleigh also called me out for that inexcusable oversight.

“You left out a great dad song,” Waldo said. “I believe the message that ‘Patches’ sends is one of an honest, hardworking dad that gave his son the best thing any dad can ever give his child, a sense of responsibility coupled with dedication that together gives a child the desire and perseverance to deal with life’s curves and pitfalls. I admit that as a Clarence Carter aficionado I am a bit prejudiced on this, but I think about what a great dad the songwriter portrayed and how his son took care of business for his family in the most trying of times as a result of his great example. This is the real gift of a father to a child. To me it is worthy of mention in the annals of dad songs.”

Holy mackerel, Andy! How does one forget the persevering pappy in “Patches”?

Waldo tried to cut me some slack, to let me off the hook – “You may have eliminated it because it is more about the son than the dad,” he said. Still, that’s not true. I just forget some father songs. The father in “Patches” is every bit as heroic as the stepdad in “Color Him Father,” which I cited as the gold standard in good daddy records.

A reader named Phyllis had another overlooked entry. She said, “I’d like to refer you to an old song called ‘O Mein Papa.’ It’s by Eddie Fisher. You’re probably too young to know who he was, but at one point he was married to Debbie Reynolds. Anyway, it’s so sad. It’s enough to make you cry, especially if you’ve lost your dad.”

I’ve heard “O Mein Papa” and read about Fisher, about how he broke little Debbie’s heart and married Elizabeth Taylor.

“O Mein Papa,” indeed.

Despite that, though, it is indisputably a tearjerker of a song and belongs on the list of good dad songs.

A reader named Becka Powers wrote to gently castigate me for leaving out another classic “bad dad” song when she asked, “How could you have left out ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ by Harry Chapin?”

Good point, I told her, although the list of songs about despicable dads is endless, and we’d be here until next Father’s Day listing all the fathers who either ran off with the babysitter, had three outside children and another wife, or who named their sons Sue.

Besides, I told her, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become waaaaaay more sympathetic to the “Cats in the Cradle” dad. Dude couldn’t spend all day playing catch with the kid, could he? Somebody in that household had to work.

A reader named Ann, responding to my lament that restaurants are never overbooked on Father’s Day as they are on Mother’s Day, said, “I would like to note that the reason restaurants have available space on Father’s Day is that mom is cooking him a nice dinner at home as he prefers.”

Mein eyes have been opened.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9