Sorry Dad: Father Daughter Relationships Through the Ears of Country Music

Country music often contemplates the relationship of a daughter and her parents, even more often: a daughter and her father. This phenomenon most commonly pokes at the idea that daughters grow up too fast but will always remain “daddy’s little girl.” The tone of these songs typically ranges from sentimental to intimidating (when meant to show who’s boss to the daughters new man.) As a daughter who’s extremely close to her dad, listening to such songs has made me laugh, made me want to go find an extremely bad boy to bring home to dad and, on occasion, made me curl into a bawl and cry about the childhood days being over.

Emotions run wild because of songs like Heartlands’ “I Loved Her First,” Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This,” Rodney Atkins’ “Cleaning This Gun (Come on In Boy)”, and a (probably way too) long list of others. Personally, I can not not sob while listening to the gut wrenching “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw. This popular hit from the major motion picture, Flicka, was an instant favorite of my dad’s, as well as parents of daughters everywhere. I remember my grandma always referencing the dramatic “Go on take on this whole world, But to me you know you’ll always be, My little girl” lyric to my dad and me being super confused on why that was so important and why that made him so sad about me. It wasn’t until my thirteenth birthday party when my mom forced me to get on stage with my dad to slow dance to this heartbreaking story of a dad losing his daughter to the real world that I realized I, too, would eventually leave my dad.

This is how country music portrays the daddy/daughter relationship: the daughter growing up and leaving with zero intentions of turning back. Where, most commonly, the growing up phase covers the first five years where the daughter is still very much a little girl and then, suddenly, is instantly ready for marriage. This most definitely creates a depressed tone towards country music but also a very real one. This is one of country music’s best assets: the ability to make people feel. It’s impossible to listen to Tim McGraw say “When you were in trouble that crooked little smile could melt my heart of stone. Now look at you, I’ve turned around and you’ve almost grown,” and not feel something, especially as a daughter or a father. The heartbreaking country ballads about being old because I no longer live at home with my dad and am no longer 4 years old will continue to haunt me and make me bawl, I’m sure of it.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Country Symbols, Movies and TV

12 Responses to Sorry Dad: Father Daughter Relationships Through the Ears of Country Music

  1. Alyssa Buchanan

    Kayla, I can totally relate to this. Not only in family situations does country music make me “feel” something, but I catch myself getting nostalgic about random things like summer, friends and my house when I listen to country music too. I can’t really say that any other genre can make me feel sentimental or emotional about things like that.
    When you talked about dancing with your dad to “My Little Girl” it instantly brought me back to times where I went to daddy-daughter dances, and that song was of course a stand out. One thing I think country music misses on the point of father/daughter relationships is how dependent you will forever be on your dad, even after marriage. I see that now in my own life being away from him which I guess is the “moving on stage”, but I talk to him at least once a week when something goes wrong, and my mom’s father still comes and helps out my mom even now when she is a grown up with multiple kids in college. This was a great analysis of how country music demonstrates the relationship!
    Thank goodness for dads.

  2. Amanda

    Kayla, this post is something that I think almost any girl with a positive relationship with her father can relate to. Personally, my father and I have bonded over very few things and music, specifically country is something that definitely made up a big part of our time together growing up. I completely agree that country is a genre that specializes in making the listener feel extreme emotions because of the memories that it may cause people to think back on, and of course childhood is a very important one. This makes me think of the Taylor Swift song, “Never Grow Up,” a song about a father and his daughter that I cannot seem to get through without tearing up. I love that country music can have this effect on people, and I truly believe that any other genre doesn’t capture the true essence of nostalgia as country does.

  3. Kaki Miller

    Kayla, I very much agree with both Amanda and Alyssa and how they relate to the same feelings you have about these sentimental country songs. My relationship with my dad is unquestioningly one of the most special connections I have with anyone. I have looked up to him for as long as I can remember and I want to be just like him in so many ways. The thought of outgrowing daddy-daughter time almost seems unreal, but just because we are getting older doesn’t mean the connection and love for our relationships with our dads will ever change, it just means that we have to go out and face the real world and use what our dads have taught us so that we can go out and face the world like we are supposed to. I really enjoyed your post!

  4. Claudia Boyd

    I agree with Alyssa, Amanda and Kaki as well. This post really hit home for me because much like you, I am a daddy’s girl, and Tim McGraw’s song never fails to make me tear up. I think you do a great job in highlighting how special a father-daughter relationship is by using these songs as examples. “You’re Gonna Miss This” reminds us that you can’t take anything for granted and that life is too short to not appreciate the small things. You helped deliver the point that country music is a creative avenue for important topics.

  5. Hannah Evans

    This is an awesome article! I think you chose a really creative topic (one that is often overlooked) and gave an authentic perspective on it. I do think it would have helped if you added a video or a photo (maybe of a little girl and her dad) to help enhance the article. Nonetheless, you’re right–there is so much country music out there that revolves around this theme of daddy/daughter. I think it might partly have to do with the huge emphasis Southerners in particular place on the importance of familial relationships. It was nice how you included that personal story about slow-dancing with your dad (sounds so sweet!) and I think added an even more personal touch to the story. I look forward to reading the rest of your articles throughout the semester!

  6. GINNY

    Kayla, I really enjoyed reading your article! My dad is the one who introduced me to country music before I could talk and it has bonded us forever. I think because of that, country music will always be special to me, but even more so whenever I heard these types of songs that you mentioned! “You’re Gonna Miss This” never fails to make me tear up. It’s not cheesy and the emotions are genuine, and the message is so true, especially during this time in our lives when college is flying by. I completely agree with you that country music has a knack for analyzing various types of relationships, not just the typical love story. The father-daughter relationship is so special and emotional, and country music has the best way of showing that. One of my favorites is Rascal Flatt’s “My Wish”, especially the lines “I hope you never look back but you never forget / All the ones who love you/ And the place you left”. Great article!

  7. Sierra

    Kayla, I genuinely enjoyed reading your post! This is a very prominent theme among country songs, and I am glad you decided to hit on this subject. While reading your post I was reminiscing on my childhood with my dad, and how we are now in that new phase of letting go to begin lives on our own. However, I agree with Alyssa’s comment above that country music doesn’t incorporate that daughters will forever be dependent on their fathers. Being the oldest daughter in my family, I still look to my dad for advice whether it is for school, finances, boys, or just life in general. As true as it is that the father/daughter relationship will fade over time as us girls begin to grow up and find our own husbands, our fathers will always be there for us to depend on. One of my dad’s favorite songs to me is “Daughters” by John Mayer so if you haven’t heard it I really recommend it!

  8. Tyler Dial

    Hey Kayla! You’re article was awesome. It was a pleasure to read and it flowed really nicely. I really loved the community choice as a “Daddy’s Little Girl.” I too have a strong relationship with my Dad and love all the songs you touched on. The reason I love country music so much is cause we can sing about stuff like that. It’s weird how listening to a song like that makes you sad but it also makes you feel better. I’ve never really thought about the father daughter relationship in country music but you are so right. Songs like “American Girl” by Carrie Underwood and “God Love Her” by Toby Keith are two of my personal favorites!

  9. Darah Welch

    Kayla! I love how open you are about your close relationship with your dad! Not a lot of people can say that about their dads AND relate their relationship back to country music. It is clear that country music has left a big impact on you and your dad’s relationship. I also really like that you go for bad boys;) you learn something new everyday riiiight?! I agree that country music often does cast a sentimental and nostalgic tone upon father daughter relationships, leaving each reminiscent listener with tear-filled eyes (that was corny…oh well). It is these kinds of songs that are played at weddings and so adored by listeners that they continue to be produced and hit the charts.

  10. Elissa Killebrew

    This is such a cute article. I have a really strong relationship with my dad and consider him the most amazing man in my life, so I totally relate to everything you said. Whenever I get homesick and I hear a song like “You’re Gonna Miss This” by Trace Adkins or “I’m Already There” by Lonestar, I completely lose it. My relationship with my dad has always been a strong one from losing my mother at a young age to him getting remarried in my teen years. Its funny because growing up, my stepmom always told me that I’m going to end up with someone exactly like my dad. I thought that was the strangest thing and never actually believed it because as a teenager, the last thing you want is to believe that your parents are actually cool. But the past few years since I’ve been in college, I see myself being drawn to guys that have similar qualities to my father. I adore him and want to end up with a man that I also adore. My dad is literally the nicest, strongest, smartest, most successful man I know. I look up to him in every aspect of my life and strive to make him proud everyday. We often take for granted the relationships we have with our parents, but I am one of the luckiest girls in the world to have the type of relationship I share with my dad.

  11. Abby Bourland

    I think this was a great post! There is no relationship like the one between a father and a daughter. It is unique, special, and cherished everyday. I feel like this is a topic that country music has really nailed over the past decades. If you think about it, you rarely hear rap music about the bond between a father and a daughter. I wish my dad listened to country so he could hear the sweet lyrics of this touching topic. I’m sure if he heard one of these songs about daughters then he would start to get sentimental, just like me. No longer living with him and my family everyday is still weird to me, even as a junior in college. Why is growing up so hard??

  12. John Monroe

    I am writing my Buzzfeed article on Fatherhood and this post shares so many themes with what I have been writing/listening to/thinking about recently. While I am not a “daughter” I can still relate so heavily to what you were saying as well as the song “My Little Girl”. It also makes me think about my little sister who is a senior in high school now (which is crazy for me to realize!). I think that Country music is uniquely suited, at least to me personally, to delve into such sentimental and emotional topics as father-daughter/child relationships. If you haven’t heard it already I would give a listen to “Stealing Cinderella” – not going to lie, I definitely cried listening to it.

Leave a Reply