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"Father and Son"
Song by Yusuf Islam (then Cat Stevens)

from the album Tea for the Tillerman

Released 23 November 1970
Recorded 1970
Genre Folk Rock
Length 3:41
Label Island Records
A&M Records (USA)
Writer Cat Stevens
Producer Paul Samwell-Smith
Tea for the Tillerman track listing
  1. "Where Do the Children Play?"
  2. "Hard Headed Woman"
  3. "Wild World"
  4. "Sad Lisa"
  5. "Miles from Nowhere"
  6. "But I Might Die Tonight"
  7. "Longer Boats"
  8. "Into White"
  9. "On the Road to Find Out"
  10. "Father and Son"
  11. "Tea for the Tillerman"

"Father and Son" is a popular song written and performed by English singer-songwriter, Yusuf Islam (then known as Cat Stevens) 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. To echo this, Stevens sings in a deeper register for the father's lines, while using a higher, more emotive one for those of the son. Additionally, there are backing vocals provided by Stevens' guitarist and friend, Alun Davies, singing an unusual chorus of simple words, and sentences such as, "No", "Go and make this decision", beginning mid-song, so softly, they are only perceptible with a slight increase in volume towards the end of the song.



Yusuf Islam originally wrote "Father and Son" as part of a proposed musical project with actor Nigel Hawthorn 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.

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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, (now 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.

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

Sandie Shaw's version of the song, released in 1972, 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 Miserables, 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.[4]

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.

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.

In 2004 or 2005, Canadian Radio DJ Phil Main recorded the song on his album "Father & Son (s)", as recorded by Summit Sounds Inc.

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".


The American rock band The Flaming Lips released a song titled "Fight Test" on their 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. "Fight Test" had such a similar theme in the lyrics and is 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. The song even featured the soft backing vocals as with the original "Father and Son" of some quiet words that are just noticeable.

From the Flaming Lips' "Fight Test":

Cause I'm a man not a boy and there are things
You can't avoid you have to face them when you're not prepared
To face them
If I could I would but you're with him now it'd do no good,
I should have fought him but instead I let him - I let,
him take it -[5]

Boyzone version

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

"Father and Son" became the fifth single from Irish Boyband Boyzone in 1995, reaching #2 on the UK Singles Chart. The cover was the sixth biggest selling boyband single of the 1990s in the UK, selling over 610,000 copies and receiving a Platinum sales status certification. The cover was the thirteenth best selling single of 1995 in the UK.



  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) Peak
Irish Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart[6] 2
Norweigan Singles Chart 8
Belgian (Flanders) Singles Chart 24
Chart (1996) Peak
Australian Singles Chart 2
Dutch Singles Chart 7
French Singles Chart 11
German Singles Chart 15
Austrian Singles Chart 18
New Zealand Singles Chart 25
Belgian (Wallonia) Singles Chart 27
Sweden Singles Chart 28

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: Worldwide
Recorded 2004
Genre Pop
Length 3:23
Label Polydor Records
Universal International
Writer(s) Cat Stevens
Ronan Keating chronology
"I Hope You Dance"
"Father and Son"
"Baby Can I Hold You"

"Father and Son" was performed by Irish singer, Ronan Keating, who had been a member of Boyzone, on his greatest hits compilation 10 Years of Hits (2004). Keating's version was released as a single in the fourth quarter of 2004 and featured re-recorded vocals by Islam. Keating credits the song for introducing him to music and for sparking his interest in songwriting. This version of "Father and Son" debuted at number two on the UK Singles Chart and became Keating's eleventh top ten single. Keating donated all the profits from the single's release to the Band Aid Trust, as Band Aid 20's rendition of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was the current number one. Keating said that he was very happy to be number two in the charts below Band Aid. The music video for the release shows Keating singing while walking amongst hundreds of stanchions holding father-and-son portraits of all types, joined midway by Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) singing the 'Father' parts.

Formats and track listings

These are the formats and track listings of major Ronan Keating single releases of "Father and Son".

CD single #1
  1. "Father and Son"
  2. "When You Say Nothing at All" (Spanish version)
CD single #2
  1. "Father and Son"
  2. "Father and Son" (Metrophonic mix)
  3. "I Hope You Dance" (Video)
  4. "Father and Son" (Video)


  1. ^ a b Islam, Yusuf Yusuflifeline Official 2008 Website 1970
  2. ^ O'Driscoll, Michelle Disc Magazine "Tea With The Tillerman"
  3. ^ Gambaccini, Paul (September 13, 1973). "A Happier Cat Stevens Explains ‘Foreigner’ and Other Mysteries". Issue 143. Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  4. ^ Wilkinson, Colm Biography of Colm Wilkinson
  5. ^ Official Flaming Lips Website; Hird, Drew (2002). "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots". Discography and Lyrics. Warner Bros. Records. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  6. ^ UK Singles Chart (Retrieved 23 November 2008)


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