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Father And Son by Cat Stevens

Album: Tea For The TillermanReleased: 1971
  • This is about a Russian family where the son wants to join the revolution but his father wants him to stay home and work on the farm. Stevens made up the story, but his relationship with his own father was an influence on the song. When he appeared on The Chris Isaak Hour in 2009, Stevens said: "He was running a restaurant and I was a Pop Star, so I wasn't following the path that he laid out. But we certainly didn't have any antagonism between us. I loved him and he loved me."
  • The dialogue between father and son hints at Stevens' lonely childhood. The song contains a lyrical trick of verse and chorus sung by different people with different perspectives on the situation.
  • This was a hit in Europe for the Irish group Boyzone in 1995. Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, was happy that the wholesome group had success with it.
  • This was released as the B-side of Stevens' hit "Moonshadow."
  • The producers of the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge wanted to use this in the film and had some of the actors record it, but Stevens would not let them because the racy content of the movie clashed with his Muslim beliefs. Much of the plot was based on the song, and the script had to be rewritten when Stevens refused permission. The song "Nature Boy," sung by David Bowie, was used instead.
  • On The Flaming Lips' 2002 album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, there is a song called Fight Test that sounds a lot like this. In 2003, the song was released as a single in the UK and got a lot of attention. Faced with a lawsuit, The Flaming Lips agreed to split the royalties from "Fight Test" with Stevens.
  • Yusuf Islam was featured in a recording of this song with Irish tenor Ronan Keating. It was released in the UK as a single in 2004 and charted there. (thanks, Mary - Little Rock, AR)
  • Movies that have used this song include Omero (1982) and Pirate Radio (2009). It was also featured in a 2011 short film called Immigrants' Children Will Always Break Their Parents Hearts.
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Comments: 35

Interesting lyrical technique with the second and fourth verses being sung from the "son's" perspective. I wonder if there is a multiple meaning in the lyric, the explicit generation gap reference, but also a pacifist/anti-war metaphor, or a gay/coming out metaphor? Both would fit with the times in the early '70's, and Cat Stevens' sympathies (at least at the time he wrote this!) at the time.Kat - Adelaide, Australia
Finding a whole load of music on this website that I thought I had forgotten and just loving it!Claire - Oxford, United Kingdom
The Bible was written by writers who were inspired by God to write down his thoughts in their own words throughout the centuries. The theme of the Bible through the writers is always the same. The purpose of mankind, the purpose of making the world and all that is in it. the future of mankind depends largely on how we accept our Creator and do the things he asks of us. He sent his son Jesus Christ to us and showed us what is expected of us in order to gain everlasting life. He showed through his son all the wonderful things mankind can expect in a society free of Satan the Devil and his Demon followers. His saving abilities, his attributes, his love for mankind goes far beyond any thing we have seen in our lives. The dictionary calls his name Jehovah. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Without him there is no beginning and no end. Together they made man in their image. If we do our homework, if we ask in faith, we will find the answers. The Bible says we should search for the true God for he is not far off from us. Music touches the soul. God loves music.Nola - Gravenhurst, On
After our 31-year-old son died, my husband recommended this song to me if I needed something to get the grief flowing out instead of locking it in. I first read the lyrics, and sure enough, they spoke to me of a son, trying to communicate with his parents, who had made the painful decision to commit suicide. I am so grateful to Cat Stevens for giving a voice to so much, known or unknown, through what is truly a gift, the universal language of music.Mom - Richmond, Va
From a tribute show I watched a year ago, this song was actually part of a musical that Cat Stevens was writing, although the musical never came to anything.Lara - Melbourne, Australia
When I was a teenager, I used to listen to this song and identify with the son. Heard it again recently as an adult, and thought, "Why, that arrogant little snot ought to listen to his father!" Go figure.P - Chicago, Il
his son could be a metaphor for islam n what not ?Sam - Shellharbour, Australia
Son: "All the times that I've cried, keeping all the things I knew inside. It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it." A son coming out perhaps? PeacePierre - Madbury, Nh
"All the times that I've cried, keeping all the things I knew inside.
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it." A son coming out perhaps? Peace
Pierre - Madbury, Nh
An incredibly moving song that every father and son can probably relate to. It cracks me up regularly, more now I'm the father of a teenage son than when I was in the boy's position. No real enduring happiness without the pain & suffering that surely accompanies it. Amazing that Stevens (apparently) regrets writing it -- it is such a classic. I guess that goes to show that sometimes great things just come through people -- they don't necessarily remain in that inspired place.Guy - Wellington, New Zealand
As mentioned at the top - the song is based on a Russian family. Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons" was the inspiration.Dan - Boston, Ma
I'm an old Hard Rock fan (Sabbath, Mountain, UFO, AC/DC), but 'Tea for the Tillerman' is one of my favorite albums.Lester - New York City, Ny
i think it is a beautiful song. its a type of song that should be an example to all fathers to give their sons advice about what life will be likeCrystal - Bribie Island, Australia
A great moveing song. Have been playing and singing it for 25 years. Used to be very touching to my late Mom. Never understood why Cat Stevens, regarding the song in an interview, commented that he'd wished he'd never written it and that it was the worst thing he'd ever written. Never-the-less I'm glad he did write it, and I'm happy to express my version every chance I get. Just ask and I'll sing.Robby - Nyc, Ny
This song fits my relationship with my father to a "T" (RIP Dad)..Jim - Somewhere, Pa
It's a great song. I like it very much.also I am going to use this song for my microteaching to share it with my friends.Hasibe - Aydin, Turkey
A very emotional song.I feel very melanconic when I listen to it.The love of a father for his son...even when he always ordered him to listen...Great Cat....!!!!Linda - Italy, Ct
Thanks Fred for introducing me to this music.I will forever think of you when i'm listening to him.MichaelMichael - Montreal,que., Canada
It was first heard on the album "Tea For The Tillerman", which was way before his "Moonshadow" album, and "Moonshadow" was just a greatest hits album.

"Tea For The Tillerman" is by far his best album
Greg - Oakville, Canada
I never was close to my father in my life. And the touching dialogue between the father and son is something very precious. Cat Stevens was a very under rated song writer even though he had a string of hits. But nonetheless his genius can not be questioned.Jerry - Eatontown, Nj
I always thought that this song was about a conversation between man abd God???Alan - Dublin, Ireland
I always saw it as a song about a father telling his son what to do, without listening at all to what his son is saying or feeling...but, still...great song.Leon - Waterbury, Ct
It was my first Cat-Song as well... I love Cat Stevens ever since... what a great ^ emotional voice...!Katerina - Athens
this was my first Cat song i ever heard, it was then i fell in love with his music, this song has so much meaning for me, and it moves me emotionally everytime i listen to itMichael - Tasmania, Australia
The change in speaker is indicated by a jump in octave. This song was covered by Johnny Cash.Nessie - Sapporo, Japan
This is a true classic and i love it very much, cat stevens you rock!Sarah - Colac, Australia
I wish he had allowed it to be used in Moulin Rouge! I want Cat to be as publicised as possible to he is known to everyone. What a shame. But I guess the guy wasn't comfortable with it so I will respect that.John - Gosford, Australia
Cat's message in 'Father and Son'is extraordinary.What he wants to say in this song is that we,all,will have to leave the 'nest',to leave our parents and home in order to begin a new life,our own.If we succeded in life means that our parents educated us well.The song is in fact a comment of a difficult situation in life:to leave your parents or your parents to 'leave' you.Ionela - Baia-sprie, Romania
Father and Son is a timeless classic that will thrive many generation gaps. It's no wonder.

Vivian, Gainesville, Florida
Vivian - Gainesville, United States
cat was kicked off a plane in the u.s.recently for suspected connections to terrorist groups.ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world.Natasha - Chico, Ca
i wish cat would have let moulin rouge use the song for the basis of the film. then maybe i actually would have liked the movie. But i guess you have to respect that he sticks to his principles and ideas.Natasha - Chico, Ca
This song is so amazing. Everyone can relate to it, sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. i thought that cat wrote the song about himself and his father. A good friend of mine first introduced me to cat, and he told me he cries when he hears the song, because it reminds him of him and his own father. And I made my sister listen to it, because our dad wanted her to do one thing with her life, but she wanted another, and she was really down about it. She cried when she heard the song too, but it was good for her; she decided to do what SHE wanted to do, and i think she's happier for it. I made my dad listen to it too to make him change his ideas, and now whenever we go on a little roadtrip with the fam, we listen to "Father and Son", if not all of "tea for the tillerman."Natasha - Chico, Ca
I heard Cat Stevens also say that this song could be about a Son who has a new found faith, and the father wants him to stay with his religion. Hint the " If they were right id agree but its them they know not me " i heard him say that in a interview on a San Francisco radio show.Justin - Bakersfield, Ca
' "You are old, Father William," the young man said ?' (CL. Dodgson, Alice? ) and C. Stevens' old man replies, "I am old but I'm happy". The untruth of that happiness is clear. So Stevens leaves his own father to find a 'way'. The first sign posts for the begining of the 'way' are recorded in the immediately preceding song "On the Road to Find Out". "Well I left my happy home, to see what could find out?". The theme of Tea for the Tillerman is the loss of innocence as we emerge from childhood. "You will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not."Glenn - Dunedin, New Zealand
one of the greatest songs ever written. Cat could have writtenREMs EVERYBODY HURTS. The message in Fater and son is loud and clear. one of the few songs that every father and every son can honestly (if unwantingly) relate to.Chris - Hamilton, New Zealand