Father And Son

Album: Tea For The Tillerman (1970)
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  • This song is a conversation between a father and son, with the father counseling his son to stay home, settle down and find a girl, telling him this is the path to happiness - after all, it worked for him. The son, though, feels compelled to leave and is frustrated because his dad makes no effort to understand why or even hear him out.

    Stevens made up the story, but his relationship with his own father, Stavros Georgiou, was an influence on the song. His dad owned a restaurant in London and Cat (known to his dad as Steve Georgiou) worked there as a waiter right up until he signed a record deal at age 17. Stavros was hoping his son would join the family business.

    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."

    Stevens veered away from his upbringing again in 1977 when he rejected Christianity and became a Muslim, changing his name to Yusuf Islam.
  • The generational divide that plays out in the lyric can apply to many families, but Stevens had a specific storyline in mind, writing it from the perspective of a father and son in a Russian family during the Russian Revolution (1917-1923). The son wants to join the revolution but his father wants him to stay home and work on the farm.

    Stevens, a huge fan of showtunes, wrote it in 1969 for a musical he was working on called Revolussia, which was set during the Russian Revolution. The song was part of a scene where the son feels it is his calling to join in, but his father wants him to stay home. The musical never materialized, so the song ended up being the first one written for Stevens' Tea For The Tillerman album.
  • The song has a very unusual structure, which owes to its provenance as a number for a stage musical. There's no chorus, but the son's part is sung louder, providing a kind of hook. The dialogue is an interesting lyrical trick with the father and son expressing different perspectives on the situation.
  • In 2020, Yusuf Islam told Entertainment Weekly: "The song is a testament to the differences we represent to each other, especially in age and traditions. Traditions have a big impact on our lives, and sometimes you've got to walk away."
  • This is the song that got Stevens signed to Island Records. His first two albums were issued on Deram, a division of Decca. Stevens met with Island boss Chris Blackwell to talk about the musical he wrote this song for, but when Blackwell heard the song, he set his sights on getting Stevens on his label as an artist. Stevens' first Island release was Mona Bone Jakon earlier in 1970; it was not just a new label for Stevens, but a new producer as well, with former Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith taking the helm from Mike Hurst (ex-Springfields), who helped Stevens get his deal with Decca.
  • The Irish boy band Boyzone recorded "Father And Son" in 1995. Their version was a huge hit across Europe, going to #1 in Ireland and #2 in the UK. Stevens, who by this time had embraced the Islamic faith as Yusuf Islam for 18 years, was thrilled with the cover.

    "I was in a Turkish restaurant one day and it came on the radio," He told Mojo, recalling the first time he heard it. "One of my children said, 'Dad, isn't that your song?' I said, 'Why, yes it is!' It turned out to be Boyzone. It's a nice version and I'm grateful it was a clean-cut group who did it. I went to meet them at Top Of The Pops and we had a nice time. They're a good bunch of lads."
  • This wasn't released as a single, but thanks in part to the Boyzone cover, it has endured as one of Stevens' most popular songs. It was used as the B-side of Stevens' hit "Moonshadow."
  • The producers of the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge wanted to use this song in the film and had some of the actors record it, but Yusuf Islam wouldn't 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 he refused permission. The song "Nature Boy," sung by David Bowie, was used instead.

    An interesting sidebar: The restaurant that Islam's family owned in London was called the Moulin Rouge.
  • On The Flaming Lips' 2002 album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, there is a song called "Fight Test" that sounds a lot like "Father And Son." 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.
  • In 2004, Ronan Keating of Boyzone released a new version of "Father And Son" with Yusuf Islam as a duet partner. This version, released on Keating's 10 Years of Hits compilation, rose to #2 in the UK.
  • 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.

    In 2017, director James Gunn used it in his film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where it plays in the last scene. Gunn thought of the song after hearing Howard Stern play a (very lame) version of it on acoustic guitar coming out of break on his radio show.

Comments: 50

  • Choymae Huie from Valencia, CaliforniaFor some reason, I am very attracted to Cat Stevens work.
  • David from Earthloved him then islam thing then loved him again
  • Neety from Australia Does anyone know who the actors were in the original Cat Stevens "father and son" music video, the grandfather and grandchild, also was the grandchild a bit or a girl?
  • Beth Schwartz from Long Island, New YorkI grew up listening to the music of this very gifted man. He wrote songs full of meaning from his soul. Songs that really made you think. The 70's were a very difficult and yet happy time. His music made people slow down a bit and think of how remarkable the world is, and to respect each other. Thank you Yusuf
  • Andrew from ScotlandI think it's a very touching and moving song about a father giving his son some advice for adulthood. Makes me think of the close relationship I have with my son. Where I had heard Cat Steven's before I will admit that I first heard it in Guardians of the galaxy volume 2 and the lyrics fitted quite well of the type of father Peter quill wanted and was touching to watch him pick up baby groot and being a dad to him.
  • Joseph from Fort WorthThis song reminds me of my Dad and I. When I left home he continued to assure me he was okay with it until I heard the difference in his voice when he would try to get me to move back. He told me the same things. Take your time, find a girl and settle down....think alot....and remember to know all that you've got.
  • Daiana from Rojas I had never heard the song of Cat Stevens. I really like this song because the lyric is mobilizing and calls people attention.
  • Alii from RojasI don't like the song very much, but it has a meaning for many people with similar stories.
  • Brian L from Argentina, Bs.as, RojasI had never heard Stevens but when I heard the song I really liked it.
    The song has good rhythm and the lyrics are very good.
  • Lula from RojasI don't like the song because I believe it's boring and sad so I can't find anything interesting in it.
  • Nadia Tabarez from RojasFor me the song is very thoughtful, because nowadays young people do not listen to their parents and want to go and do what they want.
    This father only wants the best for his son, he tell him to relax, settle down so that tomorrow has a family and he is happy.
  • Alehornos from ArgentinaIt is a singer who I did not know, whit very beatiful lyrics and a rhythm that brings peace to hear. A story to belive, with very little sense to reflect but with a rhythm gives you peace of mind.
  • Sol Sartori from Rojas, Bs. As., Argentina I don't like the mix between the views of the child and parents, buy the good thing is that he has a problem of all teenagers with their parents.
  • Magali from Argentina, Bs.as, RojasI think that the song is very interesting because it identifies with other people personal problems.
  • Lucas Hornos from Argentina, Bs.as, RojasIt is the first time that I listen to Cat Stevens. I really like this lyrics, the melody is special for this lyrics, and the lyrics reflect me sadness because that person will not return.
  • Kat from Adelaide, AustraliaInteresting 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.
  • Claire from Oxford, United KingdomFinding a whole load of music on this website that I thought I had forgotten and just loving it!
  • Nola from Gravenhurst, OnThe 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.
  • Mom from Richmond, VaAfter 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.
  • Lara from Melbourne, AustraliaFrom 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.
  • P from Chicago, IlWhen 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.
  • Sam from Shellharbour, Australiahis son could be a metaphor for islam n what not ?
  • Pierre from Madbury, NhSon: "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 from 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
  • Guy from Wellington, New ZealandAn 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.
  • Dan from Boston, MaAs mentioned at the top - the song is based on a Russian family. Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons" was the inspiration.
  • Lester from New York City, NyI'm an old Hard Rock fan (Sabbath, Mountain, UFO, AC/DC), but 'Tea for the Tillerman' is one of my favorite albums.
  • Crystal from Bribie Island, Australiai 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 like
  • Robby from Nyc, NyA 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.
  • Jim from Somewhere, PaThis song fits my relationship with my father to a "T" (RIP Dad)..
  • Hasibe from Aydin, TurkeyIt'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.
  • Linda from Italy, CtA 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....!!!!
  • Michael from Montreal,que., CanadaThanks Fred for introducing me to this music.I will forever think of you when i'm listening to him.Michael
  • Greg from Oakville, CanadaIt 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
  • Jerry from Eatontown, NjI 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.
  • Alan from Dublin, IrelandI always thought that this song was about a conversation between man abd God???
  • Leon from Waterbury, CtI 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.
  • Katerina from AthensIt was my first Cat-Song as well... I love Cat Stevens ever since... what a great ^ emotional voice...!
  • Michael from Tasmania, Australiathis 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 it
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanThe change in speaker is indicated by a jump in octave. This song was covered by Johnny Cash.
  • Sarah from Colac, AustraliaThis is a true classic and i love it very much, cat stevens you rock!
  • John from Gosford, AustraliaI 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.
  • Ionela from Baia-sprie, Romania 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.
  • Vivian from Gainesville, United StatesFather and Son is a timeless classic that will thrive many generation gaps. It's no wonder.

    Vivian, Gainesville, Florida
  • Natasha from Chico, Cacat 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 from Chico, Cai 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 from Chico, CaThis 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."
  • Justin from Bakersfield, CaI 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.
  • Glenn from Dunedin, New Zealand' "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."
  • Chris from Hamilton, New Zealandone 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.
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