Peter Blegvad wrote this song two decades into a music career that included stints in the bands Henry Cow and Slapp Happy. He told us the story of "Daughter":
As everyone knows, a parent's love for their child is partly narcissism. My daughter, Kaye, was 3 when I wrote the song - long enough for me to have recognized this fact in myself and seen it manifested in the behavior of other parents. It's natural, maybe even a crucial element, but the narcissism has to be watched, obviously. (Think of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me in Austin Powers). The comedy of all that amused me, and I didn't think anyone had treated that in a song before. I was vaguely thinking of Stevie Wonder singing "Isn't She Lovely" and Frank Sinatra singing "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" and I wanted to write something that would express that kind of love honestly but also hint at the complexities which come with that role and responsibility.
The chord sequence is uplifting, but "Daughter" is maybe more sardonic than I think some people realize. It's about unconditional commitment to the task of raising a child, but it's also about the vanity and narcissism of the parent.
This song was popularized by Loudon Wainwright III, who recorded it for the 2007 movie Knocked Up. In the film, it plays in a touching scene where Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen bring their little girl home from the hospital.
It's one of the few songs Wainwright recorded that he didn't write, and it became his most popular, even surpassing his 1973 novelty hit "Dead Skunk" in downloads. Wainwright played an obstetrician in the movie and recorded the de facto soundtrack, Strange Weirdos, which included this song on the tracklist. The album was co-produced by Joe Henry.
Wainwright and Blegvad had toured together and remained good friends, which is how Loudon came across the song. Wainwright typically mentions Blegvad's authorship when he performs the song.
An irony of this song is that Loudon Wainwright III has had a fraught relationship with his children, three of whom - Rufus, Martha and Lucy - are musicians. A song like this one about the unconditional commitment to a child is at odds with Loudon's real life: he was constantly touring and spent most of his time away from his kids. Martha even wrote a song about him called "Bloody Mother F--king A--hole."
This is a very popular song at weddings. In our 2014 interview with Loudon Wainwright III, he explained: "Practically every show that I do now, fathers come up to me and say that they danced to that song at their daughter's wedding. The song has had a big impact to a lot of people."