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Music Thursdays with Tony Sarabia and Richard Steele: Father's Day

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Tony Sarabia:        

There are not nearly as many songs about fathers as there are about moms.

Let’s face it dads, moms seem to hold the greater position in the hearts of the kids. Of course the daughter may tell you otherwise. Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I did come across some of my favorite father-centric songs for this week’s edition of Music Thursday with my cohort, Richard Steele.

I’ve included some D.C. soul, vintage Madge and an excerpt of a jazz standard that had lots to do with getting me into that genre. I should also say thanks to my father, Tom, who had much to do with my love of jazz; his albums were a great resource for my musical education – thanks Dad!


The Winstons were a soul/funk group that scored big in 1969 with this hit. The record sold 1 million copies and hit number one on the R&B charts that year. "Color Him Father" is love song about a step dad as told from the perspective of a young son. There are some touching – and yes, at times syrupy – lyrics, but that’s one of the things that make this a great song:

He says education is the thing if you wanna compete
Because without it son, life ain't very sweet
I love this man I don't know why
Except I'll need his strength 'till the day that I die
My mother loves him and I can tell
By the way she looks at him when he holds my little sister, Nell
I heard her say just the other day
That if it hadn't been for him she wouldn't have found her way

Incidentally, this has always been a favorite song of JAM and Style Council founder Paul Weller.

The B-side of "Color Him Father," "Amen Brother," didn’t chart but it is well known among DJs. The drum solo is considered one of the most widely sampled  in the history of electronic music.

The vocalist and drummer of the Winstons was Gregory C. Coleman. He also did drum work for Otis Redding, The Marvelettes, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. He died in 2006 and himself was a stepdad.


When have you ever known Madonna to shy away from controversy? She created a stir not too long ago by bearing some of her breast during a show in Turkey. This song from 1986 raised some eyebrows.

"Papa Don’t Preach" is about a pregnant young woman trying to tell her dad about her pregnancy; she’s not married. When the song was released, women's organizations and others in the family planning field criticized Madonna for encouraging teenage pregnancy, while groups opposed to abortion saw it as a positive pro-life message. 


One classic hard bop number from the Blue Note catalogue was one of the songs that got me digging deeper into the genre. Hard bop had more gospel, R&B and blues influence than be-bop and that was especially evident with the piano and saxophone; both of which are featured prominently in this gem. "Song For My Father" is the title track of the 1965 album and it was inspired by a trip Horace Silver made to Brazil. He dedicated the song to his dad who was of Portuguese descent and born on one of the Cape Verde islands.

A number of elements of this song have been "borrowed" by other artists. The main piano theme was used in Steely Dan’s “Ricky Don’t Lose That Number” while the opening horn riff was used in Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and Earth Wind and Fire lifted the bass line for one of its tunes.

But no one could repeat the superb saxophone solo by the great Joe Henderson; it’s a tour de force and clearly, Silver had no problem giving most of the tune over to Joe.

I once saw Horace Silver perform at a small now defunct jazz club in River North and while I was at the edge of my seat while listening to "Song For My Father," it just wasn’t the same without Joe. Still, it was a thrill to see Silver at the piano.

Richard Steele: 


Pianist/composer Horace Silver wrote “Song For My Father” in 1964 to honor his dad, and it has since become a jazz standard. A number of vocalists have recorded it, but none quite like the 1969 version done by Leon Thomas. 

Thomas was a unique jazz vocalist who created something called scat yodeling, which sounds exactly like it’s described. The music world really became aware of him when he collaborated with jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in this version of the song.

Eddie Levert is Gerald Levert’s dad. Rarely do father and son have voices so similarly spectacular, and reach the same heights of success in the music business.
Eddie is still the lead singer of that ‘70s superstar singing group, the O’Jays. His son, Gerald, who died at age 40, had also made a pretty big impact on the music business with hit recordings and live shows. 1995 was the first and only time the two ever recorded together. The CD was called Father-Son and this track is “Apple Don’t Fall.”
Right before Gerald’s death in 2006, he was working on a book called I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep It Real About Love, Fatherhood, Family and Friendship. In 2008, tragedy struck again when his vocalist brother, Sean, died at the age of 39.      

Lenny Kravitiz is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actor. He’s been pretty successful in the world of rock music. Recently, he had a feature role in the hit movie The Hunger Games.

His backstory is really interesting. His mom was actress Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the hit TV show The Jeffersons. Her character was the other half of the first interracial marriage portrayed in a television series. Her son, Lenny, himself a product of an interracial marriage, was married to Lisa Bonet for several years. She played one of the kids in Bill Cosby’s television family.

This song is called “Like Father, Like Son.” It’s Lenny Kravitz’s way of saluting fatherhood.      

Happy Father's Day!

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