After becoming a dad for the first time, he began working on a sweetly understated of collection of folk-tinged ditties about clouds, Costa Rican monkeys, and messy hair, and brought in friends like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Matt Berninger of the National to help out in the studio.
In honor of Father’s Day, Martin has created a playlist exclusively for EW; find out why he chose these songs from the likes of Johnny Cash, the Kinks, and Hank Williams Jr. and stream the full set on our Spotify player below:
Johnny Cash, “I Got a Boy (and His Name is John”
This is the standout song on Johnny Cash’s Children’s Album. The always warm and wonderful Johnny sings about his son “going where Daddy goes, learning what Daddy knows.” It’s a treat to get a glimpse of the great Johnny Cash in the role of the dad and to feel how sweet and funny he must have been with his kids. Such a nice song for fathers.
The Kinks, “Holiday”
This is a post golden years Kinks gem about trying to enjoy yourself on a holiday and not having total success. As a dad, this is something I can really relate to. “Lying on the beach with my back burned rare, the sea’s an open sewer but I really couldn’t care, I’m breathing through my mouth so I don’t have to sniff the air.”
Randy Newman, “I’m Different”
Randy Newman just feels like such a dad to me — probably because he’s funny and his songs are so human and he wears Dockers and running shoes all the time. He seems particularly comfortable with himself here, as I think becoming a dad helps us do. “I’m different. I don’t care who knows it. I don’t want to play your goddamn game.” I’m with you Randy.
Jerry Lee Lewis, “Midlife Crazy”
This is Jerry Lee’s mid-life crisis song about a guy turning 40 who “got a heck of a deal” when he traded in the old family car for a Porsche. As a dad about to turn 40 myself, I find the song absolutely hilarious. Jerry Lee is his usual nasty self and I love him for it. If you can stomach some terrible chord changes and bad 80s production, you’re sure to get a kick out of The Killer’s sleazy delivery and sleazy take on the mid-life crisis.
Bruce Springsteen, “My Hometown”
I remember listening to this cassette with my parents the summer ‘Born in the USA’ came out and this song was always my favorite. Bruce can tell a great story and paint a great picture and the image of the boy sitting on his dad’s lap “in that big old Buick, steering as we drove through town” is very vivid and familiar and moving to me.
Bunk Johnson, “Kentucky Home”
On father’s day I want to relax and eat and drink. With two little babies at home, none of that will be possible. But when I put on this song (and all of Bunk Johnson’s stuff) I’m transported to a joyful world of relaxation, good food and strong cocktails.
Randy Newman, “Memo to My Son”
Here we have Randy talking to his baby son who is breaking stuff, being bad and doesn’t appreciate how smart his dad is. Apart from having an amazing piano part and a hot little groove, it’s totally charming. When the moment comes for the dad to pass on words of wisdom to his boy, all he can think of is a couple of clichés: “Quitters never win, winners never quit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Pretty funny Randy.
Jerry Jeff Walker, “Public Domain”
This is man music, music for men. It’s like a nice old wallet or belt — worn in and not particularly exciting but for some reason meaningful and comforting to us men. As the only male in house of ladies, certain things are more sacred to me than they used to be: old leather wallets, shoe shine kits, grilling equipment and Jerry Jeff Walker records. The girls will never fully understand these things. They’re not even that great, but they’re mine.
Neil Young, “Already One”
This is the very sappy side of Neil Young but if you love Neil you tend to love every side of him. I certainly do. Here he’s talking to his ex-wife about how they will always be connected because of the child they have together. “We’re already one, our little son won’t let us forget.” You gotta love Neil. Not afraid to be so sweet.
Glenn Gould, “Bach’s Goldberg Variations”
When I had kids I found myself listening to a lot of my classical records — probably to give the house a semblance of peace. What I recommend most for this effect are Glen Gould’s recordings of Bach’s piano music — particularly his Goldberg Variations. You can put them on all day every day and never ever get sick of them. Truly magical music.
Hank Williams Jr, “Family Tradition”
Hank Jr. definitely seems like a jerk but I really like this song about his dad and his family’s bad tendencies. I like thinking about Hank Sr. in this context, I like the jokes, I like the rhymes and I love Jr’s voice here.
My Grandfather’s Clock, “Johnny Cash”
This is my favorite recording of my wife’s favorite song. It’s about all of the important things that only grandfathers know how to fix.