Families. You can’t live with them, can’t leave without them. (Other cliches are available.) Whether the one you are born into, or the one you choose for yourself, there is no one in your life quite like your family. They know your deepest secrets and accept you in spite of your most significant flaws. Or, sometimes, they make you consider moving to a different country and living under a false name. But, for better or worse, you certainly can’t help but be influenced by them. Here we have a rundown of songs inspired by family, from hip hop to country to disco, a playlist fit for any family occasion.
#10 – The Staple Singers – “I’ll Take You There”
Easing us into our rundown, with possibly one of the most immediately arresting grooves ever locked down, is one of the quintessential family groups, the Staple Singers. Fusing soul, gospel and rhythm & blues, the group were formed by family patriarch Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples in 1948. Every song they have released since then sounds exactly like what it is: an uncommonly talented family who simply love making music together. That warmth and joy is rarely more evident than on this, one of their signature songs. It’s not entirely clear where ‘there’ is, but there’s no denying it seems like it would be great fun finding out.
This groovy anthem is like a musical road trip with your loved ones, a soulful promise to navigate life’s journey together. The infectious rhythm and gospel-infused vocals create a feel-good atmosphere that will have you reaching for your dance shoes. If you’re looking for a tune to lift the spirits and make you appreciate the journey, let the Staples Singers take you there.
#9 – Temptations – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
Family lives, and family connections, are never short on complications. It can be difficult navigating the flaws of those you hold nearest and dearest, and those tensions have led to the creation of sublime art all through the ages.
Which brings us to our next entry: the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”. This classic soul track takes us on a reflective journey, exploring the complexities of family dynamics. With its haunting melody and poignant lyrics, it delves into the narrative of a father figure who lived life on the edge. It’s a timeless exploration of the ties that bind and the impact of a wandering spirit on the ones left behind. The Temptations remind us that family stories are often woven with threads of both joy and sorrow.
Although the discussion of this song will always focus on the emotional weight of its lyrics, it should also be noted that music has rarely sounded so cinematic.
#8 – Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Simple Man”
Mother knows best. It’s one of the immutable laws of family life. Mother is here, in this case, with a timeless reminder that your life is better spent in the pursuit of truth and kindness rather than material possessions, and a completely timeless blues-rock riff to go besides.
Lynyrd Skynyrd deliver a Southern rock masterwork with “Simple Man”. This song is like a musical letter from a wise parent to their child, offering advice on navigating life’s twists and turns. The melodic guitar riffs and heartfelt lyrics create an anthem for every parent hoping to instill wisdom and resilience in their kin. It’s a Southern rock lullaby that transcends generations, reminding us that sometimes the simplest advice is the most profound.
#7 – Kanye West – “Family Business”
Kanye is, of course, one of the most ubiquitous and controversial musicians in the world these days, a man whose social-media presence is scrutinized as much as his music. But there was a time when he was much more grounded and accessible, and never more so than on his landmark 2004 debut, The College Dropout.
You may think it unlikely that Kanye West would slow it down for a family ballad, but he did here on “Family Business”. On this soulful track, Kanye takes us on a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about family gatherings and the ties that bind. It’s a departure from his usual bravado, revealing a more vulnerable and introspective side. With its soulful samples and heartfelt verses, “Family Business” shows us that even hip-hop heavyweights have a soft spot for family nostalgia.
#6 – 2Pac – “Dear Mama”
Tupac Shakur: thought leader, gangsta rap icon, gutter poet par excellence, one of the pillars of modern hip hop. His standing in the game can hardly be overstated, and its because of songs like this. Any street kid can act mean when called on, but it takes someone with real bravery, soul, and talent to open up like this.
Speaking of vulnerability, 2Pac lays bare his soul on “Dear Mama”. This hip-hop masterpiece is a heartfelt ode to the struggles and sacrifices of mothers. 2Pac’s raw and emotionally charged lyrics paint a vivid picture of a son’s love and admiration for his mother, despite life’s hardships. It’s a poignant reminder that behind every tough exterior is a story of love and resilience. “Dear Mama” transcends hip hop, becoming a celebration of the strength of maternal bonds.
#5 – Taylor Swift – “The Best Day”
Swifties, rejoice! Taylor Swift makes her appearance on our family playlist with “The Best Day”. In this heartfelt tribute to her mom, Swift takes us on a musical journey through childhood memories.
Before world domination and a legion of fearsomely dedicated fans, before VMAs beefs and a tour big enough to prop up the US economy, there was a little girl and her mom. This is the sound of a young woman on the verge of taking over the world, making full use of her down-home country chops to do the hardest thing in music, write an honest song. If the song itself isn’t sweet enough, the well-documented story of Swift recording it in secret in order to surprise her mom with it on Christmas Eve tips it over the edge into sentimental overload.
With its acoustic sweetness and nostalgic lyrics, the song captures the essence of a daughter’s love and gratitude. It’s a musical scrapbook of cherished moments, reminding us that even global pop stars have cherished family memories to hold onto.
#4 – Sly and the Family Stone – “It’s a Family Affair”
We couldn’t do this thing without hearing from the Family Stone with this psych-soul classic, and the band’s third and final #1 hit.
Sly and the Family Stone bring the funk with “It’s a Family Affair”. This groovy anthem takes us to the heart of family dynamics, acknowledging that, while families can be messy, they’re still family. This was something of a last hurrah for the band, with bandleader Sly Stone’s addiction troubles beginning to interfere with the Family’s professional commitments. In this light, this could be seen as the sound of a man running out of road, turning to the closest people in his life for support and strength, a reading backed up by the introspective lyric and relatively subdued vocal performance. With its funky beats and stabs of Sly’s signature falsetto, the song is a celebration of the quirks and imperfections that make a family uniquely its own. It’s a funky family reunion in musical form, reminding us that love and connection can groove through even the most complicated rhythms.
#3 – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – “Teach Your Children”
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young chime in with the timeless “Teach Your Children”. This folk-rock gem is a melodic plea for generational understanding and communication. Graham Nash was inspired to write this track by a famous photograph depicting a child holding a toy grenade in Central Park, NYC, which led him to reflect on the lessons that children were receiving from their parents. The harmonious blend of voices and the acoustic arrangement create a serene atmosphere, echoing the importance of passing down wisdom and love to the next generation. It’s a musical lesson on the cyclical nature of family and the power of shared values. As the original supergroup, each song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is absolutely stacked with legendary musicians, but as an added bonus the pedal steel guitar part on this song was supplied by none other than the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia.
#2 – Stevie Wonder – “Isn’t She Lovely”
No one sings about love quite like Stevie Wonder. In fact no one sings about anything quite like Stevie Wonder, and here he brings his magic to our family playlist with “Isn’t She Lovely”. Opening side 3 of Wonder’s masterwork Songs in the Key of Life, we would wholeheartedly recommend the album version, this song was crafted while celebrating the birth of his daughter, Aisha. Even listening from this distance, you can hear as Stevie exudes joy and parental pride through every bar and note. The infectious melody and Stevie’s soulful vocals create a symphony of love, making it a timeless anthem for every parent welcoming a new life into the family—a lullaby of pure, unfiltered love. As an added touch of artistic beauty, the song includes field recordings of the little lady in question, because Stevie knows better than anyone that the human voice is the greatest instrument of all.
#1 – Sister Sledge – “We Are Family”
And here it is, the crown jewel of our family playlist: Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”. If that killer bassline wasn’t enough of a clue, the track was written by none other than Chic masterminds Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards and is pure audio joy. Challenged by their label boss to start writing hits for other acts, the disco titans set out to turn the least established act on Atlantic into stars. This resulting disco anthem is a celebration of unity, togetherness, and the bond that transcends blood. With its infectious chorus and disco beats, the song became an anthem for families everywhere. It’s a reminder that, regardless of differences, when the disco ball starts spinning, we’re all family on the dance floor. Sister Sledge delivers a groovy testament to the power of family, making “We Are Family” our #1 family anthem.
#11 Bill Withers – “Grandma’s Hands”
#12 Guns n’ Roses – “Sweet Child O Mine”
#13 Jackson 5 – “I’ll Be There”
#14 Harry Chapin – “Cat’s in the Cradle”
#15 Cat Stevens – “Father and Son”
#16 Simon and Garfunkel – “Bridge over Troubled Water”
#17 Luther Vandross – “Dance With my Father”
#18 Johnny Cash – Daddy Sang Bass
#19 The Pretenders – I’ll Stand By You
#20 Lee Ann Womack – I Hope You Dance
There you have it, folks – the Top 10 Songs About Family, a musical journey through the highs, lows, and funky grooves of kinship. So, gather your loved ones, hit play, and let the melodies of family resonate through your heart and soul. After all, in the grand symphony of life, family is the most cherished note.
|Name of the Artist
|Name of the Song
|“We Are Family”
|“Isn’t She Lovely”
|Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
|“Teach Your Children”
|Sly and the Family Stone
|“It’s a Family Affair”
|“The Best Day”
|“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
|The Staple Singers
|“I’ll Take You There”