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Top 10 Father-and-Daughter Dance Songs (2023)

Even the most hard-hearted of us can enjoy a wedding. How often do you get to spend the day celebrating the love between two people you care about. How often do you have an excuse to clean yourself up, put on your best suit or dress, and spend the day eating, drinking, and dancing. It has the makings of a day that can only be enhanced by some spot-on music selections.

Of all matrimonial traditions, the dance shared by a bride and father figure is one of the most emotive. It is a moment for the bride to reflect on the two most important men in her life. With that in mind, we’ve collated songs that complement the moment. That said, if you’re looking for something a little less specific yet still brilliant, check out our rundown of the top 10 songs of all time, or take a look at the most streamed songs on Spotify for more contemporary fare.

Top 10 Father and Daughter Dance Songs

RankArtistSongRelease Year
1Nat King Cole & Natalie ColeUnforgettable1991
2Ben E. KingStand By Me1961
3Guns ‘N RosesSweet Child O’ Mine1988
4The TemptationsMy Girl1964
5Beach BoysGod Only Knows1966
6Fleetwood MacLandslide1975
7Stevie WonderYou Are the Sunshine of My Life1973
8Yusuf Islam/Cat StevensWild World1970
9Paul SimonFather and Daughter2002
10WilcoMy Darling1999

#10 “My Darling” – Wilco

Release Year: 1999

One of the more obscure cuts on this list is this indie rock ballad from the turn of the millennium. The song is from Wilco’s third album, Summerteeth, which drew heavily from lead singer Jeff Tweedy’s marital problems. It concerns the family being completed by the love the parents feel for their child. 

For the song, vaudevillian piano underpins lush, reverb-drenched string arrangements. The plaintive, heartfelt lyrics and tender vocals would fit nicely on any wedding playlist. Plus, its relative obscurity might add a personal touch to the proceedings. The production style, reminiscent of late-‘90s acts such as Eels and Flaming Lips, could deepen the sense of nostalgia.

Trivia: The song was included in episode 4 of the first season of “Gilmore girls” in 2007.

#9 “Father and Daughter” – Paul Simon

Release Year: 2002

In true Simon style, the dense layers of instrumentation and production sheen belie a song that is disarmingly simple in its approach. “There could never be a fatherLove his daughter more than I love you,” sums up the singer’s feelings nicely.

Simon had written the song for inclusion on the soundtrack to the 2002 animated film “The Wild Thornberrys Movie”. The song, when eventually re-released as an album track, proved popular, even garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Song. It would lose to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. 

Trivia: The backing vocals for the chorus are provided by Paul Simon’s son Adrian.

#8 “Wild World” – Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens

Release Year: 1970

Based on a chord sequence that is popular in Spanish music, “Wild World” was the lead single off Yusuf’s fourth album, Tea for the Tillerman. The song is perhaps unusual, with a lead line that alternates between keys and guitar, and a distinctive, jazzy double bass line and a slight stutter in the chorus that lend the recording an improvised feel.

While the song was intended as a breakup song – a bittersweet farewell to a failed romance – we feel the sentiment can easily be repurposed. In the context of a relationship, the song has been criticized for being patronizing and even misogynistic. If, however, the listener chooses to ignore the subtext and interpret the song’s lyrics at face value, it could speak for a father at his daughter’s marriage. 

Trivia: The song was surprisingly not released as a single in Yusuf’s native U.K. However, a cover version by reggae icon Jimmy Cliff reached the top 10 when it was released only a few months after the original.

#7 “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder

Release Year: 1973

Few songwriters have a better success rate with ballads than Stevie Wonder. While we could also make a strong case for tracks like “Isn’t She Lovely” this just edges it for us. Released during Wonder’s imperial phase, during which he released the classic albums Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life in just four years, the song became Wonder’s third #1 single.

Wonder’s lyrics encapsulate parental love and support. While Wonder recorded many of the instruments on Talking Book himself, he used a session band for this track. The artist had played the demo to enthusiastic musicians. A jam ensued, which led to a hastily arranged studio session. The impromptu nature of the recording gives “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” its joyfulness and makes it an ideal soundtrack for a celebration.  

Trivia: The opening lines of the song are sung in turn by Jim Gilstrap and Gloria Barley, who also provided backing vocals to the track.

#6 “Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac

Release Year: 1975

Due to the scope of their musical abilities, their longevity, and their lineup changes, Fleetwood Mac have something in their catalog to suit every occasion. This is the sound of Stevie Nicks at her most reflective, with the band providing a lush backdrop. Though understated when compared to the band’s biggest hits, “Landslide” bears a fragility that has made it one of Fleetwood Mac’s signature songs since its release on their self-titled 1975 album – the first to feature Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.

The song was written as Nicks considered continuing her career in music or going back to school, likening the tumult of her life at the time to a landslide. The melancholic lyrics could also summarize the bittersweetness felt by parents as they watch their child grow and build their own life. As with many songs on this list, “Landslide” has been covered on numerous occasions, notably by Smashing Pumpkins and Dixie Chicks.

Trivia: “Landslide” was performed on TV’s “Glee”, in a season 2 episode that also featured a vocal contribution by Gwyneth Paltrow.

#5 “God Only Knows” – Beach Boys

Release Year: 1966

Considered one of popular music’s true masterpieces, Pet Sounds, despite being released almost 60 years ago, has seldom been surpassed in brilliance. It is Brian Wilson and co’s crowning achievement.

Among this set of songs that redefined what popular music could achieve and lit a fire under contemporaries including the Beatles, is this song built upon the simple expression, “God only knows what I’d be without you.” 

Trivia: The song is inspired in part by the jazz standard “Stella by Starlight”. Although many, many versions exist, we recommend Charlie Parker’s.

#4 “My Girl” – The Temptations

Release Year: 1964

Filling out the Motown set at a wedding is this collaborative hit written by Smokey Robinson for the Miracles. Robinson was encouraged to let the Temptations record the song after seeing their performance on a “Motortown Revue” tour, which included new member David Ruffin. The song would be the group’s first recording to feature Ruffin on lead vocals. The song topped the charts and was also the first #1 on the reinstated R&B singles chart. It marked the group’s first #1 hit.

Although “My Girl” was perhaps written as a more straightforward romance song, the joy and innocence of the lyrics and uplifting musicality make this an ideal wedding pick.

Trivia: The song was re-released in 1992 after the release of the film of the same name. While it did not rechart in the U.S., it reached #2 in the U.K.

#3 “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns ‘N Roses

Release Year: 1988

The song that did the unthinkable and made the Most Dangerous Band in the World a household name. This early G’n’R hit topped the charts and let the world in on the Big Secret: there was more to these guys than booze and big hair. 

The landmark track, which opened the world up to the band and indeed, the hard rock/metal genre to which they were associated, is a jam based on one of Slash’s warmup exercises. Axl Rose might be a rather objectionable guy a lot of the time, but this demonstration of the redemptive power of the love for a child is hard to argue with, and would be a welcome addition to any wedding playlist. For those hoping to put together a slightly less raucous celebration, Sheryl Crow’s 1999 cover is well worth checking out.

Trivia: The famous “Where do we go” refrain was not quite as rhetorical as it might seem; the song was written on the hoof and the band were unsure how to finish it. 

#2 “Stand By Me” – Ben E. King

Release: 1961

Another universally adored soul standard, and with good reason. The song was inspired by a gospel spiritual recorded by contemporary Sam Cooke, “Stand by Me Father”, and references Psalm 46. With such lofty inspiration it is little wonder the song is so moving. King did not intend to record the song, passing it on to the Drifters. When the Drifters passed, King used some extra time at the end of a recording session for his track “Spanish Harlem” to demo and subsequently record the track himself.

The song reached #1 on R&B charts and the Billboard Top Ten twice – once upon release in 1961, and again in 1986 to coincide with the release of the film of the same name. Its lyrics speak of the support provided by our loved ones, makes it thematically perfect for a wedding. Although the original is best known, there are many other versions to choose from, including one delivered by Muhammad Ali.

Trivia: John Lennon recorded a version of this with fellow ex-Beatle Paul McCartney in 1974 on drums, a full four years after the legendary band had separated.

#1 “Unforgettable” Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole

Release: 1991

The original of this song, written by Irving Gordon and recorded by Nat King Cole in 1951, is nothing short of iconic. Melding soul and jazz, it is a romantic standard and perhaps one of the most famous songs of all time, covered by everyone from Marvin Gaye to Merle Haggard. Nat King Cole’s version is stellar, though we think a more suitable version exists.

At the suggestion of Elvis Presley’s artistic director Joe Guercio, the song was digitally edited and remastered 40 years after its release as a duet between Nat and his daughter Natalie. The effect is stunning. The reworked version matched the original’s chart performance, and earned three Grammy Awards.

Trivia: Of the many cover versions of the song, perhaps the strangest is by alt-folk royalty Ani DiFranco and martial arts legend Jackie Chan. It was also included on the 2009 soundtrack for the film “The Watchmen”. 

Runner Ups:

#11 “The Way You Look Tonight” – Frank Sinatra

Old Blue Eyes had a knack for saying complicated things in the most straightforward way. After all, which bride doesn’t want to be remembered for the way they looked on their wedding day?

#12 “What A Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong

This ballad for the world at large is perhaps Satchmo’s finest moment among a career of fine moments. 

#13 “Lean On Me” – Bill Withers

A promise from father to daughter that they will always be there.

#14 “The Wonder of You” – Elvis Presley

A tribute by the King to the person who has stood by him when no one else would. 

#15 “When You Need Me” – Bruce Springsteen

New Jersey’s finest turns country for this one, with a simple promise to take on all comers. Which father wouldn’t say the same?

Honorable Mentions:

Every father-daughter relationship is unique, which is why the songs on this list were chosen from a variety of genres and eras. Hopefully, there is one song on this list that will be included in your special day. 

  • Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder
  • In My Life – The Beatles
  • You’ll Be In My Heart – Phil Collins
  • You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash
  • When My Little Girl is Smiling – The Drifters