The 20 greatest dad rock songs of all time

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The 20 greatest dad rock songs of all time

Dad rock
Words by Will Brewster
Edits by Mixdown staff

From Steely Dan through to the Steve Miller Band, we reel in the years with these classic dad rock jams.

Quintessential Dad rock has been having somewhat of a renaissance in recent years. From A24’s Euphoria rocketing Steely Dan into Gen Z’s orbit with that iconic “Dirty Work” needle drop, to the recent meme-ification of “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam on TikTok.

Dad music

Frankly, here at Mixdown we can’t get enough. So, sit back, relax and cast your mind back to fond memories of the old man, or if you’re lucky, go and hang out with the geezer and chat about mowing lawns or car maintenance. Maybe even chuck on a few of these absolutely golden oldies. Rock on!

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Dad rock

‘Reelin’ In The Years’ – Steely Dan​

Musically, ‘Reelin’ In The Years’ one of the greatest dad rock belters out there. That guitar solo is next level, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more poignant chorus for the old fella to yell out, reliving his glory days through Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s sonic genius.

While we’re on the Dan, I’d also like to give ‘Peg’ a shout-out for being the funkiest fatherly jam in existence.

‘Layla’ – Eric Clapton (MTV Unplugged version)

The Derek & The Dominoes version of ’Layla’ with Duane Allman on slide guitar is one of the greatest songs of the ‘70s and a premium jam in its own right, but there’s no denying that Eric’s Unplugged version well and truly trumps it in the dad department.

Slow-burning guitars, smokey vocals, an acoustic timbre – this is dad rock through and through. Some say that the success of Eric Clapton’s Unplugged only pushed the kids of the era further into alternative music, so I guess we’ve got to hand it to Slowhand for that one.

‘Smooth’ – Santana and Rob Thomas

An ageing guitar superstar and one of soft rock’s finest frontmen teaming up for a spicy Latin-flavoured rocker; what’s not to love?

‘Smooth’ is certainly far from being Rob Thomas or Santana’s best track, but there’s few tracks that epitomise a summer barbecue like this bad boy – man, it’s a hot one.

‘Better Man’ – Pearl Jam ​

Pearl Jam are essentially the flag-bearers for the next generation of dad rock; one that eschews lager cans and cigarettes in favour of crafty ales and fruit-flavoured vape pens.

‘Better Man’ represents the seminal Seattle rockers’ softer side, and it’s all too easy to imagine a trendy, younger generation of dad swaying to this one and remembering an era when Eddie Vedder and co. ruled the airwaves.

‘Power And The Passion’ – Midnight Oil

It’s easy for dads to get a bit whimsical after listening to the Oils after a couple of brewskis and chat on about how there’s no ‘real’ rock bands who make songs like this anymore.

Honestly, he’s probably right: ’Power And The Passion’ is a slammer of the highest order, and anyone who says otherwise is probably just a staunch ALP voter.

‘Horse With No Name’ – America

Any song about horses from a band called America is guaranteed to be a hit with dads.

There’s an iconic scene in Breaking Bad where this song literally triggers Walter White – perhaps the most critically analysed onscreen dad of the modern era – to get lippy with a police officer and eventually cop a dose of pepper spray as a result. Make of that what you will.

‘Brown Eyed Girl’ – Van Morrison ​

How many of our parents do you reckon had a boogie to this one at their wedding? I know at least one of my co-worker’s parents did, and I’m willing to bet money I could find several more lurking out there.

To be fair, that riff is timeless, and it truly is a sweet song, so we won’t sledge Van too hard for this one.

‘Sultans Of Swing’ – Dire Straits

Honestly, Dire Straits rock. Mark Knopfler is a shit hot guitar player, and there’s so many great songs in this band’s back catalogue that still haven’t received their dues.

That being said, ‘Sultans Of Swing’ is dad rock through and through – if there’s any tune that your old man can whistle the guitar solo to note-for-note, I reckon it’d probably be this one.

‘New Kid In Town – Eagles​

The trailblazers, the dons, the OGs of dad rock themselves. The Eagles are titans of daytime radio, and you could choose any song of theirs to fill this spot.

However, ‘Hotel California’ sucks and is one of the most overrated, overplayed and bloated tunes of all time, so we’re going to go for ‘New Kid In Town’ instead. Bliss!

‘What A Fool Believes’ – The Doobie Brothers ​

You all knew this one was coming. The Doobies could be the ultimate dad rock band, and ‘What A Fool Believes’ might be one of the best dad rock tunes ever. It’s a wonderfully composed and produced track, and toes the line between cheese and and steeze so finely that it has to be good.

It’s also worth noting that this song netted both Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1978 Grammy Awards, which statistically, makes it the most lauded dad jam of all time.

‘Dancing In The Dark’ – Bruce Springsteen ​

There’d be more than few Bruce Springsteen tracks eligible for entry into the hallowed halls of dad rock fame. ‘Born To Run’ is right up there, and ’Born In The USA’ would be an easy pick – hell, even the most smouldering moments from The Boss could get a look in here.

For me, however, it’s the punchy drums and the fist-pumping synths of ‘Dancing In The Dark’ that take the cake this time around, but the Boss has got so many classics that I daresay anything will do here.

‘Free Bird’ – Lynyrd Skynyrd ​

In all seriousness, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) is one hell of an album – ‘Simple Man’ is an amazing tune that really spotlights the instrumental talents of each member, and ‘Gimme Three Steps’ is top-notch yeehaw rock ’n roll.

‘Free Bird’, however, is one of the most iconic songs of its ilk, and it’d be a huge omission to not feature this nine minute, two-part epic in a dad rock list; plus, that guitar solo is an absolute stonker.

‘Harvest Moon’ – Neil Young​

For all of Neil Young’s gnarly, balls-to-the-wall proto-grunge moments in his back catalogue, I can guarantee there’s a wishy-washy ballad like ‘Harvest Moon’ to match it.

I like to imagine this song being played in the background while mum and dad slow dance in the kitchen after a few too many glasses of shiraz on a Saturday afternoon – I’m sure we’ve all seen it happen at some stage.

‘The Joker’ – Steve Miller Band ​

It’s not too common, but there exists a sub-branch of dads who never really gave up the devil’s lettuce when it came time to settle down and have kids.

I can almost guarantee that when these said dads get together in the back shed to chop up, roll up and smoke up, they’re blasting ‘The Joker’ as they cough and splutter their way through the fattest spliff known to dad-kind. God bless ‘em!

‘Khe Sanh’ – Cold Chisel ​

You all know it, we all love it. This sad stomper about the struggles facing returned Vietnam veterans has become enshrined as one of the greatest Aussie rock tunes of all time, and to be fair, it’s a wonderfully written and composed song.

I’ve been lucky enough to bear witness to gangs of old footy dads yell that final refrain at the pub as if it was their last day on earth, and it’s moments like these that really remind you of the unbridled power of dad rock.

‘Roxanne’ – The Police ​

ACAB, but The Police rule. ‘Roxanne’ is an absolute masterpiece, and even though it’s a bit more new wave than some of the other tracks on this list, I’m certain there’s a fair few of our dads who’ve rocked out to this one in their heyday.

On that note, I wonder how many dads out there know about the ‘Roxanne’ drinking game?

‘Howzat’ – Sherbet ​

Look, I know that Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘The Horses’ is a much more popular track in the grander scheme of things, but I think that the cricket crossover appeal of ‘Howzat’ is much more apt for a dad rock list.

I think everybody’s got a bit of horsey fatigue in recent years due to all those Dazza memes, and the guitar solo in ‘Howzat’ is an absolute shred-fest – definitely a worthy pick.

‘Down On The Corner’ – Creedence Clearwater Revival ​

Does this one need any explaining? ’Down On The Corner’ is a near-escapable instance of John Forgerty’s simple songwriting genius, and the fact that it’s backed up with a bass-line as groovy as this one can’t hurt his cause either.

Despite their massive commercial success, I’d probably consider Creedence Clearwater Revival as one of the most underrated, quietly influential rock groups of all time, and their back catalogue of iconic tracks could probably go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Rolling Stones – and probably come out victorious.

‘Don’t Stop’ – Fleetwood Mac

It was tricky figuring out which Fleetwood Mac tune would scrape it into this list, because honestly, any of them could have slotted in quite easily.

However, I think the carefree exuberance and screaming guitars of ‘Don’t Stop’ probably make for the greatest dad moment in the Mac discography, and that jaunty Southern Californian groove can’t hurt either.

‘Cats In The Cradle’ – Harry Chappin

This one’s a bit of a sad dad song, but hey – dads get sad too.

‘Cats In The Cradle’ tells a tale of a father who’s too busy to spend time with his young son, watching as his relationship with his own drifts further and further into nothingness over the cruel course of time.

Consider this one a cautionary tale for dads, because really, there’s nothing that’s more important in life than being a dad.

Keep reading about the aforementioned Sherbet album Howzat! here.