Analysis of Father and son by Cat Stevens

"Father and Son" is a popular song written and performed by English singer-songwriter Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) on his 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. The song frames an exchange between a father not understanding a son's desire to break away and shape a new life, and the son who cannot really explain himself but knows that it is time for him to seek his own destiny.

Cat Stevens originally wrote "Father and Son" as part of a proposed musical project with actor Nigel Hawthorne called Revolussia, that was set during the Russian Revolution; the song was about a boy who wanted to join the revolution against the wishes of his father. However, in a broader context that reflected not just the societal conflict of Stevens' time, but also captured the impulses of older and younger generations in general. 

Interviewed soon after the release of "Father and Son", Stevens was asked if the song was autobiographical. Responding to the interviewer, he said, "I’ve never really understood my father, but he always let me do whatever I wanted—he let me go. 'Father and Son' is for those people who can’t break loose."

“Father And Son” by Cat Stevens

It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

Style : Free Verse
Speaker : Father to the son

Father explains his young son not to be quick to make a decision as he is not mature enough. The son seems to leave family to change the present status of him. Father wants him to stay in the family and experience life through a family life. Father sets example from his own life.  

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Why think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

Father explains the transitory nature of dreams. In the life one can have many dreams but what father explains is the importance of achieving goal together as a family. As he implores, the paramount thing is the place where you are in, though the dreams may be achieved or not you have a family to live. Father tells his son to think before making decisions.

How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

Speaker : Son to himself or some outsider (not father)
same, same old story: (repetition) shows that he is not ready to listen the voice of old generation.
I was ordered: (passive structure) shows the passive life he had been experiencing.
I have to go : (repetition) emphasize his necessity to leave. Although he likes or not, it seems he cannot turn back.

Son does not comprehend what father explains; the reason may be he had been experiencing a submissive life under the orders of father. Once he has found the way to break free, he is ready to fly away.

It’s not time to make a change
Just sit down, take it slowly
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to go through
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

Repetition: Emphasizing telling the same story ( this is what the son hates)

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it
If they* were right, I’d agree, but it’s them* they** know not me
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

*they/them: the advices
** they : elders (may be parents and other elders in the family)
it’s them they know not me: suggests that elders only give instructions but has no care about what the child think.

The young son opens his heart and explains what led him to make such a decision. He complains the elders for keeping him suffocated of voice. He implores the pain he underwent without having an opportunity to air his views. He has found a way to leave this unpleasant ground to raise his voice in a favorable ground. He may be doing this as a punishment to the elders. However, this show the root of the problem which creates the generation gap: the inability to converse freely of each ones’ ideas. When elders do not listen the young, they would hesitate to obey.  

Theme: generation gap
Tone: Father- little authoritative but caring, Son - complaining
Diction: Simple, conversational

This poem is a pop-son – a modern lyric. ‘Father and Son’ has for its theme the timeless and universal clash of attitudes between the older and younger generations. 

You can watch the song Father and Son here. 

Though it is not a very hard poem to understand, its universal applicability carries a vital message to the society about the necessity of understanding the difference between generations. What is your view on the poem? Let’s discuss your idea of the poem in the comments section. Share the article with your young child or the older relative to spread the message.

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