Another beautiful song about a strained father-daughter relationship, Reba McEntire's 1992 country classic is a striking ballad about all the ways to say "I love you" without ever saying "I love you." "The greatest man I never knew lived just down the hall / And everyday we said hello but never touched at all," McEntire sings over a plaintive piano and echoing drum fills. To some it may be sappy, but the song is so lyrically precise that its earnestness outweighs any sense of mawkish sentimentality, nailing down the feelings of millions with its stunning ending lines: "He never said he loved me / Guess he thought I knew."
"You must learn to stand up for yourself / 'cos I can't always be around," says the father at the center of "Winter," Tori Amos' breakthrough single in the U.K. A piano ballad that hits a seismic crescendo, Amos' swirling number traces a family throughout time, with boys and girls learning to group up and be responsible, their parents overwatching and overseeing them. While the "father" figure is featured in only the first verse, there are still echoes of him all around but particularly near the song's end, where after years have passed and age has set in, the narrator relates a conversation: "You say 'I wanted you to be proud of me' / I always wanted that myself."
Of all the songs on this list, it's fair to say that this Gil Scott-Heron album cut, initially appearing on his 1974 collaborative record with Brian Jackson called Winter in America," is not only the least well known but also arguably the best song of the bunch. While it was revised for his 1980 solo effort, "Real Eyes," and dedicated to his daughter Gia Louise, we're suckers for a stripped-down piano-and-voice version featured on the 2014 compilation "Nothing New." Scott-Heron's gruff and earnest voice plays against the breezy, simple jazz chords to create a genuinely sweet, sentimental moment that serves as a sharp contrast to the political rhetoric he is best known for. "Me and your mama had some troubles," he sings to Gia, "There's been a whole lotta things on our minds / But lately when we look at you / We know that we've been wastin' time." When he loops through thetitle over and over again at the song's end, you can hear the warmth pouring out of his voice and it's a beautiful, heart-rendering moment that simply cannot be bettered.
The last true-and-proper single Joel released during his run of studio albums, this sentimental weeper was written as an ode to Joel's daughter Alexa Ray and intended as the kind of lullaby to be passed down from generation to generation. "Someday we'll all be gone," Joel sings over the quiet piano chords, "But lullabies go on and on / They never die / That's how you and I will be." If you have a bit of a tear in your eye, that's OK, because we do too. 2b1af7f3a8