On the final evening of a two-week trip to Italy, my wife and I decided to settle for an informal meal at an “al fresco” restaurant near our hotel. We had packing to do, so the traditional three- to four-course Italian feast was not in the cards. In a hilltop village where very little English was spoken, a casually hung Bluetooth speaker began pouring out popular music—in English. We had heard numerous familiar songs in English, covered by local musicians during the trip, but tonight was different.
An original recording of the song “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens resonated from the device. I was instantly transported back to 1976 and began, under my breath, singing each verse. I’d not heard it for forty years, but was amazed how it froze this moment in time, creating a new memory amidst a wash of old ones from my teens. My wife could see I was transfixed, so I volunteered a guess on the date of its release—a game we often play in the car. In a moment, she located details on her cell phone and reported it was first released in 1970 and gained strong popularity in Italy in 1971. As she kept reading, we learned it was about a farmer who was attempting to convince his son not to leave home and join the Russian Revolution.
The powerful lyrics I knew well as a teen had never echoed so sharply through my mind. Cat Stevens sang both the father’s and son’s words using far different octaves. The song, haunting for some, was not his most popular, but anyone with a son, especially one preparing to go off to war at a youthful age, can relate to the angst within this extraordinary song.
It was the day after Father’s Day. In the news the next day was more about the war between Russia and Ukraine. It mentioned the turmoil within Russia growing as more citizens question the need for the conflict. Sadly, this song remains quite relevant today.