A lot has been said in statistics-quoting newspaper op-eds and President Obama’s most personal speeches about the impact fathers’ early abandonment can have on sons: the gaping emotional hole left behind; the absence of male guidance felt most critically at a boy’s pivotal detours into manhood. But far less has been said about an abandoned daughter’s grieving process.
Rarely has this topic been addressed as poignantly as in the song “Daddy Issues,” written and performed by Melanie Charles of the Brooklyn-based electro-soul duo Rat Habitat. (City dwellers will totally get the joke behind the band’s unique name, especially come summertime.)
The lyrics of the song, produced by guitarist (and Montreal native) Jordan Peters, touch precisely upon a pivotal moment for Melanie: her father, on his deathbed, confessing his darkest secrets to her.
“Growing up, my dad was rarely around,” she’s said. “I was very lucky to have a very strong mother, and she did an amazing job raising my brother and me. Besides not being around, my father was not very honest about his identity. Only on his deathbed last year did he tell the whole truth about who he was.”
The Haitian-American singer-songwriter chooses to keep those truths private out of respect for her father’s memory. “After he died,” Melanie continues, “I did a lot of reflection and realized that I have a hard time with relationships because I never had an example on how a man should love me and how I should love a man.”
“Daddy Issues” touches upon this hot-button topic in a way that comedian Chris Rock’s famous “daddy’s job is to keep his daughter off the stripper pole” joke never did—with raw feeling and a wounded heart, scanning over the wreckage left behind a parent’s decision to walk away. It touches on the toxic burden and generational inheritance of secrets, and the frailty of a father who, perhaps, never received healthy fathering that he could offer to his children.
“The term daddy issues is a negative one in our society,” Melanie believes. “However, most women—and surprisingly a great deal of men—have shared with me that they too have daddy issues. And so I hope this song can be some sort of an icebreaker for having the dialogue on such a delicate topic. Hopefully this can be a step closer in saving relationships and creating health family dynamics.”
Will a daughter hear this song and use it to exorcize grief and reclaim herself in the daily work of forgiveness? Will a father hear this song and work through his shame over past mistakes and commit himself to daughterly connection and care? Who knows? We human beings are, as the lyrics of the song point out, “just trying to figure this out.”—Sun Singleton
Sun Singleton is a musician/editor/journalist based in New York City whose work has been featured in a variety of publications, including Vibe, Mass Appeal, Complex.com, EBONY.com, Bronx Biannual, YOYO/SO4 and BET Digital. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter at @sunsing.
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