From Metallica to Selah: The 10 Songs I Gave My Teen

Elise handed me a sticky pad sheet and a blue pen and direct instructions.

“Give me some songs to get, dad.”

I took the assignment seriously. At age 15, there’s about as much Eagles coming from her iPod as One Direction. A Bon Jovi song for every Bruno Mars. This was important stuff.

I can’t imagine there were fewer than 17,000 songs (give or take) that spun through the digital jukebox between my ears. This had to be more precise than a Peyton Manning touchdown pass, more exclusive than a Colorado Rockies playoff ticket.

These would be songs we’d listen to on the way to school together. To soccer practice. On tortilla and chocolate-chip grocery-store runs.

Here are the 10 I chose, and why:



I’ve always placed this song on the level with Ode to Joy, the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. The stark lyrics, the transitions between that almost 70s rock intro to the driving precision of the middle to the angry solos … this one is as complex and beautiful as it is dark.

The Beatles

Let it Be

As a kid, I had no concept of the acrimony surrounding the Beatles at the time. Then, it (wrongly) stood for a transcendent spirituality I didn’t fully understand. I hope this hymn brings comfort to Elise, in times of trouble, even in those times I cannot be there.

Collective Soul


It’s a hymn in disguise, wrapped in grungy guitar. I’d just begun college when I heard it, cut my shoulder-length hair to a buzz, and had a world of learning ahead of me. “Teach me how to speak/teach me how to share/tell me where to go/tell me, will love be there?” Will Elise ask this too?


Smells Like Teen Spirit

Another one from my collegiate soundtrack, this one probably better represented what I understood about the world around me: Misunderstanding at best, chaos at worst. Elise, welcome to the brand of creative genius of Kurt Cobain. He was also a dad, with a daughter 5 years older than you.

The Beatles

I Feel Fine

Marie once made a happy beeline in Old Navy to a color-splashed tee with the faces of four lads on it, but it wasn’t One Direction. The Beatles of shorter, shaggy hair and turtlenecks had that effect in their early days, and this song – built around a simple John Lennon riff – represents that well.

Mumford and Sons

I Will Wait

Dad’s not only about the Oldies. Structurally, I love the folksy feel and proud brass, and effective use of repetition (hear me, Maroon5?) Interpret the lyrics how you’d like, but for me, I want Elise to know that no matter what life brings, dad will go anywhere, do anything, wait or hurry, whatever it takes.

Franz Ferdinand

Take Me Out

Sad lyrics, driving beat. If I ran, this’d be on my run playlist. It’s one of those you want to kick ass after you hear it. The beat will conjure that. In a lyrical sense, it’s a bustling metaphor for those awkward moments of attraction and self-doubt from our teens that follow us way into adulthood.


Fix You

Lyrics speak to us. I followed my heart on all these, to include the dark (One) the mysterious (Teen Spirit) and even the spiritual (Let it Be.) This one reinforces the notion of what a dad will do for his children. No, we can’t fix everything. But no matter what, we will always try.


You Raise Me Up

This will move you, Elise. There’s a power in stillness and in the quiet that means spirituality at its core. Who raises us up? Our faith does in a spiritual sense, but that one who “sits awhile with me” can be anyone with faith in you – me, your mom, your sisters or friends … or someone in your future.

Kurt Nilsen

She’s So High

Know when we boys seem so clueless? We act when we shouldn’t, we sit idle when action is best. We get it wrong. We give space when we should draw you near, hold you close rather than grant freedom. Sometimes, we’re smart enough to revere you, and navigation isn’t easy for us.

Like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Aphrodite, even.

I hope some of these songs will make you think. Or give you some comfort when you need it. But, not all the time.

Sometimes, music is just music, and that’s good. On the way to practice next time, let’s roll down the windows and turn it up, OK?


  1. Shannon says:

    Great list!!

    1. Thanks – somehow, Ke$ha managed to not make the cut.

  2. Kim says:

    Love it!!! So cool that your daughter asks your opinion on songs to get!! Our youngest son is very into music – especially some of the classic rock – Rush, Led Zepplin, Sting…..We listen to a variety of music here and the boys like some and others not so much (my country choices!).

    1. Thanks Kim! Trust me, when she asked, I was honored. Your kid has great taste. Elise is categorically opposed to anything country, except for that stupid summer song (but the more Collective Soul I give her, the less often she’ll hear that one).

      Yes, this is strategic.

  3. Some good choices. You’ll have to let us know which ones she likes the best.

    1. Thanks, Nelson – so far, she’s especially partial to Metallica.

  4. Teri says:

    What? No Duran Duran?

    1. Or Fine Frenzy, or Chicago, or Katherine Jenkins. If I did include Duran Duran, there’s a 68 percent chance it would have been “Rio.”

  5. Nice picks, though I can’t stand Coldplay. My eldest daughter is 2, so still too young, though she does love Jacko. I’d add Winter by Tori Amos, a song for every dad/daughter

    1. Thanks Carlos – and duly noted on the Coldplay … that one especially has some detractors, but I love it. Man, your girl is getting started right … good influence. Good call on Tori Amos – I’d already given my girl Anna Nalick, too.

  6. Dana says:

    Great list, Eli, although I do prefer Josh Groban’s version of You Raise Me Up. So many of the songs and artists I love today were ones I heard when I was with my parents, and I love that my kids are doing the same. Sounds like your daughter has a great musical repertoire already!

    1. Josh Groban’s a good choice, but I love the Irish feel at the beginning of Selah’s – and Elise has some Irish heritage, so why not? (On that note, I forgot to include some Los Lonely Boys). I love to hear the kids listening to “our” music – I know that when I hear Richie Valens or Three Dog Night or Alabama, I remember how much my dad loved them, too.

      She’s on her way, my kid – and as I said before, the more Boz Skaggs and Simon & Garfunkel I can get in her library, the fewer times I’ll have to ask, “Is this one of Bruno Mars’ dirty songs, or is it ok?”

  7. laurie27wsmith says:

    You’ll be burning playlists before you know it Eli and she’ll ‘discover’ all the old bands. great post.

    1. Thanks mate – I totally forgot Men at Work! I was 12 when “Overkill” came out, and it’s still one of my favorites.

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        You’re welcome Mate, after I watched them I took in a little REM. So much good music, so little time.

      2. Good move, chum. Just take them one song at a time – the Beatles are playing as I type this, “If I Needed Someone.”

      3. laurie27wsmith says:

        Listening to ‘The Night Chicago Died’ by Paper Lace. Oldy but a goody.

  8. Love this playlist! I’m going to make sure I have them all for my kids – I loved your reasoning behind each one. We all need to be exposed to all kinds of music – especially kids!

    1. Thanks Leah – when she strings together Metallica, AC/DC and Survivor before a game, I tell her I feel like kicking ass. Sharing music with your kids is one of the great underrated joys of parenthood. Do yours listen to your music?

      1. lsdavidson says:

        My kids love music – all kinds! My husband is a music junkie. I often have to tell him to turn it down or off because the kids are trying to study or sleep! I don’t think they notice it though!

      2. That’s cool that you have some diversity – we’d started to fall into the trap of whatever the hit stations were playing, and that’s a bad way to lose brain cells.

        A little Louis Armstrong or Van Morrison would make perfect study or sleepy-time music, in my book.

  9. tamaralikecamera says:

    I give you a lot of credit for giving her this list. I think if I were asked, I’d be scribbling and crossing out and second guessing and shaking my head all night long. Sometimes music is just music, sure, and I like that occasionally. Mostly, it’s mind-boggling. And I got some nice memories here. I hadn’t thought about “Take Me Out” in ages. Consider it blasted right now. Scarlet likes it, and Des kinda scratched his head and climbed the couch to it.

    1. Thanks Tamara – it wasn’t too hard to come up with the list, and they came so naturally. I tried not to second guess, and I said I’d just fill it up and stop, but I found myself adding these final two in the margins. I couldn’t leave them out.

      Music just as music is fine, and maybe I’m just getting old, but it feels like all there is is the shell in a lot of new stuff. The memories are as vivid as the actual events or feelings or stages we knew when the music came out – they really are our soundtracks.

      I love that Scarlet likes Take Me Out – it’s another one of those that makes me want to kick ass. In what, I don’t know. A white castle eating contest? Disc golf? Wii pool?

      Des is on his way too … he’ll be the one with the lyrics memorized by preschool.

      1. tamaralikecamera says:

        Funny you should mention that because my father won a White Castle contest once. He ate 12 burgers at once. Seeing them, I don’t think that’s a lot of food. Maybe he won against preschoolers.

      2. I feel as if the White Castle division (or tamales) would be my area of expertise. A dozen ‘castles seems doable. Preschoolers, Patriots fans or Portuguese nationals, a win’s a win’s a win.

  10. Awesome list! I find it interesting that my daughter has quite a few oldies on her playlists…mainly due to my mother in law. She’ll tell me “that’s a classic.”

    1. Thanks Michelle – she already plays it on the ride to school, in a playlist that she knows no one but we two will fully appreciate. What kinds of songs does your daughter have going? So many classics to choose from, and i haven’t even mentioned Alan Parsons Project, Spin Doctors or the Commodores.

    1. I certainly wasn’t going to shovel over anything mediocre, after all.

  11. Ilene Evans says:

    I love your playlist. I would definitely give my daughter Shine – I love the lyrics and it’s one of my favorite songs to this day and still gets a lot of play on my iPod. There are at least a dozen Beatles songs I’d give her. I like your choices, but if I had to pick just one, it would be “The End” from Abbey Road. “Hey Jude” would be a close second.

    A few years ago, Fiona and chose “I’ll be There” by the Jackson 5 as our “official song.” I think every parent and child should have one!

    1. Thanks Ilene. Shine’s like that really good-looking, cool kid who dresses well at school and doesn’t drink or smoke. Just a good, cool role-model.

      You can’t go wrong with Beatles songs, and I love that I can show the girls the progression they went through – they wonder if their favorite Brit lads of One Direction will follow a similar path.

      Which one will end up with the modern-day Yoko Ono, I wonder.

      Hey Jude is a mainstay with us. Marie gets a little tired of the Na-na-na-nas at the end, but we love to sing it together.

      Love that you have an official song with Fiona, and that she chose it. I have official songs with each of my girls, and one for just being their papa.

      Must write about it. And so must you.

  12. Tatted Mom says:

    Great list. One I shared with my daughter, that’s a bit girly and soft, is “She’s True” by Tony Lucca. That song means so much to me, as a woman, that I have some of the lyrics tattooed on my ribs. Very important for a growing lady to understand she needs to stay true to herself above all… 😉

    1. Thanks! Tony Lucca and Metallica are kind of the same, right? Seriously, there’s always a song, like Ilene said, that can be a parent’s and a kid’s.

      And when it’s lyrics you share – and it’s in ink – it sticks a bit more in the memory.

  13. Tricia says:

    This is beautiful! Oh I love this list. Some of my favorites here – the Beatles, the Mumford and Sons song that always gives me chills (even thought I’ve listened to it a million times) and the Coldpay song that brings tears. I have no idea what I’d out in a list for my kids… But now I want to think about it!

    1. Thanks Tricia. I gave it thought, but I tried not to overthink, you know? I didn’t realize how many sensitive/spiritual songs made the list until I wrote this post!

      I hope you’ll put together a list and blog about it actually …

  14. Jean says:

    How awesome that she asked you for music and what a great, diverse list you gave her. My son is probably too young to listen to Mumford and Sons but since I do, he’s heard them. The song you gave your daughter is the song my son was singing to my husband last night 🙂

    1. It kind of felt like divine intervention when I got that sticky pad from her. Oh, the kids are always listening to what their parents tune in – that’s how my youngest learned the B word (thanks, Charlie Daniels Band).

      I’m glad it was the Mumford and Sons song you sang to him, and not the Metallica one.

  15. I love One by Metallica. We blast it in the car as a family with my older son on guitar (and me or my husband on the dueling guitar) and my younger son on the drums. It’s pretty epic.

    1. It’s so hard not to act out when you hear that song. At least with the angry head bang. And when we get out of the car, we’re ready to kick someone’s ass on the soccer field when we hear it.

  16. Tiffany says:

    Awesome list, Coach! Gotta admit, that Metallica video used to freak me out!!!!! My 17 year old son is like your daughter, he loves the current stuff just as much as he loves the oldies (his word, not mine). He even went to see the Eagles without me. One of my fondest memories is going to a U2 concert with him a few years ago. We both listen to a wide range of music, something that I am glad I could pass on to him and my 7 year old daughter. And yes, Mumford and Sons, they are playing here this week. Awesome!

    1. Thanks Tiffany! That Metallica video *still* freaks me out. The fact that kids like the good stuff gives me hope for the future. Why didn’t you go to the Eagles concert?

      I really wish I could take my girls to a concert. What an experience. The music we choose can’t help but make an impact on our kids – hopefully, that they’ll explore it to, but maybe because they hate it, and look for something else!

      1. Tiffany says:

        Missed the Eagles because tickets were limited and his buddy got 2 tickets for his birthday, picked my son to go with him. He still talks about it to this day, been about 4 years ago! He’s going to a big concert next weekend, a 2 day concert called Music Midtown. It mixes old w/new, alternative, rock, R&B, rap. So like, Journey, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Imagine Dragons, 2Chainz. Should make for an interesting blog post. Speaking of, would love to have you guest post over on Gladiator in Heels…

  17. reocochran says:

    I wrote a post about the varied interpretations of “fix’ after I was really listening to that beautiful Coldplay song. I am a big fan of “Let It Be,” along with “The Long and Winding Road.” They teach patience, peaceful waiting and not always getting what you expect out of life! “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons is also meaningful. I am a big fan of Eagles, all of their songs. Great list, Eli!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Music can start the never-ending conversation. Great point on those Beatles songs … and kind of a different theme than what you hear now, right? Thanks for checking my list out.

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