Songs About Dads - The Same Tattoos

Song: “Same Tattoos”
Artist: Fences

I read a review of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” once that said something about how his writing must be based on something he actually lived because of some silly detail he put in there about a girl slipping before she got into a car.  It added nothing to the story and wasn’t even interesting, the reviewer wrote, so why even bother putting it in if he wasn’t recalling a memory?

That’s how I feel about this song.  It’s so specific about tiny details.  It’s short, but what is there is just so specific and feels so intimate that it must be from his life, if not at least rooted in his life. 

Fences, famous for his song “Arrows”) where he opens with, “My old man he kicked me out, kicked me out/when I told him that I lived this way”. Upon hearing that song I’d assumed it was based on his life.  But I don’t think so now.  I came across this song later, and man...what a hard song to listen to.  It’s beautiful, the melody and music, and Fences has an amazing voice, but the lyrics just break your heart... 

“My uncle gave me/on the day I turned 13/a black box that said “Gillette” rusted and scratched. And it was full of memories and memorabilia/and a necklace with a saint I wore in class”

The detail there is so specific...would anyone have written that fictionally for a song?  The details to it make it so real and pulls you into the soul of a 13 year old boy and its heartbreaking.  He wants to be close to his so bad that he wears his Dads cast off necklace.  

It’s not like you were really gone gone gone gone but you were/and I never felt love” 


I was struck by how important Dads are earlier today for the millionth time listening to a guy tell his story on his podcast about his troubled youth and he inevitably mentioned that his Dad left.  

It leaves a hole.  It just does.  

Not everyone whose Dad leaves ends up in trouble with the law, but I think it’s fair to Gus’s that everyone whose Dad leaves for sure is hurt.  (And, can I say, there is a special place in heaven for single mothers.  Everyone one of them is a saint).

So, what do we do with this?  This beautiful song that captures so perfectly the pain and loss and confusion and abandonment and sorrow of a 13 year old boy trying to figure out why his Dad left and how to live in the world without one?  

I think all we can do is be a Dad.  (If you’re not a Dad, be a brother, or a friend, or a sister or a Mom...)

We all need to feel loved.  

I work some weird hours right now, and my son hugged me 5 times in a row before I left tonight.  I couldn’t help but hurt for him that I was leaving.  But, he knows I’ll be back.  

Kids need their Dads.  Kids need to be loved.  They need to be heard and listened to and laughed with and told family histories and explained how the world works...they soak it up.  And if we won’t do it they’ll find another person to provide that. 

So, if you’ve got kids, find them, hug them, and spend some time with them.  And know you’ll screw up and fail them a bit, but try., just be there.  And feel valued yourself.  They need us. 

Artist Highlight: Fego Navarro

Fego Navarro is a Salvadorian American rapper/actor from San Francisco Ca. Fego’s musical journey in Hip Hop began in his teen years at church. After church service, he would get together with his friends and kick freestyle raps outside the temple. This developed into a passion for writing his own songs and attending local open mics to showcase his talent. At home his mother played a variety of music ranging from Cumbia to Soulful American oldies. This gave Fego an appreciation for all types of music. Where as Fego’s father a militant man who in the 1980s joined the FMLN, to fight in the civil war which has left a long lasting impact on his  home country of El Salvador which after effects can be seen to this day.The joy of family and the pain of war can be witnessed within Fego’s music. 
In 2013 Fego was featured on a song titled “them days” by an artist named Nate. It premiered on MTV U and Snoop Dogg also featured it on his online show “Underground Heat” where it wast number #1 in 2013. 
One of Fego’s many talents cast him in a film titled “Sin Padre” Directed by Jay Francisco Lopez. It went on to win the audience award for the San Francisco Latino Film Festival. Fego is currently a member of the artist collective lyrical Opposition, which centers its efforts on supporting the elements of Hip-Hop in San Francisco for all ages. 
Fego’s most recent projects include  a music project titled “Heart of Man” which is available on all music platforms and streaming services. As well as promoting a second film “Love Cecy” which recently premiered at the New York Latino Film Festival presented by HBO. 

Songs About Dads - Papa Don't Preach

Song: Papa Don’t Preach - Madonna

“Hey, put your shoes on”

Tears!  Crying!

This is a scene that happens here and there with my daughter.  I grew up with brothers, and so the whole thing about being careful not only what you say, but how you say it, is pretty foreign to me. 

“So I made my daughter cry when I asked her to put her shoes on this morning, that ever happen to you?” I asked my friend who has three daughters. 

“Oh man,’ he said, looking as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders, “every day”

It’s new to me, the instant tears and emotion thing.  But I get it, (kind of).  I get that it’s really easy for me to be too harsh.  I mean, if I think about it, I don’t like it when people are harsh with me, right? So why can’t I try and be a little more gentle and a little more understanding?  So, I’m trying to realize that I can come across to harsh sometimes without realizing it.  I’m trying to learn to curb my tone and how I respond. 

But, here’s the thing that I think most of us Dads get caught up on:  sometimes we’re right.  

Sometimes we’re totally justified in saying, “Hey!  Get your shoes on or we’re going to be late to your thing!  It’s your thing!  If we’re late to your thing you’re the one who’s going to be upset!”

Tears!  Crying!

Or, “Hey!  Stop doing that thing I’ve asked you a million times to stop doing!”

Tears!  Crying!

But look...lets say we’re right.  Let’s say we yell and smash shit around the house and stomp around or whatever and then our daughters (or sons) finally relent and do what we yelled at them to do...then, what?  We won?  

Is that what we really want?  

It’s not.  So I’m trying to figure it out.  

It’s like in Stranger Things season 2,  when (SPOILERS!!!!) Hopper is hiding Eleven in the cabin and she won’t listen to him.  It’s such a painful scene to watch because of how relatable his response is. Both of them are new to this, he’s never had a daughter (or, rather, never had much experience raising a daughter) and she’s never had any sort of real Dad, and so when she doesn’t listen he just smashes shit, throws things around the cabin (which she hates living in  but is the only place she has), culminating with his smashing her tv, her only source of entertainment and a sense of communication with the outside world.  They do a great job of showing him realizing that he’s gone to far, but by then, its too late.  Damage is done.  In his frustration he completely smashed not only what she loved, but, worst of all, perhaps their relationship.   

Or take The Little Mermaid, remember when the King gets all furious that she is...collecting forks or whatever? (I don’t recall, honestly) and, again, smashes all her stuff?  (“Betcha on land, they understand/they don’t reprimand their daughters”). 

There are probably a million pop culture examples, and all of them are too realistic because its a scene that’s been played out a billion times in every household between every dad and daughter. The daughter is upset and responds emotionally and the father is unable to put his frustration into words and yells and breaks stuff and maybe feels better for a moment but then that realization comes that this is only breaking their relationship. 

Regretful things can be said, things can be literally and figuratively broken beyond repair.  

But lets take some solace in the end of Stranger Things 2, when Hooper and Eleven make up.  I think we can all learn, and I think apologies can (hopefully and usually) be made and accepted.  I think, friends, we can do this.  I think we can be better Dads than that. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaand so today we’re looking at the first song in this series sung from a daughters perspective.  It’s a little tough, I want to do it justice but I’m a little hampered by my never having been a daughter and all. we go!

This weeks song, “Papa Don’t Preach”, is an old one. And you may have heard of the singer, Madonna. (Look, I went into this thinking everyone had heard of Madonna but then I realized I was old and holy crap, there may be people reading this who don’t know her). So, kids, aaaaaaallllllll the way back in the 80s, she was probably the most famous, and maybe the most controversial, pop star in the country. 

This is also the first in our series of songs that pre-dates me a bit.  I only kind of knew Madonna of the 80s.  I was a pretty young dude and not really the target market.  I knew Madonna more from the 90s, when she wore cone boobs and had the “Sex” book. That was a little creepy.  But she also starred in “A League of their Own” and that movie was pretty fun and cute.  She was pretty ubiquitous in pretty much all culture in the 80s and 90s.  

Growing up in church culture in the 90s, it was pretty impossible to avoid the culture wars, and Madonna was an artist you did not listen to.  You see, kids, in the 90s it was cool for christians to hate pop culture icons as though whatever they were peddling was worse than christians openly hating people.  I heard a guy preaching once and he said he’s been praying for Madonna since the 80s.  Honestly, I think thats a better approach to the whole thing.

The song “Papa Don’t Preach” is really, insanely catchy. In fact, I’ll go on record now saying that all old school Madonna is super catchy and that a fair amount of the 90s stuff was cool too (I’m not going to lie, “This Used To Be Our Playground” was stuck in my head forever).

In the song and the video a teenage daughter is telling her Dad that she’s pregnant and that she wants to keep the baby.  

She’s just begging to be heard in this song.  It’s the whole thing.  

It has to be a terrifying to be a pregnant teenager at any time, even more so in the 80s.  And her coming to her Dad must be the scariest thing she’s ever done.  

Papa I know you’ll be upset/because I always was your little girl” 

And so, while I hope my kids can avoid ever getting in trouble like that all together, I really want to ensure that I’m the type of Dad that they feel they can talk to if need be for any situation that comes their way. Even if they know they’re telling me something I won’t be excited about.  

And, I think the ground work for that starts now. I’m really trying to ensure that I can have patience, and listen, so that when tough situations come up I will be the kind of Dad that my kids can talk to.  

So, there will be times when my daughter cries when I ask her to tie her shoes.  And I have to learn to be okay with that.  And to have patience.  So that if she’s ever in a scary situation, she knows she can call me, and that I’ll listen and have her best intentions at heart.  

“Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep.  Papa don’t preach, I’ve been losing sleep...”

I don’t want my daughter losing sleep on anything, ever, that I can help her with.  I especially don’t want her losing sleep wondering if I’ll even be there for her if she does open up to me.  

So, I’m working on being there for her. I hope all of us Dads with daughters are.  It’s not enough when she’s 16 to suddenly pop our head into their bedroom or to text them and announce, “Oh, hey!  Just FYI, I’m here for you!  Let me know if you need me!  Text or email or whatever and we can totally work it out!”  Then walk out of the room. It doesn’t work that way.  It’s a trust that we’ll have to build now.  

Finally, I found it interesting that Madonna always saw this song as one where the Dad would be there for her.  I went into it thinking it was the opposite!  I was pleasantly surprised. 

We can do it, Dads! 

Further stuff:  I guess both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice took up this song as endorsing their position. Make of that what you will. 

Further further stuff:  The Dad in the video recorded a response song, from the Dad’s side, called “Papa Wants the Best For You”, which is a pretty sweet thing to do.

What Smalltown Means to Me.

What Smalltown Means to Us.

Smalltown Society started as an intimate open mic experience and ended up becoming a fixture in our lives. The people, the positivity, the community vibe, and the artistry all come together, making it a place that draws us in time and time again to share our creativity, our art, our music, and appreciate the creativity of other locals. There's something special about having welcoming places to go locally, and Smalltown Society is on the top of that list for us. Big Ups to Paul for making this space stand for something we value and opening the doors to welcome us all.

-Erick, Hana, Safiyah (Artists and community members)

Artist Highlight: Paul Keim

Paul Keim is a songwriter and community organizer who has been living, performing, and working in and around the East Bay for most of his life. His unique approach to songwriting comes from his appreciation for many different forms and styles of music, along with his passion for justice and social change.

Paul is lead curator for the Smalltown Society space, and is currently set to release his newest album “37” in early October.

Artist Highlight: Carter Nguyen


Carter Nguyen is a Bay Area native, with deep roots in the East Bay punk rock community. He has been involved in many seminal Bay Area punk bands, and started collaging in his late teens. He first began sharing his visual work publicly in the medium of punk show flyers for shows at 924 Gilman Street.

His current work is entirely analog: hand-cut with scissors, and glued with Mod Podge. He uses no digital means. 

Artist Highlight: Ted Gould (Brother Theodore)

Brother Theodore is the brain child of New Orleans native, Ted Gould III (Blyss) who for more than a decade has been a bass player with many different artists including funk music legend Zigaboo Modeliste (the Meters), pop icon Jody Watley(Shalamar) and r & b singer, Jon B. 

Ted is currently working on the Brother Theodore debut CD , “St. Ann” , a gumbo of New Orleans, Oakland and Minneapolis funk, jazz and blues tied together with what has become his own voice.

Artist Highlight: Kate Lamont

Born in the UK, singer Kate Lamont had trouble embracing her Indiana roots until later in her career. But the heartland inevitably laid the groundwork for her songwriting and love of collaboration. She recorded 7 collaborative works as well as 2 solo albums during her tenure in the midwest, and spent a decade working in and building the Indianapolis arts and music community. Arriving in the Bay Area in 2012 with a folk foundation and a larger than life spirit of soul, Lamont’s sound was pushed even further. Kate released a self-titled contemporary r&b record in 2013, and completed an unreleased collection of work in 2017, What happens next is everything, including the single On Again. Collaboration remains a key focus in 2018 as Lamont joins forces with world renowned artists Michael Henderson, Kahil El Zabar, Corey Wilkes, and Shafqat Ali Khan, as well as up and coming Bay Area producers Kev Choice, NOBL, DJ Flow, and Mani Draper.

Kate’s writing style and work ethic is influenced by mentors like Sade, Prince, and Lauryn Hill: artists whose ability to bleed pure emotion set them apart as much as their sky high technical skills. Lamont’s vision of music as a unifying force continues to fuel songs about truth, empowerment, and vulnerability, with lyrics connecting the dots from personal experiences to the great social issues of our time.

What Smalltown Means to Me.

Smalltown is an answer to the hardships of our times. In a crowded, noisy world where a sterile, formerly science fiction future is ever advancing—a recent news item described robots being developed to provide “comfort” for shut-ins—we are as far from community as Earth is from Venus. The word “community” itself is just another “buzzword” for vague notions of shared purpose. Politics has become increasingly dysfunctional, mass media is the Soma of this not very brave new world, and economic disparity is creating obscene gulfs between our common humanity. It is not a sustainable world.

Smalltown seems to be a path on the road back to what it means to be human, to feel and share joy and hope. It is not about waiting for a Deliverer or, even worse, a piece of legislation or regal pronouncement to save us. It is about saving ourselves, about creating true community, right here in our own neighborhoods. It’s not something downloadable or streamable. It’s feeling the good soil beneath calloused hands, planting seeds and tending and watering them, nurturing new life in the sunshine. It is really a garden that is growing.…

Mark Cotta Vaz (Bestselling Author, Smalltown contributor)