Colin Hay’s music was popular around the world more than a generation and a half or so ago back when he was the lead vocalist and primary songwriter for the exceptionally popular Australian pop band Men at Work. The band came to a halt in 1985, and Hay knew what it was like to have a collection of radio hits under his belt. What casual fans of ‘80s pop and Men at Work may not realize is that Colin Hay has proven himself as a first-rate veteran of stirring, prosaic pop music of an entirely different order for more than 25 years in the time since.
Hay’s lyrical blueprint on his solo releases over the past several decades has revolved around slice-of-life prose getting to the heart and bones of the most veritable themes that affect the lives of his protagonists and the common man finding beauty in his music: love, hope, sadness, purpose and family. Those themes are front-and-center in this performance of “Dear Father,” a devastatingly intimate song from his 11th solo album, Gathering Mercury, which Hay released in 2011. It’s a heartrending piece of prose about a man loving and longing for the man who gave him life and affection and raised him. Hay’s protagonist thumbs through pictures of his father and laments the snapshots’ shortcomings at leaving a truly satisfying reflection of his dead father. Hay sticks to deceptive simplicity, never allowing his playing to overshadow his story and never trying to gloss over the aches and human emotions in his writing. Colin Hay’s veteran understanding of creating meaningful pop songs is crystal clear in a song like “Dear Father.”
His compassionate voice sings the words “Dear father” in a near moan and delivers lines like, “I still can’t forget you walking around, Dear father you’re starring in my dreams, and you’re stealing all the scenes where did you go?”
And then he punctuates his unfulfilled longing with understated gallows humor every time he sings, “Thank God for photographs. Hip hip hooray.”
It takes a wise soul and a veteran musician to sing a song like “Dear Father” and not make it terribly dark or hackneyed. Much like Hay has done with staggering consistency for decades in his solo output, he tells a very honest, affecting story with little bravado, great earnestness and exquisite melody. He awakened a new generation to his penchant for doing just that when he turned on young ears performing “Overkill” on Scrubs and contributing his magnificent ballad “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” to the Garden State soundtrack.
If you’ve never heard Colin Hay’s songs or haven’t listened to him much since his days Men at Work a lifetime ago, now is as good a time as any to open your heart and give him your ears.
Colin Hay's most recent album, Gathering Mercury, contains “Dear Father” and is now available courtesy of Compass Records.
Colin Hay x LaundroMatinee (Live @ The Pop Machine)
Filmed and Edited by Doug Fellegy, Sheridan Gibson, and Kaitrin Higbee
Recorded and Mixed by Marc Johnson @ The Pop Machine
Written by Justin Wesley
Colin Hay - Dear Father