John Lennon’s Song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”

Eight months.

It’s one of the most masculine yet sensitive songs I can think of.

One of my hopes as a dad blogger is that parents will be able to identify with what is going through my head when they read my Dadabase posts; to make readers say, “That’s exactly how I feel! It’s like you’re reading my mind!”  I am a guy who loves to inspire others as much as I love to be inspired; I am always ready for that next awesome quote or motivational true story.

As a guy who loves music (I own over 700 CD’s,) I am regularly a-ha’d (to be made to say “a-ha!”) by song lyrics.  In fact, I think songwriting is one of the most vulnerable forms of communication and/or art that exists.  I can easily write a new 400+ word entry for the Dadabase every day and never feel as exposed as I would compared to if I was writing and performing a song instead.

It was the 1995 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus that truly first exposed me to John Lennon.  At the end of the movie, Mr. Holland (played by Richard Dreyfus) sings and signs the song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” by John Lennon.  I am not the kind of guy that will cry when I see a sad movie.  But… I will confidently admit to letting my eyes get a little bit watery when I see something truly moving- like the last five minutes of the final episode of Lost or the ending of half of the Rocky movies or heck… even Marley and Me.

Needless to say, since the first time I saw it, that scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus has always found a way to connect to the “truly moved” part of my brain.  It’s not just the imperfectness and realness of how Richard Dreyfus sings the song but also because the genius of the way John Lennon’s lyrics are so cleverly played out as a disconnected father reaches out to his son.

And I know that the word “genius” is thrown around pretty loosely in the entertainment world, especially when it comes to legendary Italian-American movie directors like Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorcese whose films are known for being “groundbreaking” as well as extremely violent.  But sometimes, an artist actually is genius, despite the cliché factor of the word.  And since John Lennon pulled it off perfectly in “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” I feel compelled to expose the magic behind his wonderful creation.

As a father, John Lennon touched on several major elements of the father-son connection in the 114 words of the song. The first verse addresses his fatherly role of protector:

“Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monsters gone,
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here.”

I think there’s something immeasurably powerful in the phrase, “your daddy’s here.”  Because no matter what our own relationship with our father was like growing up, every kid wants to know the presence of a positive, protective father.  “Daddy” does have the power to scare the monster away.

Next, John Lennon touched on the importance of encouragement:

“Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Everyday in every way,
It’s getting better and better.”

This verse is a reminder for me to pray for my son when I am inclined to worry for him instead.  Additionally, John Lennon paints a positive future for his son as he focuses on things getting better as they move forward, not dwelling on past mistakes and decisions.

My favorite part of the song is the bridge, which paints not only the masculine element of adventure but also the excitement of the father looking forward to his son growing up and becoming a man with him:

“Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we’ll both,
Just have to be patient,
Yes it’s a long way to go,
But in the meantime.”

The lyrics of the song come to a close with the final chorus refrain of “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful… beautiful boy.”  And then finally John Lennon calls his son by name: “Darling Sean.”  I think for the past several decades, the idea of a father kissing his son on the cheek or forehead or calling his son “beautiful” has become pretty foreign.  In fact, those outward expressions of a father’s love do indeed make me think of old Italian culture I’ve seen in movies throughout my life.  Blame it on the ¼ Italian blood running through my veins, but I admire those ideas enough to want to replicate them in my relationship with my own son.

The last verse contains one of John Lennon’s most famous quotes:

Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
“Life is what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans.”

I of all people know what’s like to carefully plan every year of my life, only to see a completely different reality come to fruition.  (Are you like so tempted right now to copy and paste “Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans” as your Facebook status update and/or Twitter?)

“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” which was released as a single on November 17, 1980, just a few weeks before John Lennon was killed and a few months before I was born, obviously speaks to me as a father.  Looking back on past Dadabase entries, I have specifically written about the same exact aspects of the father-son relationship as John Lennon wrote about in the song:

Strength, guidance, courage, adventure, direction, and the appreciation of beauty.

The song’s subtle magic exists in these properties of manhood that we men already identify with, even if we don’t realize it. And that’s why it’s dang near impossible for a father not to relate to and love this song.

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  1. by Sarah

    On July 27, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    This is the first song that I sang to my son, and the one that pops into my head every time I see him… I know that technically it’s supposed to be a father singing, but I can’t help it. My son is beautiful and I want him to know it.

  2. by Nick Shell

    On July 27, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Sarah, thanks for sharing. I feel that this song often goes unnoticed, so I’m glad others can relate to the song the way I do.

  3. by laxmom

    On August 29, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Played this song in the delivery room with my 1st baby. My “Beautiful Boy” is now 17yrs. old!

  4. by Nick Shell

    On August 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    How cool!

  5. [...] of little we can in our lives. So we had plans on how Jack would be born and raised. But as John Lennon sang in “Beautiful Boy,” “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And that is exactly [...]