This weekend is Father's Day, and while for a lot of families that means the dad of the house gets a showering of affection, cards and quality time, for others it can be a reminder of absence.

For all sorts of reasons families may be dealing with a lasting (or sudden) paternal hole in their lives, and when musicians have these feelings to deal with, it tends to come out in their work.

Here's how they expressed that pain in their songs.

1. Where Are You Now by Justin Bieber

Not all absences are permanent. Justin Bieber's relationship with his father has been a complex one over the years. The teen romance between his parents broke up when Justin was a baby, and for a while, his dad wasn't a big part of young Justin's life. The two grew closer as Jeremy Bieber started to take more of an active role in his care (and the Instagram above shows they're getting somewhere), but his ascent to fame brought new difficulties to the relationship.

Reaching out to his dad for support, Justin composed a piano balled in 2008 called Where Are You Now, a soulful lament for a missing parent in which he pleads "Now that I'm half grown / Why are we far apart?" and "Take my hand and walk with me / Show me what to be". Hidden in the extra tracks of his album My World 2.0, it reflects a young man feeling adrift from his roots.

In 2010, Justin told the New York Times he wants to inspire hope in people with similarly difficult relationships: "That song is about my dad and having him not always being there. But my dad and I now have a great relationship. And I'm fine that stuff like that is coming out. I want to sing about things that are going on in my life, and a lot of people will be able to relate to it."

Note: There's some speculation as to whether this song formed the basis of Justin's hit single Where Are Ü Now, but while both songs linger on the line "where are you now that I need you?", the latter was created from the bones of another piano demo, a song called "The Most" which Diplo and Skrillex remixed into a dance banger.

2. Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own by U2

Bono described his father to Hot Press as, "A tough old boot of a guy. Irish, Dub, north side Dubliner, very cynical about the world and the people in it, but very charming and funny with it." These were the qualities he wanted to celebrate in 2000, knowing that his father was dying, and so he wrote a tribute song called Tough, which he would go on to sing at the funeral in 2001.

As U2 were preparing songs for their 2004 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, they took another look at it, with a view to calling it Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own, with producer Steve Lillywhite making a crucial contribution when he noted that it didn't have a chorus, just a series of verses. Bono grabbed a guitar and worked out the melody to the section that begins "And it's you when I look in the mirror" and the song was suddenly complete.

And according to Bono, his performance on that album was all thanks to his dad too: "My voice is the best it’s ever been on this record. And I believe that it’s my father’s gift to me. He was a great tenor and when he died he passed that on to me."

3. Hurt by Christina Aguilera

One of the hardest elements of grief to process is the idea that the last chance to set things right on a fiery relationship has passed. Christina Aguilera's Hurt was written by two women who were grieving the loss of a father in different ways. Songwriter Linda Perry was going through her own grieving process when Christina came to her in 2006 with a pair of chords she liked and a lyrical theme, and this caused her to momentarily lower her own professional standards, as she admitted in the book Behind the Boards: The Making of Rock 'n' Roll's Greatest Records Revealed: "She was like, 'I really like these chords, can you turn this into a song? I want the song to be about losing someone."

Unwilling to exploit her own pain for her singer's gain - despite Christina having her own troubles with her estranged father Fausto - Linda resolved to write a substandard song so it couldn't be used, but somehow it all came spilling out regardless: "It ended up being this beautiful song about losing my dad, and the pain that I'm going through, and the guilt and regret for not being more present for him.

4. Dance with My Father by Luther Vandross

For a child to lose a beloved parent is both heartbreaking and intensely confusing, and Luther Vandross, whose father died when he was seven years old, details that bewilderment, affection and pain beautifully in this song. It's about the little details, how little Luther, having argued with his mother, would run to his dad Luther Snr, and his dad would make him giggle, and what's more, "Later that night when I was asleep / He left a dollar under my sheet" just to keep his chin up. And how, even as an adult, Luther still wishes God would return his father to him.

It was these details that astounded Luther's mother Mary Ida, when she first heard the song, telling Ebony magazine: "I was amazed at how well Luther remembered his father, how we used to dance and sing in the house. I was so surprised that at 7 1/2 years of age, he could remember what a happy household we had." Stunned, she admitted to using the song as catharsis for her own grief, saying "I played it over and over. I cried and cried."

5. Bye Bye by Mariah Carey

[LISTEN] Mariah Carey talks about her childhood

Bye Bye is about the long-term affects of loss. It's about noting that life has somehow gone on, even though someone essential is missing, and realising that the time to make things right has passed. Despite some estrangement from her father Alfred after her parents split up in 1973, Mariah Carey's verses are a loving tribute to her father, who died in 2002. It's full of affection, with details about her being tucked in at night and a rueful recognition that, "You never got a chance to see how good I've done / And you never got to see me back at number one".

Mariah had already written about visiting her father on his death-bed in a 2002 song called Sunflowers for Alfred Roy, noting that the years of separation didn't seem to matter any more, that she appreciated him for what he had done for her: "Father, thanks for reaching out and lovingly / Saying that you've always been proud of me / I needed to feel that so desperately / You're always alive inside of me"

"Sometimes when I'm writing a song, it does come from such a raw place that I'm actually crying while writing it," Mariah later admitted to MTV while discussing the universal elements of Bye Bye, "Sometimes I hear it and feel that this is going to touch a lot of people, and that's why it's important that no matter what's ever happened to me over my career, that I stay the course and continue to write and try and reach people who need."

6. My Father's Eyes by Eric Clapton

Few musicians have put as much of the emotion from their private lives into creating music as Eric Clapton has. His love of the blues - particularly the idea that it's about one man against the world - came partly from the unsettling revelation at the age of 12 that the woman he thought was his mum was his grandmother, and his 'sister' Patricia was actually his mum.

He had been conceived during the Second World War, the result of a brief affair Patricia had had with a Canadian serviceman called Edward Fryer, who had returned home in 1945. Having felt the absence of his father throughout his life, Eric finally put his disquiet to words, in the poignant 1988 single My Father's Eyes.

It's a song about the bond of blood between fathers and their sons, no matter how distant they may be from one another. Describing the healing effect of lyrics such as "Bit by bit, I've realized / That he was here with me / I looked into my father's eyes", Eric said in his autobiography: "I tried to describe the parallel between looking in the eyes of my son, and the eyes of the father that I never met, through the chain of our blood."

7. When the Tigers Broke Free by Pink Floyd

[LISTEN] Roger Waters chats to 6 Music's Matt Everitt

Some wounds last a lifetime. Like Clapton, Roger Waters never knew his father. Eric Waters, a British soldier with a young family, had gone to fight in the Second World War, and was killed at Anzio, in 1944. This tragedy left Roger less with confusion about identity, and more with primal outrage at the loss. When he came to start expressing himself through music in the songs of Pink Floyd, those early feelings started to come through.

Songs such as 1972's Free Four ("I am the dead man's son") and 1983's The Fletcher Memorial Home (which castigates "colonial wasters of life and limb") give Roger's fury free rein, while the first verse of Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1 is a primal howl: "Daddy's flown across the ocean / Leaving just a memory."

But it's When the Tigers Broke Free - an outtake from The Wall that wound up on a 2004 remaster of The Final Cut, Roger's last Pink Floyd album - which details not only the circumstances around Eric's final battle, but the full bitterness at how his family were told he had died. "Kind old King George sent mother a note / When he heard that father was gone," Roger notes, drily, before adding "That's how the High Command took my daddy from me."

Like us on Facebook, on Instagram at bbcmusic, or follow us on Twitter @bbcmusic

Related links

Added item image
"
"
Added, go to My Music to see full list.
More from