Coldplay’s, “Daddy”: The Tempo of Grief, The Beat of Abandonment

Me and Eli doing his thing in the background, Salt Lake City, Utah

Here I sit, singing Coldplay’s song, “Daddy.” I really like it. It is from their new album, “Everyday Life.” Apparently there is a SubReddit, which discusses Chris Martin’s explanation of the troubled paternal relationship explored through “Daddy’s” lyrics. I confess. I did not read the thread. There are also websites that deconstruct the song’s meaning, and its accompanying video, suggesting “the song shows the disconnection between a kid and her father in the music video.” I agree. The song is magnificently mournful. 

It is intentionally slow and measured, like a modern Pachelbel’s Canon, “Daddy’s” tempo is similarly achy beautiful. The song’s introspective pace offers me time to digest its provocative words:

“…Daddy, are you out there?
Daddy, why’d you run away?
Daddy, are you OK?

Look dad we got the same hair…”

My thoughts beat like a metronome. My mind drifts and I think,

“It is funny, just this morning I took a picture of Eli. From behind, his hair looks like mine, thick, medium blond, and a little wavy. In fact, if I were just taking a picture of his head, one could mistake him for me. Weird. I often tell Eli, ‘the one good thing I got from my dad is this awesome hair. Your hair is also fabulous. You can thank my dad.’”

Me & the backside of Eli, Salt Lake City, Utah

Before I finish analyzing how genetics play into hair quality, I hear the next lyric:

“And Daddy it’s my birthday…”

I have a family who really treats me right. xo

In step, my mind meanders:

“About birthdays. I have no idea if my dad ever remembered my birthday. I remember spending my weekends with him. Most of the time I was left alone in his basement. My parents divorced when I was baby. He never thought I was his. I am not sure that his feelings ever changed. I do not know my dad. I do not think I ever did. I know his refrigerator was always stocked with V8 and Perrier. All the bottles were facing forward.”

The Boys, Salt Lake City, Utah, January 16, 2017: It may not be Perrier, but is not lost on me that I drink sparkling water (by the ton).

Daddy,” the song continues,

“But all I want to say
Is you’re so far away
Oh, you’re so far away
That’s OK
That’s OK
That’s Ok…”

“That’s not ok!” I literally say out loud.

Yes. That is me.

My mind continues serpentining its way between Coldplay’s lyrics and my own life story. As if we, the song and I, are now talking. I respond,

“I am not sure it is ok that my Dad is far away. We were never close.” I continue. “Yes, well, maybe it is ok that he is far away. Maybe it is ok that I have nothing to say. He had heart surgery once, a triple bypass. I thought he would die. I am surprised he didn’t. His own heart broke more than twenty years ago. For him, my heart stopped beating years before. In truth, except for the random bits my sister tells me, I do not know him. I am not sure I never will. He is almost eighty. I know that because my mom just turned seventy-nine. His third wife recently sent me a Christmas card with their picture. Kyle and Eli were like, ‘wow mom, you really look like your dad.’ My mom disagrees.”

Me, my mom (Wawa), Kyle & Eli: a life my dad chose never to be a part of. His loss


Won’t you come and won’t you stay?
One day
Just one day.”

The song stops. I do not want it to end so I start it again:

“Daddy, are you out there?
Daddy, won’t you come and play…”

Big Daddy & his boys, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October, 2019

Here is where Coldplay’s lyrics and my own thoughts depart: I don’t want my dad to stay. My own kids are grown. They have a dad who is connected and who loves them. His name is Dave. I also know what it is like to suck it up and be the parent. I know what it is like to keep your kids upstairs and present, even in the uncomfortable breaths. I know what it is like to be there, even when ”there” is where you do not want to be. My dad dropped the ball. He kicked it in my face. Then he said it was all up to me. He is not a redemptive caricature in a Coldplay song. He is a man who married my mom long ago. I do not feel much, if anything. Should I?

Instead, I find my reliable rhythms in other spaces. Maybe that is why I have had a soft spot for Coldplay ever since I heard their song “Fix You.” At the time, I was trying to be a mom while stomping through my own infertility treatments and second trimester miscarriages, heartbreak after heartbreak. It never really goes. As a result, I  feel lonely, self-indulgent sobs every single time I hear those words:

“When the tears come streaming down your face
‘Cause you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you…”

I test my theory, search for the song in Spotify, and play it. Good grief. All these later, I am triggered. Thoughts of my Dad completely fade away, which is a  relief, by the way. Instead, “Fix You” lyrics transport me to SpongeBob, a nickname we called baby number three. I return to what I wrote when I was pregnant. At this moment, I want to feel that grief. I need to remember so as I read, I listen to the song. I am completely engulfed. I sob. I weep. Then, without any introduction, I text Dave the following from the post:

“I think this baby is ready for his code-name. Kyle and Eli had one. I think we should call him SpongeBob,” (after Kyle and Eli’s favorite show, cartoon character, etc).”

Me pregnant with SpongeBob, Torrey, Utah

A few days later I miscarried.

“Goodbye SpongeBob. Even though we really didn’t have a lot of time to get to know you, we would have loved having you in our family. Hey, and every time we look at pictures from our trip to Capitol Reef, we will always remember that you were there with us. We are still so sad that you couldn’t continue to be a part of our family. Eli tearfully told me how sad he is that he isn’t going to be a big brother and then Kyle joined in and told me how sad he is that he isn’t going to be a double big brother. We will all miss you. We will always have the picture our friend took on the 4th of July. You can actually see my pregnant belly. When I look at that picture, I will always think of you. Goodbye little buddy. You will always be our SpongeBob.”

Here is Dave’s response:

Dave: [literally crying]

Me & Easy E, Capitol Reef, Utah

Grief comes in waves. I am done grieving a dad I never knew, a dad who chose to abandon me. I was done a long time ago. I will never stop grieving my unborn children. They had no choice. And now I grieve my sons who are leaving home. I grieve what would have been. I grieve all I have loved. I grieve what I do not know.

Life moves on. I am singing again. Eli has a snow day. He just walked into the office and told me about their sledding adventure. He quickly leaves,

“Bye mom. We are going out again.”

Snow Day, Salt Lake City, Utah

I catch my breath and think, “What was I writing about?” Coldplay’s song, “Daddy.”

Through my SpongeBob tears I remind myself that this is not going to be a Chris Martin, or Coldplay, love fest. I actually prefer the Avett Brothers. Nevertheless, Coldplay’s lyrics are evocative and the melody is really great. Well done, Chris Martin. I love where your music took me. Ultimately it is the tempo. It transports me every single time.