This weekend, I’m doing something a little different. My world normally consists entirely of reading and evaluating books that will be sold in the Christian book market. This weekend, I’m reading I Am My Father’s Son by Dan Hill, a singer-songwriter who was inescapable here in Canada in the late ’70s and early ’80s; and whose songs (Sometimes When We Touch; You Make Me Want To Be; etc.) have been recorded by artists around the world.
Is this book biography or autobiography? Hill masterfully manages to do both at once. He tells the story of the constant tension between himself and his father against the backdrop of the story of his own success in the music industry. But he tells much of his father’s story as well. Honestly, I’ve never read a book quite like this; a book which manages to successfully carry out several different objectives.
Dr. Daniel Hill III is a name known to Canadians for his groundbreaking work in the area of human rights. As a black scholar with an earned PhD in Sociology, he forged new territory in Canada in the 1960s; both easy and hard to do in a place where racism was more subtle than in the U.S.
But it’s the younger Dan Hill — that would make him # IV — whose story I have tracked throughout reading the book, for one very personal reason: We went to high school together and Dan was a good friend with my next door neighbor. (Though, I have to note, that even this story has a Christian element to it, as Daniel Hill’s father — Dan’s grandfather — was a pastor who went on become Dean of the School of Religion at Howard University in Washington, D.C.)
The book takes us into the living room and kitchen of the Hills home in Don Mills, and invites us, like the proverbial guest at Thanksgiving, to be part of the debate atmosphere that characterizes the senior Hill’s interactions with his oldest son. To many readers, these scenes are all too familiar.
As most men will attest, the main subject of this book, the relationship between fathers and sons, is a theme that forms the underpinnings of many a man’s life. We men are all shaped by our fathers in more ways than any of us would want to admit. Many of us men end up becoming like our fathers in ways we never imagined.
When it comes to defining that, Dan Hill nails it.
The book is available in Canada from HarperCollins and in the U.S. by special order with the publisher.