“The Living Years” is, in my own opinion, one of those rare singles that swept the world for all the right reasons. Some songs spread like wildfire because of their catchy beat, or their infectious hook, or just because some superstar sang it—and there’s nothing wrong with any of that. But sometimes a song resonates simply because of what it says. “The Living Years” became the best known and best-loved hit of British pop/rock act Mike + The Mechanics because there are very few people who heard it who could not relate to it in some way.
Written by Scottish songwriter B.A. Robertson, “The Living Years” is a highly personal song about Robertson’s own strained relationship with his father. M+TM bandmate Paul Carrack, who had recently lost his own father, was able to capture the emotion of that moment in the recording of the song. The result was dynamite. Released as the second single on the band’s 1988 sophomore album of the same name, the song shot to Number 1 in multiple countries and landed a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.
Mike + The Mechanics had been formed as a “supergroup”—a band of established musicians from other bands, started by Mike Rutherford of Genesis fame. After charting several hits through the 1980s, the band fell apart in 1995, then Rutherford reformed the act with a new lineup in 2010. Paul Carrack, the original vocalist for “The Living Years,” went on to be a solo artist, and still performs the tune as a signature song.