“I hear “Mama” sounds the same in any tongue” – David Gilmour, “In Any Tongue”
I see that the calendar has rolled around to yet another “Hallmark Holiday,” namely Mother’s Day. I don’t know how this thing sneaks up on me every year. I’ll have to make the annual rush trip to the card shop, decked out in a mask and gloves… This year I’ll have to mail mom her card even though she lives in the same city as I do. Such is life in a pandemic.
I know there are all kinds of moms out there. Good ones, bad ones, tall ones, short ones, all kinds. When I refer to my mother, I tend to refer to her as “my sainted mother.” A lot of people say that about their mothers, but in this case, I really mean it. My mother is one of the nicest human beings you’re ever going to meet. If by chance I meet someone who knows my parents, inevitably the person says something along the lines of, “You’re mother is the sweetest person.” Which is probably confusing for most people who meet me when they are forced to ponder how such a wonderful person (and she is wonderful) produced such a miscreant.
My first memory of my mother, and I’m willing to admit this may be apocryphal in nature, is riding in the back seat of a police car. No, I wasn’t arrested. I was probably two, which makes me think the memory was implanted in my head by hearing the story so many times. I was learning to tie my shoes. My mother was pregnant with my brother. For some reason my parents took me to the hardware store. They were looking for something and I wandered off. My shoe was untied and I swear in my mind I can see my tiny foot as I placed it on a stack of paint cans to tie my shoe. My father says he heard a crash, glanced down the aisle and all he could see were my legs sticking out from a pile of paint cans. I had a huge gash in my forehead, blood everywhere. My mom grabbed me and the cops grabbed my mom and rushed me to the hospital. I remember looking up at my mom’s face, bathed in the siren’s red glare as she tried to soothe me on the ride to the hospital. Maybe that’s why I’ve always thought of my mother as an angel. Paging Dr. Freud.
I feel bad for my mom. She had to play shuttle diplomat most of her life. She still does. She was the lone female in a small family surrounded by my father, me and my brother… none of whom got along particularly well in the old days. She would have to wander our house between whatever neutral corners that we’d all retreated to in order to avoid each other. I remember one Mother’s Day asking my dad what he was getting her for Mother’s Day… His reply always stuck with me, “Nothing…she’s not my mother.” There was none of that gross calling your wife “mother” at my house… Which, let’s face it, is super creepy.
I realize that the whole dynamic of mothers and daughters are completely different. Early in my tenure as the Evil Stepdad, I would drive my daughter to school every day. To torture her, I would tune the radio to NPR and make her listen to talk radio the bane of a junior high kid’s existence. I was the Evil Stepdad after all, so why not educate the child in the car. She would retaliate by wearing an entire bottle of perfume which was tough to stomach in a small car. One day on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ they had an author of a book about “mothers and daughters.” She was going on and on about mothers saying the most horrible things to their daughters because they thought they were “helping.” Stuff like, “I really liked your hair better when it was long,” or “Why in the world did you get bangs?” Usually when I pulled up to the school my daughter would spring from the car like she was being shot out of a cannon. On that day, as this lady author spun tales of mothers doing and saying horrible things, my daughter stayed in the car and turned up the volume. She and the Rock Chick were extremely tight even in those difficult adolescent days. I guess mother/daughter relationships are weird in their own right, maybe weirder.
In honor of all of you out there with complicated relationships with your mom (and whose isn’t?) we’ve compiled some of our favorite songs about moms. This isn’t going to be like a country song where it’s all sentimental misty-eyed love for mom. This playlist explores a lot of the more complicated emotions that are associated with moms. Some of my choices may leave you scratching your head, so I included an explanation of why I included it below. In some songs the mother might only be a part of a story with a broader meaning. I was surprised at how many songs about moms consist of conversations between sons/daughters and the mothers… maybe its the fact that so many of them are giving advice all the time, wanted or not. Maybe we just all have things we want to say to our mothers. There were a lot songs with “mama” in the title but they were mostly from the 70s where dudes called their girlfriends (or more appropriately their “main squeezes”) mama. I left those off the list, it was too close to that calling your wife “mother” thing. Creepy. In some of these songs the mother is only a peripheral figure in the story but if the vibe fit, I went for it. Again, these are just some of our favorites and it’s not meant to be definitive we’re just trying to put a smile on your face.
As always you can find our playlist on Spotify under the title “BourbonAndVinyl.net Mother’s Day Playlist…Probably Safest To Not Play for Mom.” As usual I’m all over the place here from country to heavy metal. Here’s the link, with our explanations below.
**Technical Difficulties Prevent Posting the Spotify Link**
- The Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper” – What mother doesn’t need a little “help” now and again?
- The Beatles, “Julia” – A song John Lennon wrote for his mother, Julia, who died when he was 17 when she was hit by a drunk driver… it was an off duty cop, no less.
- Norah Jones, “Tell Yer Mama” – A track in which Norah suggests to an ex that he should tell his mother he was raised wrong. Tough break-up tune. Mom is only a suggestion here, but it felt right.
- The Vaughn Brothers, “Baboom/Mama Said” – Where Jimmy and Stevie Ray trade guitar licks over the voice of their mother…
- Tracy Bonham, “Mother Mother” – I think Ms. Bonham captures the sometimes volatile nature of mother-daughter relationships here… but what do I know?
- The Rolling Stones, “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby” – I’ve never understood completely why this mother was hiding in the shadows. It’s perhaps a mystery only Mick Jagger can solve.
- Cowboy Junkies, “Musical Key” – Beautiful song about both parents really. “My mother sang the sweetest melody, although she never sang in a musical key.” An ex of mine, back in the day, wrote these lyrics down in a homemade Mother’s Day card and that stuck with me…
- Bruce Springsteen, “The Wish” – Bruce wrote so many (angry) songs about his dad, I guess it was finally his mom’s turn. He did this in his On Broadway show so it must be important to him (Review: Netflix’s ‘Springsteen On Broadway’ – The Artist’s Dialogue With Fans Comes to the Great White Way).
- Cream, “Mother’s Lament” – Cream “taking the piss” in a little humorous sing-a-long that I like to imagine was sung in taverns in England back in the day.
- Tom Petty, “Southern Accents” – Weird choice here, I know. Mom only makes a cameo but what a powerful image: “There’s a dream I keep having, where my momma comes to me And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me…” One of Petty’s most evocative tunes.
- Joe Walsh & Barnstorm, “Mother Says” – I love Joe Walsh’s guitar playing. His solo stuff deserves more attention.
- Queen, “Tie Your Mother Down” – I’m not sure why mom needs to be tied down, but what Freddie Mercury wants, Freddie Mercury gets.
- Danzig, “Mother” – I think this song is hysterical. Glenn Danzig singing to someone’s mother, “and if you wanna find hell with me…” just kills me. It was either going to be this song or that crazy song of the same name by the Police, but I hate that one.
- Paul McCartney, “Only Mama Knows” – Great, late period rocker from McCartney.
- Merle Haggard, “Mama Tried” – My favorite song by Hags.
- John Lennon, “Mother” – A truly harrowing song where Lennon employs techniques he learned in scream therapy.
- David Crosby & Graham Nash, “Mama Lion” – It was written about Joni Mitchell, but I like it on this list anyway. Whose mother out there wasn’t a lion when it came to protecting you?
- Social Distortion, “Mommy’s Little Monster” – A song best used to describe me or my wife’s cat.
- Warren Zevon, “Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded” – The mother here was his maternal grandmother who was not crazy about Warren’s father.
- Randy Newman, “Mama Told Me Not to Come” – Mothers are always giving advice. Too bad we rarely listen. Three Dog Night had a hit with this but I prefer Randy’s original version.
- U2, “Iris (Hold Me Close)” – Bono writing about his late mother. It all reminds me of how lucky I was to have my mom.
- Ozzy Osbourne, “Mama, I’m Coming Home” – A phone call from a lonely pay phone that I made in college to my own mother springs to mind when I hear this song.
- Pink Floyd, “Mother” – “Mother should I build a wall?” A song about a, shall we say, overprotective mother?
- Dave Matthews Band, “Mother Father” – A nice little political rocker from DMB where the protagonist asks his mother & father, how did the world get into such a state? More relevant today than when it came out.
- Paul Simon, “Mother and Child Reunion” – Named after a dish in a restaurant that had both chicken and egg. Catchy, prime, rhymin’ Simon.
- Ozzy Osbourne, “Flying High Again” – This song sums up my entire adolescence…”Mama’s gonna worry, I’ve been a bad bad boy, no use sayin’ sorry, it’s something that I enjoy.” Perfect.
- James Brown, “Mother Popcorn” – I won’t even venture a guess as to what Soul Brother No. 1 is talking about here.
- David Gilmour, “In Any Tongue” – The best, most important track on this list. See the quote above.
- Metallica, “Mama Said” – Great deep track off of Load.
- Elvis Presley, “That’s Alright” – Written for his mother. His first hit, I believe.
- Eric Clapton, “Motherless Child” – I think this is the first of two distinctly different versions of this song Clapton did. Or maybe both songs are from the same traditional song. I feel badly for those without a mother.
- Bob Seger, “Momma” – Great Seger from before Live Bullet made him famous.
- Bruce Springsteen, “The Hitter” – Another conversation with mom song. A burned-out boxer returns home and is trying to talk his mom into letting him in.
- Eric Clapton, “Motherless Children” – This one is from his comeback 461 Ocean Boulevard.
- Neil Young, “New Mama” – “New mama’s got a sun in her eyes, no clouds are in my changing skies…”
- Aerosmith, “Mama Kin” – Steven Tyler’s favorite of their songs.
- Talking Heads, “Mommy, Daddy, You and I” – A disturbing tale of what sounds like a family of refugees heading north to escape… what?
- David Crosby & Graham Nash, “Carry Me” – This time it’s David Crosby writing about his newly deceased mother.
- Elvis Presley, “Mama Liked The Roses” – Hearing Elvis sing about his mama is almost as moving as hearing the man sing gospel.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Mommy Where’s Daddy?” – Goofballs singing a goofball song. I always laugh when I hear this song.
- The Beatles, “Your Mother Should Know” – She should… and she often does know, just ask her.
- The Who, “Squeeze Box” – Why does the mother have a squeeze box? Why does she play it all night? What is happening in this household? So many questions.
- Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” – Epic song. So much more than a song about his mother, but I couldn’t resist. It’s another track where there’s a conversation between an artist and his mother.
- U2, “Mothers of the Disappeared” – A political track about the mothers under Pinochet’s cruel rule, dancing in the village square to symbolically shame the regime into freeing their sons who were “disappeared.”
- Van Morrison, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” – Van Morrison closing us out on a soulful rendition of what may be the same song Clapton did… A perfect reminder of how happy we should be with having any mother at all.
I’m sure you all have a favorite song that makes you think about your mother. Or a song that reminds you of her… Let me know what it is in the comments and I’ll add it to the playlist on Spotify. I hope you all have a safe, healthy, socially distanced Mother’s Day out there… Hint though, you’ll probably have a better day if you avoid playing this playlist for mom…