in honor of mother’s day, brent johnson looks at the best songs written about moms …
Years ago, when I was a teenager fumbling over how to write songs, I attempted to pen a pair of tunes — one about my father and one about my mother. The result was a series of cheesy lyrics about picking me up at school and inspiring me — set to acoustic melodies Jack Johnson would be mightily ashamed of.
In other words, your parents are often the most influential figures in your life. But writing songs about them? It’s hard. It’s one step away from writing a love song that isn’t dripping with sap.
That said, in honor of Mother’s Day, here are some of the great mother-themed tunes that these professional songwriters actually got right:
Mother’s Little Helper
The Rolling Stones (1966)
Okay, so it’s about drugs — namely, upper pills taken by worn-out mothers to get them through the day. But it shows the plight that some over-worked matriachs go through. And it’s one of the best songs from the Stones’ early period — when they still wrote hits with melodies that rivaled The Beatles.
Mother Nature’s Son
The Beatles (1968)
About the ultimate mother. And a serene Paul McCartney-penned trackfrom my favorite Beatles record, The White Album.
Merle Haggard (1968)
This tune, from one of country’s strongest songsmiths, poetically honors the love and care mothers put into their children. Only to see them go to jail.
Mindless Child Of Motherhood
The Kinks (1969)
Not sure what this song means. But it’s from The Kinks, which means it’s good. It’s also one of the finest songs written by Dave Davies, Ray Davies’ brother — and the band’s great guitarist.
John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band (1970)
A harrowing take on what it’s like to grow up without truly knowing what a mother can bring you. That’s what happened to Lennon: His father left, his aunt raised him and his mother died when he was young. This song is also a highlight from an underrated album, Lennon’s solo debut — an LP that helped birth punk, grunge and low-fi alt-rock.
Mama Told Me Not To Come
Three Dog Night (1970)
See: Your mother does know best.
For good measure, here’s a cool live version from Randy Newman, the man who wrote this song, and many other great tunes. It’s proof he’s not just the guy who pens hokey Disney songs — but an incredibly misunderstood and underrated composer:
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Sometimes, you just gotta tell mama the truth. A catchy, crunchy hit from the early 1970s, when glam ruled Britain.
Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings (1978)
For all the advice mama often doles out — remember how she told you not to come? — here’s some advice for her, from a pair of country music icons.
Pink Floyd (1979)
This, a stirring track from The Wall, is a tale of what happens when a mother helps her son brick himself off from the world — and in turn, inspire him to become a fascist dictator. Oh Roger Waters, you are such a hoot.
Mama Said Knock You Out
LL Cool J (1990)
Listen to your mother and punch that sucker. And revel in how cool it was when Cool James turned a harsh rap classic into an acoustic coffeehouse powerhouse during a mesmerizing performance from MTV Unplugged. (Remember that wonderful, wonderful show?)
Mama, I’m Coming Home
Ozzy Osbourne (1991)
A nice way to end the list: When you’re a famous heavy metal star stricken by years of drug use, run-ins with the law and tragic accidents, who else do you want to welcome you with open arms than the woman who gave you life?