Genes: Mother’s Day playlist (column)
On this Mother’s Day weekend, it makes sense to prepare the ultimate Songs For Mother list.
When it comes to songwriters’ relationships with their moms, there are frightening songs and then down right scary ones — think The Doors’ “The End” — that conjurer up memories of Mom. There are songs of longing and respectful ditties as well. There are numbers to cry to and ones to dance to. And one that just makes you think of Mom every time you hear it regardless of what the lyricist’s intent was. Here are my go to songs about Mom.
‘Mama Liked The Roses,’ by Elvis Presley
In anyone else’s hands this song becomes sappy and overwrought and too sentimental. In Elvis’ gentle touch, it’s a tear jerker of epic proportions for anyone who has recently lost a mother.
‘Julia,’ by The Beatles
There are dozens of Fab Four songs about and for Mom. From “Your Mother Should Know” to “I’m Just Happy To Dance With You.” But for me, it’s John Lennon’s near prayer-like reading to his mother, Julia, that ranks as the best. Garnering a little help from Donavon on the lyrics, one of Lennon’s contributions to the “White Album” is a stunner of a song for a mother that you may not have always been the kindest to.
‘Mother,’ by Pink Floyd
One of the tough ones to digest. Many have interpreted it as a great love song to Mom. Others say it’s about a mother who was perhaps a bit overbearing. I think it’s about a son who is growing up and looks to his mother for insight, guidance and love. What else are moms for? Few songs combine the touching lyrics and music to match.
‘Downstream,’ by Supertramp
I had always liked the song in general. Then my brother chose it as the song to dance to with my mother at his wedding and the tears started to flow down my cheeks. “You are the reason I was born.” Sentiment meets sincerity in a progressive piano masterpiece.
‘Simple Man,’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Take your time, don’t live too fast/Troubles will come and they will pass/You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love/And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above.” These lyrics are solid Southern advice for any man. Skynyrd’s classic rock gem speaks to all and offers advice that any mother can agree with.
‘Mama Told Me Not to Come,’ by Randy Newman and Three Dog Night
Newman penned this child’s nightmarish anguish, but Three Dog Night made it famous. It was one of the first songs that moved me and spoke to me about the connection we have with our mothers. The song is about a young man coming of age at one hell of a party (in fact, his girlfriend is passed out on the floor). In the midst of it all, he remembers the sage advice from Mom back home. She warned him.
It’s a life lesson indeed and is what makes music magical. The thought that the best mothers can advise and guide but not prohibit is what leads the song’s singer to self-realization on his way to becoming a man.
It’s really a song I find super deep and probably worthy of an entire column, but then you might think I have mommy issues. And this week, you’d be right. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. May I have this dance?
Tom Genes is a musicologist and organizes the annual Cover Rock Festival in Avon, returning June 22-23 with tributes to America’s best rock ’n’ roll bands.