The Intruders probably recorded the ultimate audio Mother's Day card with their 1973 hit "I'll Always Love My Mama," in which they celebrated the woman who sacrifices everything for her child.
Meanwhile, in maybe the most psychologically wrenching song about moms, John Lennon simultaneously dismisses and longs for his on the harrowing "Mother," a tune likely influenced by the Primal Therapy he was exploring at the time.
Over the years, moms have figured into many songs, as a voice of conscience, as an advisor, as a shoulder to lean on, and as someone who tried but, in most country songs, failed to protect us, usually from ourselves.
So on this Mother's Day, we've rounded up GRAMMY-winning songs and GRAMMY Hall Of Fame recordings that for better, and sometimes worse, talk about the woman — outside of our wives, girlfriends, sisters, co-workers, and BFFs — we're most conflicted about, but surely love.
"Pistol Packin' Mama" (iTunes>)
Al Dexter, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 2000
Not really about mothers at all, more about an angry woman done wrong, but who can resist the idea of a pistol packin' Mother's Day?
…And His Mother Called Him Bill (iTunes>)
Duke Ellington, Best Instrumental Jazz Performance — Large Group Or Soloist With Large Group, 1968
OK, this one isn't about mothers specifically, it's more about brothers, namely Ellington's musical partner Billy Strayhorn, who died of cancer in 1967 and to whom this album is a tribute. Still, it's telling that at an emotional time as this must have been, Ellington would see a tragic death through a mother's eyes.
"What's Going On" (iTunes>)
Marvin Gaye, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 1998
Gaye's classic ode to the troubled nature of the world begins with a testament to the devastating effects of war when young sons don't return home from the battlefield: "Mother mother, there's too many of you crying," Gaye sings in the opening lines. Just make sure your mother isn't crying this Mother's Day.
"Mama Tried" (iTunes>)
Merle Haggard, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 1999
Yes, this is the country song in which the mother tries to protect the son from himself, but, as we might have guessed, he ends up in prison for life. As Haggard plainly sings, "She tried to raise me right, but I refused."
"Parents Just Don't Understand" (iTunes>)
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Best Rap Performance, 1988
The title may seem equal opportunity, but the first half of this GRAMMY-winning rap by Will "the Fresh Prince" Smith and partner DJ Jazzy Jeff is all about every suburban kid's teen nightmare: a trip with mom to the mall for school clothes. Lennon may reconsider missing his mother.
"Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" (iTunes>)
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson, Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group, 1978
Usually, it's the moms giving advice, but in the case of this outlaw classic, it's the sons who grew up to be lonely, ornery cowboys who are teaching moms to steer their sons into more respectable professions. Oh, say, "doctors and lawyers and such."
"Mama He's Crazy" (iTunes>)
The Judds, Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals, 1984
With her mom Naomi by her side, Wynnona Judd sings about mom's advice leading her to the man of her dreams. Yes, he may be crazy, but he's crazy for her. And the fans were crazy for this song as it topped Billboard's Country Singles chart.
"The House That Built Me" (iTunes>)
Miranda Lambert, Best Female Country Vocal Performance, 2010
Written as an ode to something everyone can relate to — the house they grew up in — this song depicts a house that was a mother's dream. "Mama cut out pictures of houses for years/From Better Homes And Gardens magazine," sings Lambert. The song also garnered nods for Best Country Song and Song Of The Year at the 53rd GRAMMY Awards in February.
"Mama Said Knock You Out" (iTunes>)
LL Cool J, Best Rap Solo Performance, 1991
Maybe not tops on the list of motherly advice, LL Cool J nevertheless cites mom as the authoritarian voice that approves of this seemingly thuggish boast. In reality, mom probably would approve of a song that's really about staking your claim in the world. She'd also be proud of LL Cool J for cracking the Billboard Hot 100 Top 20 with this song.
"Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" (iTunes>)
Allan Sherman, Best Comedy Performance, 1963
Every child has had that moment when they leave the security of his/her mother's side for a first-time foray to summer camp, and Sherman's classic novelty song about a child's letter to his parents on the travails of camp ("Now I don't want this should scare ya/But my bunkmate has malaria") has a sweet nostalgia, even though kids today are likely tweeting the same pained messages.
"Mrs. Robinson" (iTunes>)
Simon & Garfunkel, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 1999
This is sort of the other side of motherhood. In the 1967 film The Graduate, from which this song is taken, Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson is a kind of anti-hero mother. An unsatisfied middle-aged woman living at the shift from post-war '50s to the counterculture revolution, she ultimately turns to a self-serving depression, has an affair with her daughter's eventual partner, and then tries to stand in the way of their happiness. A real mother of a bummer — or a bummer of a mother.
TLC, Record Of The Year nominee, 1995
Arguably TLC's finest record, this slightly retro R&B gem tells the tale of a mother troubled by her son's addictions and criminal life. The tune also garnered a nod for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and topped the Billboard Hot 100.
What song will you dedicate to the woman you look up to this Mother's Day? Drop us a comment and let us know.
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