John Lennon (1970)
Recommended by: Paul Landon and Gary Hunter
We start on a bittersweet note or, as reader Gary Hunter says, with a “harrowing, brilliant song”. Lennon wrote this while he was undergoing primal therapy; it is dedicated to both his parents, who abandoned him as a child. He was brought up by his aunt and uncle.
Mama Said Knock You Out
LL Cool J (1990)
Recommended by: SonicSmith and ccmac10
The story behind this song, as recounted by LL Cool J in his autobiography, is even sweeter than you might expect. He was concerned that he couldn’t make it in the world of gangsta rap, which had become very competitive, and his grandmother told him: “Oh, baby, just knock them out!” So he did.
Pink Floyd (1979)
Recommended by: JCPlum and jforbes
Mother, from The Wall, is “a turbo exemption” according to commenter JCPlum. However, it might not be the best song for Mother’s Day. It deals with the sense of oppression of living with a overprotective single mum, as evidenced by the lines quoted by jforbes: “Mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true / Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you”.
Recommended by: Stan Sitwell and Steena
2pac wrote this song for his mother, who gave birth to him shortly after being acquitted of charges related to being a member of the Black Panther movement. Their relationship deteriorated when he was a teenager, but they eventually reconciled. In the comments, Steena says: “I was on a train last year, not long after Mother’s Day, when an elderly lady’s iPhone rang with the song Mama from 2pac (I suspect her child or grandchild had downloaded it for her). She got a seriously respectful nod from the young black guy sitting next to me. The memory of it still makes me smile.”
The Lonely Island ft Justin Timberlake (2009)
Recommended by: Mosey and Paul Fenwick
Warning: this one is a bit crude. Reader Paul Fenwick, though, defined it a “classic”, so it made the list. Comedy group The Lonely Island, helmed by Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg, teamed up with Justin Timberlake for this atypical Mother’s Day present. The two decide that they should have sex with each other’s mothers (“if doing it is wrong I don’t wanna be right”) and proceed to do so.
My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama
Frank Zappa (1969)
Recommended by: Busbundervolt and AlllTouttt
Readers suggested plenty of songs that were about mothers, but didn’t speak very highly of them. In this case, Frank Zappa sings about an overly protective mother who doesn’t approve of his relationship with her daughter. “She told me don’t bother to call again / Unless I cut off all my hair”, so his guitar is going to kill her. Fair enough.
Loves Me Like a Rock
Paul Simon (1973)
JeanEmarre and Poytd
Finally we get a song about a loving mum who is adored by her son: “My mama loves me, she loves me / She get down on her knees and hug me / And she loves me like a rock,” the lyrics go. JeanEmarre points out that this is a more apt choice than Simon’s “creepy” Mother and Child Reunion, the title of which was taken from a chicken-and-egg dish in a Chinese restaurant.
Dr Hook & The Medicine Show (1972)
Recommended by: cdadiva and Jackhigh
In this autobiographical song, Shel Silverstein is devastated when his ex’s mother reveals that Sylvia is now engaged, so there is no way the two can rekindle their relationship. Cue a mournful song in which he doesn’t even get to say goodbye before Sylvia leaves.
Take Your Mama
Scissor Sisters (2004)
Recommended by: peterkm1969
This catchy disco tune is said to be about a mother’s struggle to accept her son’s sexuality. As it often happens, “the folks’ll wonder ’bout the wedding”. So the protagonist takes her out to show her his life, “so she’ll have no doubt that we’re doing oh the best we can,” and that she needn’t worry about him.
Harper Valley PTA
Jeannie C Riley (1968)
Recommended by: kyriewallis and Queenie1
This is the mother that reader Queenie1 “strives to be”. The widowed Mrs Johnson receives a note from her teenage daughter’s school PTA, which tells her off for her allegedly scandalous behaviour. She wears short skirts, drinks, “goes wild” with men – all things that would set a bad example for her daughter. Mrs Johnson storms to the PTA meeting, proceeding to expose their own misbehaviour and deeming them “all Harper Valley hypocrites”. The song later inspired a film and a TV show of the same name starring Barbara Eden.