SALT LAKE CITY — If you search “mom,” “mama” or “mother” on any streaming music service, a lot of songs come up. But those aren’t the only songs about moms, you know. In honor or Mother’s Day, we decided to dig a little deeper.
Here are a handful of songs — some of them famous, others less so — that explore various aspects of motherhood, but don’t have a maternal song title.
‘The Perfect Fan’ — Backstreet Boys
This song is a cheese-fest, but man, I kind of like it. Backstreet Boys’ final song off their 1999 album “Millennium” goes out to their moms: “Mom, you always were the perfect fan,” they sing on the chorus. Personally relieved that these guys didn’t forget their roots.
‘Nick Of Time’ — Bonnie Raitt
Raitt’s breakout hit starts by addressing the desire for motherhood. “A friend of mine, she cries at night / And she calls me on the phone,” Raitt sings, “Sees babies everywhere she goes / And she wants one of her own / She’s waited long enough, she says / And still she can’t decide / Pretty soon she’ll have to choose / And it tears her up inside / She’s scared, scared she’ll run out of time.”
‘Boss Of Me’ — They Might Be Giants
This one is more implicit. The theme song to “Malcolm in the Middle” never mentions moms, but it does repeat the phrase “you’re not the boss of me now” a bunch of times. The TV show’s central conflict was Malcolm and his brothers versus their exasperated, quick-tempered mom, so those lyrics always felt aimed at her. Sorry, moms, but this one’s about you.
‘Twin Falls’ — Built to Spill
“My mom’s good, she got me out of Twin Falls, Idaho / Before I got too old,” Built to Spill’s lead singer Doug Martsch sings. What a mom! Beyond that line, though, the legendary indie rock band’s song isn’t super clear — is “Twin Falls” about Martsch’s mom, or about another love interest? We'll leave that to the discerning moms out there.
‘Silent House’ — Crowded House
In 2007, after a 14-year hiatus, Crowded House reunited and released “Time on Earth.” It’s a stellar album, and “Silent House” is among its best songs. The song finds singer Neil Finn standing alone in his mother’s room, looking at relics from his youth — old photographs, books, her favorite dress hanging in the closet. “I’ll will try to connect all the pieces you’ve left / I will carry it on and let you forget,” he sings, “I’ll remember the years when your mind was still clear / All the flickering lights that filled up this silent house.” (Also, apparently Dixie Chicks covered this song. The original is better.)
‘Nature And The Wreck’ — Mates of State
The husband-and-wife indie-pop duo wrote about their newborn child, Magnolia, on 2006's “Nature and the Wreck.” It’s a sparse song — just Kori Gardner on piano and keys — all about watching her child and knowing things will get more complicated as she ages.
‘Sara’ — Fleetwood Mac
And now, my favorite Fleetwood Mac song — and it's (probably) about the pain of a motherhood that never was. There are some theories about what this song’s really about. Some say it’s about Stevie Nicks’ short-lived relationship with Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood. The more common theory, though, is that “Sara” examines Nicks’ relationship with Eagles member Don Henley, and their aborted daughter, who Nicks wanted to name Sara. Nicks sings, “Sara, you’re the poet in my heart / Never change, never stop / But now it’s gone / They say it doesn’t matter anymore.” Her quivering vibrato on that line gives me chills every time.
‘Soldier’s Last Letter’ — Merle Haggard
OK, we’re getting a little sad now, but stick with me. Haggard’s “Soldier’s Last Letter” is directed to a mom, moments before her son dies in combat. Over the course of two minutes, Haggard leads us through the soldier writing the letter, the mom tearfully receiving the letter, then her praying that other American soldiers will be protected and that America will remain free. It covers a lot of ground.
‘Always On The Run’ — Lenny Kravitz
Kravitz’s 1991 funk-rock jam chronicles all types of things his mom told him. (Among them: life is a gift, leave those bad boys alone, it’s good to be factual.) “But,” he insists on the chorus, “I’m always on the run.” When, oh when, will Kravitz finally listen to his mother?
‘To Zion’ — Lauryn Hill
“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” the album that contains “To Zion,” topped the charts in 1998. It went on to win five Grammys, including album of the year, and became a landmark album of its era, its genre and for Hill herself. Her pregnancy inspired the album’s creation, and “To Zion” addresses that explicitly. “Unsure of what the balance held / I touched my belly overwhelmed / By what I had been chosen to perform,” she sings. The rest of “To Zion” chronicles the outside pressures Hill faced to have an abortion, and her decision to have the child anyway. With Carlos Santana and a gospel choir backing Hill, this spiritual ballad is as good as it gets. Happy Mother's Day, everyone.
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