Everyone loves a list. Well, maybe not everyone, but certainly most someones. After days filled with decisions and overstimulation, I know I just want someone to tell me what’s up, straight up. So, the idea for a monthly mixtape list made implicit sense to me. I kind of get off on this type of thing, too, constantly making CDs (everyone remembers what those are, right?) for friends and planning mixes on Spotify for parties. The music makes the moment.
For May, I thought, “May Day….Rebellious…obviously a list of strong, angst-ridden anthems set to inspire.” But, then, perhaps more obviously, I thought of Mom. Yes, the lady who squeezed me out into this world, ahem, a lot of years ago. And, she always wins. I also asked my best grrrrlfriends what songs they think of when they think of their moms, and, wow, it’s one thing to know them for over 20 years, but this little exercise has me feeling uniquely close to them.
We here at Rebellious would also love to hear what songs your mom brings to mind. Let me know what I’m missing and what essential song should be added to this mixtape.
Here’s the first monthly mixtape, dedicated most specifically to my mom, Bonnie, but also to all moms out there and to your mom, too.
- Cher, “Believe,” 1998. My mom “sings opera.” More like caterwauls with a weird sort of operatic tempo. Cher gets this special treatment more than most other artists, as my mom loves her. Loves her voracity and take-no-shit attitude. My mom is not like Cher in this way, but I love when she declares that she’s going to work on not giving a fuck anymore. Endearing and ultimately false.
- Jim Croce, “Operator,” 1972. Beautiful song with such a sad story to go along with it. I remember my mom talking about Croce’s death with such profound sadness. Reminds me of a similar sorrow I’ve heard in the voices of my friends telling their kids about other dead rock stars, namely Kurt Cobain.
- Danzig, “Mother,” 1988. Fits the theme, y’all.
- Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” 1993. Thinking about my mom dying is pretty much the worst group of images I can imagine putting together. Some of my closest friends have had to endure this pain, and I marvel at their perseverance. I bring this topic up only to say that my mom has declared this her “funeral song.” I hope to never have to hear it.
- Lucinda Williams, “Mama You Sweet,” 2007. Wow, I hate to dwell here, but this would be the song that I would think of if the unthinkable happened to her. (It also used to be the ringtone I used for Mom. A little morbid?)
- Elton John, “Rocket Man (I think it’s going to be a long, long time)”, 1972. I love Elton John because my mom loves Elton John. Driving home from the hospital after a softball mishap at 10 years old, she told me about how she had attended his concert when she was younger. In the dark, I could see her light up while she talked about him coming out on stage in a Big Bird costume and playing the most beautiful songs she’d ever heard. Little did I know that her story would convert me into a fan for a lifetime.
- The Lovin’ Spoonful, “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” 1966. There are two reasons for this song to be on this list. 1) This is my parent’s song. I’ve seen them sing it to each other on several different occasions. #relationshipgoals. 2) My mom is genuinely nice—not the ‘nice’ that you say someone is when you have nothing else to say about them. She’s actually really fucking nice. My mom has palpable empathy for nearly everyone and every living thing on the planet. #lifegoals.
- The Judds, “Girls’ Night Out,” 1985. This entry is from my friend Dina whose mom, Bernadine, is, at least to me, affectionately known as the “Silver Fox.” She’s about as fun as one can get. The Silver Fox sold Mary Kay for the longest time, and, while teaching Dina and Anne (who you’ll hear from later on down this list) the importance of independence and earning a buck, also taught them how hanging out with your best friends and letting it all hang out is necessary to restoring your soul.
- Cat Stevens, “Morning Has Broken,” 1971. Gretchen, a great friend and my one-time college roommate, associates her mother with this song. Apparently, Norma would burst into Gretchen and her siblings’ rooms singing it at the top of her lungs every Saturday morning. Wake up because Yusuf Islam tells you so!
- Stevie Wonder, “Isn’t She Lovely,” 1976. This is a perennial wedding song because the lyrics speak to the incredible blessing children are to their parents. My friend Amanda has lost both her parents in a span of five years. When I talked about perseverance earlier, this is the chick who personifies it. She danced with her mom to this song on her wedding day; she lost her mom less than two months later. Mandy and her mom were best friends, and I can still visualize them moving across the dance floor, smiling and laughing.
- Old Crow Medicine Show, “Wagon Wheel,” 2004. Anne, you know, Dina’s sister from #8? Well, she had us debating the meaning of this song. Is it an ode to a sexual partner? Or can it be a song that reminds you of your mom? I give this one to Anne who argued that the lyrics spoke to her feelings on her mom’s never-ending support and love of trains. Bernadine worked for Metra in her 20s and then took an extended maternity leave to have a son and two of the best little ladies I have the pleasure of knowing. She returned to Metra after they were grown, to the same job and in the same office. Hey, mama, rock me.
- Tupac, “Dear Mama,” 1995. Thankfully, my mom is not addicted to anything, except maybe shopping, so the reference to crack in this song is not fitting. However, this song is probably one of the sweetest and most heartfelt songs about a mother/son/daughter relationship. As he said, “Ain’t a woman alive that could take my mama’s place.” Truer words…
- The Tokens, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” 1961. This is a secret family song. “Hush my darling/don’t fear my darling,” a commandment disguised as a catchy lyric has always inspired calm in my sister and me. Randomly, this song will come on the radio, and we all stop and sing along—“Wimoweh, wimoweh….”
- Alanis Morissette, “Everything,” 2004. This is a song about total, complete acceptance. Personally, that’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do is love people along with their very, very (very, very) many faults. My sister, Abby, chose this song to represent her relationship with my mom. It’s so right on. “You see everything/you see every part/ you see my light and you love my dark….and you’re still here.”
- Randy Travis, “Forever and Ever (Amen),” 1987. So, apparently, for most my friends and even my husband, Mike, the ’80s were a big time for big hair and big country voices in their houses. He associates his mother with this song because 1) he’s a mama’s boy, unapologetically; 2) she likes Randy Travis; and 3) the overall sentiment that you have a bond with someone forever and ever is something that they have in their relationship.
- Pink Floyd, “Mother,” 1979. Not only is this one of my favorite songs on Earth, it’s also one I can imagine my never-existing children thinking of me if they heard it. Racked with depression and anxiety, I’ve decided being a mom isn’t for me. “Hush now, baby, baby, don’t you cry/Mama’s gonna make all your nightmares come true/Mama’s gonna put all her fears into you.” Although I try to be positive, sometimes I truly think things are as bleak as they sound in this song.
- The Beatles, “Let it Be,” 1970. For Lorraine.
And the rest…
- Paul Simon, “Mother and Child Reunion,” 1972.
- Chvrches, “The Mother We Share,” 2013.
- Outkast, “Ms. Jackson,” 2000.
- Kayne West, “Hey Mama,” 2005.
- The Kinks, “Some Mother’s Son,” 1969.