In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, May 13, here's a list of songs that touch on the value and importance of mothers, including sweet tributes singers have written for their moms and songs filled with a mother's sound advice.
Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list, as it seems it's a country singer's rite of passage to write a song about his or her mother. We'd love to hear from our readers about their own favorite Mother's Day songs, so feel free to leave a comment.
Dolly Parton, "Coat of Many Colors"
One of Dolly Parton's greatest hits turns out to also be one of her more autobiographical songs. "Coat of Many Colors" is a sweet song based on Parton's mother, who sewed a colorful patchwork coat out of a box of rags for Parton to wear as a child, all while telling her daughter the Old Testament story of Joseph and his own coat of many colors. Parton sings: "Momma sewed the rags together / Sewin' every piece with love / She made my coat of many colors / That I was so proud of."
The song concludes: "Now I know we had no money / But I was rich as I could be / In my coat of many colors / My momma made for me / Just for me."
Jeff Buckley, "Mama, You've Been on My Mind"
Jeff Buckley transforms Bob Dylan's more upbeat song into a stirring reflection of his mother: "Perhaps it is the color of the sun cut flat and coverin' the crossroads I'm standing at / Or maybe it's the weather or something like that / But mama, you've been on my mind."
Leon Bridges, "Lisa Sawyer"
Gospel and soul singer Leon Bridges wrote a tribute to his mom, "Lisa Sawyer," that appeared on the singer's 2015 debut album. Bridges walks listeners through his mother's life — born in New Orleans, circa 1963, the youngest of seven children. Although her family "never had much money," they were "filthy rich with the wealth you couldn't get from a dark casino or a lottery ticket / They had love, love, love, rich in love."
Bridges sings about Lisa Sawyer's heart, "warm like Louisiana sun," and near the end of the song, he tells of his mother's conversion at 16, when "she found Christ at an altar / All along he was calling her name."
The Band Perry, "Mother Like Mine"
The Band Perry, consisting of lead singer Kimberly Perry and her two brothers, Reid and Neil, sing a touching tribute to their mother, singing in the opening verse, "She's the sky that holds the clouds / She's the lady of the house / A blind believer in all I dare to be / There's no safer place I've found / Than the shoulder of her white nightgown."
The chorus then goes on to sing of what the world would look like if it were raised by the Perrys' mother: "So the wars would all be over / 'Cause she'd raise us all as friends / And no one would ever wonder if somebody wanted them / We'd walk on grass that's greener / And our cares would all be freer / If the world had a mother like mine."
Elvis Presley, "Mama Liked the Roses"
The king of rock 'n' roll sings "Mama Liked the Roses," a tribute to his mother, Gladys Presley, who although she loved growing roses in her garden and decorating the home with the flowers, cared most of all "about the way (her children) learned to live and if (they) said (their) prayers." Near the song's end, Elvis Presley sings, "Oh, mama liked the roses in such a special way / We bring them every mother's day and put them on her grave."
Garth Brooks, "Mom"
Let's just get this out now: This song will make you cry so you might want tissues on hand. Garth Brooks' "Mom" begins with the perspective of a child who has yet to be born. Scared to come to Earth, the child asks God, "Why can't I just stay here with you?"
God replies: "There's somebody special waiting for you."
A person "whose only goal in life / Is makin' sure you're always gonna be alright / A loving angel, tender, tough and strong / It's almost time to go and meet your mom."
Glen Campbell and Steve Wariner, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"
"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" details the sacrifices mothers make for their children, including losing sleep and spending much of their own time passing on important life lessons. The touching chorus expresses the invaluable role of mothers: "There ought to be a hall of fame for mamas / Creation's most unique and precious pearls / And heaven help us always to remember / That the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
Carrie Underwood, "Mama's Song"
"You just don't think when your child is small that in just a few years it's gonna be completely different. And you look back and say, 'Where did that time go?' It goes by fast."
Carrie Underwood's mother, Carole Underwood, says this at the start of the music video for "Mama's Song," which shows the country singer in a wedding dress ready to marry the man she tells her mom is "the answer to your prayers." According to country music news website The Boot, the video was shot in August 2010, a month after Underwood's wedding.
As her mother looks at pictures of her daughter growing up, Underwood sings, "Mama you taught me to do the right things / So now you have to let your baby fly / You've given me everything that I will need / To make it through this crazy thing called life."
The Beatles, "Julia"
The song doesn't specifically mention mothers, but John Lennon wrote "Julia" about his own mother, Julia Lennon, who died in 1958 when Lennon was 17 years old. Although a Beatles song, "Julia" just features Lennon singing and playing the guitar, making the song even more poignant. He sings, "Half of what I say is meaningless / But I say it just to reach you, Julia."
Beth Hart, "Mama This One's For You"
Singer-songwriter Beth Hart has a raspy voice and edge akin to Janis Joplin, but she can also deliver incredibly sweet songs, including one titled "Mama This One's For You" from her 2015 album "Better Than Home." In 2016, Hart released a video for the song which features her mother sitting next to her on the piano bench as she plays the song.
Hart sings, "For all the things I never said / I'm sorry that I never did / I thank you for your precious time / For teaching me how to climb. … Every step I took you held my hand / And watched me grow / You'll never know / How much I love you."
Merle Haggard, "Mama Tried"
Songwriters often draw from a mixed bag of life experiences — both good and bad — to create their music, as is the case of the Merle Haggard classic "Mama Tried." The country singer's father died when he was 9 years old, leaving his mother to become the family's sole provider. He told NPR's Fresh Air radio program in 1995, "I was, to say the least, probably the most incorrigible child you could think of. … I was already on the way to prison before I realized it, actually."
Haggard sings: "One and only rebel child / From a family, meek and mild/ My Mama seemed to know what lay in store / Despite my Sunday learning / Towards the bad, I kept turning / 'Til Mama couldn't hold me anymore."
In his Fresh Air radiointerview, Haggard recalled having a moment of self-realization while in prison: "I saw the light. … I realized what a mess I'd made out of my life, and I got out of there and stayed out of there — never did go back. Went and apologized to all of the people I'd wronged … I think when I was 31 years old, I paid everybody back that I'd ever taken anything from, including my mother."
Tupac Shakur, "Dear Mama"
Hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur released "Dear Mama" in 1995 — about a year and a half before his tragic death at 25. A tribute to his mother, Afeni Shakur, Tupac Shakur's song mentions the singer's childhood poverty and that while he and his mother had their disagreements and more than their fair share of struggles, his love and appreciation for her transcends all of those challenges.
The Shirelles, "Mama Said"
FYI: This classic song by the doo-wop group The Shirelles has nothing to do with the Metallica song of the same name. Stemming from the R&B sound of the 1960s, The Shirelles sing a catchy, upbeat song that reminds listeners of a mother's admonition that not everything in life is going to go as planned. So when things aren't going your way, just remember, "Mama said there'll be days like this / There'll be days like this / My mama said."
Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Simple Man"
The entirety of the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Simple Man" is a mother's advice to her only son. Some of the wisdom the mother imparts to her son is to "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."
The heart of her message is found in the song's chorus: "And be a simple kind of man / Oh, be something you love and understand / Baby be a simple kind of man / Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can."
Three Dog Night, "Mama Told Me Not to Come"
The phrase "mother knows best" is an apt description for this Three Dog Night song. The singer opens up telling us he's at "the craziest party that there could ever be / Oh, don't turn on the light 'cause I don't want to see." The uptempo chorus then kicks in: "Mama told me not to come / Mama told me not to come/ (She said) that ain't the way to have fun, son."
The Miracles, "Shop Around"
Mothers also seem to have an idea or two when it comes to their children's love lives. Released by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles in the early 1960s, "Shop Around" tells of one mother's advice to "shop around" before asking "some girl for her hand now."
The mother says: "Before you take a girl and say I do, now / Make sure she's in love with you now / Make sure that her love is true now / I hate to see you feelin' sad and blue now."
The Supremes, "You Can't Hurry Love"
It appears that the Motown groups of the 1960s really loved singing about their mothers' advice — particularly when it came to love. In this song from the Supremes, the group sings of one mom's response to her child's heartache: "You can't hurry love / No, you'll just have to wait / She said, 'Love don't come easy, it's a game of give and take' / You can't hurry love / No, you'll just have to wait / You gotta trust, give it time / No matter how long it takes."