Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hymns to Her: Where Are All of the Musical Tributes to Mom?

Today, while I was trying to come up with a post that merges music with Mother's Day, I discovered something quite alarming and not a little disturbing. No musical tributes to the women responsible for giving us the gift of life, the person with whom most of us form our first real bond, came immediately to mind.

In fact, the first "mother" songs that popped into my head -- "Mother" by John Lennon, "Mothers of the Disappeared" by U2, "Mother Son" by Psychedelic Furs -- are all depressing and full of angst, not exactly the musical message anyone wants to send to mom on her special day.

Then I remembered "Thanks for My Child," the beautiful 1988 hit by Cheryl Pepsii Riley, but, like Patti Smith's "The Jackson Song" (from Dream of Life), Lauryn Hill's "To Zion" (from The Miseducation...) and Madonna's "Little Star" (from Ray of Light), that's a lullaby from a mother to her offspring, therefore it's more appropriate for Children's Day, which doesn't actually exist, although any mother might say that every day is children's day.

"Mama" by Genesis (from the 1983 Genesis album), like the "mom" songs mentioned above, is a great tune, but it's a decidedly dark one, too. While it might be perfectly acceptable to blame everything on the mother in therapy (and the shrink of the hooker-obsessed protagonist in the Genesis tune would have a field day!), for one day, let's let her off the hook, shall we?

What about the Judds, the most famous mother and daughter singing duo ever? (To be completely honest, I can't actually think of another one.) The first Judds song I ever heard was "Mama He's Crazy," but that would probably be more fitting on Valentine's Day. Anyway, from everything I've read and from what I saw in the 1994 TV biopic Love Can Build a Bridge (starring Ashley Judd as herself), Naomi and Wynonna haven't always had the warmest, fuzziest mom-daughter rapport. Moving right along...

Finally, it came to me: "Hymn to Her," a 1986 Top 10 UK hit by Pretenders, from the underrated Get Close album (which I used to own on vinyl and which features one of my all-time favorite love songs, "My Baby"). Every time the needle reached "Hymn to Her" back in the day, my thoughts drifted to my own mom.

There's no 'mother" in the title, and I was never 100 percent certain that the song, written by Meg Keene and not Chrissie Hynde (who, incidentally, once hit No. 1 in the UK covering the Judds' "Love Can Build a Bridge," with fellow moms Cher and Neneh Cherry), was actually a tribute to mom, but in my mind, it worked as one -- and still does.

To all the mothers out there, this one's for you.

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