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For Mother's Day, the Songs of Our Moms

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Whether she introduced you to it, or it soundtracked a special moment, or it simply reminds you of her, a song that we associate with our mothers usually sticks with us for a lifetime.  (iStock)

Mothers contain multitudes. They can be smart, motivating, nurturing, hard-working, funny, strong, diplomatic, hopeful—dozens of qualities all at once.

So it’s no surprise that when asked which song reminds them of their mom, my KQED coworkers offered responses that were all over the map. This Mother’s Day, take a moment to recognize just how important the moms in your own life are—and enjoy this collection of songs that we’ll always associate with our own moms.


When I was little, my mom introduced me to many albums that I immediately loved, like Ziggy Stardust, London Calling and the Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack. But it wasn’t until years later that her fondness for Joni Mitchell took hold. Now “Coyote,” the enchanting Hejira opener, reminds me of the ways I’m happily becoming more like her.Sam Lefebvre

‘Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics’

My mum, Yvonne, is French. She loves the male singer-songwriters of her formative years growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in Paris—artists like Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, and Charles Aznavour. Her very favorite is Georges Brassens, France’s answer to Bob Dylan, known as much for his poetry as for his music. When I was growing up in the UK, my mum used to sing Brassens’ songs around the house. One of the songs she likes the most is “Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics,” about the reactions of self-righteous conservatives to seeing a pair of passionate young lovers having a smooch on a bench in a public park.Chloe Veltman


‘Party Up’

My mom uses music as a teaching tool. There were certain artists she made sure I knew about: Prince, Stevie, Earth, Wind & Fire and of course Teena Marie. And when I’d play some new hip-hop song, she’d be like, “Oh, that song samples [random artist from the 70s],” and then I’d go look them up. 

But I shared music with her, too. One of my favorites was when I introduced her to the DMX song, “Party Up.” The hook goes: “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind / Up in here, up in here / Y’all gon’ make me go all out / Up in here, up in here / Y’all gon’ make me act a fool / Up in here, up in here / Y’all gon’ make me lose my cool / Up in here, up in here.”

As soon as she heard it, she said: “Oh, that sounds like somebody’s momma.”Pendarvis Harshaw

‘Good Day Sunshine’

There are literally 100 songs I would associate with my musician of a mom—some of which she wrote herself, like the Anthem of Whiny Kids that begins with the lyrics, “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I need to go to the bathroom / I’m tired, please hold me / Drop everything right now, cha cha cha.”
But the song that pops to mind is “Good Day Sunshine” by the Beatles. My mom is a morning person (if you can say that about a human who naturally wakes up at 4:30am), and when I was a teenager she would blast this tune in the morning for her grumpy daughters. It always makes me happy, and reminds me of my larger-than-life mama, who loves music, loves to sing, and has always brought so much sunshine into our lives.Marisa Lagos

‘We’re a Happy Family’

The song that will always remind me of my mom is the Ramones’ “We’re a Happy Family.” For starters, I’ve always been supremely jealous that my parents saw the Ramones play at CBGB when they were cool young kids living in Boston. Secondly, the lyrics about a nontraditional family really ring true for us, especially since my dad came out: “We’re a happy family / Me mom and daddy… / No Christmas cards to send / Daddy likes men.”

Luckily, we’re a lot more functional than the family in the song, but it is true we don’t send Christmas cards, and daddy does like men. Whenever we’re having silly arguments on a family Facetime call, my mom usually interjects to sing the chorus.Bianca Taylor

‘Rockin’ All Over the World’

My mother’s musical preferences tend toward Carly Simon and the Mamas & the Papas. But for a weird period during the 1980s, she was obsessed with Status Quo. The London band is most famous in the United States for 1968’s psychedelic “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” but by the mid-’80s, in the UK, they were chart staples thanks to a series of three-chord singalongs. “Rockin’ All Over the World” was one of the most famous. My mother has not listened to rock music before or since Status Quo, but I remember her going to see them during my childhood and coming home aghast at the ringing in her ears and amused at how rowdy the crowd was. She went on to be a big supporter of my music journalism career—but nagged me endlessly about wearing earplugs, based on her three Status Quo concerts. My sporadic battles with tinnitus are regular reminders that I should’ve listened to her.Rae Alexandra

‘Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon’

In the late 1990s, we arrived to the Bay Area from Russia for my mom to pursue her American dream of a career in computer science. She’s never been much of a musical person, so when she’d get into an album, we’d listen to it on repeat any time we were in the car. The one seared into my memory from those chaotic years is the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. It’s a wild ride that swings from Kool & the Gang to Al Green to Dusty Springfield, and I can’t help but remember my mom whenever I hear the guitar thrum of “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.” It reminds me of the hustle and sacrifice she modeled as a young mom on her own in a new country.Nastia Voynovskaya

‘She’s Got You’

Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” are the two songs that remind me of my mom. She used to play them, along with and weirdly sad Bengali songs, in the kitchen growing up all the time. The best moments were when you’d catch her singing along when she thought no one was listening or paying attention.Urmila Ramakrishnan

‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’

According to my unscientific analysis, moms have approximately 128 nicknames for each of their kids. My mom was no exception, with an arsenal of names seemingly custom-designed for maximum embarrassment when shouted loudly in public. (You don’t know real teenage humiliation until your mom beckons you across the junior high parking lot with “YOO-HOO! BUSTER BROWN!”) Somehow, “Dapper Dan” was in the mix of my mom’s nicknames for me, and I have the song “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” to thank and/or blame. An Ike and Tina Turner hit covered by the ultimate mom-rock pairing of Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor, it contains the line: “Do you remember / I used to call you Dapper Dan?” I sure do, mom.Gabe Meline


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