Mother’s Day can bring up a lot of feelings, but most people have at least one mother in their life whom they cherish. Whether it is your own, a close relative who played that role in your life, a friend who is a mom, or you’re celebrating your own nurturing side, they’re all valuable.
What better way to explore these feelings of love, gratitude and sometimes hurt — both to and from mothers — than with music?
1. “Blue” by Beyoncé
“Each day I feel so blessed to be looking at you, ‘cause when you open your eyes, I feel alive,” Beyoncé sings to her first-born, Blue Ivy, in one of the sweetest, most genuine love songs ever written.
2. “Hey Mama” by Kanye West
Kanye sings an ode to his mother, Donda West. The brilliant 58-year-old former chairwoman of the Chicago State University’s English department died in 2007 from complications after a surgery.
3. “To Zion” by Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill sings of her love to her firstborn, Zion, in this emotional ballad from her 1998 masterpiece The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
“Names wouldn’t come when I was ready to have him. The only name that came to me was Zion. I was like, ‘is Zion too much of a weight to carry?’ But this little boy, man. I would say he personally delivered me from my emotional and spiritual drought. He just replenished my newness. When he was born, I felt like I was born again,” Hill says.
4. “Ye-Yo” by Erykah Badu
The word “ye-yo” means “mother” in the language of Kenya’s Masai tribe. Erykah Badu dedicated this beautiful song to her son Seven Sirius Benjamin, whose father is Andre 3000 of OutKast fame.
5. “Mouth’s Cradle” by Björk
This may be the most “out there” song on this list. A track from the incredible album Medulla, Bjork said in a documentary about the album that this song is about breastfeeding and political concerns.
6. “My Mom” by Chocolate Genius
This beautiful song is about a man revisiting his old childhood home and struggling with the fact that his mother is slipping into senility. Surrounded by his memories, Marc Anthony Thompson narrates the sad vignette of a man losing the core of the woman who raised him, who is no longer able to share those memories with him.
“My mom, sweet mom, don’t remember my name.”
7. “Mother Stands For Comfort” by Kate Bush
On the surface, “Mother Stands For Comfort” sounds like it’s sung by an apologetic daughter who finally recognizes her mother’s struggle. However, it is actually an oddly cold ode to a mother’s patience and dedication in a totally unexpected way — it’s about a mom who is willing to cover for her violent killer of a son.
Another Kate Bush great is the song “Breathing,” which is sung from the POV of a fetus in utero who is developing in the aftermath of a nuclear war and also breathing its mother’s cigarette smoke. No one will ever be able to say Bush lacks creativity or a flair for drama.
8. “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” by Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozalek’s ode to his then 75-year-old mother is an honest reflection of what many of us who are close to our mothers fear the most: their inevitable deaths. Kozalek, a man known for deep extended metaphors in his early work, has dropped the cloak and written barefaced vignettes of his family on this record, but “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” is the most personal and simultaneously universal song on there.
“My mother and I were having some differences of opinion over the phone one night, and after I hung up, I worked things out through a few open-tuned guitar chords here at my San Francisco apartment. As the song was developing, I made a decision to not vent about our argument, but to write about what was truly eating at me: my fear of not having my mother to reach out to anymore. My mom is doing well, but she’s getting older,” Kozalek explains in a piece that he wrote for the New York Times.
9. “Mama Hold My Hand” by Aloe Blacc
“Mama Hold My Hand” is a beautiful, straightforward “thank you” song by the incredibly talented Panamanian-American artist Aloe Blacc. The song takes on new life as performed at the MADE series in England with a spectacular string accompaniment.
10. “Decatur, Or, Round Of Applause For Your Step-Mother” by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens reflects on a childhood trip to Decatur, Michigan, and his distaste for his stepmother, asking himself, “Why did we hate her? Stand up and thank her.” Apparently, even the stepmothers of seemingly mild-mannered folk singers don’t even have an easy job.
11. “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Ripperton
Also known as actress Maya Ruldolph’s mommy, Minnie Ripperton was an incredible woman. This song is an ode to baby Maya.
12. “I’ll Always Love My Mama” by The Intruders
A sweet ’70s-era disco tune from Philly’s soul group The Intruders, this is a straightforward tune about an adult son recognizing his mother’s sacrifices and thanking her for everything that she did to make his life what it was.
13. “Song For The Baby” by Kelis
R&B and hip-hop badass Kelis at one point re-invented herself as a gay disco dance floor goddess with the BEST outfits and badass dance tunes. One of those songs happens to be an uplifting love song to her child.
“See I never sugar-coat any life lessons for you,
’cause I wanna make you equipped for the best.
And I can’t always be here to rescue you when life gets crazy.
But I love you more than you’ll ever know.
With you, love never dies.”