Funk Radio E85 – Songs For Their Mamas [Podcast]

Today we prepare for Mother’s Day with an exploration of songs written in dedication to mothers.

Without our mothers, we literally wouldn’t exist. You wouldn’t be reading this, and we wouldn’t have this wonderful podcast. Pretty scary, right? We’ve noticed that in the genres of funk & soul music, many artists have written and performed songs in direct dedication to their mothers. That’s certainly better than what we got our moms this Mother’s Day. Suddenly this macaroni picture doesn’t seem like enough…

For example, one of the most well-known songs by disco diva Chaka Khan, Through the Fire (1984), was written with her mother in mind. The lyrics follow the tropes of a typical love song, with Chaka saying she’ll go through anything for this special person, “even through the fire.”

Funny enough, the popular sibling group Sister Sledge have two songs about their mother, yet they have pretty different messages. In Pretty Baby(1980), the song is told from a mother’s point of view saying that she wants to do everything she can to help her daughter grow up to be smart and independent. This mother’s dedication is actually pretty heartwarming. Yet 7 years prior, they had another song called Mama Never Told Me (1973). As the title suggests, the song is 1) told from the daughters’ point of view, and 2) that their mama left something pretty important. It turns out that she actually did bring them up smart overall, but she never warned them about falling in love with a man. Kind of a big thing to leave out, don’t you think? Nevertheless, neither of these songs are among the sisters’ most popular hits, so we can only hope their mom didn’t catch them on the radio.

On the other side of the coin, The Supremes have a very popular hit, You Can’t Hurry Love (1966) which, if you haven’t heard before, I can almost guarantee you’ve heard the Phil Collins cover from 1982. Anyway, the Supremes (another girl group, though not sisters) tell us how their mother taught them not to rush into a love affair. Pretty good advice actually, especially for you young’uns out there. Stay in school.

In case you haven’t noticed, so far we’ve only touched on the daughter’s perspective. The second half of our playlist comes from the sons. It’s worth mentioning briefly that the mother-daughter relationship is certainly different (and stronger?) than the mother-son relationship. Worth thinking about for a few seconds.

Philadelphia soul group The Spinners have a song called Sadie (1974) that we noticed is actually pretty damn sad. It sounds like they are singing it at their mother’s funeral, which may not be far off. At the beginning the lead singer mentions that these are memories of the type of mothers he used to see as a child.

Along those same lines, Aloe Blacc offers a much more contemporary yet almost identical mood inMama Hold My Hand (2010). Basically he uses the concept of holding his mother’s hand while crossing the street to describe his life, growing up, and eventually holding her aged hand as she becomes elderly and he takes care of her toward the end of her life. We won’t lie, this one gets us choked up pretty good.

Bill Withers has a song more about the mother figure rather than his mother specifically, in his songGrandma’s Hands (1971). In this song he recalls his childhood when he would examine his grandma’s wrinkled hands and run around causing trouble, much to her chagrin. This one’s definitely on the slower side as well but doesn’t offer the same emotional weight as some of the previous songs.

For the hell of it, we’re throwing in Dear Mama by 2Pac (1994). While it doesn’t really fit our typical genres, it’s our podcast so deal with it. An interesting thing to note in the chorus are the clear lyrical similarities to Sadie.

And of course, no Mother’s Day is complete without a word (and a rhyme) from Mr. T himself. From his motivational video Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool! comes this jewel of a song, Treat Your Mother Right (1984). In it, the T blesses us with the truth that we should respect our mothers because of all the crap she has to put up with us. It’s humorous and harshly true at the same time. If this doesn’t get you off your butt to do something nice for your mom, he’ll make sure you do.

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