Mother’s Day playlist: 10 timeless songs that should be your soundtrack to the celebration
Friday May 12 2023
Mother’s Day is now a popular global celebration during the second Sunday in May and this weekend will be a special occasion to honour the person you may regard as the single biggest influence in your life.
Through the years, some of the world’s biggest music stars across different genres, from classical to pop, R&B to Afropop and reggae, have written and recorded songs in praise of the impact that their mothers have played in their own lives and that of their communities.
Here are 10 songs picked across different genres and generations of musicians, highly recommended as the soundtrack to your Mother’s Day.
Prince Nico’s ‘Mbarga Sweet Mother’
The Nigerian legend wrote the now-iconic pidgin lyrics and recorded the song in 1976 as a gratitude for a mother’s care and love, selling 13 million copies in the process.
Kenyan soul singer Slim Ali and the Hodi Boys recorded an almost carbon copy of this highlife rhythm in the later part of the decade.
Sweet Mother clocks in at just about 10 minutes but each second of this classic is an absolute delight.
Tupac Shakur’s ‘Dear Mama’
A new documentary Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni & Tupac Shakur reveals the deep bond between the rapper and his mother, a member of the Black Panther Party who was in jail while pregnant with Tupac.
Afeni Shakur was acquitted just a month and three days before Tupac was born in 1971.
The rapper, who died in 1996 at the age of 25, poetically chronicles a tough childhood, and his mother’s addiction to cocaine but says his love and respect for her supersedes any bad memories.
Boyz II Men’s ‘Song for Mama’
They were the romantic harmony kings of the 1990s but alongside their mushy hits, this song, written and produced by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, has endured for its expression of pure love of a mother (loving you is like food for my soul).
This theme song to the movie Soul Food will undoubtedly be one of the crowd favourites at the group’s much-anticipated performance in Kenya next month.
Nana Mouskouri’s ‘Mama’
The bespectacled Greek songstress became a global superstar in the early 1960s and is reputed to sing in no less in 12 languages but her tender expression of maternal love in Mama, first recorded in 1971, is a timeless favourite and guaranteed to bring a smile to mum’s face.
Maywood’s ‘Mother, How are you today’
The two Dutch sisters were popular during the disco era of the late 1970s but along with their big dance hits came a sentimental ballad written as a note from a long-lost daughter to her mother.
This paean to a mother has remained a staple on radio stations and the emotional connection that many people feel to the words is only strengthened on an occasion like Mother’s Day.
Dr Hook & The Medicine Show Sylvia’s Mother
This 1972 single is a Mother’s Day song with a twist because it tells the true story of a man who is in love with a woman named Sylvia who later becomes engaged to another man.
When her former lover tries to call her one last time, it is Sylvia’s mother who answers the phone and breaks the news to the despondent man that her daughter has moved on with her life.
Spice Girls ‘Mama
The 1990s British girl group sing about the sometimes-strained relationships between teenage girls and their mothers.
As they get older, daughters often realize that mum always has their best interests at heart. Listen out for the choral vocals that add a spark during the last part of the song.
Abba ‘Does Your Mother Know’
A high-energy pop song, driven by an infectious hook released at the peak of the Swedish band’s popularity in 1979.
In the lyrics, a man meets an attractive girl but is worried that though she is so “cute” and eager to flirt she may be too young, and her mother probably does not know that she is not at home
Randy Travis ‘When Mama Prayed’
If you are searching for a powerful, reflective song to play during this Mother’s Day, you could do a lot worse than this gem of a country-gospel song.
In his signature baritone, Travis sings about the power of prayer that a mother uses to change the life of her husband and her son.
Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Mamma’
The world’s most famous operatic tenor was inspired to record his version of this Italian song originally from the 1940s, as a tribute to his mother.
When Edi Bocelli was pregnant with Andrea, doctors advised her to abort the baby due to health complications. She refused! His version of the song was also released as part of the EP Songs for Mother’s Day.