It’s Mother’s Day this weekend, and while we love our mothers here at Flavorpill as dearly as anyone, we do get more than a little tired of the wave of Hallmark-card sentimentality that comes with the second Sunday in May. So we thought we’d commemorate the day with something a little darker than yet another list that features Tupac’s “Dear Mama” and Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” — instead, we thought we’d look at some of the more sinister and disturbing songs about mothers and/or motherhood over the years. They’re better songs anyway.
Eminem — “My Mom”
Did Eminem have a happy childhood? Um, no — well, not according to this song, anyway. Among other things, “My Mom” claims Debbie Mathers constantly belittled young Marshall, killed his dog, fed him paint thinner, and dosed his food with Valium. She responded by suing him for the way she was depicted in this song and various others, a lawsuit that eventually netted her a whole $1,600.
Can — “Mother Upduff”
A curious psychedelic relic vaguely reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s “The Gift,” “Mother Upduff” relates a story (apparently an urban legend) about a couple who take the father’s mother on vacation to Italy, only for her to get killed by, um, a giant octopus. The couple strap what’s left of poor old Mother Upduff to the roof of the car and drive back to Germany, or at least they do until the car — along with its macabre cargo — gets stolen en route. The fact that “Upduff” is a bastardization of “up the duff” — i.e. pregnant — only makes the whole thing even stranger. A metaphor about motherhood/parenthood? A flight of absurdist whimsy? Too much acid? Only Can’s notoriously erratic first vocalist Malcolm Mooney could tell you for sure.
Pixies — “Nimrod’s Son”
What is it with Frank Black’s incest obsession, anyway? All together now: “You are the son of a motherfucker! One, two, three, four.”
The Rolling Stones — “Mother’s Little Helper”
A cheery ditty about a dissatisfied and unfulfilled housewife who seeks solace in prescription painkillers and ends up ODing on them, “Mother’s Little Helper” is as bleak a Top 10 hit as the ’60s would produce. It’s always reminded us of Requiem for a Dream, which is a testament to how damn depressing it is.
Chocolate Genius — “My Mom”
And while we’re on depressing, here’s a song that’s not so much disturbing as crushingly sad. “My Mom” is about the harrowing experience of revisiting your childhood home to see a parent who’s slipping slowly but inexorably into dementia. “My mom, my sweet mom,” sings Marc Anthony Thompson in a voice so forlorn that it’s genuinely heartbreaking, “she don’t remember my name.”
Fela Kuti — “Coffin for Head of State”
Also incredibly sad, despite its joyous instrumentation, this song deals with the murder of Fela’s mother, feminist activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, by Nigerian government soldiers who threw her from the window of her son’s Lagos compound in 1978. The quiet, composed rage with which Kuti sings, “Them steal all the money/ Them kill many students/ Them burn many houses/ Them burn my house too/ Them kill my mama,” before calling for coffins for the men responsible… Well, suffice it to say that this song really does send shivers down our spine every time we hear it.
Pearl Jam — “Alive”
In which Eddie Vedder’s awfully autobiographical-sounding narrator describes his mother revealing to him that his father was in fact not his father at all. And as if that’s not enough, mother and son proceed to, um, get it on. Yikes. The other two Pearl Jam songs that form a loose trilogy with “Alive” — namely “Once” and “Footsteps” — could certainly warrant a place here, too.
Martha Wainwright — “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”
Yes, this song is about Martha’s father, but as far as we’re concerned, there’s also enough about her mother in it to warrant a place in this list. For a start, there’s the line about being “on your own/ In your own home/ With the mother of gloom/ In your bedroom/ With her hand in your head,” which doesn’t exactly suggest that things were rosy between mother and daughter at this point, either. And then there’s the fact that “mother fucking” is rendered as two separate words in the song’s title, making the sort of parental sexual relationship we all try to avoid envisaging awfully explicit.
Pink Floyd — “Mother”
And no, we’re certainly not forgetting this — Roger Waters’ grotesque caricature of a menacingly overbearing mother is perhaps the most angsty song on The Wall (and that‘s saying something). Given how closely album protagonist Pink resembles Waters himself, it’s hard not to speculate about what sort of a weird relationship the singer must have had with his own mother.
The Doors — “The End”
“Father?” “Yes, son?” “I want to kill you. Mother, I want to….”