My favorite Mother’s Day songs

An unconventional list

Ken Sehested

While it’s true that mothering songs often emphasize comfort, it’s not at all true that songs of comfort are flaccid, limp, or weak-kneed. Lullaby is not quietism. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is both an animator (think “tongues of fire”) and a comforter.

Comfort is the sustenance given in the midst of trouble and travail. I would go so far as to argue that such steadfast endurance, the capacity to keep on keepin’ on, is the decisive virtue in Scripture.

Fifty years ago, a Brazilian movement committed to nonviolent resistance to injustice (during a US-backed dictatorship) had as its watchword the phrase firmeza permanente, or roughly: persistent, resolute struggle, regardless of the odds of success.

Such is the eschatological posture to which people of faith and conscience are called. That is to say, it is the grace-imbued confidence that, in the end, death will not have the last word, despite much observable evidence in the present age.

In the long run, our willingness to receive comfort, and to rest and sleep serenely, is as crucial to good health as our most energetic activity.

Such motherliness is our secret weapon.

§  §  §

¶ “The time has come / We’ve got to turn this world around / Call the mothers / Call the daughters / We need the sisters of mercy now.” —Keb’ Mo’, “Put a Woman in Charge,” feat. Rosanne Cash

¶ “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” by Antonín Dvořák, Ernestina Jošt and the Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra

¶ “Anagehya, women of all the Nations, you are the strength, you are the force, you are the healing of the Nations.” performed by Joan Henry, founder of the Mothers of Nations Singers & Dancers, with remarks on the nature of traditional songs.

¶ “Kiss me mother kiss your darlin’ / Lay my head upon your breast / Throw your loving arms around me / I am weary let me rest / I am weary let me rest.” —“I Am Weary, Let Me Rest,” The Cox Family

¶ “Mothers of the Disappeared,” U2

¶ “All the weary mothers of the earth will finally rest; / We will take their babies in our arms, and do our best. / When the sun is low upon the field, / To love and music they will yield, / And the weary mothers of the earth will rest.” —Joan Baez, “All the Weary Mothers of the Earth

¶ “Fingers on the trigger around here / Fingers on the trigger around here / Bullets flying, mothers crying / We gotta change around here / Get it straight, be sure that you hear / Things gonna change around here.” —Mavis Staples, “Change

¶ “All the pain that you have known / All the violence in your soul / All the ‘wrong’ things you have done / I will take from you when I come.” —Sinéad O’Connor, “This Is to Mother You

¶ “A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh, courage that cries out at night / A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh, bravery kept out of sight / A way outa no way is too much to ask, / Too much of a task for any one woman.” —“Oughta Be A Woman,” Sweet Honey in the Rock. (Open a second tab to read the lyrics while listening.)

¶ “The Mother,” Brandi Carlile

¶ “I went down to the place where I knew she lay waiting / Under the marble and the snow / I said, Mother I’m frightened, the thunder and the lightning / I’ll never come through this alone / She said, I’ll be with you, my shawl wrapped around you / My hand on your head when you go / And the night came on, it was very calm. . . . / I want to cross over, I want to go home / But she says, Go back, go back to the world.” —Leonard Cohen, “Night Comes On

¶ “Lay me low / Lay me low, low. / Where Mother can find me, / Where Mother can own me, / Where Mother can bless me.” —Dale Warland Singers, “Lay Me Low” (Shaker)

¶ “From the north to the south / from the west to the east / hear the prayer of the mothers / bring them peace.” —“Prayer of the Mothers,” Yael Deckelbaum, who created an alliance of a group of Israeli and Palestinian women for a “March of Hope” in 2016

¶ “As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men— / For they are women’s children and we mother them again. / Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes— / Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!” —“Bread and Roses,” a poem and song that emerged during the women’s millworker strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912. Women were fighting for fair wages, child labor laws, overtime pay, fair working conditions.

¶ “When I find myself in times of trouble / Mother Mary comes to me / Speaking words of wisdom / Let it be / And in my hour of darkness / She is standing right in front of me / Speaking words of wisdom / Let it be / And when the broken-hearted people / Living in the world agree / There will be an answer / Let it be.” —The Beatles, “Let It Be

¶ “Slumber, my darling, till morn’s blushing ray / Brings to the world the glad tidings of day / Fill the dark void with thy dreamy delight / Slumber, thy mother will guard thee tonight.” —“Slumber my darling,” beautiful Stephen Foster lullaby, performed by Alison Krauss, Edgar Meyer, Yo Yo Ma & Mark O’Connor

¶ “How sweet and happy seem, those days of which I dream / When memory recalls them now and then / And with what rapture sweet, my weary heart would beat / If I could hear my mother pray again.” —“If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again,” Staple Singers.

# # #

Art: A reprise of my Mother’s Day card to my beloved (aka, JaJa to her grandkids).