EDITOR’S NOTE: This commentary was first published in May 2021. However, the sentiments remain so strong and given the response, we thought our readers might enjoy reading it one more time. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and those who have filled in the gap.
Some of the most popular musical artists of our day have honored the women who brought them into the world by composing and performing masterfully melodic memories that have stood the test of time.
And while one can find hundreds of ways to illustrate their love on Mother’s Day, songs have a way of setting the stage for an unforgettable celebration — even if it has to be done virtually like this year.
This Mother’s Day will count as the second time that my mother will not be with me — and it still hurts. A few nights ago, along with my two sidekicks, my dogs Baby Girl and Duchess, I slept in the bed in which my mother once slept and where she drew her last breaths.
But don’t cry for me. Truth be told, I think I wept enough tears to last until the next Mother’s Day. I just wanted to feel her presence, catch another whiff of her favorite perfume and … remember her.
However, I didn’t lay back in silence. Instead, I listened to music that helped me recall some of the best moments of my life experienced with a woman who meant more to me than anyone ever has. She showed me by example what Jesus tells us about loving someone unconditionally. She was my best friend.
One time, when I had very little money, I remember writing a poem for her which still remains on the walls of my home. It wasn’t a song but it had lyrical emphasis and structure. I also included photographs from our family album with all of the big moments — images of those times that we shared that would forever remain etched in our hearts, minds and souls.
My mother cried when I gave it to her, telling me that I had been a “good son.” Even the jewelry and designed dress that my stepfather gave her, as beautiful as they may have been, paled in comparison — or so Momma would whisper to me later that day.
Anyway, let me return to the songs that helped me make it through the night a few days ago.
First on the list: Boyz II Men, “A Song for Mama.”
Written for the 1997 film “Soul Food,” the chart-topping tune showcased the group’s signature melodies. And while the words remain relatively simple, they’re also innocent and beautiful. If you don’t shed a tear after listening to this song, there’s something wrong.
“You were there for me to love and care for me. When skies were gray. Whenever I was down. You were always there to comfort me. And no one else can be. What you have been to me you will always be. You will always be the girl … Mama, Mama you’re the queen of my heart. Your love is like tears from the stars, yes, it is. Mama I just want you to know, lovin’ you is like food to my soul.”
Next up, I played one of my mother’s favorites by The Shirelles, “Mama Said.”
This girl group classic reminds us that mama’s always right — particularly when it comes to those bad days that occur from time to time. As the lyrics say, “Momma said there’ll be days like this, there’ll be days like this, my momma said.”
Then, I invited some hip-hop into the room — something which my mother never particularly favored but which spoke to me in a profound manner. For me, there’s no better song from this musical genre than 2Pac’s poetic reflection, “Dear Mama.”
Tupac Shakur wrote a compelling and heart-wrenching rap for his beloved single mother, Afeni, which detailed his life growing up in poverty and his mother’s personal struggles with addiction. And while it’s raw and real, it’s also loving and tender and insightful. And I would wager that we’re all addicted to something — or perhaps, someone.
Next, I hit the play button for two songs that took me back to my youth in Detroit. Those were the days when the world seemed perfect to me. Even when storms came my way, I had no doubt that my mother (and Daddy) would be there to calm my soul and to move the storm clouds away.
“I’ll Always Love My Mama,” a 1973 single by the Philly soul group The Intruders and released on their album “Save the Children,” continues to be played on Mother’s Day. After the death of my grandmother, I remember my mother playing it over and over again. And yes, Momma could sing.
Written by Gamble & Huff, who recently celebrated their 50th anniversary in the industry, and co-written by McFadden & Whitehead (“Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”), the song would be inspired by Kenny Gamble’s mother, Ruby, who died in 2012.
“I’ll always love my mama. She’s my favorite girl. You only get one, you only get one. I’ll always love my mama. She brought me in this world.”
Last and certainly not least — The Spinners classic, “Sadie.”
In the introduction of the song, the R&B group dedicates this soulful 1974 tune to the strong young mothers who they remembered. Since its release, the song has been sampled by a host of notable hip-hop acts including Jay-Z and Tupac.
The most powerful of its lyrics bear repeating: “Sweeter than cotton candy. Stronger than papa’s old brandy. Always that needed smile, once in a while, she would break down and cry.”
I let the music play a few nights ago. And I sang to my heart’s content.
But for a few rare moments that evening and into the morning, my solo almost became a duet.
Yes, I heard my Momma and felt her with me once again. It was like old times. Just as she did hundreds of times before, she lifted me from my melancholy and encouraged me to go on, to “spit in my hands and take a fresh hold” and to remember that “with God, we can do all things but fail.”
I’ll Always Love My Momma!