Did you know that Elvis was discovered when he randomly walked into the Sun Records building to record a song as a gift for his mother? Maybe you did. But did you know that he was just trying to make up for the terrible birdcage he made her out of popsicle sticks before that? “What is this?” she asked, astounded at the sloppy work. “Elvis Perkins Presley, this is an atrocity. You’re 18 years old, it’s time for you to find a real job!”
“That’s alright, Mama,” he sung, swiveling his hips at her, curling his lip. “I’m gonna go get you a present that’ll make your wig spin.” And the rest is history.
Mothers have been influencing musicians since the beginning of time. Here are a few stories about classic songs, and the mothers who inspired them.
She’s Goin’ Bald – The Beach Boys
As a young child, Beach Boy Brian Wilson was troubled to find that his family’s shower drain was always getting clogged with hair. As one of three boys with a crew cut, and a father with no hair to spare, he knew who the culprit must be. Afraid of what his mother might think, Brian repressed this incident for nearly 20 years before finally speaking his mind in this classic song, which became the band’s only #1 song! Wow-ee!
Martha, My Dear – The Beatles
“Cute Beatle” Sir James Paul McCartney had never actually written a song before he started secretly dating Ringo Starr’s mother, Martha. During band practices in Ringo’s garage, Paul would sneak in for a glass of water and instead take Martha out on dates to the local malt shop (known as a “malty shoppe” in Liverpool) while the rest of the Beatles waited, confused about what was taking him so long. Martha became the inspiration for his most well-known song, before breaking up with him via text message. He quickly bought a dog and named it Martha, so he wouldn’t have to explain the blunder to the press.
Nothing Compares 2 U – Prince
Although he gave this song to Sinead O’Connor for saving him from a stampede, this song was originally written for his mother, ⅊. When she asked her son which he liked better, banana pudding or her, The Artist At That Point Known As Prince looked down at her and shouted, “U R D 1 4 Me!” Disappointed by his poorly-worded answer, ⅊ spent the next 10 years in bed, until one day in 1989 when The Artist, Etc. came to her bedside, carefully unfolded a lyric sheet and whispered, “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Hotel California – The Eagles
Okay, I’ll be real: I have never listened to this whole song. It’s so very long, and each time, I find myself pressing the fast-forward button – but in all of that time, I am positive that a mother must get mentioned somewhere. It’s just statistically likely. The man singing says a lot of things. Is his name Joe something? He probably had a cool mom.
Thriller – Michael “M.J.” Jackson
Not many people know that Michael wrote the song Thriller about his childhood. Every night, he would sneak out of bed to get a Werther’s caramel out of his mother’s purse, which she kept locked in a glass case in the home’s foyer. Terrified that his mother was lurking behind every corner, waiting to bite him, he would dart downstairs for a piece of the gross candy. Back upstairs, he would lie in bed while eating it, humming the bassline that would later put him on the map, adding all sorts of those little hiccup sounds he would make – how did he come up with that stuff?! Oh right. Mothers.