While trying to put songs together for the annual Mother’s Day edition of my classic bluegrass show on SiriusXM known as Truegrass, I lamented once again the shortage of songs in our music about mothers who are still living. Sure, there are some songs in which mother gives some advice (usually unheeded):
Mama talked to me last night
She gave to me some good advice
She said son you ought to quit this old rambling all around
And marry you a sweet loving wife
(More Pretty Girls Than One)
More often, though, the songs are about singing the praises of a mother who has “gone on before.” It seems mother is under-appreciated while she’s with us, and that’s a shame.
For bluegrass songwriters of 2021, however, many of whom are stuck in a moonshine/coal/bluegrass-songs-about-bluegrass rut, this should be viewed as an opportunity. Writing songs about living mothers would not only fulfill a deep need in our genre, it would help songwriters branch out, and think how much living moms everywhere would appreciate it.
Let me throw out a few title ideas just to get the wheels turning:
I Haven’t Called Mama in Years
Mother’s Not Dead (That’s All I Have to Say)
Mother’s Bible (And She’d Like it Back)
Before this leads to an entire Bluegrass Today chart’s worth of living mother songs a year from now, there are plenty of other potential new songs that are also merely variations of categories of songs we already have:
Songs about horses that are still alive:
Hello Old Pal
Pinto the Wonder Horse is Old
Songs in which a guy (who isn’t an insecure sociopath) takes a girl down to the river and doesn’t kill her. I’ve actually written one of these, but there are numerous possibilities, including:
Uneventful Picnic by the Ohio
Related to this, we could explore murder ballads in which the girl fights back:
The Knoxville Girl Turned Out to be a Black Belt
Pretty Polly Kicked Little Willie’s A**
Okay, Not Marrying Me is Fine, Too
Sometimes it works to take existing songs and retell the story from a different perspective:
I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home from the point of view of the cattle “lowing in the lane”:
We’re Lowing Because We’re Hungry (How About Some Hay?)
Or what about Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms from the parents perspective?
This Guy is Lazy And Our Daughter Could Do a Lot Better
Or the parents’ side of Bringing Mary Home:
Here Comes Another One — How Times Do We Have to Explain This?
Then there’s always Pig in a Pen from the point of view of the pretty little girl:
I Guess I Could Feed Your Pig—What Does it Pay?
Finally, returning to the classic murder ballads, Banks of the Ohio from the river’s viewpoint:
Will You Please Stop Throwing People Into Me?