In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in celebration of Mother’s Day, we’re picking songs about moms—or that have a mom-related word in their titles.
The Intruders, “I’ll Always Love My Mama” (1973)
Legendary Philadelphia soul producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff weren’t above making novelty records, and they were transparent about their desire to write timeless songs by pegging them to timeless events, like Mother’s Day. The Intruders’ “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” from the 1973 album Save The Children, grew out of Gamble and Huff’s special-occasions initiative and is its most enduring artifact. “Mama” is part of a grand tradition in R&B music that continues to this day: songs honoring black (and implicitly single) mothers for toiling thanklessly to provide for their children. (There are also soul tributes to dads, like The Winstons’ “Color Him Father,” but they’re as comparatively limited as Father’s Day greeting cards are to Mother’s Day cards.)
Tributes to Mama are invariably touching, but they’re almost never fun. Reportedly inspired by Gamble’s mother Ruby, The Intruders’ sweet and heartwarming ode is also a rousing, rollicking funk tune with bright instrumentation and an infectious melody. The song honors Mama’s hard work and sacrifice—“The way she used to clean somebody else’s house just to buy me a new pair shoes”—but it doesn’t sacrifice joy in favor of solemnity. It’s a great song to play on Mother’s Day, especially if your mama loves to dance, and it also makes a lovely personalized ringtone. Just don’t make the same mistake I did—be sure to silence your phone before you go into a meeting.