30 Mother’s Day Songs That Will Give You All the Feels
Sure, moms have infinite love to give, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve some in return. There are many ways to show your gratitude and devotion to mom: For starters, you can whip up some love in the kitchen with a fabulous Mother’s Day brunch and shower her with gifts when the holiday rolls around. Still, when it comes to expressing sentiment, it’s no secret that nothing delivers quite like music. Of course, picking the right song for the occasion is key—and when you’re hoping to demonstrate the depths of feeling you have for your mother, you definitely don’t want to mess around. Fortunately, there are a host of talented artists who have tackled this undertaking to great effect, so you don’t have to take up songwriting yourself. (Phew.) From tongue-in-cheek Merle Haggard to cloyingly sweet R&B ballads—and everything in between—here are our favorite Mother’s Day songs, so you can sweep your one-and-only off her feet. (Hint: Use ‘em for a thoughtfully curated playlist and thank us later.)
1. “Mama Said” by the Shirelles (1961)
An ode to the healing power of a mother’s wisdom, this Motown classic sings the praises of all the moms out there who provide much-needed comfort (and a reality check) in times of grief. The takeaway? Even though your mom totally told you so, you can still cry on her shoulder...but maybe don’t wait until heartbreak strikes to give her a call.
2. “Sadie” by the Spinners (1974)
This 70s R&B group from Detroit penned a heartfelt and nuanced number, dedicated to all the strong mothers they remember from their youth. The lyrics here hit the nail on the head, so you might want to have a box of tissues nearby. Case in point: “Sweeter than cotton candy/Stronger than papa’s old brandy/Always that needed smile once in a while/Sometimes she would break down and cry”. (Oof.)
3. “Mama Liked the Roses” by Elvis Presley (1970)
Elvis croons like nobody can in this wistful B-side to The Wonder of You album. The song, a melancholy number dedicated to his deceased mother, Gladys, also serves as a stirring reminder of how a mother can show her love with small gestures—the type that are easily overlooked until they’re gone. It’s a sad and rather morbid thought, but poignant nonetheless—and Elvis, with his satin voice, says it best: Bring your mother her favorite flowers while you can.
4. “Look What You’ve Done” by Drake (2011)
Grammy-award winner Drake’s aloof delivery here only serves to underscore the poignant message of the track, which chronicles the ups and downs of his relationship with his mother, from his humble beginnings to his rise to fame. The lyrics here touch on painful moments of tension between mother and son, but the overarching theme is one of gratitude for the support his mama showed him as he pursued his dream and her unshakeable belief that he would succeed.
5. “Where You Lead” by Carole King (1971)
If you think this Carole King tune sounds like a love song, you’re not wrong—it was originally written with romance in mind. That said, your mom will absolutely get the feels if you feature this one on her Mother’s Day playlist. Don’t take our word for it, just ask anyone familiar with Gilmore Girls: Carole King and her daughter re-released the classic early 70s song with a mother-daughter slant for the popular TV show.
6. “Hey Mama” by Kanye West (2005)
Yep, Kanye and his mama, Donda, were tight—a closeness the rapper paid homage to in this track off of Late Registration, which was released just two years before his mother’s untimely passing. The reverence comes through loud and clear with lyrics like, “Can't you see, you're like a book of poetry/Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni/Turn one page and there’s my mommy.” A beautiful ballad that will probably turn both you and your mama into a ball of mush.
7. “Dear Mama” by 2Pac (1995)
It’s hard to come by a more heartfelt letter from a son to mother than 2Pac’s tribute to his mom. A deeply personal reflection on his childhood, 2Pac’s lyrics capture the immense sacrifice and beauty of maternal love, while putting into words a sentiment that every mom wants to hear: “There’s no way I could pay you back, but the plan is to show you that I understand; you are appreciated.”
8. “Mother and Child Reunion” by Paul Simon (1972)
Owe your mom a visit? A phone call? Acknowledge your negligence and promise to do better with this upbeat ditty. Fun fact: The song itself was inspired and named after a chicken-and-egg menu item at a Chinese restaurant. (Mother and child reunion...get it?) But you probably shouldn’t mention that to your mom when you add it to her Mother’s Day playlist, lest you diminish the sentimental value.
9. “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift (2008)
What Taylor Swift’s take on mother-daughter relations lacks in nuance, it makes up for in sweet childhood nostalgia. This track from her Fearless album is a feel-good pop song that sounds like something from Starbucks’ permanent rotation (i.e., it’ll totally strike the right chords with mom).
10. “The Wish” by Bruce Springsteen (2014)
This ballad begins on a jangly, but relatively subdued note, serving up a brief, but unvarnished look at the Boss’s childhood—from the banal to the touching—before building up to a euphoric and celebratory sound. The inspiration for such joyous music is, of course, mom. In Springsteen’s ode to his mother, he promises “there won’t be a sad song tonight”—and let’s just say he delivers.
11. “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” by Glen Campbell and Steve Wariner (1987)
“There ought to be a hall of fame for mamas/Creation’s most unique and precious pearls/And heaven helps us always to remember/That the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Yep, this country song lays it on thick but don’t let that stop you from playing it for your mom—we promise she will swoon.
12. “December 4” by Jay-Z (2003)
Jay-Z raps about his early childhood and rise to fame in this song, while giving his mom props for supporting him through thick and thin. The track is named for his date of birth and actually features his mom, who shares both her birthing experience and her perspective on the artist’s childhood.
13. “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard (1968)
This gem from the great Merle Haggard is a good listen on any occasion, and an amusing acknowledgment of the hard work that goes into shaping a human. In this case, the narrator didn’t quite turn out the way mama would’ve wanted—a fact that in no way diminishes the effort she put in. Yep, when it comes to letting your mom off the hook, Merle’s classic does the trick
14. “I’ll Always Love My Mama” by the Intruders (1973)
This upbeat hit from the Philly soul group, The Intruders, is a spot-on expression of devotion to mom. Plus, this nostalgic number delivers all the feel-good vibes you’d expect from the lush and funky Philly sound, so it’s sure to transport your mom (or anyone, really) to a happy place. Groovy.
15. “The Sweetest Gift” by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris (1975)
Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, two of country music’s most angelic voices, sing the praises of a mother’s unconditional love in this wistful and touching 70s ballad about a mother visiting her “erring, but precious” (read: imprisoned) son. As for the sweetest gift, it was simply a warm and loving smile. Yep, you’re still your mama’s baby, even if you’ve been bad.
16. “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton (1971)
Grab a box of tissues, friends—you’re gonna need ‘em to get through this beautiful country ballad, sung by the one and only Dolly Parton. The song tells the story of a mother who, too poor to buy new clothes, sews her daughter a ‘coat of many colors’ from rags that she wears with pride, despite being teased by other kids. “I know we had no money/but I was rich as I could be/in my coat of many colors/my mama made for me/just for me.”
17. “Mom” by Earth, Wind and Fire (1972)
A mother’s unyielding love is the subject of this 70s slow jam from Earth, Wind and Fire—because even rock stars need a rock. Though the band was known for upbeat power funk, this sentimental number won over even the most hardened critics when it was released in November of 1972 and it has aged well.
18. “No Charge” by Shirley Caesar (1997)
The conceit of this one—an interaction that takes place after a son hands his mother an itemized bill for the housework he’s done—might sound a bit contrived at first; but brace yourself, friends, because when Shirley Caesar (AKA the First lady of Gospel) sings the mother’s response, the delivery will likely bring you to your knees.
19. “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men (1997)
You can always count on Boyz II Men to dial up the cheese factor, and their 1997 ode to mama is no exception. This ballad says every reverent thing you ever wanted to say to your mom—so if you want to include some super sentimental 90s R&B on your Mother’s Day playlist, this one is just the ticket.
20. “I’ll Be There” by Mac Miller (2011)
You know who’s not too cool to wax sentimental about mama? Mac Miller. Here, the rapper gets effusive with a touching tribute to the love and support his mom has provided over the years, a heartfelt promise to always have her back, and a call to action for everyone to do the same. “If you have your moms, you better treat her right/Call her up, say ‘wassup’ before you sleep tonight/Tell her you love her and thank her for what she did/You may be grown now but remember being a kid…” Amen.
21. “Ring Off” by Beyonce (2014)
Beyonce serves up some powerful emotional support for her mama with this track, written shortly after and about her mother’s divorce from her dad. The words of praise and empowerment are surely well-deserved, but let’s just say we’d all be lucky to have Beyonce for a daughter—and she really kills it here.
22. “Promise to Try” by Madonna (1989)
Another tearjerker, this track from Madonna’s seminal album, Like a Prayer, is a heart-wrenching expression of grief sung for her mother, who tragically succumbed to breast cancer when the future superstar was only five years old. If you play this one, be prepared for waterworks—with a finishing lyric that reads, “Can’t kiss her goodbye, but I promise to try,” this song has the power to bring just about anyone to tears.
23. “Julia” by the Beatles (1968)
This sweet track from the White Album was written by John Lennon for the two loves of his life: Yoko Ono and (you guessed it) his mom, Julia. A sparse but sweet poem with a beautiful melody, this soothing number has a refrain that says it all: “I sing a song of love, Julia.”
24. “Philomena” by Thin Lizzy (1974)
Phil Sygott, the oft overlooked genius behind Thin Lizzy, is responsible for this one. Sygott was very close with his mom, and this song, written for and named after his mother, presents an excellent opportunity to celebrate the devotion of mothers with an angst-ridden jam. Just do yourself a favor and give your mom a ring once you’re done rocking out. “She’s home, boys, home...when you’re far across the foam.”
25. “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes (1966)
Diana Ross’s vocals are a force of nature (obviously) on this classic Motown track from the 60s. Beyond being an excellent break-up song, this upbeat number also pays tribute to the infinite wisdom of mothers and the comfort they provide, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart: “But when I feel that I, I can’t go on/these precious words keep me hanging on/I remember mama said…”
26. “Mama” by Spice Girls (1996)
This pop group was all about girl power so it’s only fitting that they released this tribute to mothers in March 1997. In the fun and sweet song, the group members recall all the times their mothers were there for them...even when they were behaving badly.
27. “Mom” by Meghan Trainor and Kelli Trainor (2016)
With lyrics like “Ain't nobody got a mom like mine. Her love’s 'til the end, she's my best friend,” this upbeat ode to mothers hits all the right notes. And the singer-songwriter scores extra brownie points for recording a phone conversation with her mom, Kelli Trainor, to make the song even more special.
28. “Blue” by Beyonce (2013)
Of course we had to include Beyoncé twice in our roundup. “Blue” is an ode to the singer’s first-born daughter, Blue Ivy, and features a stream of beautiful and relatable lyrics, such as: “Each day/I feel so blessed to be looking at you/'Cause when you open your eyes/I feel alive.” (We’re also big fans of the music video that includes shots of Beyoncé and her family on vacation.)
29. “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys (2007)
In case you didn’t already know: Moms are total superheroes. Let your mom know how much you appreciate everything she does with this beautiful song by Alicia Keys that she released as part of her As I Am album (one that won her a Grammy Award for the best female R&B vocal performance in 2008, NBD).
30. “Mother” by Ray Charles (2002)
The genius of Ray Charles is uncontested—he even named an album for it and pulled it off—and this track is a testament to it. A perfect ten in terms of musicality, tone and pure soul, Ray Charles’ “Mother” is also a tender homage to his own mom who died when he was just 15 years old—a loss that devastated him and one that he continued to grieve throughout his life. In other words, this one is a soft and heart-wrenching song that will likely leave you misty-eyed.