Today is Mother’s Day.
This presents a wealth of column opportunities. I could list songs about mothers, by mothers of other musicians; all sorts of stuff. But I didn’t do that. Rather than pick one of those boring ideas, I put my mom, Carol Willis, to work cowriting this week’s edition about songs from her past that mean something to her.
I’ve mentioned her before in this column, usually when Gordon Lightfoot comes up, because of all her musical tastes, that’s the one that rubbed off the most. But aside from a regrettable pop-country phase I’ll never let her live down, she likes better music than I do so it’s a good chance to give you, my loyal readers, a break from ’90s alternative.
So without further ado, here are five songs from my mom’s youth with some commentary by my mom.
Grass Roots — “Midnight Confessions”
“This was the first and only song I was asked to dance to in middle school,” my mom explains, at a dance in seventh grade. Which turns out to be genetic—I didn’t do much dancing at middle school dances either, and on top of that, the music was much worse.”
A bit of history: Despite being the only Grass Roots song anyone remembers, it was written by the manager of a totally different band for them to cut as a demo, recorded by the legendary Wrecking Crew studio musicians rather than the actual band, and it was never released on a non-compilation Grass Roots album. Because sometimes the music industry is weird.
Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Suzie Q”
This just goes to show how much better my mom’s musical taste is than mine.
“This song was one of my favorite songs at the time and the reason I bought my first album (real vinyl from a record store) when I was 16,” she says. “I had just gotten my first job and had my own spending money for the first time.”
(A record store was like iTunes in a physical building. Ask your parents.)
(And iTunes was like Spotify but you had to pay per song. Ask your parents.)
Meanwhile, my first album was the in-retrospect-regrettable Michael Jackson album Bad, and the first CD I ever bought was the Wayne’s World soundtrack. Nowhere near as cool as CCR.
Gordon Lightfoot — “Sundown”
“This was the song that made me a lifelong fan of Gordon Lightfoot,” my mom says.
If you’re wondering why this song has made Rewind columns three or four times already, there you have it. It’s so good it’s intergenerational.
“I have many of his albums on vinyl and CD, and have seen him in concert many, many times,” she continues.
That may be an understatement. Of all the musicians I’ve seen, I’ve gone to more of his shows than anyone but Metallica. We just saw him in San Jose a couple months ago, in San Francisco a year before that and in Marin back in 2013.
Neil Diamond — “America”
I’m just going to let my mom tell this one, since I was technically there, but I don’t exactly remember it:
“I am a big Neil Diamond fan, and like a lot of his songs, but this song reminds me of being pregnant and going to a Neil Diamond concert. When the music from ‘America’ started playing, Danny started kicking along with the music and kicked during the entire song. After he was born, it seemed like he recognized this song and always perked up when he heard it.”
A few decades later, I write a music column. Coincidence?
John Denver — “Rocky Mountain High”
“I was also always a John Denver fan and liked many of his songs over the years, but this one reminds me of going to see all the Final Destination movies with my sons,” mom explains.
What, you don’t see slasher movies with your mom? You’re missing out.
“I really enjoyed those mother/son movies, even though my youngest son was probably too young to see those movies when we first started going together,” she continues.
To this day whenever “Rocky Mountain High” comes on, I have to text my mom. You never know, after all. If you’re about to get horribly mutilated in an unlikely and over-the-top household accident, who else should you call?
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, and to all moms, but mostly mine.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData. Probably don’t contact Carol Willis; she puts up with enough from editor Daniel J. Willis.