Mother (John Lennon song)

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Mother john lennon.PNG
US picture sleeve
Single by John Lennon
from the album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
B-side"Why" (Yoko Ono)
Released28 December 1970 (US only)
RecordedSeptember–October 1970
Length5:34 (album version)
3:53 (single edit)
3:50 (demo version)
Songwriter(s)John Lennon
Producer(s)Phil Spector, John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon singles chronology
"Instant Karma!"
"Power to the People"
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band track listing

"Mother" is a song by English musician John Lennon, first released on his 1970 album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. An edited version of the song was issued as a single in the United States on Apple Records, on 28 December 1970.[1] The single edit runs 1:41 shorter than the album due to removing the tolling bells that start the song and a quicker fade-out. The B-side features "Why" by Yoko Ono. The song peaked in the United States at number 19 on the Cashbox Top 100[2] and number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2]


The lyrics of "Mother" address both of Lennon's parents, each of whom abandoned him in his childhood. His father, Alf, left the family when John was an infant. His mother, Julia, did not live with her son, although they had a good relationship; she was hit and killed in a car accident on 15 July 1958 by an off-duty policeman named Eric Clague, when Lennon was 17. In one of his last concerts, Lennon stated that the song was not just about his parents, but was rather "about 99% of the parents, alive or half dead".[3][page needed]

"Mother" opens the album, starting with a funeral bell tolling slowly, four times. The song ends with Lennon repeating the phrase "Mama don't go, daddy come home", each time increasing in intensity until he screams the line as the song fades out.[4]

Lennon was inspired to write the song after undergoing primal therapy with Arthur Janov, originally at his home at Tittenhurst Park and then at the Primal Institute, California, where he remained for four months. Lennon, who eventually derided Janov, initially described the therapy as "something more important to me than The Beatles".[5][page needed]

Although Lennon said that "Mother" was the song that "seemed to catch in my head," he had doubts about its commercial appeal and he considered issuing "Love" as a single instead.[6] In November 1982, a remixed version of "Love" was released as a single to help promote The John Lennon Collection LP.[7]

An early version of "Mother" performed on an electric guitar by Lennon can be heard on the John Lennon Anthology box set.[8]

A demo version of the song was featured in the final scene and credits of the 2009 John Lennon biographical film, Nowhere Boy.[9]


Cash Box said of the single version that "spare production work and a powerful melancholy vocal give the [song] its disturbing brilliance.[10]

Other versions

Barbra Streisand recorded "Mother" (as well as Lennon's "Love") on her 1971 album Barbra Joan Streisand;[11] it was also released as a single. The song also featured on Lennon's live album Live in New York City, released by Lennon's widow Yoko Ono after his death. Other songs born out of this period of therapy include "Working Class Hero" and "Isolation".

Shigesato Itoi, creator of the Mother video game series, stated in an interview that this song was in large part the inspiration for his naming of the series.[citation needed]

Mia Martini recorded in 1972 this song in Italian, with the title literally translated as "Madre".

Maynard Ferguson recorded the song on his 1972 album M.F. Horn Two.

South African artist Ratau Mike Makhalemele covered the song on an EP of Lennon covers in 1990.[12]

Shelby Lynne covered this song on her 2001 album Love, Shelby. Christina Aguilera covered the song in 2007 for the benefit album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.

Eminem sampled the song for his song "Headlights", featured on the album the Marshall Mathers LP 2.[citation needed]

Folk artist Jackie Oates included a version of the song on her 2018 album The Joy of Living.

Lou Reed covered the song several times live featuring electric guitars and violins.[13]

David Bowie recorded the song as a demo, posthumously released on 8 January 2021.


The musicians who performed on the original recording were as follows:[14]

Lennon plays guitar rather than piano on the Nowhere Boy demo version.[9]

Additional notes

  • "Mother" serves as the theme song for the FX series Better Things.
  • "Mother" was one of the primary inspirations behind Nintendo and APE's role-playing video game series of the same name created by Shigesato Itoi.
  • It was re-released on 3 March 2021 in relation to the super deluxe box of the Lennon album Plastic Ono Band.
  • It was sampled by American experimental band Death Grips on their song "Double Helix" from their 2012 album The Money Store.
  • It was sampled by rapper Eminem on his song Headlights in 2013.

See also


  1. ^ Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, eds. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970–2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 9780711983076.
  2. ^ a b Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
  3. ^ Doggett, Peter (2009). The Art And Music of John Lennon. London, England: Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780857121264.
  4. ^ Urish, Ben; G. Bielen, Kenneth (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-275-99180-7.
  5. ^ Coleman, Ray (1984). Lennon: The Definitive Biography. London, England: Pan Publishing. ISBN 978-0060986087.
  6. ^ Wenner, Jann (1971). Lennon Remembers. San Francisco, California: Straight Arrow Press. pp. 110, 112. ISBN 978-1859843765.
  7. ^ Madinger, Chip; Easter, Mark (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium. Chesterfield, Missouri: 44.1 Productions. pp. 38–39, 576. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
  8. ^ "Mother". The Beatles Bible. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b Roberts, Michael. "'Isn't he a bit like you and me'?". Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  10. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. 2 January 1971. p. 14. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  11. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Barbra Joan Streisand – Barbra Streisand | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  12. ^ Currin, Brian. "Mike Makhalemele – Mind Games". Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  13. ^ Provolhouse, Lou Reed ~ MJF ~ Mother (John Lennon cover) ☺, archived from the original on 21 December 2021, retrieved 22 January 2019
  14. ^ Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. p. 57. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X.