The aforementioned Anaïs Mitchell, however, did make the cut, along with an eclectic group of artists including 2Pac, Brandi Carlile and Beyoncé. Mamma mia, here we go.
Listen along on Spotify as you read.
1. Kacey Musgraves: “Mother”
The shortest, sparsest song on Kacey Musgraves’s 2018 album, “Golden Hour,” is also the most emotionally piercing. “I’m just sitting here, thinking ’bout the time that’s slipping and missing my mother,” the country renegade sings with heartbreaking plaintiveness, before zooming out a generation and imagining that her own mother is probably doing the same. Musgraves has said that “Mother” is one of the “Golden Hour” songs she wrote while tripping on LSD — but don’t tell her mom that part. (Listen on YouTube)
2. Beverly Glenn-Copeland: “La Vita”
The pioneering composer and new age artist Beverly Glenn-Copeland has, in recent years, experienced a long-delayed and much deserved uptick in popularity thanks to a series of reissues and the enthusiastic embrace of a younger generation of musicians. The enchanting “La Vita,” from Copeland’s self-released 2004 album “Primal Prayer,” features operatic vocals from the soprano Maggie Hollis, over which Copeland intones a stirring lyric that ends with a profoundly grounding reminder: “And my mother says to me, ‘enjoy your life.’” (Remember that refrain; it’s going to make another appearance later in this playlist.) (Listen on YouTube)
3. Brandi Carlile: “The Mother”
Carlile doesn’t sugarcoat the experience of motherhood in this beautifully written standout from her 2018 album, “By the Way, I Forgive You,” but that gives the song a lived-in honesty, and makes its warmth come across as something more powerful than empty sentiment. “They’ve still got their morning paper and their coffee and their time,” she sings of her “rowdy” friends without children. But for all that is lost, she realizes, so much has also been gained since the birth of her daughter: “All the wonders I have seen I will see a second time from inside of the ages of your eyes.” (Listen on YouTube)
4. Merle Haggard: “Mama Tried”
“Instead of life in prison I was doing one-to-15 years,” Merle Haggard once admitted of the slight embellishment as to how he spent his 21st birthday in one of his most famous (and semi-autobiographical) songs. “I just couldn’t get that to rhyme.” Though its title gives repentance some lip service — hey, at least he’s not blaming her! — Haggard still sounds like a hellion on this 1968 hit. The more sincere Mother’s Day gift would arrive much later, in 1981, when he released the gospel album “Songs for the Mama That Tried,” and even put sweet Flossie Mae Harp on the cover. (Listen on YouTube)