Shortly after Ronnie Van Zant's grandmother and Gary Rossington's mother died, they got together in Van Zant's apartment and started telling stories about them. Rossington came up with a chord progression, and Van Zant wrote the lyrics based on advice the women had given them over the years. They wrote it in about an hour.
Even though the lyrics state, "Sit beside me, my only son," Ronnie was not the only son. He had 2 younger brothers along with one older sister and one younger sister.
This appears on the soundtrack to the movie Almost Famous. (thanks, Aaron - Twin Cities, MN, for above 2)
Skynyrd producer Al Kooper didn't like the way this was coming out, so the band recorded it without him and had him add his organ part later. He didn't think they should release it, but realized he was wrong when it went over so well with their fans.
When Skynyrd toured in 1987, they dedicated this to Van Zant.
The studio and live versions of this song are tuned to different keys. The studio is in Ab while the live is the key of A. (thanks, Bryant - Salina, KS)
The Heavy Metal band Shinedown recorded an acoustic version. The Deftones also covered it on their B-Sides And Rarities CD. (thanks, Aaron - Twin Cities, MN)
Frontman Johnny Van Zant discussed this song in a track-by-track commentary to promote the band's 2010 CD/DVD Live From Freedom Hall. He said: "Well that's a great song and something that I think we all live by. I think anybody out there needs to respect their mother, and the words of their mother. It's mama talking to you in that song and I think it's probably one of my favorite's if not my favorite to do live. It's just a great song and that one stays in the set and the crowd always goes crazy on that one."
The song charted in the Hot 100 for the first time in May 2015. A version by Sawyer Fredericks, performed on the April 27, 2015 episode of The Voice, debuted at #71 the following week.