Album: John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band (1970)
Charted: 43


  • Lennon wrote this while he was undergoing "Primal Scream" therapy, where he was dealing with a lot of issues that were detailed in the lyrics: He lost his mother at a crucial period in his life to a drunk-driving, off-duty policeman who ran her over in a crosswalk, and his aunt Mimi raised him, which explains the line, "Mother you had me, but I never had you." His father, a merchant seaman, left him for the sea and for work. "I wanted you, you didn't need me" explains his feelings about his dad. Lennon's primal screaming on this song expresses the pain of his childhood. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bob - Boston, MA
  • The church bell heard at the start of this track was actually faster and higher-pitched initially, and John actually slowed it down to make it sound spookier and more haunting. His intention was to sound the death knell for his old life with The Beatles. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Noel - Barrow-In-Furness, England
  • This features Klaus Voormann on bass and Ringo Starr on drums. In addition to his work in music, Voorman is an artist, and designed the cover of The Beatles album Revolver. He also played bass with Manfred Mann. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • On many of his early solo recordings such as this one, Lennon's arrangements are more simpler and sparser than on the Beatles songs. In the January 1971 edition of Rolling Stone, he explained this was because, "I've always liked simple rock." The former Beatle added: "I was influenced by acid and got psychedelic, like the whole generation, but really, I like rock and roll and I express myself best in rock. I had a few ideas to do this with 'Mother' and that with 'Mother' but when you just hear, the piano does it all for you, your mind can do the rest. I think the backings on mine are as complicated as the backings on any record you've ever heard, if you've got an ear.

    Anybody knows that. Any musician will tell you, just play a note on a piano, it's got harmonics in it. It got to that. What the hell, I didn't need anything else."
  • Producer John Leckie explained to Uncut magazine August 2010 that the screams heard on this track were actually edited into the song once the rest of the vocal had been recorded. Lennon would attempt the screaming finale every night, careful never to try it in the daytime in case it destroyed his voice. "The screams were double-tracked," Leckie pointed out. "John didn't like the raw sound of his own voice. He always wanted lots of stuff on it. Spector's contribution, really, was to be generous with reverb and echo."
  • This is one of three songs which Lennon wrote for his mother, along with "Julia" and "My Mummy's Dead".
  • The psychologist Arthur Janov created primal scream therapy, which he detailed in his book The Primal Scream. Folks were always sending Lennon books, and a copy of Janov's book found him. Lennon was intrigued because the therapy reminded him of the screaming Yoko would often do in her works, but then he looked into it as a way of helping him resolve issues from his childhood. John and Yoko invited Janov to England, where they met with him to vet his practice. They liked what they heard and decided to try some sessions when they went to Los Angeles. For Lennon, it was a breakthrough, and led to this song.

    "It's just a matter of breaking the wall that's there in yourself and come out and let it all hang out to the point that you start crying," Yoko said in describing the therapy (Uncut, 1998). She added: "He was going back to the days of when he wanted to scream, 'Mother.' He was able to go back to that childhood, that memory."
  • This is the theme song to the FX TV series Better Things, which stars Pamela Adlon as a single mom to three girls. To get the song, she wrote a letter to Yoko Ono and lobbied FX to budget for it.
  • For Lou Reed, this song cut to the heart. "That was a song that had realism," he told Bruce Pollock. "When I first heard it, I didn't even know it was him. I just said, 'Who the f--k is that? I don't believe that.' Because the lyrics to that are real. You see, he wasn't kidding around. He got right down to it, as down as you can get. I like that in a song."
  • David Bowie covered this in 1998 for a Lennon tribute collection that never came to fruition. His take was done in collaboration with longtime producer Tony Visconti. It remained unreleased until January 8, 2021, when it was made available for the first time to mark what would have been Bowie's 74th birthday.

Comments: 26

  • Bobby from Robinson, Texas, United StatesFor sometime now, the song "Mother" by John Lennon has haunted me. Not in a bad way. It just repeatedly would fade in and out of my mind reminding me of my life. I miss my mother more than I can express. Those words are difficult to even say aloud without tearing up. I've have known of my biological father but never really came to know him much. From the distance which he put between us before I was born never grew much closer. I always felt alone and watched my mother struggle to provide and to watch her struggle to live was much more then a disparaging and horrific feelings one can only imagine, if you can refer to it as such. With the life we had it became more difficult watching my mother secum to diabetes. When a disease destroys you, leaving no quality of life to live but whatever doctors and nurses give you in a pill or injection. The will to go on becomes a thought "I'm tired of being tired, Father please take me home!" As I said words are difficult to describe the emotions. I guess there are many others who have been through similar situations, but Lennon tells the story I felt in my heart now for the last 63 years. I hope others who read my missive understand!
  • Hedrek from Los Angeles, CaI think Lennon would have been cognizant of and even receptive to the sort of criticism of this song that Dan has expressed. That Lennon laid it out there regardless is simply more evidence of the mfer's courage, and genius. More importantly, we should view the song not as John's feelings as an adult, per se, but as an adult speaking as the child he was, to give the child voice, and to help heal those wounds. Clearly fame, wealth, and acclaim didn't heal them, and only an internet tough guy would think that time does.
  • Emma from Brooklyn, NyI think this was kind of hypocritical of John to write as he wasn't much of a father to Julian. He shouldn't have criticized his own parents when obviously he had troubles with his son.
  • Austin from Midlothian, Vai love this song but i dont get the way he used "i couldn't walk, but i tried to run" the placment of it after "children dont do wat i have done" makes it sound like a bad thing but if someone said that to me i think itd be kinda like inspiring. its a great quote like one of my favorite just dont get it.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyIn a late 1980's interview, George said he was in the studio control room when John recorded this song in 1970 (George was recording All Things Must Pass in another Abbey Road studio) and John asked if he wanted to play on it. George said he declined, because he HATED the song.
  • Linc from Beaumont, TxIt is unfortunate that children often get caught in the cross-hairs of their parent's immaturity. It is sad that people who don't want kids keep having them while people who tryly do can't. Sometimes love is letting go and I think that John was able to sing this because he had let the past go - it wasn't raw anymore - once he forgave his parents and ultimately himself...but yes you carry that weight a long time! There is nothing harder than losing someone you love and are close to...
  • Tay from San Diego, Cathis song always makes me think of my birth mom. she had me at 14 & i only saw her one more time one i was 8. i think the father left her but i'm not quit sure. i don't have it as bad as john but, i have a hole in my heart & always think "what if?"
  • Krissy from Boston, MaI love this song. It's just amazing. Dan how u feel if u lost ur dad before u were born. And then lost ur mom at like 1 1/2 or 2 and then got her back and then lost her again at 17. It has to be very hard. I don't think I could imagine that. When he saw his dad in 64' or 65' he tried to seduce Cynthia and then turned around and ask him for a loan. And John turn around and threw him out. He had nothing to do with him since.
  • Joe from Perth, Australiajohn lennon the greatest artist of the 20th century
  • Eric from ValenciaTaishi, give your student a C minus for asserting that the song was released in 1975. It was released in 1970, and was the opening track from his debut post-Beatles LP John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, It made a re-appearance on the compliation album Shaved Fish in 1975.
  • Taishi from Fujisawa, JapanThis song was released in 1975. Lennon made this song because he has a pain of losing his parents. Father Alf Lennon left the family when John was an infant, and mother Julia died when her son was only 17.
    His aunt raised John.
    I like the line of this song, ?gMama don?ft go.?h
    The line has a deep message to need love from parents.
    This review was written by my student, Takato Matsumoto
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI don't mind Dan ripping on the song, even though I like it very much myself. His comment helps demonstrate that this song is a very love/hate type of affair. It does border on being more therapy than art or entertainment, but luckily Johnny boy pulls it off. And hey, dig the bit of humor on the piano at the very end!
  • Zach from Philly, Kson a live preformance lennon stated: this song is for every one who has lost parents
  • Zach from Philly, Ksyea mike, i know what you mean his voice gives me chills to, especially when he sings "daddy come home!" at the end
  • Jules from Sickelrville, Njcommon the rapper took the line "mother you had me but i never had you"
  • Andy from Hamilton, CanadaThis song is so powerful, he sings like a lost soul looking endlessely for the light at the end of the dark but never finding it and having no one to comfort him
  • Mike from Carrier Mills, IlThis one of my favorite songs. It's just John stripped bare with only a piano and drums. It's raw and emotional. You can feel his pain. His voice in this song gives me chills.
  • Ashleigh from Hammond, InOne of my Lennon favorites as well. I don't think it's whiny or pathetic at all. Anyone who thinks so probably doesn't know what it feels like to lose a parent. Even if the song had been utter crap, which it definitely isn't, I would've respected him just for being able to sing about something as personal as this. Lennon said he was talking about 99 percent of parents. This is probably because he knew that almost everyone out there has felt abandoned or neglected by their parents at some point in time, only we feel stupid for talking about it or how much it hurt us. He was speaking not only for himself but for everyone else who's ever had apathetic or neglectful parents. You'd be surprised at how much easier it makes things sometimes just to hear someone else say the things you feel but can't say for fear of sounding "whiny" or "pathetic."
  • Liliana from Huntley, Ilmusic is an outlet for emotion. a way to express what you feel just like writing and painting. it's just that lennon decided to share this with the world because it might ease someone else's pain like his. so this is not pathetic at all. it's so sad and must have been terribly hard for john to do this. inside he's just a child yearning for motherly love. (sob sob)
  • Shirley from Ocean, NjActually, he's just telling it like it was. Plain and simple.
  • Joe from West Creek, NjOne of my absolute favorite Lennon solo songs. You can just feel the emotion Lennon pours out on this song, just by reading the lyrics alone. And Dan, i think you're missing the point on this song. I'm sure you'd feel the same way as he felt writing this song if you lost your mother or someone you loved. I doubt you've experienced the type of pain that he had upon losing his mother, so you're right. Who are you to criticize?
  • Rene from Los Angeles, CaOne of John Lennon's greatest songs. You can really feel his pain.
  • Michael from San Francisco, Ca"A lot of people think it's about my parents but it's about 99% of parents, alive or half dead", Lennon said in 1972...but I think it's pretty obvious that this song is about his parents directly.
  • Andrew from Springfield, Morough quality
    i feel no ones pain
  • Shirley from Ocean, NjYou hit the nail on the head, Dan, who are you to criticize John Lennon?
  • Dan from Fort Collins, CoProbably my least favorite Lennon song. I think most people could appreciate John's pain without this pathetic, almost whining rendering of his hard life! Then again, who am I to criticize John Lennon?????
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