Mama Said

Album: The Shirelles Sing to Trumpets and Strings (1961)
Charted: 4

Songfacts®:

  • This song has nothing to do with the Metallica song of the same name. It is, however, one of The Shirelles' biggest hits, being their fourth Top-40 in a career total of 12.

    "Mama Said" was a product of the Brill Building/1650 Broadway (see our interview with Toni Wine for more on that) "girl group" era, when songs were cranked out music factories in New York City. Various sources conflict, so we'll just say that The Shirelles' had a Shrodinger's chance of actually being produced by Phil Spector, may have one time been in the orbit of Atlantic Records, and the song "Mama Said" was probably written by either Willie Denson, Luther Dixon, Burt Bacharach, or Hal David, or any combination thereof.

    To give you an idea of how scattered music research can be, The Shirelles started out signed to Tiara Records by Florence Greenberg, who sold Tiara, Shirelles and all, to Decca Records. They then jumped to Scepter Records, also founded by Florence Greenberg, who rode Shirelles 'til her retirement when she sold Scepter to Springboard International, and then later Springboard International's catalog was bought by Gusto Records. So that's some five different companies you can license this song from. That's not counting the covers by the likes of Dionne Bromfield and Amy Winehouse. We give up on trying to peg authorship on a song at this point and declare that it grew on a tree.
  • Of course, "Mama Said" is still very much alive and well on the radio oldies' circuit, and has appeared in countless film and TV soundtracks, including commercials. It's a special favorite amongst chick flicks, with its most prominent use being in the soundtrack to One Fine Day. Another memorable usage is in the second episode of the second season of the original The Tracey Ullman Show, in the sketch titled "Drugs and Guns," in which Julie Kavner is a pharmacist bent on committing suicide after closing hours right when a robber (played by Dan Castellaneta) tries to rob the place. They end up singing it.
  • Amy Winehouse's teenage goddaughter Dionne Bromfield covered the song in 2009 taking it to #43 on the UK singles chart. Two years later Winehouse's last appearance on stage, three days before she passed away, featured her supporting Dionne in a performance of this song at London's Roundhouse.

Comments: 1

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 28th 1961, 'The Biggest Show of Stars of '61' played at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, Missouri...
    One of the acts to appear were the Shirelles; and at the time the quartet had two records on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, "Dedicated to the One I Love" was at #13 and "Mama Said" was at #42...
    "Dedicated" was heading down the chart, a month earlier on March 27th it had peaked at #3 {for 1 week}; while "Mama Said" was working its way up the chart, and on May 29th it would peak at #4 {for 2 weeks}...
    Chubby Checker was the show's headliner, and the other acts on the bill were Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, the Drifters, Chuck Jackson, and the Shells...
    The next night the tour would appear at the McCormick Place in Chicago.
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