Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mama Said

It has been estimated that the late Ann Landers received more than 1,000 requests for guidance every week. Considering there are millions of willing sources of advice already available, it’s surprising Ann stayed so busy.

For starters, you can count on the mothers of the world to offer their counsel on every subject under the sun. And what mothers don’t cover, fathers will. Then you have sisters, brothers, friends and nosy neighbors. All are more than happy to give their two cents’ worth at any time.

It’s only natural that these voices of prophecy should be echoed in the oldies.  And just like in real life, some words to the wise are heeded, others aren’t.
In “Good-bye Yellow Brick Road,” Elton John ignores his father’s advice, then lives to regret it. Bill Withers appreciates his brother’s concern, but doesn’t mind a bit that he’s being used.   Neil Diamond begs his girl not to listen to her family. The Four Tops aren’t sure whether to believe the neighborhood gossip. And in “Maybe I Know,” Lesley Gore (may she Rest in Peace) is certain her boyfriend’s a cheat, but hasn’t a clue what to do about it.   
Well, Mama did say there would be dilemmas like this.

 My mama told me she said “Son please beware,
there’s this thing called love and it’s, ah everywhere.”
And she told me it can break your heart
and leave you in misery.
Since I met this little woman
I feel it’s happened to me.

         “Too Late To Turn Back Now”
         Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose

         When I became of age my mama called me to her side
She said “Son, you’re growing up now,
pretty soon you’ll take a bride.”
And then she said just because you’ve become a young man, now
there’s still some things you don’t understand, now.
Before you ask some girl for her hand now,
keep your freedom for as long as you can.

         “Shop Around”
         Smokey Robinson and The Miracles

People at school told me I couldn’t make it, that I’d wind up making potholders.   -  Stevie Wonder

You know my Papa disapproved it 
My Mama boo and hooed it.
But I told them time and time again:
“Don’t you know I was made to love her.”

         “I Was Made To Love Her”
         Stevie Wonder

• At a time when he was having marital problems himself, Ernie K-Doe rescued a song from writer Allen Toussaint’s trash that became an anthem for everyone who’d ever had the mother-in-law blues.

She thinks her advice is a contribution
But if she would leave that would be the solution.
And don’t come back no more.

         Ernie K-Doe

All through this long and sleepless night
I hear my neighbors talking
“She don’t love you.”
Saying out of my life into another’s arms
she’ll soon be walking.

         “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)”
         The Four Tops

• Before he died, Gale Garnett’s father -- a carnival pitchman and music hall entertainer -- advised his daughter to find her own place in the sun. Although the glow of success lasted for only one song, she did shine at the 1965 Grammy Awards when she won “Best Folk Recording of the Year.”

My Daddy he once told me
“Hey don’t you love you any man.
Just take what they may give you,
And give but what you can.”

         “We’ll Sing In The Sunshine”
         Gayle Garnett

       Oh, how you tried to cut me down to size
telling dirty lies to my friends.
Well my own father said
“Give her up, don’t bother.
The world isn’t coming to an end.”

                  “Walk Like A Man”
                     The Four Seasons

My brother, he sit me right down
and he talked to me.
He told me that I ought to not
let you just walk on me.
And I’m sure he meant well,
but when our talk was through
I said “Brother, if you only knew
you’d wish that you were in my shoes.”              

         “Use Me”
         Bill Withers

• In 1971, I’d gotten out of military school, had a bad draft board experience, a father in the FBI, and of course, there was Nixon. I had so many people trying to tell me what to do, I guess I revolted against a panorama of authority figures in the song. - Jonathon Edwards

     He can’t even run his own life,
     I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine.

                  Jonathon Edwards

         Love you so much, can’t count all the ways
I’d die for you girl and all they can say is
“He’s not your kind.”
They never get tired of putting me down
and I never know when I come around
just what I’m gonna find.
Don’t let them make up your mind.

         “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”
                  Neil Diamond

• Fourteen and fifteen-year-olds are really intense. They write in journals and they think really deep thoughts and spend a lot of time being real philosophers in a way.  - Janis Ian

         Come to my school, baby
         Everybody’s acting deaf and blind
         Until they turn and say
         “Why don’t you stick to your own kind?”

                  “Society’s Child”
                  Janis Ian

They said stay at home, boy, you gotta tend the farm
Livin’ in the city, boy,
Is gonna break your heart.
But how can you stay, when your heart says no,
How can you stop,
When your feet say go?

         “Honky Cat”
         Elton John

• While waiting for a stoplight to change, a ragged girl rushed up to Bob Gaudio’s car and started washing his windshield.  The girl’s face so haunted the Four Seasons member that he eventually wrote a song about her. For her trouble, she got a $5 tip. He drove off with a clean windshield and the inspiration for a gold record.

I’d change her sad rags
 into glad rags if I could.
My folks won’t let me ‘cause
they say that she’s no good.

         “Rag Doll”
         The Four Seasons

How many times did she fall for his lies?
Should I tell her
or should I be cool?

         “Silence Is Golden”
         The Tremeloes

• Woven into the lyrics of this Holland-Dozier-Holland hit are the names of two friends Diana claims are ill-suited to give her advice: fellow Supremes Mary and Flo.

All day long I hear my telephone ring
friends calling, giving their advice.
From the boy I love I should break away,
‘cause heartache he’ll bring one day.
I listened once to my friends’ advice,
but it’s not going to happen twice.
‘Cause all advice ever got me
was many long and sleepless nights.

         “Back In My Arms Again”
         The Supremes

  My folks moved to New York from California.
I shoulda listened when my buddy said
“I warn ya. There’ll be no surfin’ there,
and no one even cares.”

         “New York’s A Lonely Town”
         The Tradewinds

• The only time a group ever made it to number one while on active duty was with a song inspired by the beat of teletype machines in a Marine communications center.

My buddies tell me “fly to him, sigh to him,”
tell him I would die for him.
Tell him he’s the one.

         “Easier Said Than Done”
         The Essex

They told me “Be sensible with your new love,
don’t be fooled thinking this is the last you’ll find.”
But they never stood in the dark with you, love,
when you take me in your arms and drive me
slowly out of my mind.

                  “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me”
                  Mel Carter

• On the occasion of my first broken heart, a kind teacher told me “boys are like buses, another one will be along in ten minutes.” Obviously, Lesley Gore didn’t have such good counsel. She sticks by her jerky boyfriends in every song .

I hear them whispering when I walk by,
“he’s going to break her heart
and make her cry.”
I know it’s me they’re talking about,
I guess they all think I’ll never find out.

                  “Maybe I Know”
                  Lesley Gore


Honey don’t go; don’t leave this scene;
be out of the picture, and off the screen.
Don’t let them say “we told you so;”
they tell me you’ll love me
and then let me go.

         “Being With You”
         Smokey Robinson

•My father told me not to go into music which I couldn’t understand because he’d  once been a musician himself.
-Elton John

I should have stayed on the farm.
I should have listened to my old man.

         “Good-bye Yellow Brick Road”
         Elton John

People say you’ve been making out o.k.
She’s in love, don’t stand in her way.

                           “Hurts So Bad”
                           Little Anthony and The Imperials

My folks were always putting him down.
They said he came from the wrong side of town.
They told me he was bad,
but I knew he was sad.

         “Leader of the Pack”
         The Shangri-Las

Some jealous so and so wants us to part
That’s why he’s telling you
That I’ve got a cheatin’ heart.
Don’t believe all those lies,
Darling just believe your eyes.

         “My Heart Is An Open Book”
         Carl Dobkins, Jr.

I hate to say it but I told you so.
Don’t mind my preachin’ to you.
I said don’t trust him, baby,
now you know.
You don’t learn everything there is
to know in school.

         “Laugh, Laugh”
         Beau Brummels

One time or other, everybody listen to me,
You lose somebody you love.
But that’s no reason for you
to break down and cry.

         Tommy Roe

Ev’rybody tells me I’m wrong
to want you so badly.
But there’s a force driving me on
I follow it gladly.

         “Bend Me, Shape Me”
         American Breed

Mama told me not to come. She said “That ain’t no way to have fun, son.”
         “Mama Told Me”
         Three Dog Night

I remember what my Mama told me
she said “Girl, stay in your class.
You got a lot of growing and learning to do,
so girl, don’t you go so fast.”

                  “Mama Didn’t Lie”
                  Jan Bradley

I need love, love to ease my mind
I need to find, find someone to call mine.
But Mama said you can’t hurry love,
no, you’ve just got to wait.
She said love don’t come easy
It’s a game of give and take.

         “You Can’t Hurry Love”
         The Supremes                          

My eyes were wide open,
but all that I could see
were chapel bells tolling
for everyone but me.
But I don’t worry
’cause Mama said there’d be days like this.

         “Mama Said”
         The Shirelles

So cheers to all those advice givers in oldie goldie land. Now tell me YOUR favorite piece of advice from a classic tune!


  1. Lynn, I think you covered every 'mama' advice in musical history. All I can say is 'wow!"

  2. Thank you so much. It was fun putting it all together, Neal.