Love has always been a wellspring of inspiration for musicians. While there are certainly many different types of love to draw inspiration from, it’s the all-encompassing, unconditional love a parent holds for their child that has produced some of the most poignant tunes. In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a list of touching songs women musicians have written for their children.
Joni Mitchell— “Little Green”
The third track on Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue, “Little Green” was written after Mitchell gave birth to her daughter and signed the papers to place her up for adoption. A single, 20-year-old art student at the time, Mitchell felt she couldn’t give Kelly Dale (whose name was later changed to Kilauren Gibb by her adoptive parents) the life she deserved. “I was dirt poor. An unhappy mother does not raise a happy child. It was difficult parting with the child, but I had to let her go,” Mitchell said. On an album chock full of intimate, straight from the heart songs, it’s “Little Green” that’s the most personal. “Child, with the child, pretending/ Weary of lies you are sending home/ So you sign all the papers in the family name/ You’re sad and you’re sorry, but you’re not ashamed/ Little Green, have a happy ending,” softly croons Mitchell over acoustic guitar accompaniment.
Carole King—”Child of Mine”
By the time Carole King put out Writer, her first studio album, in 1970, she’d already given birth to two daughters, Louise and Sherry Goffin. The record’s “Child of Mine”—penned with King’s former husband and father of her children, Gerry Goffin—is as much a lullaby as it is a lovely tribute to one, if not both, of her daughters. As every good parent should, King acknowledges that she can learn from her children just as much as they can learn from her, and she knows when to take a step back so as to not impede their growth. “You don’t need direction, you know which way to go/ And I don’t want to hold you back, I just want to watch you grow/ You’re the one who taught me you don’t have to look behind/ Oh yes, sweet darling/ So glad you are a child of mine,” King sings.
Annie Lennox— “Precious”
A departure from the usual ballad an artist writes for their child, Annie Lennox’s “Precious” is groovy and funk-influenced. The second single from her debut solo album, 1992’s Diva, the song is dedicated to her daughter, Lola, Lennox’s first child after experiencing a stillbirth in 1988. So, it makes sense that the song is infectiously joyous. “It is a very personal, sweet song. I lost my first baby, and when you lose a child, you have to carry on in life without them being a continuing part of it. It changes the entire way you see everything. Further on down the line, my daughter was safely brought into the world, and I wrote this song for her, because I was just so profoundly grateful for her existence,” Lennox wrote in 2009.
The Highwomen— “My Only Child”
The Highwomen, a country supergroup comprised of Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby, released their eponymous debut album in 2019. Nestled in the back half of the record is “My Only Child,” a song that stemmed from a conversation Hemby had with her daughter, who happens to be, you guessed it, an only child. “It’s kind of funny, and it’s kind of not, but I started this song because my kid kept asking me for a sister and a brother. I didn’t want to explain to her about cobwebs and ovaries and things like that, so I was just like, ‘Well, you know, Mommy … I don’t know that that’s really a possibility,’” she said. Written by Hemby with the help of Shires, who also has one daughter, and fellow genre megastar Miranda Lambert, the result is an incredibly intimate song, exploring the emotions a conversation like this brings on, and it’s bolstered by Hemby’s full, rich timbre and Shires’ wistful fiddle.
Patti Smith—”The Jackson Song”
Similar to Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Patti Smith and her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, who was a founding member of the Detroit-based rock group MC5, joined forces to write a lullaby for their child. “The Jackson Song,” named for and dedicated to their son born in 1982, can be found on Smith’s Dream of Life album, the only one Smith made with her husband. It echoes many of the same sentiments as “Child of Mine.” “May your path be your own/ But I’m with you, And each day you’ll grow/ He’ll be there too/ And someday you’ll go/ We’ll follow you/ As you go, as you go,” Smith softly sings.