Love is a major driving force behind creativity. Romance has led more than a few musicians to the Grammys (just ask Taylor Swift and the army of ex-boyfriends she left in her wake), but not all kinds of love are equal. There’s almost nothing on this planet more inspiring than the love a parent has for their children.
These musicians were all inspired to write touching songs for their kids. For Madonna, that meant wading into the inevitable territory of lending your teenager the keys to your car. For Will Smith, that meant watching 101 Dalmatians yet again. For another musician, the tragic loss of a kid helped them write a six-time Grammy award-winner. These touching songs will make you want to hug your mama and thank her for all the hard work.
Closing Time – Semisonic
“Closing Time” is a hallmark of the ’90s — and also the song that threw Semisonic into one-hit wonder fame. Though on the surface, the song appears to be about leaving a bar after last call, Dan Wilson, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, penned the hit about the birth of his child.
“Part way into the writing of the song, I realized it was also about being born. My wife and I were expecting our first kid very soon after I wrote that song. I had birth on the brain, I was struck by what a funny pun it was to be bounced from the womb,” he told American Songwriter.
Sympathy – Sleater-Kinney
Sleater-Kinney aren’t just a radically feminist riot grrl band. They’re also moms (and moms who rock super hard, at that). Corin Tucker penned the outfit’s song "Sympathy" about her son Marshall Tucker Bangs, who was born nine weeks premature. The song appears on their politically charged album One Beat, which sees Tucker wearing a Marshall Tucker Band T-shirt in the CD booklet.
"It was one of those jokes my husband and I had. We just joked, ‘It would be funny to name a kid Marshall Tucker Bangs.’ But then I felt, ‘Hey, I really like the name Marshall.’" she told Rolling Stone.
Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
"Tears in Heaven" may be one of the most gutting songs about a child in the history of music. Clapton penned the massive hit, which appeared on the 1991 Rush soundtrack, when his four-year-old son, Conor, fell to his death from the 50th floor of a New York City apartment building.
Despite the tragedy that inspired the song, it became one of Clapton’s biggest hits and helped the star win six Grammys in 1996. It remains one of the best-selling pop songs of the ’90s with over 2,800,000 singles sold. Today, Clapton no longer plays the song live, claiming he’s moved past the emotional distress that caused him to write it.
Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder
“Isn’t She Lovely” is one of the few pieces of recorded music that sound like pure ecstasy — and even if it didn’t, the sheer number of instances of the word “lovely” would lead you to believe Motown hero Stevie Wonder was so happy he just couldn’t contain it. As it turns out, Wonder penned the hit for his daughter Aisha Morris.
Though the song is widely known today, it was initially not released as a single. The track was over six minutes long, and Wonder was unwilling to shorten the lengthy outro that had the sounds of a real baby crying during childbirth. In 1976, he finally relented. A promotional cut was given to radio stations and the rest is history.
Up All Night – Maria Taylor
Maria Taylor has built a career out of airy, melancholy love songs — but “Up All Night” sees a different side of the artist. The Saddle Creek singer-songwriter penned the hit about the birth of her first child and what it was like to be pregnant while touring the world. The standout lyrics “we crossed the ocean, from to shore / and our love was sworn then” paint a relatable picture of how a mother carries her child and a bond is formed long before birth.
“I think motherhood can only make people better. It forces you to be selfless, and it forces you to love more than you ever knew that you can love. It just feels really good to not care about myself so much,” she told Paste.
Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
Paul McCartney has hailed “Beautiful Boy” as his favorite John Lennon song. That says a lot. The former Beatle wrote the hit about his son Sean, the only child he shared with Yoko Ono. Unlike most of Lennon’s hits which take a political approach, the songwriter opted for a McCartney type of simplicity. The main hook is nothing more than “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.”
“Beautiful Boy” sums up the overwhelming feelings of love a parent has for their child. It wins with its simplicity. Sometimes, the strongest emotion doesn’t come from a groundbreaking event or a meaningful conversation. Sometimes the way you feel when you look at someone you love is the most overwhelming emotion of them all.
Stay Up Late – Talking Heads
“Stay Up Late” is found on the Talking Heads’ aptly titled LP Little Creatures. This pure slice of joy paints a very real picture: one where you’re so obsessed with your kid that you want to play with them all the time, even if it means them forgoing their nap and inadvertently making them super, super cranky.
Frontman David Byrne penned the song about his daughter Malu Abeni Valentine Byrne, but switched her gender in the lyrics to make the song about a little boy. Is there anything more relatable than the lyrics “See him drink from a bottle/See him eat from a plate/Cute as a button”?
Sweetest Devotion – Adele
Adele’s “Sweetest Devotion” comes from her third studio album 25. This time, the singer isn’t chasing pavement in devastating love songs. She’s a mommy, now. Adele wrote the song about her son Angelo, who she gave birth to in 2012, and included his vocals in the intro and outro.
“Yeah, I recorded [Angelo],” she told NPR. ” You know, I was always looking for the feeling that he gives me, and I was looking for it everywhere in the wrong places, having no idea that I would find it in having a child. I thought I’d have a kid in my 30s, to be honest. And I think everyone thought I was crazy for having a baby when I did, but I feel like he was my little angel, and he came down to save me.”
I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann Womack’s early 2000s chart-topper wasn’t specifically written by the artist about her daughters, but it took on a new meaning. The song was penned by Tia Sillers and Mark Sanders, but the music video — which features Womack with her kids — helped shape the message to be about motherhood. The lyrics, which include the inspiring lines "I hope you never lose your sense of wonder" and "whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens" are pretty much everything we could wish for our children.
"[The song] made me think about my daughters and the different times in their lives. As a parent, you just hope those are the kinds of things you will make your children think of," Womack told Billboard.
My Baby – Britney Spears
Britney Spears has had her fair share of rocky relationship but "My Baby" from her 2008 album Circus is about none of them. The singer penned the song about her two sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James Federline. With lyrics like "I smell your breath / it make me cry / I wonder how I’ve lived my life," it’s clear that Spears has an overwhelming amount of love for her children. In a 2016 Marie Claire cover story, the singer credited her children for helping her overcome her crippling anxiety.
"My boys don’t care if everything isn’t perfect, they don’t judge me," she toldthe women’s magazine, adding, "The best relationship I’ve ever had is with my boys."
Blue – Beyoncé
Beyoncé may be the arguable queen of modern hip-hop, but she’s got a princess in line to take the throne. In 2011, Bey debuted her pregnancy when she unbuttoned her blazer while performing “Love On Top” at the MTV VMAs. Blue Ivy Carter, the singer’s first daughter with husband Jay-Z, was a star before she was even born.
Bey penned her hit “Blue” about her first daughter — with her first daughter. There’s nothing like a mother-daughter collab. The singer put a sample of the toddler talking towards the end of the track and peppered the jam with sweet lyrics like “each day I feel so blessed to be looking at you ’cause when you open your eyes, I feel alive.”
Just The Two Of Us – Will Smith
In 1997, Will Smith flipped the classic song “Just The Two Of Us” on its head. The track was originally written by Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr. about a romantic relationship, but Smith penned his version about his sons Trey Smith and Jaden Smith.
Smith’s song is so successful and sweet because it shows the lighthearted parts of parenthood — watching 101 Dalmatians ad nauseum and wondering what your kid is gonna be when he grows up. Best line? “I will test that butt when you cut outta line – tru dat.” Somehow we’re guessing wearing a Batman suit to a wedding doesn’t quite count as misbehaving in the Smith household.
Precious – Depeche Mode
Martin Gore typically remains quiet about the inspiration behind his lyrics, but “Precious” saw a rare admittance. Though the song is sung by Depeche Mode’s lead singer Dave Gahan, it remains deeply personal for Gore who penned the track about his divorce from Suzanne Boisvert and impact it might have on their children, Viva Lee, Ava Lee and Calo Lee Gore.
Gore and his wife got divorced almost immediately after moving to California from England, where they had lived for the previous 11 years. “It wasn’t my choice at the time. We got divorced almost immediately, but we have children together and my son is still only 14 so I see him every other week when I am at home,” he told The Quietus.
It’s So Hard When It Doesn’t Come Easy – The Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks’ 2006 album Taking The Long Way led them to four Grammy awards. Though it’s best known for the politically-charged anthem “Not Ready To Make Nice,” which took home the title of Best Country Performance, “It’s So Hard When It Doesn’t Come Easy” focuses on Emily Robison and Martie Maguire’s struggle with fertility.
“I think you go through almost every emotion. I know my husband felt guilty. I know I felt guilty. For a moment you sit there and think if this doesn’t happen, will he love me any less?” Robison told ABC. The bandmates have each had three children since writing the song. Maguire even gave birth to twins!
Pleasure Is All Mine – Bjork
Björk gave birth to her daughter Isadora in 2002, but the Icelandic vocalist was still pregnant while writing her sixth album Medulla, named after the medical term for bone marrow. As a result, we got the breastfeeding anthem we never knew we needed.
“Mouth’s Cradle” isn’t the only song about breastfeeding on the LP, which also includes the more literal “Pleasure Is All Mine.” In fact, most of the album focuses on the singer’s journey to motherhood. Some of the most poignant lyrics on “Mouth’s Cradle” — “that ghost is brighter than anyone/And fulfills me with hope” — depict the pure joys of motherhood.
What I Never Knew I Always Wanted – Carrie Underwood
With lyrics like “Never pictured myself singing lullabies / Sitting in a rocking chair in the middle of the night In the quiet, in the dark / You’re stealing every bit of my heart with your daddy’s eyes,” Carrie Underwood’s “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted” is an anthem for new moms. The star captures the very human feeling of unexpectedly falling into motherhood.
“It surprised me that [motherhood is] a little easier than I thought it was gonna be,” Underwood told People of her first child. “I think I just expected, like, screaming, crying baby all the time, and he’s just happy and smiley and gorgeous.”
Too Hard – Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile lacked the money to film a proper advertisement for his single “Too Hard.” Instead, the singer-songwriter opted for a video of his oldest daughter running around his record collection while wearing a zebra mask. The clip ran as an infomercial on a local Pennsylvania TV station, but the image makes sense with the lyrics.
Vile penned “Too Hard” about fatherhood and raising his daughter Awilda Vile. It focuses on the heightened sense of responsibility parents have now that they’re looking after a whole new life. Basically, Vile vows not to “smoke too much” or “party too hard,” which is pretty sound advice if you ask us.
You Are My Baby – Kimya Dawson
Kimya Dawson rose to fame after being featured on the soundtrack to the 2007 teen pregnancy movie Juno. The singer-songwriter has since given birth to her own daughter named Panda Delilah. Since becoming a mom, Dawson had penned a number of albums for both children and adults, but “You Are My Baby” remains one of the poignant tracks about Panda, who sometimes accompanies her mother with backing vocals and joins the singer-songwriter on tour.
In the track, Dawson sings, “I hope you will be gentle, kind, compassionate and free. No matter what, I”ll always love you unconditionally.” What mama can’t relate?
Superstar – Madonna
In 1996, Madonna gave birth to her daughter Lourdes. Two years later, the pop icon penned “Little Star.” With lyrics like “God gave a present to me / Made of flesh and bones / My life, my soul / You make my spirit whole,” the track was undoubtedly poignant, but the real mommy anthem we were all waiting for came years later.
In 2012, Madge covered the often-ignored topic of raising a teenager. MDNA’s “Superstar” serves as a follow-up to “Little Star” and even features her daughter’s vocals. The song is about being your kid’s biggest fan — and even lending your teen the keys to your car. Just make sure you fill it back up with gas when you’re done!
Here For You – Neil Young
Plenty of songwriters are moved by the birth of their kid, but what about after? Neil Young tackled the often-ignored subject of adult children. He penned “Here For You” for his daughter Amber Jean during her final year of college. It served as a painful reminder that fathers must eventually accept the fact that their baby girls are going to grow up. “I miss you/But I never want to hold you down/You might say I’m here for you,” is particularly poignant to parents everywhere who are yearning for their children’s youth.
Thankfully for Amber Jean, she was past the age where she’d probably be teased about her pop’s sappy songs. That plus the fact that her dad is Neil Young — honestly, could anyone talk smack about that?