Pink Floyd

Mother

Composed by Roger Waters

Song Review by

Beginning as a folky ballad along the lines of "Wish You Were Here" and Simon & Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy in New York," that is to say, Dylan-esque, "Mother" is a series of questions from a frightened boy to his overprotective mother, along with her answers, which illuminate one of the most significant themes of the ambitious double-LP The Wall (1979): innocence crushed by experience, a defeat exacerbated, in fact instigated, by the very forces that are supposed to protect and stabilize. The lyric is arranged as a dialogue in a Freudian twist on the old R&B chestnut "Mockingbird," with the verses taken by the son -- "Mother do you think they'll drop the bomb?/Mother do you think they'll like this song?/Mother should I build the wall?" -- and the choruses in the voice of the mother: "Mother's gonna make all your nightmares come true/Mother's gonna put all her fears into you/Of course mama's gonna help build the wall." But the whole exchange takes place in the mind of the narrator, the now-grown boy, a rock star character named Pink. He sings to himself and to her, absent now, as if praying, blaming the overprotective, stifling mother -- a war widow -- for contributing to the adult man's difficulties in relating to the world. Pink, who is the subject/hero of the concept album, is an amalgam of personalities known to the songwriter, Roger Waters, including, in significant measure, his own. In fact, the LP can be considered semi-autobiographical; Waters' father died in World War II and his mother raised him alone in the shadow of that dark era in England. Of course, Waters became a somewhat disillusioned rock star as well, though apparently and thankfully not as walled-off as the narrator, who literally closes himself off in a hotel room with a nervous breakdown. Pink's art is driven by his same Freudian need to be accepted and loved as a child ("Mother do you think they'll like this song?"). Though as with the protective intentions of his mother, the love-cum-idolatry of the rock star's fans and the "protection" of him by management and record companies actually backfires, further walling him off from reality and coddling him to the point of hindering normal human development. "Mother," he asks tragically in the song's final line, "did it need to be so high." A wall meant to protect is now a hurdle to get over. "Mother" builds from the straight-up acoustic folk of the first verse to a more Stonesy, shuffling country-rock groove, with interesting shifts in time signatures. The first two verses build nicely from acoustic guitar, adding Hammond organ and layering more guitars and synthesizer pads. Yet another blistering David Gilmour guitar solo enters with the rest of the band as the first chorus ends, the rhythm section -- drums, piano, bass -- remaining in for the rest of the arrangement.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Wall 1979 Pink Floyd 5:34
The Wall [Video/DVD] 1983 Columbia
Shine On 1992 Columbia 5:35
No Image 1999 Polygram 6:37
Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall: Live 1980-1981 2000 EMI
Back Against the Wall 2005 Cleopatra 2:44
Oh by the Way 2007 Capitol 5:33
Discovery 2011 Parlophone 5:34
blue highlight denotes editor's pick