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10 Artists Who Paid Tribute To Their Parents In Their Music: Green Day, Pink Floyd, And More

by Joey DeGroot   Jan 12, 2015 15:36 PM EST

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Today, indie folk singer Sufjan Stevens announced the release of a new album Carrie & Lowell, which is named after his mother and stepfather and features a photograph of the two on the front cover. After all that rock music has done to encourage people to disobey their parents, it's honestly refreshing to see Stevens pay tribute to his parents this way, but he's far from the only rock artist who has done this. Here are 10 artists who have paid tribute to their parents in their music, either with one song or with entire albums.

1. John Lennon - "Mother"/"My Mummy's Dead" (1970)

One of the key components to the story of John Lennon is his relationship with his mother, who was tragically struck by a car and killed in 1958 when Lennon was 17 years old. He had first written about his mother on the Beatles' "Julia" from "The White Album," and on his emotionally raw solo debut John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Lennon wrote two songs for her: opening track "Mother" and the lo-fi closing track "My Mummy's Dead."


2. Bruce Springsteen - "Adam Raised A Cain" (1978)

While growing up in New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen had a complex, volatile relationship with his father, which inspired him to write his heavy 1978 song "Adam Raised a Cain," comparing his relationship to his father to the tragic Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Despite their strained relationship, Springsteen would later go on to thank his father during his induction speech for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, asking, "What could I conceivably have written without him?"

3. Pink Floyd - "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1" (1979)

The lyrics of Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters often deal with themes of war and pacifism, largely influenced by the loss of his father in World War II when he was just five months old. Waters' most explicit reference to his father's death came on Pink Floyd's rock opera The Wall, particularly the track "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1," which describes the death of the protagonist's father "across the ocean" as being the beginning of his mental deterioration (or the first "brick in the wall").

4. Slint - Tweez (1989)

Most of the songs on Slint's 1989 debut album Tweez were named after the band member's parents, but since there were nine songs and only eight parents between the four members, the album's ninth track "Rhoda" was named after drummer Britt Walford's dog instead.

5. Jeff Buckley - "Dream Brother" (1994)

Before he became famous as the guy who so beautifully covered Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Jeff Buckley was known as the son of late '60s/early '70s avant-folk singer Tim Buckley, who passed away of a heroin overdose at age 28 in 1975 after having met his son just one time. Jeff's estranged relationship with his father haunted him throughout his life, prompting him to write the song "Dream Brother," an urging to a friend to not abandon his pregnant girlfriend the way Jeff's own father had abandoned him and his mother.

6. Rage Against The Machine - "Born of a Broken Man" (1999)

The father of Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha was Mexican-American muralist Beto de la Rocha, who was a member of art collective Los Four until the mid-70s, when he suffered a mental breakdown, destroyed his paintings, and devoted his life to Christianity. Zack de la Rocha would pay tribute to his father in Rage Against the Machine's "Born of a Broken Man" from 1999.

7. Green Day - "Wake Me Up When September Ends" (2004)

Though the music video for Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" depicts the death of a young man in the Iraq War, the song's lyrics are actually about singer Billie Joe Armstrong's father, who passed away of cancer when Armstrong was just 10 years old.

8. The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain (2007)

While most of the other artists on this list wrote individual songs about their parents, Canadian indie folk band The Acorn wrote an entire album about the life of singer Rolf Carlos Klausener's Honduran-born mother Gloria Esperanza Montoya, whose name roughly translates to "Glory Hope Mountain," which was used as the album's title.

9. Dirty Beaches - Badlands (2011)

Though the songs on Dirty Beaches' Badlands may not explicitly be about frontman Alex Zhang Hungtai's father, Hungtai claims that the album's '50s and '60s-rooted sound was inspired by a photograph he found of his father playing in a Chinese doo-wop band as a young man, of which he was the lead singer.

10. Sun Kil Moon - "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love"/"I Love My Dad" (2014)

As much of a crank as Mark Kozelek can be, he seems to have a soft spot for his parents, so much so that he wrote two songs for them on the latest Sun Kil Moon album Benji: "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love" and "I Love My Dad," both of which are surprisingly sweet and refreshingly unironic.


Who are some other artists that have paid tribute to their parents in their music? Let us know down in the comments section below!

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