'My Mother's Eyes': The History Of A Ballad for Moms
Moms have been canonized in song long before Taylor Swift’s “The Best Day,” The Backstreet Boys’ “The Perfect Fan” and Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama.”
During the Swing Era, these songs included the wistful WWII soldier’s ballad “Dear Mom” and Spike Jones and The City Slickers’ rendition of Milton Berle’s comical tune “Leave The Dishes In The Sink, Ma.”
Vaudeville star Georgie Jessel’s most famous comedy sketch was called “Hello Mama,” and he had the biggest musical hit of his career with “My Mother’s Eyes”:
Composed by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Abel Baer, the song was featured in the 1929 crossover silent-to-talkie movie “Lucky Boy.”
It would have been hard to predict then the incarnations this song would take over the years. No doubt no one in 1929 could have imagined a version like the one Tab Smith recorded in 1952:
Duke Reid, legendary Jamaican producer and founder of the Treasure Island record label, was also sponsor and presenter of a radio show Treasure Isle Time. Always a man of excellent musical taste, he chose the Smith recording as the program’s theme song.
The next year, 1953, Frankie Valli cut his first single (using the moniker "Frankie Valley," a variation on a name he adopted from singer Texas Jean Valli):
Eleven years later, renowned saxophonist Sonny Stitt titled his 1963 album “My Mother’s Eyes.” His easy, swinging rendition of the song is all Stitt style:
And in this century, a tear-jerking Valli recording of the song was featured in the 2014 movie “Jersey Boys”:
This week, listen to the “My Mama Done Told Me” edition of The Swing Years featuring songs for mom, from the heartbreaking to the humorous.