A Playlist For My Mother: Reflections and Revelations

This post is dedicated to Sybrina Fulton, mother to Trayvon Martin, who is well within my heart and mind this Mother’s Day.


Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.  Last year, to commemorate the occasion, I dedicated a playlist to my mother, the woman I’ve often credited as the biggest influencer of my jazz inclinations.  You guys, the readers, seemed to really enjoy it, and so I wanted to make this an annual honor, and this year, I also wanted to reflect on my own experiences as a mother raising a child who, like me, is highly inspired by the music his parents play.

Coming in from my weekend errands a little while ago, I waved at neighbors, and admired the fruits of their gardening labors.  Spring is certainly here.  As I approached my house on this warm and sunny late morning, I hear the perfect syncopation of a beat that sounds like an ode to J Dilla.  Wait…it’s coming from my house.  I look up at the window.  I’m certain it’s my apartment…  and I’m floored that it’s my 3 year old son.  I knew he was good, but whoa.

As I come in the door, my mother, who came to spend some quality time with him, reports that he woke up demanding that before he eat or do anything else, he must play his drums.  Lo and behold, there he still sits, with his sticks (given to him as a gift from Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson), using his xylophone as the kick and a board game box which he propped on his piano as the snare, perfecting his set.  He instructs my mother to get on the microphone and sing, specifically, “Blue Monk”.  I can’t help but swell with pride at the honesty, genuineness, and frankly, at the incredibly budding talent exhibited by my dear son… and shake my head with reflection.  He’s me all over again.  I was the two year old tearing up behind the beauty of John Coltrane’s Ballads album, and singing Ray Charles’ big band arrangements verbatim.  Now, my son requests Monk, and has Thundercat, Sade, and Stevie Wonder in his mental Rolodex as sure as he knows “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.  What a  trip.

When he was still baking…

Being able to have such a deep spiritual connection with my son which revolves around what we both treasure most… at this age, is something indescribable.  The gifts of parenthood are so unexpected. When he was coming into the world, all I knew was that I wanted him to be healthy.  You know, the ten fingers and ten toes cliche. Now, uncovering everyday that it is so much more…well, what more can a human being ask for?  This Mother’s Day, with my son’s serenade swirling in my head, I’m grateful.

Music is the gift which must be payed forward.  So, in honor of my mother, who started this musical ball rolling, here is this year’s playlist.  All songs that she played for me when I was growing up.  They’re being passed down to our son like the treasures they are, and he’s soaking in every note.

Mom’s Playlist:

Aretha Franklin – “Holy Moses”
The Jacksons – “Destiny”
Stevie Wonder – “You and I”
Carmen McRae – “Reflections”
Ray Charles – “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”
John Coltrane & Duke Ellington – “Angelica”
Mahalia Jackson –  “Didn’t It Rain”
Clifford Brown – “Willow Weep For Me”
Sarah Vaughan – “Trolley Song”

10 responses to “A Playlist For My Mother: Reflections and Revelations

  1. Thank you Angelika, this is such an interesting post. I’m a french mum, rising up a nineteen months old baby girl. My 86 years old dad died january the 5th of this year. He used to be a jazz drummer and percusionnist. Now he’s gone, I feel even more surrounded in transmitting my daughter the passion that used to connect us so strongly. His recent departure has left such an abyss, hopefully music is still playing to remind me of every little moment we shared together, and helping me to explain and tell beyond words my daughter what a wonderful man was her granfather, and how life through music, can be beautiful and opening mind.
    I also have decided to dedicate my life to jazz and BAM by giving the possibility to families to come to listen and dance on jazz with their kids.
    Long life to you and your family, by the way, I have seen The RGE in Manduel, South of France at the beginning of april, it was absolutely fabulous !

  2. Thank you for this post Angelika, it talks to me so much. I’m a french mum of a nineteen months old babygirl. My 86 years old dad used to be a jazz drummer and percusionnist. He died january the 5th of this year leaving such an abyss in my life. He transmitted me so much through his passion, it’s like jazz is running in my blood. I’ve heard it since I was in my mum’s belly, I’m totally addicted. Now it’s my turn to make live this heritage, and tell my baby what a wonderful man her granfather was; I’m sure she’ll understand it all listening to this wonderful music.
    To me it’s the major form of art of the last decades, and I’m relevant to all jazz artists who have and carry on enriching my life.
    By the way, I’ve seen the RGE in Manduel, South of France at the beginning of april, it was such a wonderful concert it gave me the envy to organize meetings where families can come to listen and dance on jazz, and give the opportunity to people who don’t usually have it, to discover jazz music.
    Long life to you, your family, jazz and BAM.

    • Thank you so much. Wow, I love your story so much. I’m sorry that you’ve lost your father, I understand your loss, and also understand how much your father left you in the gift of music. It’s going to be amazing to celebrate and relive your childhood through him, and the wonderful music he left. For me, jazz keeps me totally connected to my roots, which is such a great feeling. I know you relate. I think it is a great idea to have family oriented meetings to listen/dance to the music. My son loves to attend concerts and enjoy the music socially. Kudos to you for thinking ahead this way.

      My very best wishes back to you and your family, jazz and BAM. To the little ones!

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