Monday, February 1, 2016

100 years ago: “M-O-T-H-E-R” hit #1

M-O-T-H-E-R (A Word That Means the World to Me)

Henry Burr

Writer(s): Theodore Morse (music), Howard Johnson (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: February 1, 1916

Peak: 16 US, 18 GA, 18 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.06 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This song was written by Howard E. Johnson, an American Navy veteran and songwriter. Composer Theodore F. Morse set the tune to music. While people typically only sing the chorus, the original song had two verses. RU While it has no specific religious words, the song is often sung in churches on Mother’s Day. RU

Mother songs were especially popular “among the sentimental ballads of the 1890s and the early years of the 20th century.” TY2 In this case, the song “spelled out the letters in the word ‘mother’ and what each of them meant” SM to the singer. “M is for the million things she gave me / O means only that she’s growing old / T is for the tears she shed to save me / H is for her heart of purest gold / E is for her eyes with love light shining / R means right and right she’ll always be / Put them all together they spell mother a word that means the world to me.”

Al Wohlman introduced the song in vaudeville DJ and Sophie Tucker helped popularize it in her vaudeville act. TY2 Singer Eva Tanguay performed the song as well and helped drive sheet music sales. It was first released in 1915 by Leo Feist Inc. of New York RU and at least two sheet music covers identified the song as “Eva Tanguay’s Great ‘Mother’ Song.” TY2

Henry Burr took the song to #1 in 1916. He was the #1 ballad singer of the pioneer era from 1890 to 1930. PM He charted 116 songs as a solo act from 1903 to 1928; this was his tenth of sixteen chart-toppers. He scored another 48 hits with duet partner Albert Campbell from 1911 to 1925. Eight of those went to #1. PM

George Wilton Ballard also charted with the song that year, reaching #7. PM The song was also used in the 1947 movie musical Mother Wore Tights. TY2


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First posted 3/18/2023.

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