Meaning of Mama by Genesis



The Meaning Behind “Mama” by Genesis

Genesis is one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, and their song “Mama” from their 1983 self-titled album was a significant milestone in their career. This song has resonated with many listeners because of its emotional lyrics and haunting melody. In this blog post, we will explore the meaning behind the song “Mama” by Genesis.

The Inspiration Behind the Song

According to lead singer Phil Collins, the inspiration behind the lyrics of the song “Mama” came from a horror movie he had watched called “Psycho”. The song is said to be based on the relationship between Norman Bates and his mother in the film. Collins had been fascinated by the character of Norman, who had murdered his mother, but still had a strong emotional attachment to her.

The song “Mama” explores the theme of a mother-son relationship, where the son is dependent on his mother emotionally. However, the twist is that the mother in the song is not his actual mother, but a prostitute who resembles her. The son is obsessed with the prostitute and wants her badly, but she is not interested in him. The song is based on a book Phil Collins read called The Moon’s A Balloon, by David Niven. In the book, a young man falls in love with an older prostitute who does not return his affections.

The Lyrics

The lyrics of the song “Mama” are powerful and striking, reflecting the emotions of a son who is struggling to break free from the emotional grip of his mother/prostitute. The opening lines of the song set the mood for what’s to come:

I can't see you, Mama
But I can hardly wait
Oh, to touch and to feel you, Mama
Oh, I just can't keep away
In the heat and the steam of the city
Oh, its got me running and I just can't brake

The son is unable to see his mother/prostitute, but he is eagerly waiting for her. He wants to touch and feel her, but he knows he can’t have her. He is trapped in the city, where he feels restless and desperate.

The chorus of the song is equally intense and emotional, where the son calls out to his mother/prostitute, pleading for her to let go of him:

Mama, I just want you to know
Lovin' you is like food to my soul

The son expresses his love for his mother/prostitute, which is like food to his soul. He needs her to survive, but he also knows that she is hurting him. He wants her to release him from his obsession.

The song conveys the idea that the love the son has for his mother/prostitute is akin to an addiction, one that he can’t help or control. He is tormented by his feelings, which are mixed with fear, anger, and frustration.

The Music

The haunting melody of “Mama” is a perfect match for the dark and emotional lyrics. The opening notes of the song set a suspenseful tone, and as the song progresses, the music builds on this sense of unease and tension.

The song’s climax is a powerful and impactful moment, where Collins’s vocals reach their highest pitch. He delivers a maniacal laugh that echoes throughout the song, creating a chilling effect. The laugh was inspired by rap music pioneer Grandmaster Flash’s song “The Message”.

The instrumental breaks in the song are also noteworthy, with the use of synthesizers intensifying the song’s emotional depth. The unusual percussion was created by Mike Rutherford with a drum machine set to distort the beats.

The Impact of “Mama”

“Mama” is one of Genesis’s most well-known songs, and its impact on their career and the music industry is undeniable. The song reached number four on the UK Singles Chart, making it their most successful single in their home country. It also made the top 10 in Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands. It was less popular in the US, only reaching number 73 on the Billboard Hot 100.5 A 1992 re-release of the single managed to reach the Top 40 in Germany.6

The music video for “Mama” was also a huge success, winning Best Short Form Music Video at the 1984 Grammy Awards. The video featured uncomfortably close shots of Phil Collins’ face, where he looked particularly demonic.

The song’s impact has also been felt across the music industry, with many artists citing “Mama” as an influential song in their careers. For example, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails said that “Mama” was one of the songs that made him want to make music.8

“Mama” is a song that has stood the test of time, and remains a classic in the rock genre. It is a song that showcases the talent and creativity of Genesis, and the emotional power of music.

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