18 June 2024

Paul Simon's Mother and Child Reunion

Mother and Child Reunion is a song by Paul Simon on his 1972 album. It was released as a single, reaching #4 on the U.S Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the Weekly charts, the song reached a peak position of #1 place in South Afr­ica, #4 place in New Zealand and #5 place in Australia.

Inspired by Simon’s grief over his dog’s death, it was suggested that Simon predicted the title ev­ent, the mother and child reunion. The second ver­se desc­rib­ed the effect of what happened on the str­an­ge and mournful day, but without making clear what it was. How­ev­er Simon said he wrote this in response to the Jimmy Cliff song Vietnam 1970, where a mother received a letter about her son's death on the battlefield. [The timing was right for Aus­tralians. It took until Dec 1972 before the Austral­ian Government officially declared the end of our involvement in the Vietnam War].

Mother and Child Reunion, Simon with Cliff 
Graceland 25th Anniversary Tour, London 2012

Simon was already a fan of reggae music, a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. So he wanted to go to Kingston Jamaica to record the song, as that was where Jimmy Cliff had recorded his antiwar song. Simon wrote HIS song in 1971 and re­leased it in 1972. This was his first solo album after Bridge Over Troubled Water. The song was indeed re­c­orded at Dynamic Sounds Stud­­­ios in King­ston, with Jimmy Cl­iff’s group: guit­ar­ist Huks Brown and bass guitarist Jackie Jack­son. Cissy Houston sang backg­round vocals on the recording. It was an early song by a white musician to feature reggae, and the fact that the song was recorded in Jam­aica using Cliff's musicians may have explained the authentic sound. Ditto the African-reggae guitars, organs and drums.

The success of this song proved that audiences were willing, from then on, to ac­c­ept Simon without Art Garfunkel at his side. But when my own mother passed away in Melbourne and a friend suggested this song as a source of comf­ort, I didn’t even remember the 1972 changes made in Simon and Garfunk­el’s musical works.

Mother and Child Reunion by Paul Simon (youtube)
[Chorus] No, I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

Oh, little darling of mine
I can't for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don't work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

Oh, little darling of mine
I just can't believe it's so
Though it seems strange to say
I never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

Oh, the mother and child reunion is only a motion away
Oh, the mother and child reunion is only a moment away

Paul and his mother Belle Simone holding hands

The Every Single Paul Simon Song blog attempted to cover all the possible explanations for the “mother and child reunion” central to the song. For example the speaker referred to the listener as Little darling of mine, so he pre­sumed some fam­il­iarity between the two parties. Also the list­en­er seemed to be at least a generation younger, given that form of address.

Simon himself said in a 1972 interview that "Last summer we had a loved dog that was run over and killed. It was the first death I had ever experienced personally. Nobody in my family died that I felt that. But I felt this loss and thought "Oh, man, what if that was my (then) wife Peggy? What if somebody like that died? Death, what is it, I can't get it. Somehow there was a connection between this death and Peggy and it was like Heaven, I don't know what the connection was. Some emotional connection. It didn't matter to me what it was. I just knew it was there".

When my beloved mother passed away, I Helen assumed the lyrics referred to the desolate child who will remain on earth until they are reunited forever, in heaven. So thank you providing some small comfort at a terrible time, Paul Simon.


jabblog said...

A song that can reflect so many different aspects meaningfully is a classic.

roentare said...

I learnt about Reggae music and now listening to some of the ones on
google search. Sounds not bad for an ethnic Taiwanese lol

Fun60 said...

I've always enjoyed listening to Simon and Garfunkel as well as Paul as a solo artist. I've already told my daughter which one I want played at my funeral.

Hels said...


not everybody cares about our favourite song-writer's intentions, but some of us care very much, yes. I have heard a number of very different meanings to 'Mother and Child Reunion", including from Paul Simon himself, but there was never a final conclusion. So when my mother passed away tragically, I was 100% certain that I knew what Paul Simon intended.

Every listener will make their own decisions, of course.

Hels said...


you are amazing... I would not have known what Jamaican reggae in American music was, had I not been a mad Simon and Garfunkel fan in the late 1960s .

Margaret D said...

It's pleasing that the song helped you in your time of need Hels.
I rather like Paul Simon.

Hels said...


very wise. The next generation will have no idea which music spoke to you, unless you have explained its meaning to your young mind. I think I would ask for Leonard Cohen for my memorial function.. although my children may have never heard of him.

Hels said...


apart from loving Paul Simon's Mother and Child Reunion, and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah,
I also thought Bob Dylan's 1973 song Knocking on Heaven's Door was very meaningful. The 3 of them were men of my generation, my religion and my emotions.

DUTA said...

It's cruel to anounce parents of the death of their son by letter or by phone call.
In our place, these terrible news are handled by a team of three (one , a medical person). They knock on the door first, and there's a whole 'folklore' about this horific knock.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I like the song is has always moved me

My name is Erika. said...

That's a great song. And it's an interesting story behind it. Thanks for sharing.

hels said...

I agree with you. But is this what happened to Paul Simon when his mum passed away?

hels said...

Yes! Very often we remember at least the chorus of a song, many years after it reached its peak popularity. But it's not often that we are still moved by the song's emotions decades later.

hels said...

Thank you for saying that. It makes me feel more normal :)

Andrew said...

They are such sad lyrics. Like you I read the song in the same way. The next time I hear it, I will think about it and be reminded of you.

hels said...

Losing a loved one has to be the hardest thing in our personal worlds. Did you find any consolation in literature, art, music, wine, friendships or anything else?

Joe said...

Partnerships don't last forever but Simon and Garfunkel were so good together, it was a shame they broke up. What happened?

Katerinas Blog said...

What a moving song and lyrics!
When I experienced the first death in the family,
my father from cancer (he passed away within three months at the age of 63)
I thought everything changed (and it did) and my space and time seemed smaller!
Fortunately time is a healer and I believe that at some point in some way there will be a reunion!
I can't imagine your pain, courage!
Thank you.

Hels said...


the two lads were partners in the middle 1950s but they may have been too immature to make the partnership overcome disagreements. I know nothing about that very early era.

They got together again in the middle 1960s, this time hopefully more mature. They became famous, rich and successful, and although there were ongoing personal and professional tensions, the partnership seemed to continue well. However after the 1993 shows, the two again split for 10 years and only got together for the 2003-2004 Old Friends Tour in Madison Square Gardens. It too did not last.

Hels said...


Does time really heal the pain from loss of a loved one? or does it just get us into doing all the other important things we are obligated to continue with? I hope you found comfort after your father died at such an early age.

When my beloved son died at 51, I threw myself into the family and charity issues that he loved, plus I remember all pleasure he gained from his very successful travel agency. Not easily done, but he would be happy if he was looking down at me.

But the last 4 weeks of my beloved mum's life were filled with a hateful relative asking for euthanasia, police, lawyers and her old age home under guard. I can only hope that mum can hear Paul Simon's Mother and Child Reunion and she forgives me for allowing the relative's euthanasia plan.

Liam Ryan said...

I just listened to this tune, as I've never heard of it before.
It's a happy mournful song.

Hels said...


I agree. It gives hope to the son at a horrible time.

Ирина Полещенко said...

This is a very touching song about mom! All mothers in the world are beautiful! I also once had a mother, but she died in 2001.

Hels said...


I loved my father, and miss him too. But there is something special about having a loved mother that never fades. Paul Simon understood that, clearly.

River said...

I've never liked that song. Nor wars either.

Handmade in Israel said...

A touching and memorable song. Interesting that this was one of his first songs without Garfunkel. I saw him perform here in Israel back in 2011. It was a good concert but he was already past his heyday.

Hels said...


War is horrendous. I was born after dad came back from WW2, but he purposely never talked about it to us, the children. So the first war I was personally acutely aware of was Vietnam.

Although I didn't know any Australian soldier who was killed, or any Australian soldier who slaughtered Vietnamese citizens, it was a terrible time. People made plans to get their sons and brothers out, if they were conscripted, or broke their toes so as to fail the medical test. I went to all the protest marches, but nobody trusted the authorities back then. Mental health was put at risk for years, even though no guns were fired in Australia.

Hels said...


I believe their best years together were from the early 1960s to the early 1970s. But because they were also my best years, I wonder if I simply didn't pay enough attention to them later on. But you are right...2011 was totally another generation of audience.

It broke my heart when the two men separated and went ahead with their own careers.

diane b said...

A touching post.

Hels said...


everyone has pain and loss in their lives, I have known that for a very long time.

But we are not all fortunate enough to find, even accidentally, some comfort in those difficult times. So I must ring my friends and thank them for their close support.