Now that Christmas is here, it is time to dedicate a song list to the name Mary. She of course was the mother of Jesus, so the name is popular in Christian cultures around the world. That’s the origin of the name Maria, the Spanish form of Mary. In the French language, the name is Marie.
Other variations of the name have developed, and so have many songs. Here are my top ten songs with the name Mary in their titles.
10. “Maria” by Greenday: The girl in this song is a rebellious one, who “smashed the radio with the board of education” and turned “up the static left of the state of the nation.” Driven by Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals and the electric heavy guitar work, the song showcases what was great about Green Day even before
9. “Marie Laveau” by Bobby Bare: This woman in this popular country song is anything but merry. Bobby Bare sings about her abusive charm, as he says in the chorus, “Another man done gone.”
8. “Cross-Eyed Mary” by Jethro Tull: This song comes from the Aqualung album. The tune is as good as the title track and “Locomotive Breath,” showcasing Ian Anderson’s gifts as both a vocalist and a songwriter. Some of his imagery rivals that of other music poets of the 70s, especially on a line like “The jackknife barber drops her off at school.”
7. “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival: This is perhaps the best known song mentioning Mary. The name here happens to be of a boat that, oblivious to the menial labor of the narrator, keeps “rollin. Rollin’, rollin’ on the river.”
6. “My Maria” by B. W. Stevenson: This is a beautiful love song from the early 70s, sung with such raw emotion that anyone listening can identify with Stevenson’s lust for this woman.
5. “Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson: The son of Ozzie and Harriet opens this love story with an unforgettable line, when he sings “Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart.” Nelson was an incredibly gifted singer, whose childhood acting career probably overshadowed the music he recorded later.
4. “Mother Mary” by Eels: The song comes from the excellent Blinking Lights album. The song is breathtakingly poignant when one realizes that Mary was the songwriter’s (simply known as E.) own mother’s name, and that she died not long before the song was written.
3. “Mary Mary” by The Monkees: Each time I hear this song on my mp3 player, I can visualize the antics the band members were engaging in on their television show. Even though the song has kind of sad though electric melody, the visual recollections the song evokes always make me smile.
2. “Take a Letter Maria” by R.B.Grevas: The story is told by a businessman who is dictating to his secretary, Maria. His message is to his wife, whom he is intending to divorce. He had found her in the arms of another man. Before the end of the song, the heartbroken businessman is asking his secretary to dinner.
1. “Absolutely Sweet Marie” by Bob Dylan: Like most of the tracks from Blonde on Blonde, this song is a true gem. It is a collage of Dylanesque images, from jumping a railroad gate to Persian drunkards to jail, where “a man can’t give his address out to bad company.” Also included are the backing electric organ, and of course the standard Dylan put down. It comes in the first bridge, when he says “Anybody can be just like me obviously, But then again not many can be like you, fortunately.”