Holy Mother (August album)

Holy Mother is the tenth track of the studio album August by Eric Clapton. The album was Clapton's tenth studio album, released in 1986 by Duck Records/Warner Bros. Records. Described as a "hard R&B" album, it was primarily produced by Phil Collins, in association with longtime Clapton associate Tom Dowd.[1]

"Holy Mother"
studio S by Eric Clapton
from the album August
Released24 November 1986 (UK)
RecordedApril–May 1986
LabelDuck / Warner Bros.
Lyricist(s)Stephen Bishop
Producer(s)Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Tom Dowd

The track was also released as a single in the UK in November of 1987.[2]


Holy mother where are you?
Tonight I feel broken in two
I've seen the stars fall from the sky

Holy mother, can't keep from crying
Oh I need your help this time
Get me through this lonely night
Tell me please which way to turn
To find myself again

Holy mother, hear my prayer
Somehow I know you're still there
Help me please find peace of mind
Take away this pain

I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait any longer
I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait for you

Holy mother, hear my cry
I've called your name a thousand times
I've felt the anger running through my soul
All I need is a hand to hold

Oh I feel that the end has come
No longer my legs will run
You know I would rather be
In your arms tonight

When my hands no longer play
My voice is still, I fade away
Holy mother, then I will be
Lying in, safe within your arms

Holy Mother hear my cry
Holy Mother hear my cry
Holy Mother hear my cry
Holy Mother hear my cry
Holy Mother hear my cry
Holy Mother hear my cry

Holy Mother hear my cry

— Eric Patrick Clapton / Stephen Bishop, Holy Mother © Stephen Bishop Music, E C Music Ltd

Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti - East London Gospel Choir

Origin of the song

In 1986 Eric Clapton wrote this song-prayer together with Stephen Bishop, and it turned out to be one of the most significant of his long career, one of the most moving when considering the history behind it, the artistic production, the melody and the harmony.

A few months before the song was recorded on the album August (a disc which contains a few good pieces such as Bad influence and Tearing us apart), Richard Manuel committed suicide at the age of 43. Manuel was the keyboard player and an historical member of The Band, the group guided by Robbie Robertson, who had been alongside Bob Dylan for quite some time and had recorded some of the most important songs of all of rock history (The Weight, The Night They Throw Old Dixie Down, It Makes No Difference). Holy Mother was dedicated to Manuel.

It's a song of undefended suffering, of complete poverty, of absolute incomprehension when confronted with certain unexplicable facts of life. Clapton is not new to songs with strong religiosity, as seen in Presence of the Lord and Hold me Lord, but in Holy Mother he reaches a higher level. This one of his finer pieces, because it's intensity and participation are connotated by recollection, seeing that words and music pour forth in the circumstances of a close friend musician's death.

Where does this prayer come from? From the heart, from life and from his upbringing as a child. In an interview Clapton confessed: «My grandmother taught me how to pray the old fashioned prayers. And now and then they come back to me, especially in the hardest times». This song belongs to the same root of family and tradition, as though to demonstrate that certain seeds sooner or later begin to sprout and grow in an unforeseeable way.

So beautiful and so powerful in its simplicity, Holy Mother is also one of the most evident proofs that prayer is a form that is quite present in the artistic jumble we call “rock music”. Other songs like What do you want me to do by Mike Scott or Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen are further proof of this, and the opposite would be strange, since "begging" is an attitude that is radically connected to being human such that only the lack of realism in certain cultures tries to transform it into a “cultural superstructure”.

Instead it is always interesting (and perhaps even moving) to notice how prayer comes out in rock (as in life) in unexpected, definitive, strange and unpredictable moments. These are things that happen and that have no immediate explanation in rock, but they speak a precise language and lead to the depths of man and of what he ultimately seeks, especially when he has no excuses or anything else to hold onto.

Like that evening of April 20, 1992, when David Bowie - at the end of his performance during the tribute concert to Freddy Mercury, who had died of AIDS a few months earlier - knelt in front of a billion people on live television and said: "We have no better way to remember Freddy and all our dead friends like him, than to recite the Our Father all together". In many parts of the world, I am sure, someone heard this prayer for the first time.

  1. Ruhlmann, William. "Eric Clapton August review". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  2. "Eric Clapton singles".