My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Songs about adoption

Lisa as babyI was adopted as a baby, and because of that the subject has always drawn me in fiction. In fact I’ve read some really bad books and watched some bad TV purely because of the topic. One of the things I appreciate most in country music is the range of topics it covers, and I feel inspired to bring together some of the best songs I’ve heard over the years on the subject of adoption.

Actually, one area that seems a bit lacking is songs about the experience of the adopted child. One of the few that does start from that point is Jeff Bates’ autobiographical ‘Rainbow Man’, title track of his 2003 debut album. Although the song goes on to talk about race and the American melting pot, I definitely identify with Jeff’s questioning of his identity.

Moving on to adulthood, I love the story song ‘Cactus In A Coffee Can’, a delicately realized third-person tale of a plane encounter with a young woman who has been reunited with a drug-addict birth mother just before the mother’s death. I first heard it ten years ago from Jerry Kilgore on his Love Trip album on the short-lived Virgin country imprint, and it was beautifully revived by the excellent Melonie Cannon on her most recent album, And The Wheels Turn. You can check both versions out on last.fm. There’s also a version available by Steve Seskin, who co-wrote the song with Allen Shamblin, where his more fragile vocals add a certain vulnerability.

The adoption decision and process are covered as one of three mini-stories in ‘Could You Walk A Mile’, a religious song on the self-titled debut album of 90s act John & Audrey Wiggins (“To give her baby life, she would have to give him up”, Audrey sings). A 14 year old birth mother and older adoptive mother appear in the sweetly sentimental ‘Look What Love Can Do’ from former Curb artist Ruby Lovett:

There are more songs about the post-adoption experience of the birth mother, such as Reba McEntire’s ‘Secret’ (from Room To Breathe) or Michelle Wright’s hit single ‘He Would Be Sixteen’.

My favorite on this theme, though, and probably my favorite adoption song ever, is the tearjerker ‘Jackson’, by Casey Kessel, another a beautifully constructed story of a teenage girl who gives up her child and even ten years later, can’t stop thinking about him, to the (slightly creepy) extent of wandering the streets of the town she believes he lives in looking for him. I’m afraid I can’t find a link, but it’s on her album Ripple In the Water.

The newest song on my list has a different angle, as it focusses on international adoption. That’s Tammy Cochran’s very personal ‘Half The World Away’, which I mentioned when I reviewed her new album recently.

Do you have any special topics you are particularly drawn to hearing songs about (or other artistic treatments)?

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11 responses to “Songs about adoption

  1. Paul W Dennis November 17, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Brad Paisley’s “He Didn’t Have To Be” touched on the topic rather well

    • Occasional Hope November 17, 2009 at 7:10 pm

      I love that song. I guess I didn’t think of it in this context because it’s a stepfather taking on his wife’s children, and this particular topic is such a personal one for me, that seems like a very different situation.

  2. Ashley November 17, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Cactus in a Coffee Can by Melonie is one of the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. I cried my eyes out the first time I heard it. I was adopted, but I don’t even think that was why I cried. It was just so touching and Melonie’s vocals were just amazing.

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  4. Michael November 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    “He Would Be Sixteen” and “He Didn’t Have To Be” are the first ones that come to mind. I suppose “The Little Girl” would qualify as well. The Dixie Chicks’ “Voice Inside My Head” is another contender, although I don’t think it’s ever made clear if the baby in the song was aborted or given up for adoption. In my mind I’ve always seen it from the abortion angle.

  5. CMW November 18, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I like “Cactus in a Coffee Can” too.

    As far as topics I’m especially drawn to, songs about brothers and grandpas have a better-than-average chance of melting my cold, critical heart. Probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up as a youngest child, so spent a lot of time idolizing my brothers. And I had pretty cool grandpas.

  6. Meg November 19, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Great topic and post – I wasn’t familiar with most of these and absolutely loved the Jeff Bates “Rainbow Man”! I have a foster son. Though I didn’t adopt him, we’re family. We just celebrated his 25th birthday last week! He’s had a long journey, and is still journeying. I feel honored that he calls me Mom.

  7. ccdixon November 21, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Marcia Ramirez’s “Ticket to Tulsa” is based on her birth parents’ decision to let her be adopted and her experience of ultimately finding them. It’s on her Life Goes On album.

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  9. DJ Williamson April 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Kellie Pickler- I Wonder…I know its a son about the mother that just walked away from her daughter, but many parts of it say just how I feel day to day…

  10. Becky Wright July 25, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Really enjoyed your article :)) I’m an adoptive mom & Singer/ Songwriter. Love to share a couple songs from my new album “The Heart of Adoption ” (recorded in Nashville 2011). Particularly “Always Be Mom and Dad”, “Child of My Heart”, and “I Gave You Away”. You can hear them at http://www.beckywrightsongs.com. There’s a great video of “Always Be Mom and Dad” at http://www.YouTube.com/bwsongs
    God bless! Becky

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