Mother and Child Reunion was Paul Simon’s first release as a Garfunkel-less solo artist more than forty years ago, and it has a number of strange elements that aren’t apparent at a first listen.
Paul said he wrote this song in response to the loss of his pet dog in a traffic accident. He had never felt such loss before and needed to find a way to express the thought that maybe some day they’d be reunited. But the song refers to mother and child, so how does that relate to his dog?
It doesn’t. It relates to Chinese food. In many Chinese restaurants in the US, a dish comprised of chicken and eggs is called “Mother and Child Reunion.” Let that sink in a bit. Paul noticed this and decided to use it as the theme for a song, and when he thought of being reunited with his beloved pet, this “reunion” came to mind.
I can’t help but recall Deuteronomy 14:21.
But the oddity of this catchy tune doesn’t stop there. It turns out it was the first popular recording from a well-known white artist performed in “reggae” style. It was recorded in Jamaica with Jimmy Cliff’s band. This song paved the way for acts like The Clash and The Police to use reggae as part of their signature style.
But why would a song about a dead dog and Chinese food be recorded in reggae style? One story says that this song is a response to Jimmy Cliff’s “Vietnam,” which tells the tale of a mother learning that her son had been killed in the war.
If you consider that the song is about the immeasurable loss of a loved one, it all makes some sort of sad and cathartic sense.
The song reached number 5 on the US charts, but managed to hit number 3 in Norway and number 1 in South Africa.