This Mother’s Day, we’re thanking the moms of Gene Wilder, Dolly Parton, and more for helping their kids discover the art inside of them.
Gene Wilder’s mom was his first audience. Instructed by a doctor to get his sick mother chuckling, Wilder tested his funny bone with Mom:
“For the first time in my life, I tried consciously to make someone else laugh. I knew I was very successful when [my mother would] run to the bathroom and say: ‘Now, look what you’ve made me do.’ When you please your mother by doing something, it gives you confidence that you can please other people. I think that’s where [my] courage to make people laugh came from.”
Thanks to Mama Wilder we have comedy classics like Young Frankenstein and The Producers.
Part of Dolly Parton’s charm is her authenticity: She never tries to be someone she’s not. Being true to herself was a lesson Parton learned early on from her mother:
“Mama just always said, ‘You be what you are and you don’t have to worry about nothing. If you want to say something you say it, to whoever. If you want to say something just tell them.’ And I always did and I still do.”
The music industry can be a fickle place, but Ray Charles’ mother reassured him it didn’t matter what other people thought:
“See my mom taught me a lot, man. ‘A lot about minding your own business and leaving other people’s business alone’ … So if somebody don’t like something that I do, that’s his or her prerogative. Just like it’s mine.”
You might call Johnny Cash a workaholic. In the early 60s, he toured 300 nights a year. According to the Man in Black, it was his mama who inspired him to record and tour so relentlessly:
“[I need to work hard] for my soul. It’s a gift. My mother always told me that any talent is a gift of God, and I always believed it. If I quit, I would just live in front of the television and get fat and die pretty soon.”
Cash continued to make the most of his God-given talents until the very end: He was still recording songs a month before his death.
Author Tom Robbins started dreaming up stories at an early age. And, lucky for him, Mama Robbins was very patient when it came to her son’s artistic temperament:
“I started writing when I was 5 years old. I would dictate stories to my mother, and she would copy them in a scrapbook. If she changed anything to make it, in her opinion, better, I would throw a tantrum.”
Let’s hope for his editor’s sake, Robbins has become more receptive to constructive criticism.