Martha, My Dear …


In an attempt to expand myself musically, I decided to take formal piano lessons a couple of months ago. I had taken years and years of lessons as a kid, and was even pretty good.  Everything I played came from reading the written note on the page, and for the most part, I only learned classical music.  As a teen and then as an adult, I wanted to be able to sit down at the piano and play some contemporary music. If I didn’t have the  music in front of me, it was quite a challenge. I could play some parts by ear, but was never able to just sit down and figure out a song. I can do it a little better after  having studied guitar as an adult (I began in my 30s! It’s never too late!)

My husband, Les Harris, is an all-around great musician and can sit down and play anything. I don’t know why he won’t just give me some of that talent. My sister Melissa can do the same thing. Sit down and approach music through the chords, not by reading the notes. At least this is what I think they are doing!

My piano lessons are going well. My teacher is Ben Heveroh, whom I know through OIGC (Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir). I have already learned to play some  twelve-bar blues, and a little gospel riff. I’m going through the John Thompson books I learned as a  kid. Some of the songs come back to me quite easily – others not as much. I like that I’m learning piano from several different angles.

I am on the fourth day of something called The Game On Diet ( I will blog more about this later, but suffice it to say I am kicking butt (Go Swan Team!) One of the rules of this game (I love games!) is to commit to a new habit. My new habit is to practice the piano every day, or for the purpose of the contest, at least 6 days a week to earn the maximum points. The hardest part of practicing for me is starting to practice. Once I’ve begun, it is no problem for me to practice for 30-60 minutes.

I wanted to learn some songs I could sing along to. I have a Beatles keyboard book, so I figured I’d start there. We listened to The Beatles a lot as kids, and my sister Melissa was completely obsessed with them. I remember the first time I turned over our  family’s  worn Help album, and saw Paul’s face. Those big soulful eyes.  He was maybe my first childhood crush. Paul was my favorite Beatle as a kid, and probably still is. I  remember Missy sometimes played Martha, My Dear, and I loved that this particular song could be carried on the piano. Of course, the strings and horns in the original version are beautiful, but the heart of it is Paul and the piano.I did a little research on the song. Paul is the only Beatle who appears on it.

I love the syncopated, honky tonk feel of this song.  It is so much fun to play! It’s amazing how much can be done in a song that is only a little over 2 minutes long. Key changes, tempo changes, and a mere  handful of lyrics that really pack a punch. This song was reportedly named for Paul’s sheepdog, who was supposedly named for a stewardess (that’s what female flight attendants were called in the 60s, kids). The object of the song, however, is probably not the dog, but rather Paul’s former fiancee, Jane Asher, and/or  his own inner muse.

If you are reading this, feel free to hold me accountable and ask me to play this song the next time you see me. Until then, when I find myself in the thick of it, I’ll help myself to a bit of what is all around me. Silly girl.