Martha My Dear - The Beatles

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"Martha My Dear" - The Beatles (1967)

One version of the origins of “Martha My Dear” is that McCartney was inspired to write the song as he had a sheepdog named Martha.

McCartney commented:

“I just start singing some words with a tune. So you can read anything you like into it, but really it’s just a song. It me singing to my dog.”

Steven Turner wrote in his book A Hard Day’s Write, that the track is actually about his “muse” - the voice in his head that tells him what words and music to write.

McCartney recorded the song alone and used fourteen additional session musicians for horns and strings. A one-man band, he plays piano, bass, guitar, and drums.

The song is full of charm, tunefulness, and a typical deeply McCartney-esque piano riff. It’s a jaunty tune whose pub piano flavor and subtle harmonization add an undercurrent of yearning to Paul’s outwardly jocular attempt to convince this “silly girl” to see that he and she “were meant to be.” It’s part-technical jeu d’espirit with a confused lyric in which McCartney’s sheepdog somehow gets muddle up in a recent love affair.

Says Beatle scholar Alan Pollack:

“Don’t be fooled: the gracious surface charm of this song is more substantively belied by novel touches in the departments of form, phrasing and harmony than you might ever notice without a closer look.”

The lyrics suggest the narrator is referring to a girl- pleading with her to stay with him: “Martha my love/Don’t forget me, Martha my dear.” A few lines later he refers to a “silly girl” who won’t admit she loves him.

Is McCartney writing about a relationship with a woman- or perhaps something deeper?

In her essay Identifying and Analyzing the Poetic Qualities of The Beatles’ Lyrics from 1965-1970, University of Texas researcher Stephanie Murphy writes: 

“In Martha My Dear McCartney is clearly writing on his own about his own experiences and emotions, indicating The Beatles’ movement away from togetherness. However, the break from unity is only in the beginning stages. As the psychedelic years came to an end and The Beatles transitioned into their post-psychedelic period, each member drifted further apart and began pursuing individual interests which is reflected in the lyrics.”

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