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“Martha My Dear”

Listen to “Martha My Dear”

PAUL 1968: “You see, I just start singing some words with a tune, you know what I mean. Mainly I’m just doing a tune and then some words come into my head, you know. And these happened to be ‘Martha My Dear, though I spend my days in conversation.’ So you can read anything you like into it, but really it’s just a song. It’s me singing to my dog.” (laughs)

PAUL circa-1994: “When I taught myself piano I liked to see how far I could go, and this (song) started off as a piece you’d learn as a piano lesson. It’s quite hard for me to play, It’s a two-handed thing, like a little set piece. Then when I was blocking out words– you just mouth out sounds and some things come– I found the words ‘Martha my dear.’ So I made up another fantasy song… I mean, I’m not really speaking to Martha, it’s a communication of some sort or affection, but in a slightly abstract way– ‘You silly girl, look what you’ve done…’ Whereas it would appear to anybody else to be a song to a girl called Martha, it’s actually a dog, and our relationship was platonic, believe me.”

About “Martha My Dear”

Credited to Lennon–McCartney, the song was written solely by Paul McCartney about his Old English Sheepdog, Martha. It has been covered by several artists, including Slade, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Phish, World Party, and Les Boréades de Montréal. The song incorporates elements from pop rock music; it also features a music hall-inspired piano line that recurs throughout the piece, as well as a brass section. The song modulates through several keys.

According to Beatles biographers Ian MacDonald and Mark Lewisohn, “Martha My Dear” is one of the few songs by the band in which McCartney played all the instruments (except orchestral instruments played by session musicians). Such a scenario was increasingly common for him during the height of the tensions that marred the sessions for the album. Although George Harrison is known to have recorded a portion of the electric guitar on the final recording, he was not credited.

The song was recorded over two days on 4 and 5 October 1968 at Trident Studios in London. McCartney recorded the piano, drums and vocals on the first day. He was advised to have producer George Martin play the piano solo because it was believed that the solo was beyond McCartney’s competency, but McCartney persisted. Martin’s brass and string arrangements were overdubbed later that day. On 5 October, McCartney re-recorded his vocals, added handclaps, and overdubbed bass and guitar parts, completing the song that day.

Meaning of “Martha My Dear”

“Martha My Dear” is widely believed to be a tribute to McCartney’s Old English Sheepdog named Martha. In the song, Paul addresses Martha with affectionate and endearing language, expressing sentiments of love and admiration. The lyrics suggest a deep connection between McCartney and his pet, with references to Martha’s eyes, heart, and overall presence.

While the song is often interpreted as a simple love song to a pet, some fans and analysts have also speculated that it might carry metaphorical or symbolic meanings, possibly alluding to a more personal or human relationship. Ultimately, the meaning of “Martha My Dear” is open to interpretation, and it can be appreciated on different levels, whether as a heartfelt tribute to a beloved pet or as a reflection of deeper emotions.


The Beatles

  • Paul McCartney – double-tracked lead vocals, piano, bass, electric guitar, drums, handclaps, brass and string arrangement

Additional musicians

  • Bernard Mille, Dennis McConnell, Lou Sofier, Les Maddox – violins
  • Leo Birnbaum, Henry Myerscough – violas
  • Reginald Kilby, Frederick Alexander, Peter Halling – cellos
  • Leon Calvert – trumpet, flugelhorn
  • Stan Reynolds, Ronnie Hughes – trumpets
  • Tony Tunstall – French horn
  • Ted Barker – trombone
  • Alf Reece – tuba

String and brass arrangement by George Martin.

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