Life with the Beatles

I grew up on the Beatles.

When your parents were both educated in England during the 1960s mod era, those would be the records they brought home. (Well, dad did.)

There were also Elvis Presley and the Carpenters, but the mainstay was usually John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

My parents were so Anglophile-posh with their musical choices that I didn’t know the hippie period of the Beatles until much later on in life. That also means that I also had no idea who the Rolling Stones or David Bowie was. Elton John was introduced into the pool just enough to get us interested in the pianist/singer with flamboyant costumes and glasses, so we’d stick with our piano lessons. Forget any other American classic acts outside of the Carpenters and Elvis! (No, I didn’t know Frank Sinatra until later too!)

We had all kinds of songbooks at home, and there would always be some Beatles music in them. Any time we started in on a Beatles song, wherever mom was in the house, she’d turn up at the piano to listen.

I was never able to verify this, but mom said dad used to change “Hey Jude” to “Hey Noi” during their courtship.

“Michelle” was one of her favorites too. She didn’t know all the words, nor the French version.

There were so many songs we knew by heart just from all the records they used to play. And many songs I’ve learned about along the way.

The funny thing is, maybe because I started with the Beatles, it seems their music kept popping up in my life.

When I was at the international summer camp at 12 years old, I’d play “Let It Be” for my friends to sing along. “From Me to You,” and “Yellow Submarine” were all popular at our camp because of one of the performances from the older kids.

The Thai pop idol during my teen years sang a cover of “I saw her standing there” and put that song on top of the country’s consciousness. I remembered my mom excitedly told me, “That’s a Beatles song!”

“Yesterday” was one of the very first songs I learned to sing in a proper voice lesson. I remember the teacher asked me to pick any song out of the school’s songbook. Of course, I picked Yesterday. I already knew how it goes!

When my oldest brother returned from England for the summer, he’d often leave his music behind. One year, he left behind his old Discman–such a novelty at the time–and a stack of CDs. One of them was “Revolver.” I didn’t know about the Beatles experimental phase. So when some of the songs took a psychedelic turn, I thought I had broken the player!

For my wedding, I chose “In My Life” for father-daughter dance. That was one of the songs I learned about later on in life and not one from our family catalog. I wanted to add it to our family history.

Naturally, after mom passed away, I haven’t been able to listen to some of the songs without bursting into tears.

For a while, I couldn’t get through “Hey Jude.” but I was determined to learn it on the piano, to do it justice as a tribute to my mother. I eventually stopped tearing up/crying when I started to play.

However, I can’t even with “Let it be.”

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be

Cue immediate waterworks.

And that was even before I heard Paul McCartney told James Corden about how he came to write that song.

That Carpool Karaoke episode got all my feels.

The joy of my childhood. The giddiness of seeing Paul stomping around Liverpool. The grief of losing my mother. And how much she would have enjoyed this episode.

Of course, they had to end it with “Hey Jude.”

I thought I’ve made peace with that song. At least when I sing it alone at my piano or with my friends at karaoke.

Paul McCartney’s live performance got me sobbing.

Grief really doesn’t go away, you guys. It just sits there as your life grows over it. One day, it’ll pop back up to remind you that you’re human.

And when the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be

Oh, goddammit…

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