My parents bought me a Stella 6-string from Sears and Roebuck when I was 13 and I took to it immediately. I closed myself up in the bedroom, taught myself 2 chords and wrote a song called “Yesterdays Footprints.” Then I saved my allowance and bought a guitar chord book and learned how to play a few Bob Dylan songs and Donovan songs. I took my act to a little coffee house in my neighborhood in Chicago.
When I was in college, I got a paid gig at a local bar for happy hour and had expanded my set with originals and a bunch of Joni Mitchell songs, occasionally tuning to open D, strumming happily away.
When I was in my early and mid-twenties and had been singing in front of bands for a few years, my guitar-playing had taken a back seat to the more skilled musicians. I only played when I was writing a song. Looking back, I see that I had a built-in belief system that I was supposed to just know how to do it, so I just gave up. I never asked for help. My skills were wanting and so I just thought “forget it.” The grown-assed woman I am now wants to sit that young lady down and ask “Why didn’t you think enough of yourself to take lessons, girl?” I didn’t even realize I was perpetuating low self-esteem about myself as a musician.
I moved to California when I was 24 and kept writing songs, which I recorded with a stellar group of musicians (and maybe I’ll put it out on iTunes or YouTube one of these days). I was playing a black Telecaster with rudimentary strummy rhythm chords, but one more time leaving the “real” playing to the other guys. When my first child came along, I bought an acoustic Ibanez Ragtime that fit my small stature and fingers. I sold the Tele to Brian Ray. Bessie the Ibanez began collecting dust, only to be brought out when inspiration would hit to write something. The space between those times got longer and longer. I didn’t even notice.
For a while, I resurrected my Bessie, putting together a little set of children’s songs that I would play for my kids’ classes.
The kids got older and didn’t want to sing “La Bamba” anymore. The spaces between playing guitar got longer and longer. I still sang, but with other people playing the instruments.
I forgot to play guitar. For a long time.
After 38 years in California, a divorce, an empty nest and new love, I moved to New York City. Bessie was sitting there, in a corner, in our little apartment, collecting dust and beckoning. A neglected child. A lost soul. My lost soul. So, on September 15, 2018, I just picked her up.
For several years, I’d been making a list of songs I’d like to learn. Someday.
I got my list out. I googled the lyrics and the chords. I taught myself my first new song in years. It was “Across The Universe” by John Lennon. “Jai Guru Deva Om”
It was very humbling. My fingers were weak. But it was a start.
Should a woman well into her 60’s learn how to play a guitar again? The answer is a resounding YES!
I took a lesson. Learned some scales. Learned some new fingering. Built up callouses.
I’m up to about 25 of those songs on my list.
I traded in Bessie. She was the one for the children’s songs. I got a used entry-level Martin with a built-in Fishman pickup system. I’ve named her Josephine.
And I bought a ukulele and named her Layla.
I’ve played in front of people a few times already, willing to not be perfect but doing it anyway. Being a grown-assed woman has given me permission.
I’m still working on it. Now I’m doing some online lessons. My old bandmate, Debbie Davies, has promised a Skype lesson. Soon.
Jai Guru Deva Om roughly translates as “Victory to God Divine.” Jai is a Hindi word meaning ‘long live’ or ‘victory’, Guru is “master” and Om is the vibration of the song of the Universe.
Long live victory.
Maggie Parker has recently moved to Manhattan from Los Angeles and delights in sharing her many years of life, music, love and yoga practice. Take a class with her at Naam Yoga, 141 West 72nd Street in Manhattan www.naamyoganewyork.com Join her Slow Flow/Restorative class on Tuesdays 5:15-6:15 PM. Please follow this blog and share with your friends!
To get a glimpse of her journey as a singer, go to www.maggiemayall.com