Before there was the internet, there was Marty Hamer.
Technically, that’s not true because the internet has been around longer than most people realize, since Jan. 1, 1983, to be precise.
But before there was Wi-Fi, the web, smartphones, tablets, etc., there was Marty Hamer.
Marty was a gem. One of her many qualities was an encyclopedic knowledge of music and a vast collection of song lyrics and guitar chords. She was effectively lyrics.com before lyrics.com.
In the mid-1990s, I had a regular Thursday night gig in a pub on Wellington Street in Ottawa.
One night, there was a group of bikers in there drinking pitchers of beer. During my first set, they kept yelling “play some Elvis” and I kept saying, “I don’t know any Elvis.”
In between sets, one of them came up to me and said, “In the next set, you’re going to play some Elvis.” I again assured him I didn’t know any.
“You’re not getting me,” he said, getting right in my face. “It’s my buddy’s birthday, his favourite artist is Elvis, and in the next set you’re going to play some Elvis.”
So, I called Marty from the kitchen of the pub looking for something I might be able to fake my way through. She sang the lyrics and dictated the chords to “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” as I hastily scribbled them down on the back of a takeout menu.
I taped the page to my microphone stand and muddled my way through the song, badly as I recall, but somehow it satisfied the rowdy group (thank goodness for copious amounts of alcohol).
Throughout my adulthood, I’ve lived kind of a nomadic lifestyle, one of the hazards of which is losing touch with people who at one time or another meant a great deal to me.
A couple of years ago, I tracked Marty down on Facebook and sent her a friend request, but didn’t receive a reply. I wasn’t all that surprised, lots of people have inactive Facebook accounts and she was certainly one of those people who would be lukewarm at best toward social media.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got a notification. “Marty Hamer accepted your friend request.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Marty, but her husband Randy.
Marty died a few months ago, 67 years old, pancreatic cancer.
It was devastating news. She was a woman so caring and compassionate, so full of joy and love, so creative and nurturing, just recently retired, just settling into a new home and a new chapter of travel and leisure.
Apparently her last nine months were incredibly difficult, but I imagine she handled it as she did everything, with kindness, generosity, humility and grace.