Behind the Music: 'Be My Lady' by Martin Nievera

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Aug 22 2021 06:07 AM

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If Frank Sinatra had his insanely popular “My Way,” Concert King Martin Nievera has his iconic “Be My Lady,” recorded in 1983 for his debut album, “Take One.”

“It’s the only song I sing where, after the first three words, people were already cheering,” Nievera proudly told ABS-CBN News about “Be My Lady.”

No doubt. Everywhere Nievera crooned the ballad, the audience will instantly let out “oohhs” and “aahhs,” if not screams, following the first three words. Always. They know the melody of the popular song, if not familiar with the exact lyrics.

The part where Nievera also whispers the first three words at the start of “Be My Lady,” is his favorite part of the ballad. “I bet you can never guess what my favorite part of the song is,” he mused. “It’s a feeling I cannot express. Not in a few words, anyway.”

“Be My Lady” is not Nievera’s original recording. He was also not the first singer who performed the tune, written by Vehnee Saturno. In the 6th Metropop Song Festival held at the Araneta Coliseum, Nievera interpreted “Pain,” penned by Alvina Sy, who won the grand prize in the amateur division.

Meanwhile, it was another singer, Pedrito Montaire, an Ivory Records artist, who sang “Be My Lady” at the Metropop. The song, unfortunately, did not win any prize for Saturno in the professional songwriters’ division.

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“Little did I know that the song, ‘Be My Lady,’ the one I didn’t interpret, would be the biggest blessing in my career,” Nievera said.

When Metropop was over, everybody went their separate ways and went back to their respective careers. “After that magical weekend, I went to my recording company [Vicor Records] and received the biggest surprise ever,” Nievera recalled.

“It was Chito Ilagan, who approached me alongside our big boss, Vic Del Rosario. They asked me if I remember the song, ‘Be My Lady.’ I said, ‘Of course. I loved that song and wished it was mine.’

“Then, Chito said, ‘How would you like it to really be yours?’ So, Vehnee Saturno was kind enough to give me a chance at recording his beautiful song.”

However, recording “Be My Lady” was not that easy for Nievera, who was completing his debut album, “Take One,” at that time. Ironically, “Be My Lady” was not a “take one” song for him.

“I was in the studio almost the whole day,” he shared. “But with the orchestra in my ears and very dim lights, I was in heaven loving every second. With the beautiful arrangement of Homer Flores, I stepped into the recording booth for the first time in my life.

“With a string section behind me, I recorded my version of ‘Be My Lady.’ It was the biggest song on my very first long playing vinyl record.”

“Be My Lady” became a much-requested song on the radio and n all of Nievera’s performances then and even now. 

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Admittedly, it was the “beautiful and begging lyrics” of Saturno that attracted Nievera to record “Be My Lady” at that time.

“Those are the words every man wants to say to a woman,” Nievera explained. “But what really gave me the inspiration to record this song the way I did back then at the age of 19, was the beautiful arrangement of Homer Flores.

“Remember, I was just a young man who knew nothing about love, but when I heard Homer’s beautiful arrangement, I knew that this was the song people sing in their hearts every time they fall in love.

“The lyrics of Vehnee, to this day, make love to the arrangement of Homer, each time I sing that song. ‘Be My Lady’ remains the most requested song in all of my shows, big and small, anywhere and everywhere.”

Nievera's 10-track debut album yielded other hits like his composition, “Holiday,” his Metropop winning song, “Pain,” and his version of his favorite Kenny Loggins song at that time, “Heart To Heart.”

In just six weeks, “Take One” was a certified gold album. Not too long after, the album turned platinum. Embracing his early success in the recording business at that time, Nievera was only very thankful about his fate.

“My first album launch was in Ali Mall and to this day, I still owe them two doors,” Nievera shared. “Because when they opened the door, the people came crashing through breaking the two doors going into the room where we had the launch. I was never invited back.”

“Take One” was extra special to Nievera. “It was not just my first album,” he said. “It was also me realizing a childhood dream. I had some compositions there, too, like ‘Don’t Leave Me Now,’ ‘Paradise’ and my sister Gina Godinez wrote some like, ‘Song On My Mind’ and ‘Make a Smile.”

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Assessing the popularity of a beautiful and timeless ballad like “Be My Lady,” Nievera refused to take solo credit for it.

“I wish I could take all the credit for the success of this song,” he said. “But it was a team effort. The music and lyrics moved me. The genius behind that song [Saturno] should get full credit. I was merely the voice so it gives me a thrill. You cannot imagine when people asked if I wrote, ‘Be My Lady.’ I wish. Of course, I say, ‘Yes!’

“I think that timeless ballad will always be a favorite of many, most especially for those in the karaoke who just don’t know how to let go of that microphone. Not until they sing, ‘Be My Lady.”

Nievera admits he gets jealous when others sing his song. “I can’t lie,” he insisted. “I am very possessive when it comes to my songs, especially ‘Be My Lady.’ Probably because I’m afraid someone might sing it better than me. [Laughs]

“But seriously, to hear other singers and arrangers give my old hit new life, is the most rewarding feeling any singer could feel.”
Nievera recorded and even wrote other popular tunes after that. Understandably, he has his particular favorites among his songs that easily become top of mind, when asked to name a few.

“I love to sing, ‘Say That You Love Me,’ ‘You Are My Song,’ ‘I’ll Be There For You,’ ‘No Way to Treat a Heart.’ My list can go on forever. But my biggest song? The biggest of them all? The one people come from miles and miles to hear? It is and will always be, ‘Be My Lady.”

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“Be My Lady’ is not an easy song,” Nievera pointed out. “One time, I forgot the lyrics and rewrote the song on the spot. Another time, I was having sound issues and my voice cracked during the big modulation.

“There was one time I went to a karaoke place in Makati trying to stretch my voice, singing songs by Chicago and Air Supply, way out of my range. While in deep pain trying to sound like Peter Cetera, I heard someone in the next room seriously struggling with the song, ‘Be My Lady.’

“It was too tempting a moment, so yup, you guessed it. I stormed right into that room and stood there. The singer and his room full of friends all just stopped. They froze. No one spoke . Not even a scream or whisper.

“I said, ‘Wait a minute. This is not my room!’ And I walked out. The sound after the door closed behind me was hilarious. They were screaming, cheering and laughing. That was a moment I will cherish forever.”

After 39 years in the music business, Nievera keeps the faith that he can mount the stage and perform live again. He was able to do that recently at the Sycuan Casino Resort in San Diego, California. Naturally, he is looking forward to do the same in Manila soon.

“We are all on a temporary overly extended, ‘pause’,” he maintained. “We have so much time to, ‘rewind,’ as we all look, ‘fast forward’ to better and brighter days ahead. Like millions of others, I can’t wait until I can go outside and go on that stage again and finally, once again, ‘play’.”

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