Sheila Bromberg, Jewish harpist who was first woman to play on a Beatles album

by | Sep 23, 2021 | Obituaries

(JTA)—Sheila Bromberg kept busy as an in-demand harpist in London in the 1960s, but when she got a request for a gig at EMI’s Abbey Road studio, 9 pm to midnight, she felt she couldn’t turn it down: She was, after all, a single mother.
Yet it wasn’t until the Jewish harpist heard a male with a Liverpudlian accent behind her that she realized she was about to make history.
“Well, what you got on the dots?” she recalled Paul McCartney asking her that night early in 1967. McCartney, who could not read music, wanted to hear her play the score he had dictated to Mike Leander, a music arranger.
Bromberg, who died at 92 on Aug. 17 at a hospice in Aylesbury, England, was about to become the first woman to perform on a Beatles album. She played the harp accompaniment on She’s Leaving Home, the agonizing snapshot of the void between parents and a daughter, on the Beatles’ music-changing album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
When the album came out, she realized McCartney had gone with her first take, but dubbed it so it had a doubling effect. “That’s what he was after,” she recalled herself thinking. “Yes! Clever!”
Bromberg was born in London. Her paternal grandfather was a noted Jewish musician in Ukraine before fleeing because of pogroms, and her father and son also were orchestral musicians.