The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Dr. Richard Lewis’ songs have a heart-healthy message
BY JIM HALL
One of Dr. Richard Lewis’ favorite performances took place earlier this year at Creative Childcare Academy, a day care center in Spotsylvania County.
The 90-second YouTube video of the event shows Lewis, guitar in hand, standing before an offscreen group of 4- and 5-year-olds.
“When your heart is all a pumpin’,
It makes a sound like thumpin’,
Lub dub, lub dub, it goes.
It’s your blood circulating,
And your blood percolating,
From your head down to your toes.”
Adults in the audience may have recognized the song as an adaptation of the classic, “If I Only Had a Heart,” from the film “The Wizard of Oz.”
For the children, however, it was just great fun, said Lisa Singh, lead prekindergarten teacher.
“He was awesome. He was one of the best entertainers that we’ve had here,” she said.
Lewis, a cardiologist, is proud of “Your Thumpin, Pumpin Heart.” It describes the workings of the heart and how to care for it, he said, and does so in a way that children can understand.
“It’s a fun way to pass on health information,” he said.
The performance at the day care center, and other recent performances, represent a new chapter in Lewis’ musical career.
Before this year, the public had only brief glimpses of the full-time physician, part-time entertainer.
Some may remember him as Rick in Rick and the Arrhythmics, a rock band that he and his friends, including two other doctors, played with in the 1980s.
At his medical practice, Cardiology Associates of Fredericksburg, the staff recalls a Christmas party in 2008 when Lewis donned a blond wig and did the Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode.”
“It looked a lot more like Van Halen than Chuck Berry,” Lewis said.
But most of his patients, and many of his colleagues, know Lewis only as a buttoned-down cardiologist, a family man, with 28 years of service in the Fredericksburg area.
As he said, “You have a certain reputation. People think a certain way about you, and you don’t want to jeopardize that.”
But now he is 60 and no longer responsible for answering calls at nights and on weekends. He has experienced a burst of creativity, he said, writing songs again and performing them in public.
His songs are sprinkled with heart-healthy messages, such as “Salt Shaker,” his cover of Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.”
“No more salt shaker, heart breaker, life taker.
Don’t you mess around with that.”
Lewis traces his love of music to his family and his boyhood in Long Island.
His grandfather and father were accomplished singers. He also sang with his brothers, Steve and Gary.
“The three of us have been singing together since we could talk,” he said.
His parents encouraged him to play the piano. He also taught himself the bass guitar in high school to make it easier to get into rock bands. Later, he bought a chord chart and taught himself the six-string guitar.
“I could always listen to something and then try to figure it out,” he said.
During his medical training at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia, he performed in the annual end-of-year variety shows.
Later, in Fredericksburg, he and his wife, Ginny, raised two sons, Jonathan and David.
In the family home, Lewis had an extensive music collection that included Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Boston, Beach Boys and The Beatles, said Jonathan Lewis, 21.
“I was brought up on classic rock,” he said.
For years, Richard Lewis’ public performances were limited to the Beth Sholom Temple, where he sang with the choir and performed on special occasions.
But now he’s appearing at places such as Spotsylvania Towne Centre, Potomac Mills or The Underground, the student nightspot at the University of Mary Washington.
There he performs his adaptations of the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda” and John Lennon’s “Woman:”
“Now, woman, let me try to explain.
You can have a heart attack without any pain.”
Or his audience might hear him poke fun at himself with “Doctor Man,” his cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
“It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday.
The mall manager gives me a smile.
He thinks that it’s me that you’re here to see.
But he’s only off by a mile.”
Jim Hall: 540/374-5433