“Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name,” according to the Beatles tune.
But where did the Beatles come up with the words? Was the song based on a real person?
We’re digging into the roots of the famous hit and learning more about its creators.
Who Originally Wrote Eleanor Rigby?
Paul McCartney wrote the melody and first verse of Eleanor Rigby. When he presented the song to the rest of The Beatles, they listened to Paul play it and contributed ideas.
The tune’s hook, “all the lonely people,” was suggested by George Harrison. Ringo came up with the line, ”writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear.” And finally, Lennon’s childhood friend Pete Shotton helped Paul with the ending. It was certainly a collaborative effort!
The Beatles finished the song in the studio with help from Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, the Beatles’ longtime road managers.
Although Lennon didn’t have any input to the song, the writing credits go to Lennon and McCartney. This is due to an agreement they made soon after becoming a band.
Many songwriting partnerships comprise a separate lyricist and composer. Elton John and Bernie Taupin are good examples. However, both Lennon and McCartney wrote lyrics and music.
Early on, they would often collaborate when writing songs. John Lennon called this working “eyeball to eyeball.” During the latter half of their partnership, however, this changed. They wrote most songs with minimal input from the other. Sometimes none at all.
Lennon and McCartney were equally credited with songs that either one wrote. This agreement took place before the Beatles became famous.
Was Eleanor Rigby About a Specific Person?
As a child in Liverpool, McCartney performed chores for residents for the Scouts’ Bob-a-job week. During this time, he met an older woman who would go on to inspire the song.
According to McCartney, Eleanor Rigby is about a lady that Paul got along with very well. When he found out that she lived on her own, he’d go over to chat and keep her company. He loved to hear her stories and listen to the radio she had in her kitchen. Paul later said she enriched his soul and influenced the songs he would later write.
The actress Eleanor Bron, who starred in the 1965 Beatles film Help!, inspired the woman’s fictional first name. Rigby is from a wine shop he saw in Bristol.
What Popular Covers Are There of Eleanor Rigby?
Over 200 covers of Eleanor Rigby exist, including one by the Standells three months after the Beatles released it. Additionally, the song has been recorded in nine languages, including Finnish and Czech.
Let’s look at a few of the more famous covers of the song.
Aretha Franklin released her version of Eleanor Rigby twice. Her single, recorded on October 3, 1969, reached number 17 in the charts.
The second release appears on her 1970 album, This Girl’s in Love with You. Her live recording from Fillmore West is pure Aretha!
Like all the songs that she covered, Franklin made it her own. The Beatles worshipped Aretha for her fearless spirit. And whenever she sang a Beatles song, she summed up the best in their music and hers.
Ray Charles recorded his version of Eleanor Rigby on his album Portrait of Ray. Charles’ cover of the song peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 36 in the UK. He also performed Eleanor Rigby on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 8, 1968.
Denver released Eleanor Rigby on his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This. More of a country-rock tune, this organ-heavy rendition is recorded at a sped-up tempo with a full band.
It’s the only John Denver album where the song appeared. However, the album contained another Beatles song, Golden Slumbers, as part of a medley.
Where Are The Beatles Now?
Sadly, George Harrison and John Lennon are no longer with us.
George lived in Hawaii for many years and survived an attack in his home by a knife-wielding assailant. He passed in 2001 at age 58 after a four-year battle with cancer. He is survived by his son Dhani and wife Olivia.
John Lennon lived in New York with his wife, Yoko Ono, and son Sean Lennon. Mark David Chapman murdered him in front of his home in 1980. A worldwide outpouring of grief ensued, and at least three Beatles fans died by suicide. Instead of a funeral, Ono requested ten minutes of silence worldwide.
Ringo is now 82 and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Barbara Bach. The couple has been married for over 40 years.
He has recorded 20 solo albums, is still active, and tours as Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band. The band has had over 40 members in its 23-year history. Members have included Billy Preston, Peter Frampton, and his son Zach Starkey.
Ringo is also an artist. He created paintings for many years before composing art on his computer in the late 90s. Starr says digital art gave him something to do while touring and staying in hotels.
His art is collected worldwide, with exhibitions in Europe, South America, Australia, and the United States. And as always, 100% of his proceeds go to support the Lotus Foundation.
Paul McCartney is now 80 years old and has primary residences in England, Scotland, and the USA. His home base in London is the flat he bought in St. John’s Wood in 1965.
His Scotland home is High Park Farm near the Mull of Kintyre. McCartney and his band Wings would immortalize the Mull of Kintyre in 1977 with their hit single of the same name.
While McCartney owns several homes across the US. These homes provide various living options when he is touring the country. In addition, he holds several places in New York and an estate in Beverly Hills.
However, Paul’s heart is in Tucson, Arizona. He owns a desert ranch east of Tucson, which spans over 150 acres. Though he and his wife Linda enjoyed many years at the property, he has spent considerably less time there since her passing in 1998.
Eleanor Rigby Lives On
It turns out that Eleanor Rigby is a blend of characters and places from Paul’s life. We love the origin story of the woman he spent time with. And, just like The Beatles, her legacy will endure for as long as people love music. So forever.
Do you have a favorite Beatles song? Tell us about it in the comments!