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Was The Beatles song 'Eleanor Rigby' based on a real person?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Beatles were not one for using real names in their material and, instead, opted to use fantastical sounding names that listeners didn’t need telling were fictional—take, for example, ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’. But even with that said, was ‘Eleanor Rigby’ the exemption to the rule?

The song famously sees Paul McCartney curate the story of a lonely woman named Eleanor Rigby and an inept pastor named Father McKenzie who, as part of the tale, delivers the sermon at Rigby’s funeral after she dies alone to an empty service.

McCartney originally believed that he made up the surnames in the track and decided to use the name ‘Eleanor’ because of Eleanor Bron, an actress who appeared in The Beatles’ film Help!. The surname of the Eleanor Rigby character was originally Bygraves before Macca changed it to Rigby after seeing a Bristol wine merchant called ‘Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers’.

The priest in the song originally labelled ‘Father McCartney‘ because the name found a perfect fit with the beat. However, the Beatle didn’t want to freak his Dad out so decided to have a look through the phone book and landed on ‘McKenzie’ and that was that, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was finished.

Source: Joe Taysom/faroutmagazine.co.uk

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