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Q&A: Eleanor Rigby started as Daisy Hawkins

Eleanor Rigby was Daisy first

I just heard the song Eleanor Rigby and was wondering if she was a real person.

Doesn't it seem like every great song has an official story, and a whole lot of speculation about what the song was really about?

Eleanor Rigby was on the other side of Yellow Submarine, released in 1966. It told a somber story about lonely people and unfulfilled dreams, and also foreshadowed a transition of the Beatles from a light pop group to a more serious, introspective band. Among the lyrics:

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name.

Nobody came.

Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave.

No one was saved.

Paul McCartney is credited with writing the song, although he acknowledges assistance from others. In an interview after the song's release, he said: "I was sitting at the piano when I thought of it. The first few bars just came to me, and I got this name in my head — Daisy Hawkins picks up the rice in the church. I don't know why.

"Then the name Father McCartney came to me, and all the lonely people. But I thought that people would think it was supposed to be about my Dad sitting knitting his socks. Dad's a happy lad. So I went through the telephone book and I got the name McKenzie."

Daisy Hawkins also was scuttled. McCartney said Eleanor was taken from actor Eleanor Bron, who appeared in the movie Help! with the band, and Rigby from a store in Bristol, England, Rigby & Evens Ltd. Wine & Spirit Shippers. He liked the combination because it "sounded natural."

But that didn't stop people from looking for other explanations. In the 1980s, a grave of an Eleanor Rigby was found at a church cemetery in Liverpool, where McCartney and John Lennon sunbathed as teenagers. That Eleanor Rigby died in 1939 at the age of 44, but unlike the subject of the song, was married. A few feet away was a grave of a McKenzie. McCartney has denied that's where he got the names, but says he may have been subconsciously influenced by seeing them.

In honor of the song, a statue was built in 1982 on Stanley Street in Liverpool. It depicts a woman sitting alone on a bench (see it at www.sjsfiles.btinternet.co.uk/img0075.htm).

Bonnie Tyler making the rounds

Bonnie Tyler was a prolific singer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Is she still performing?

Tyler, who began life in Wales in the United Kingdom as Gaynor Hopkins, is alive and well. Her hits include Hero, Total Eclipse of the Heart and It's a Heartache. Now in her late 50s, Tyler concentrates more on touring than putting out albums, though she released a "best of" album in 2007: From the Heart: Greatest Hits. She seems to tour in other countries more than here but she did play some dates in the United States this year.

Q&A: Eleanor Rigby started as Daisy Hawkins 12/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2008 3:14pm]
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