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"Eleanor Rigby" is a song by The Beatles, simultaneously released on the 1966 album Revolver and on a 45rpm single. The song was primarily written by Paul McCartney. With a double string quartet arrangement by George Martin, and striking lyrics about loneliness, the song continued the transformation of the group from a mainly pop-oriented act to a more serious and experimental studio band.


As is true of many of McCartney's songs, the melody and first line of the song came to him as he was playing around on his piano. The name that came to him, though, was not Eleanor Rigby but Miss Daisy Hawkins. In 1966, McCartney recalled how he got the idea for his song:
A promotional poster for the single from the UK.

Others believe that Father McKenzie refers to 'Father' Tommy McKenzie, who was the compere at Northwichmarker Memorial Hall

McCartney originally imagined Daisy as a pre-pubescent girl, but anyone who cleaned up in churches would probably be older. If she were older, she might have missed not only the wedding she cleans up after but also her own.

McCartney said he came up with the name Eleanor from actress Eleanor Bron, who had starred with the Beatles in the film Help!. Rigby came from the name of a store in Bristol, Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers, that he noticed while seeing his then-girlfriend Jane Asher act in The Happiest Days Of Your Life. He recalled in 1984, "I just liked the name. I was looking for a name that sounded natural. Eleanor Rigby sounded natural."

The Beatles finished the song in the music room of John Lennon's home at Kenwoodmarker. John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and their friend Pete Shotton all listened to McCartney play his song through and contributed ideas. Starr contributed the line "writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear " and suggested making "Father McCartney" darn his socks, which McCartney liked. Shotton then suggested that McCartney change the name of the priest, in case listeners mistook the fictional character in the song for McCartney's own father.

The song is often described as a lament for lonely people or a commentary on post-war life in Britain.

McCartney couldn't decide how to end the song, and Shotton finally suggested that the two lonely people come together too late as Father McKenzie conducts Eleanor Rigby's funeral. At the time, Lennon rejected the idea out of hand, but McCartney said nothing and used the idea to finish off the song, later acknowledging Shotton's help.


"Eleanor Rigby" does not have a standard pop backing; none of the Beatles played instruments on it, though John Lennon and George Harrison did contribute harmony vocals. Instead, McCartney used a string octet of studio musicians, composed of four violins, two cellos, and two violas, all performing a score composed by producer George Martin. For the most part, the instruments "double up"—that is, they serve as two string quartets with two instruments playing each part in the quartet. Microphones were placed close to the instruments to produce a more vivid and raw sound. George Martin asked musicians to play without vibrato and recorded two versions, one with and one without, the latter of which was used. McCartney's choice of a string backing may have been influenced by his interest in the composer Antonio Vivaldi. Lennon recalled in 1980 that "Eleanor Rigby" was "Paul's baby, and I helped with the education of the child ... The violin backing was Paul's idea. Jane Asher had turned him on to Vivaldi, and it was very good."The octet was recorded on 28 April 1966, in Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studiosmarker and completed in Studio 3 on 29 April and on 6 June. Take 15 was selected as the master.

George Martin, in his autobiography All You Need Is Ears, takes credit for combining two of the vocal parts, having noticed that they would work together contrapuntally. He cited the influence of Bernard Herrmann's work, particularly the score for the film, "Fahrenheit 451", on his string scoring.

The original stereo mix had Paul's voice only in the right channel during the verses, with the string octet mixed to one channel, while the mono single and mono LP featured a more balanced mix. On the Yellow Submarine Songtrack and Love versions, McCartney's voice is centred and the string octet appears in stereo in an attempt to create a more "modern" sounding mix.


"Eleanor Rigby" was released simultaneously on 5 August 1966 on both the album Revolver and on a double A-side single with "Yellow Submarine" on Parlophone in the United Kingdom and Capitolmarker in the United States. It spent four weeks at number one on the British charts, but in America it only reached the eleventh spot.

The song was nominated for three Grammys and won the 1966 Grammy for Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance, Male or Female for McCartney. Thirty years later, George Martin's isolated string arrangement (without the vocal) was released on the Beatles' Anthology 2. A remixed version of the track was included in the 2006 album Love.

It is the second song to appear in the Beatles' 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine. The first is "Yellow Submarine"; it and "Eleanor Rigby" are the only songs in the film which the animated Beatles are not seen to be singing. "Eleanor Rigby" is introduced just before the Liverpoolmarker sequence of the film, and its poignancy ties in quite well with Ringo Starr (the first member of the group to encounter the submarine) who is represented as quietly bored and depressed. "Compared with my life, Eleanor Rigby's was a gay, mad world."

In 1984, a re-interpretation of the song was included in the film and album Give My Regards to Broad Street, written by and starring McCartney. It segues into a symphonic extension, "Eleanor's Dream."


[[Image:eleanor rigby single japan.jpg|right|thumb|200px|The"Eleanor Rigby"/"Yellow Submarine" single from Japan. The photo shows the Beatles on stage at Tokyo in 1966.]]

"Eleanor Rigby" is also important in the Beatles' evolution from a pop, live-performance band to a more experimental, studio-oriented band, though the track contains little studio trickery. In a 1967 interview Pete Townshend of the Who commented "I think 'Eleanor Rigby' was a very important musical move forward. It certainly inspired me to write and listen to things in that vein."

Though "Eleanor Rigby" was not the first pop song to deal with death and loneliness, according to Ian MacDonald it "came as a quite a shock to pop listeners in 1966." It took a bleak message of depression and desolation, written by a famous pop band, with a sombre, almost funeral-like backing, to the number one spot of the pop charts. The bleak lyrics were not The Beatles' first deviation from love songs, but were some of the most explicit.

In some reference books on classical music, "Eleanor Rigby" is included and considered comparable to art songs (lieder). Howard Goodall said that the Beatles' works are "a stunning roll-call of sublime melodies that perhaps only Mozart can match in European musical history" and that they "almost single-handedly rescued the Western musical system" from the "plague years of the avant-garde". About "Eleanor Rigby", he said it is "an urban version of a tragic ballad in the Dorian mode.

Jerry Leiber said, "The Beatles are second to none in all departments. I don't think there has ever been a better song written than "Eleanor Rigby."

Historical artefacts

The gravestone of the "real" Rigby, St. Peter's Parish Church, Woolton, August 2008
In the 1980s, a grave of an Eleanor Rigby was discovered in the graveyard of St. Peter's Parish Church in Wooltonmarker, Liverpoolmarker, and a few yards away from that, another tombstone with the last name McKenzie scrawled across it. During their teenage years, McCartney and Lennon spent time "sunbathing" there; within earshot distance of where the two had met for the first time during a fete in 1957. Many years later McCartney stated that the strange coincidence between reality and lyric could be a product of his subconscious, rather than being a meaningless fluke. The actual Eleanor Rigby was born in 1895 and lived in Liverpoolmarker, possibly in the suburb of Wooltonmarker, where she married a man named Thomas Woods. She died on 10 October 1939 at age 44, which, because 1940 was a leap year, was exactly one year to the day before Lennon was born. Whether this Eleanor was the inspiration for the song or not, her tombstone has become a landmark to Beatles fans visiting Liverpool. A digitised version was added to the 1995 music video for the Beatles' reunion song "Free as a Bird".

In June 1990, McCartney donated a document dating from 1911 which had been signed by the 16-year-old Eleanor Rigby to Sunbeams Music Trust, instantly attracted significant international interest from collectors because of the significance and provenance of the document. The nearly 100-year-old document was sold at auction in November 2008 for £115,000. The Daily Telegraph reported that the uncovered document "is a 97-year-old salary register from Liverpool City Hospital." The name E. Rigby is printed on the register, and she is identified as a scullery maid. Her great grand-daughter is actress Emma Rigby.


Personnel per Ian MacDonald

Cover versions

Studio versions

The following artists have recorded "Eleanor Rigby" in a variety of styles, at least 61 released on albums by one count:

Live performances


  • In 1994, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor sampled the song's chorus for her song, "Famine" which appears on Universal Mother. The song was later remixed and released as a single in 1995, and was a Top 40 UK hit.
  • In 2004, Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli released "Lonely People", using "Eleanor Rigby" as the main sample.
  • In 2006, mashup artist team9 created a remix of "Eleanor Rigby" using Queens of the Stone Age's "In My Head".
  • B.o.B sampled "Eleanor Rigby" as the main sample for his song "Lonely People" in 2008.


Chart (1966) Peak
UK Singles Chart 1
Canadian CHUM Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 11
Chart (1986) Peak
UK Singles Chart 63

  • UK, starting 11 August 1966: 8-1-1-1-1-3-5-9-18-26-30-33-42
  • UK, starting 30 August 1986: 63-81


  1. Miles (1997), p. 281.
  2. Turner (1994), pp. 104-105.
  3. MacDonald (2005), pp. 203-205.
  4. Sheff (2000), p. 140.
  5. Lewisohn (1988), pp77, 82.
  7. Lewisohn (1988), p. 200.
  8. Wallgren (1982), p. 48.
  9. Wilkerson (2006)
  10. The Beatles Anthology (2000), p. 208.
  11. Friedwald (1996), p. 397.


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