Look At All The Lonely People
It could be a song about life in a pandemic. Written 55 years ago, the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby talks of loneliness and isolation –"Look at all the lonely people" – and especially a lonely woman who died, was buried, and no one came to her funeral.
Sir Paul McCartney, who was knighted on this day in '97, denies that the song is based on a real person but one woman may have proof to the contrary.
Released in 1966 on the album 'Revolver', the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" talks of the loneliness and isolation. Specifically the loneliness of a woman and of a priest. The lyrics include,
Died in the church and was buried
along with her name
Wiping the dirt from his hands as
he walks from the grave
No-one was saved
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Legend has it that Paul McCartney made up the name "Eleanor Rigby," but a document that McCartney had from 1911 might tell a different story.
Eleanor Rigby was a fictional character — that the two names were chosen by Paul McCartney based on an actress he knew and a liquor store in Bristol. But there may well have been a real Eleanor Rigby, and Annie Mawson says she has the proof.
Mawson runs a centre that uses music to help people with physical and mental health issues.
Twenty years ago, Mawson wrote an emotional letter to Paul McCartney explaining, she says, about "the transformative power of music,” and especially how some of his songs, like Eleanor Rigby, have “helped our children communicate. ... It was just full of stories of the children who had improved so much through music, who didn't even speak."
Months later, a response arrived in the mail. "The envelope was exciting, because it was a brown envelope stamped with his Paul McCartney World Tour logo, unique to him," Mawson says. "I intrigued, because I knew it had to come from him.
Inside was a beautiful ancient parchment from 1911, from a hospital in Liverpool. Interestingly, on the document, there were three stamps. It was a roll call of hospital employee names, and they'd all received their wages.
One of the employees was a maid named E. Rigby.
The document showed that she received pay of one pound three and 11 pence. And that she had clearly signed for the money.
While Paul McCartney has often said Eleanor Rigby wasn't a real person, Mawson believes the document that she received from McCartney himself is proof that there was, in fact, a real Eleanor Rigby who inspired the song.
"Why else would he send me it? That's what I don't understand if it isn't," she says.
"Maybe it is just another pointer into why he did write 'Eleanor Rigby.' All I know is that he sent me this beautiful document."