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definition - Eleanor_Rigby

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Eleanor Rigby

"Eleanor Rigby"
Single by The Beatles
from the album Revolver
A-side "Yellow Submarine"
Released 5 August 1966
Format 7"
Recorded 28–29 April and 6 June 1966,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Baroque pop[1]
Length 2:06
Label Parlophone
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
The Beatles singles chronology
"Paperback Writer"
"Eleanor Rigby" / "Yellow Submarine"
"Strawberry Fields Forever" / "Penny Lane"

Music sample
Revolver track listing

"Eleanor Rigby" is a song by The Beatles, simultaneously released on the 1966 album Revolver and on a 45 rpm single. The song was written primarily by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney.[2] 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 experimental studio-based band.



As with 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. Donovan reported that he heard McCartney play it to him before it was finished with completely different lyrics.[3] In 1966, McCartney recalled how he got the idea for his song:

  A promotional poster for the single from the UK.
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. I couldn't think of much more so I put it away for a day. 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.[4]

Others believe that Father McKenzie refers to 'Father' Tommy McKenzie, who was the compere at Northwich Memorial Hall.[5][6]

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." However, it has been pointed out that the graveyard of St Peters Church in Liverpool, where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met on the Woolton Village garden fete in the afternoon of 6 July 1957, contains the gravestone of an individual called Eleanor Rigby. Paul McCartney has conceded he may have been unconsciously influenced by the name on the gravestone.[7] Bizarrely, the real Eleanor Rigby lived a lonely life similar to that of the person in the song.[8]

McCartney wrote the first verse by himself, and The Beatles finished the song in the music room of John Lennon's home at Kenwood. 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.[9]

The song is often described as a lament for lonely people[10] or a commentary on post-war life in Britain.[11][12]

McCartney could not 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.[9]

Lennon was quoted in 1972 as having said that he wrote 70% of the lyrics,[13] and in 1980 claimed that he wrote all but the first verse,[14] but Pete Shotton, Lennon's childhood friend, remembered Lennon's contribution as being "absolutely nil".[15] McCartney said that "John helped me on a few words but I'd put it down 80-20 to me, something like that."[16]

  Musical structure

The song is in Em with the III of the Em chord (G natural) defining the overall mood; the natural minor Aeolian mode (aural reference points notes 1, ♭3, ♭6 in this scale) alternating in the verse with the Dorian (aural reference notes same as the Aeolian except the 6th note is sharped because E dorian shares the same key signature as D major, which includes a C#).[17] The song opens, for example, with an Aeolian VI (C chord) and C natural note (on 'Aah, look at all...") before shifting to i (Em) (on "lonely people"). This Aeolian C natural returns later in the verse as the word "dream" as the C Chord resolves into the tonic Em. The Dorian mode appears with the C# note (6 in the Em scale) at the beginning of the phrase "in the church".[18] The chorus beginning "All the lonely people" involves the viola in a chromatic descent to the 5th; from 7 (D natural on "All the lonely peo..") to 6 (♭D on "...ple") to #5 (C on"they) to 5 (B on "from"). This is said to "add an air of inevitability to the flow of the music (and perhaps to the plight of the characters in the song)".[19]

  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 Woolton, Liverpool, and a few yards away from that, another tombstone with the last name McKenzie scrawled across it.[20][21] During their teenage years, McCartney and Lennon spent time sunbathing there, within earshot 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.[20] An actual Eleanor Rigby was born in 1895 and lived in Liverpool, possibly in the suburb of Woolton, where she married a man named Thomas Woods. She died on 10 October 1939 at age 44. 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 to Sunbeams Music Trust,[22] a document dating from 1911 which had been signed by the 16-year-old Eleanor Rigby instantly attracting significant international interest from collectors because of the significance and provenance of the document.[23] The nearly 100-year-old document was sold at auction in November 2008 for £115,000 ($250,000).[24] 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.


  Statue of Eleanor Rigby in Stanley Street, Liverpool. A plaque to the right describes it as "Dedicated to All the Lonely People"

"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.[25] Like the earlier song "Yesterday", "Eleanor Rigby" employs a classical string ensemble - in this case an octet of studio musicians, comprising four violins, two cellos, and two violas, all performing a score composed by producer George Martin.[25]. Where "Yesterday" is played legato, "Eleanor Rigby" is played mainly in staccato chords with melodic embellishments. 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 recorded two versions, one with and one without vibrato, 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, who wrote extensively for string instruments (notably "The Four Seasons"). 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."[26] The octet was recorded on 28 April 1966, in Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios and completed in Studio 3 on 29 April and on 6 June. Take 15 was selected as the master.[27]

George Martin, in his autobiography All You Need Is Ears, takes credit for combining two of the vocal parts "Ah! look at all the lonely people" and "All the lonely people", 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.[28]

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.


  The "Eleanor Rigby"/"Yellow Submarine" single issued by Parlophone in the UK. "Eleanor Rigby" stayed at #1 for four weeks on the British pop charts.

"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 Capitol in the United States.[29] It spent four weeks at number one on the British charts,[25] but in America it only reached the eleventh spot.[30]

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 Liverpool 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."

In 1996, a stereo remix featuring only the string arrangement was released on Anthology 2, and a fully remixed stereo version was issued in 1999 on the Yellow Submarine Songtrack, with some minor fixes to the vocals.


  The "Eleanor Rigby"/"Yellow Submarine" single from Japan. The photo shows The Beatles on stage in 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."[31]

Though "Eleanor Rigby" was not the first pop song to deal with death and loneliness, according to Ian MacDonald it "came as quite a shock to pop listeners in 1966."[25] 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.[25] 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."[32]

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.'"[33] In 2004, this song was ranked number 137 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[34]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[25]

  Cover versions

  Studio versions

The following artists have recorded "Eleanor Rigby" in a variety of styles, at least 62 released on albums by one count:[35]

  Live performances


  • In 1994, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor used the lyrics of 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 2000, Dru Hill frontman, Sisqo sampled the "Eleanor Rigby" song on the hit single "Thong Song"
  • 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".
  • In 2009 Producer J-Dilla sampled the live "Eleanor Rigby" cover by The Four Tops for Raekwon's "House of the Flying Daggers".
  • In 2010, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra used the opening harmony as a guitar riff in their live performances of the "Gutter Ballet Medley," which also features a cover version of The Beatles' "Help!".


Chart (1966) Peak
UK Singles Chart 1
Canadian CHUM Chart 1
US 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. ^ Carlin 2009, p. 132.
  2. ^ Miles 1997, p. 281.
  3. ^ Miles 1997, p. 282.
  4. ^ Beatles Interview Database 2007.
  5. ^ Northwich Guardian 2000.
  6. ^ RR Auction 2007.
  7. ^ Goodman 1984.
  8. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1088454/REVEALED-The-haunting-life-story-pops-famous-songs--Eleanor-Rigby.html is a bizarre coincidence.
  9. ^ a b Turner 1994, pp. 104–105.
  10. ^ Time 2010.
  11. ^ Harris 2004.
  12. ^ Dewhurst 1970.
  13. ^ Miles 1997, p. 283.
  14. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 139.
  15. ^ Miles 1997, p. 284.
  16. ^ Miles 1997.
  17. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. p276.
  18. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. p276
  19. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. pp333-334
  20. ^ a b The Beatles 2000, p. 208.
  21. ^ Hill 2007.
  22. ^ Sunbeams Trust 2008.
  23. ^ Collett-White 2008.
  24. ^ Meeja 2008.
  25. ^ a b c d e f MacDonald 2005, pp. 203–205.
  26. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 140.
  27. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 77, 82.
  28. ^ Pollack 1994.
  29. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 200.
  30. ^ Wallgren 1982, p. 48.
  31. ^ Wilkerson 2006.
  32. ^ Goodall 2010.
  33. ^ Swainson 2000, p. 555.
  34. ^ Rolling Stone 2007.
  35. ^ Clement 2000.
  36. ^ Friedwald 1996, p. 397.
  37. ^ Tyrangiel 2006.
  38. ^ BBC News 2003.
  39. ^ The Beatles-Eleanor Rigby (4centers Remixx)Wav Download in song Description by Love and Light on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free


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