Paul McCartney Reveals the Woman Who Inspired “Eleanor Rigby”

The former Beatle used to visit the elderly woman and help with her shopping

Sir Paul McCartney performs live on stage at the O2 Arena during his 'Freshen Up' tour, on December 16, 2018 in London, England.
Sir Paul McCartney performs at the O2 Arena during his 'Freshen Up' tour, on December 16, 2018 in London.
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Ever since the Beatles released “Eleanor Rigby” in 1966, fans have speculated over whether or not there’s a real-life woman who inspired the titular character. For many years, they (incorrectly) assumed that Paul McCartney was inspired by a grave marked “Eleanor Rigby” at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool, but now the legendary musician has finally set the record straight in a new essay for the New Yorker.

In the essay, appropriately titled “Writing ‘Eleanor Rigby,’” McCartney delves into his songwriting process for the track and reveals that it was inspired by “an old lady that I got on with very well.”

“Growing up, I knew a lot of old ladies — partly through what was called Bob-a-Job Week, when Scouts did chores for a shilling,” the former Beatle wrote. “You’d get a shilling for cleaning out a shed or mowing a lawn. I wanted to write a song that would sum them up.”

“I don’t even know how I first met ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ but I would go around to her house, and not just once or twice. I found out that she lived on her own, so I would go around there and just chat, which is sort of crazy if you think about me being some young Liverpool guy,” he continued. “I still vividly remember the kitchen, because she had a little crystal-radio set. So I would visit, and just hearing her stories enriched my soul and influenced the songs I would later write.”

The woman’s name wasn’t actually Eleanor Rigby, but McCartney confirmed the inspiration behind that moniker as well; he landed on “Eleanor” after working with actress Eleanor Bron on Help!, and “Rigby” came from a shop sign he saw while wandering around in Bristol, England.

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