Eleanor Rigby, wife of Thomas Woods, granddaughter of John and Frances Rigby, died on October 10, 1939. Made immortal by the Beatles song from their 1966 album Revolver, the song was primarily written by Paul McCartney with significant lyrical contributions from John Lennon, and credited to Lennon–McCartney.
In an October 2021 article in The New Yorker, McCartney wrote that his inspiration for “Eleanor Rigby” was an old lady who lived alone and whom he got to know very well. He would go shopping for her and sit in her kitchen listening to stories and her crystal radio set. Later, Paul would say “All our songs come out of our imagination. There was never an Eleanor Rigby.”
Either way, “Eleanor Rigby” is a song about a lonely woman who spends her life waiting for companionship, doesn’t find it and dies with no-one to mourn her. Interestingly, none of the Beatles actually played instruments on the song, although Lennon and Harrison did contribute harmony vocals.
Like the earlier song “Yesterday”, “Eleanor Rigby” employs a classical string ensemble – in this case, an octet of studio musicians, comprising four violins, two violas and two cellos, all performing a score composed by George Martin. When writing the string arrangement, Martin drew inspiration from Bernard Herrmann’s work, particularly the latter’s score for the 1960 film Psycho.
Whether or not you are immortalized in song, RIP, Eleanor Rigby.