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Penny Lane, Penny Lane Nurse identified, pretty nurse selling poppies
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John Lennon, 1965

Manuscript Reveals Clues to Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’

November 12, 2008 10:03 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
In another Beatles revelation, clues to the identity of Eleanor Rigby have been found in a nearly 100-year-old manuscript, which goes up for sale this month.

Another Beatles Secret Revealed

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U.K. newspaper the Daily Telegraph reports 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. Rigby’s grave has also been found at St. Peter’s churchyard in Woolton, Liverpool, near the 1957 meeting place of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

The owner of the document is a woman named Annie Mawson, who received the manuscript in the mail from Paul McCartney in 1990. Mawson had written to McCartney asking for money for a charity she worked with. She decided recently to sell the manuscript in an attempt to fund a new charity center in Cumbria, in northwest England. At auction, the document is expected to raise nearly $1 million. According to the Daily Telegraph, McCartney has stated previously that Eleanor Rigby was a fictional character.

The find is the second Beatles-related revelation in the past month. In late October, a school friend of John Lennon’s revealed the name of the nurse selling poppies in the song “Penny Lane.”

“Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout/the pretty nurse is selling poppies from the tray/and though she feels she’s in a play, she is anyway,” read the famous lines of the Beatles song “Penny Lane.” Stan Williams, a school friend of John Lennon’s, has identified the “pretty nurse” as Beth Davidson, who wore a cadet nurse’s uniform as she sold poppies on Penny Lane in Liverpool.

Williams, who has written a book about growing up in Liverpool, told the Daily Telegraph that he, Lennon and some friends stopped to chat with Davidson while she was selling her poppies, and is certain that she is the nurse in the song. Davidson later married a friend and early bandmate of Lennon’s, Pete Shotton.

Related Topic: Who’s this song about?

Another Beatles song that has sparked curiosity about its leading lady is “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Although most people think the song is about LSD, Beatles biographers believe that the only possible candidate is a former classmate of Lennon’s son Julian. Lucy O’Donnell says that she and Julian were painting together in class and O’Donnell suspects that Julian probably showed the picture to his father, explaining that it was of his friend, Lucy, in the sky, The Australian reports. The article goes on to explain the origins of a few other Beatles songs.

Neil Diamond also revealed the identity of his inspiration for his iconic classic, “Sweet Caroline.” He announced that it was Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of late President John F. Kennedy. He said that he was an unsuccessful songwriter struggling to have a career when he saw a picture of young Caroline in a magazine. Diamond shared this information with Schlossberg when he performed the song via satellite for her 50th birthday.

The Boston Globe reported that Red Sox fans, who hear the song at every game, were delighted to find that it was written about JFK’s daughter.

One song that has bothered fans for years is Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Ever since the song was a number-one hit in 1973, people have been dying to find out who it was written about. On Carly Simon’s official Web site, a collection of interviews spanning from 1973–2008 demonstrate the intense public curiosity surrounding the song. Simon has refused to confess who inspired the song, although top suspects include Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger. In 2003, Simon auctioned off her secret and NBC executive Dick Ebersol paid $50,000 to find out who Simon’s muse was. So far, he is the only person who knows.

Sometimes, artists take a bit of creative license. Rick Springfield told Oprah that his song “Jessie’s Girl” is actually about his friend Gary’s girlfriend, a woman he barely knew. He didn’t like the name Gary for his song, and changed it on a whim. He doesn’t speak to Gary anymore, and doesn’t think either he or his girl know the song is about them.
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