Art and Entertainment

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

Penny Lane’s Pretty Nurse is Identified

October 28, 2008 12:59 PM
by Rachel Balik
A school friend of John Lennon’s reveals the name of the nurse selling poppies in the Beatles song and the story of how she met Lennon.

Pretty Nurse in Penny Lane Revealed

“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.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines