Monday, August 20, 2012

Story Songs: Eleanor Rigby

The Beatles's catalog of music is immense and impressive, to say the least. The group went through different phases of creativity as they matured individually, collectively, and artisitically.

One of my favorite songs is "Eleanor Rigby." It was on the Revolver album in 1966,  which I thought was quite a departure from previous efforts. Many critics consider Rubber Soul, released the previous year, as the transitional album from their pop efforts to a more serious and thematic approach to music.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon could be very thoughtful and reflective in their compositions. "Eleanor Rigby" is a about loneliness. The dominant string arrangement adds to that feeling.

How we interpret the lyrics are subjective as you can discover by researching the song. It can be taken on several levels.

So here are my humble thoughts.

The first stanza is about a lonely spinster who has attended a wedding, and wishes she could marry:

"Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been,
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?"

The second stanza reflects on the emptiness, or apathy, toward religion by the church and worshippers:

"Father Mckenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near.
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?"

And in the final stanza the woman has died and no one attended her funeral that was apparently officiated by Father Mckenzie.

"Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father Mckenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved"

Sometimes I think the song could be about a woman who works at the church and is secretly in love with the father -- perhaps a love that will never be consumated -- as they both are destined to lead lonely lives.

And the song ends:

"All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people) 

Where do they all come from? 
All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people) 
Where do they all belong?"

Oh well, like I mentioned above, the lyrics can take on a lot of meanings. How do you interpret the song?
"Eleanor Rigby" lyrics


  1. That song has a very sad and haunting melody. To me it hones in on 2 particularly lonely people who just happened to have met only because Eleanore died, yet there they were all along. She attending the wedding at the church where the priest resided and lonely as they were they never connected. Yes, it could have been possible that they could have been lovers!

  2. As noted, there are many ways to interpret the song. As for the woman, I think she may have been in love with the priest but he didn't know it, and so they lead lonely lives. Interesting tune.