The Tragic Death Of John Lennon's Uncle

John Lennon did not have a good relationship with his father. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Alfred "Freddie" Lennon left John's mother when the future Beatle was just a boy and for some reason only tried to weasel his way back into his son's life after John had a few number one records under his belt. "I never knew my father," said Lennon. And when Freddie tried to make amends with his son later in life, John turned him away. "I saw him and spoke to him, and decided I still didn't want to know him."

Luckily, John was able to find a father figure in his uncle George Toogood Smith. Liverpool's St. Peter's Church, where Smith is buried, notes that Lennon's uncle through marriage had a profound influence on him as a child. He taught John to read and tucked him into bed with a nursery rhyme at night. He instructed him in artistic pursuits like drawing and painting, and even gave the soon-to-be world-famous musician his first mouth organ.

But tragedy was in store for young John Lennon, as a liver hemorrhage took Smith's life on June 5, 1955, when his nephew was just 14 years old. The loss was just another tragic chapter in the life of John Lennon. Paul McCartney told Billboard decades later that such losses (Lennon's mother died in 1958) made John paranoid that those close to him would die. "I think John's whole life was a cry for help," Paul said.

Is Eleanor Rigby buried in the same cemetery as John Lennon's uncle?

As the hit Beatles song goes, "Eleanor Rigby died in a church and was buried along with her name." And according to the BBC, a headstone in the very same cemetery where John Lennon's uncle lay to rest, and where he first met his future songwriting partner, bears that exact name. The logic follows that since that graveyard had such significance for Lennon and McCartney, this Liverpool maid who died in 1939 was the obvious inspiration for the song, and Beatles fans have indeed assumed so for years. But Paul claims that is not true. "Eleanor Rigby is a totally fictitious character that I made up," the former Beatle said in 2008 after a birth certificate for the woman buried in the St. Peter's churchyard was sold at auction.

Paul swears that he didn't take the name from the gravestone. In fact, the character from the song was first named Daisy Hawkins, then Eleanor Bygraves, before finally becoming the name we all know and sing today. He saw the surname on a storefront and thought it sounded better. "Eleanor Rigby sounded natural," he said, but admitted the possibility that the name snuck its way from the tombstone into the song via his subconscious. Who knows? Memory is a funny, finicky thing. Maybe Paul actually started writing "Eleanor Rigby" the day he met John in that cemetery in 1957 and he just never knew it.