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Song Stories

“Eleanor Rigby”

The Beatles | 1966

A meditation on loneliness in which a priest buries an unloved woman, "Eleanor Rigby" features a pair of string quartets, arranged by producer George Martin. The Beatles don't actually play a single note on the recording, although John Lennon and George Harrison do provide harmonies for Paul McCartney's lead vocal. McCartney claimed that Eleanor Rigby's fictional name came from an amalgamation of the actress Eleanor Bron (Help!) and a commercial sign for Rigby & Evans Ltd. In the 1980s, a gravestone belonging to an actual Eleanor Rigby was discovered just a stone's throw from where McCartney and Lennon first met. "It was either complete coincidence," said McCartney, "or in my subconscious."

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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