Lucy Vodden, the subject of a Julian Lennon drawing that inspired his father, John, to write the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s classic “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” passed away last week after a long battle with lupus. Vodden, formerly Lucy O’ Donnell, was 46. In a statement, Julian and his mother Cynthia Lennon said they were “shocked and saddened” by Vodden’s death, the Associated Press reports.
As the story goes, in 1966, Julian Lennon brought home a drawing of his classmate Lucy, describing the image of the girl as “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.” The rest is rock history. Inspired by the drawing, Lennon — and McCartney, who Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1968 contributed imagery like “newspaper taxis” — crafted one of their most famous and controversial songs. For decades, fans have debated the Lucy story and argued that the song’s psychedelic lyrics are veiled references to the band’s experimentation with LSD, hence the capitalizations.
However, Lennon himself was vocal about dispelling those rumors on numerous occasions, including a 1970 interview with RS when he said, “‘Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds,’ which I swear to God, or swear to Mao, or to anybody you like, I had no idea spelled L.S.D.” (Get more Beatles history in our Essential Beatles Coverage.)
Vodden had battled lupus for five years at London’s St. Thomas Hospital before succumbing last week. According to the AP, no exact date of death has been confirmed. Julian Lennon lost contact with his former classmate after his parents had divorced, but reconnected with Vodden in recent years after news of her illness emerged. Julian often sent Vodden flowers and supportive text messages during her hospital stay.
Ironically, Vodden reportedly wasn’t even a fan of the Beatles song she helped inspire, telling the AP earlier this year, “I don’t relate to the song, to that type of song. As a teenager, I made the mistake of telling a couple of friends at school that I was the Lucy in the song and they said, ‘No, it’s not you, my parents said it’s about drugs.’ And I didn’t know what LSD was at the time, so I just kept it quiet, to myself.”