The Meaning Behind “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

We all know “Hey Jude” or “Here Comes The Sun,” but what about some of The Beatles’ songs that aren’t as widely celebrated? The track, in particular, that is piquing our interest is the 1967 song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” It’s a scrumptious psychedelic offering and one of the songs off of the critically acclaimed album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

But where did it come from?

John Lennon was the lead songwriter on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and Paul McCartney helped round it out, adding to the impressive Lennon—McCartney partnership. But below we’ll get into the specifics. Who is Lucy? And why do people think it’s about LSD? Let’s get into it.

The meaning behind the song lyrics

The lyrics of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” are about as hazy as the song’s psychedelic sounds. (Shoutout to the Lowery organ and Indian tambura for helping the soundscape come together.) Picture yourself in a boat on a river, Lennon sings to begin the song. With tangerine trees and marmalade skies/ Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly/ A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Thus the meaning of this song is rather abstract, but Lennon was adamant about the meaning of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” during his life. Lennon repeatedly expressed that this song was about a drawing that his young son, Julian, created while in school. Julian had drawn one of his schoolmates and friends, Lucy O’Donnell, among a smattering of stars. And when he showed his father the picture after school, he told the elder Lennon that it was “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”

Inspired by his son, Lennon got to work creating a sonic picture of his son’s drawing. Lennon gave Lucy a story and animated her in a fantastical, whimsical story.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lennon later tipped his hat to author Lewis Carroll for inspiring the lyrics. The singer reportedly drew ideas for “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” from Carroll’s famous novel Alice in Wonderland.

Is it about LSD?

Soon after its release, there was a widely held belief that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a song about the hallucinogenic drug LSD. This speculation was founded on the observation that the first letter of the nouns in the song title literally spells out LSD (Lucy, Sky, Diamonds). This coupled with Lennon’s history of drug use led fans to believe that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a euphemism of sorts for LSD.

Lennon, however, adamantly disagreed with his fans.

“It never was [about LSD] and nobody believes me,” he said in a 1971 interview.

“This is the truth: My son came home with a drawing and showed me this strange-looking woman flying around,” he continued to explain. “I said, ‘What is it?’ and he said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds,’ and I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote a song about it. The song had gone out, the whole album had been published and somebody noticed that the letters spelled out LSD and I had no idea about it. … It wasn’t about [LSD] at all.”

On the flip side, though, many members of The Beatles were open about their recreational drug use in the ’60s and ’70s. So, whether or not you believe that this song is about LSD is up to you.

Elton John’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

In 1974, seven years after The Beatles released “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” Sir Elton John released a cover of the song. John’s cover was noticeably longer than the original, which was three minutes and twenty-eight seconds, and clocked in at just under six minutes. This longer “Lucy” also featured Lennon’s backing vocals and guitar playing. Lennon’s contribution was credited under the delightful pseudonym Dr. Winston O’Boogie—Winston was Lennon’s middle name.

John’s “Lucy” saw commercial success—it even topped the charts in the U.S. and Canada—and John declared that it was “one of the best songs ever written” during a live performance of the song.

Photo by John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images

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