The Real “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” Lucy O’Donnell Vodden, Dies at 46 of Lupus
No, it wasn’t about acid, just like Puff the Magic Dragon wasn’t about marijuana. It was about this little girl who was Julian Lennon’s playmate at nursery school. She only came out as the Lucy two years ago.
Julian [Lennon] later confirmed this: “I don’t know why I called it that or why it stood out from all my other drawings, but I obviously had an affection for Lucy at that age.
“I used to show dad everything I’d built or painted at school, and this one sparked off the idea for a song about Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”
Beatles biographers and account by band members confirm that she is the most likely source of the song.
But Lucy said she hated the song because she couldn’t see herself as a little girl running about with kaleidoscope eyes. “It doesn’t make sense,” she said.
The song owes more to Lennon’s experimentation with psychedelics and being influenced by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The old don, mathematician and photographer was said to have experimented with hallucinatory drugs, but more likely he was probably epileptic and a migraine sufferer which could account for his experiences, written into the children’s book, of altered consciousness.
The little blonde girl in Julian Lennon’s watercolour sketch grew up with a love of children. Illness prevented her having her own, but she studied nursery nursing and worked with special needs children, running a specialist nanny agency until she began to suffer from the autoimmune diseases psoriasis and lupus in her thirties.
She married her childhood sweetheart, Ross Vodden, in 1996, and Julian Lennon, whom she had seen only once since their nursery days, sent a note to the wedding.
The Voddens were two days into their first holiday in eight years when Lucy developed an infection and was taken to hospital in King’s Lynn, where she died last Tuesday with her husband and family at her bedside, including her father, the writer and doctor Michael O’Donnell. Her elder sister, Fran, said: “She had been so excited about the holiday that she drove herself half the way there, which is incredible, but she got the infection and with no immune system there was absolutely no chance of her beating it at all.
“She is utterly irreplaceable in my life and I have a nine-year-old son who thinks his life is over without her in it. I have had hundreds of e-mails and every single one says they all remember her smiling and laughing.”
Cynthia Lennon, who is said to still possess the drawing, and Julian Lennon issued a joint statement that they were “shocked and saddened” by Lucy’s death. The two former nursery schoolmates had kept in touch recent months after Julian heard she was ill. “I’ve been able to help out a bit,” he said earlier this year. “I was so upset to hear what had happened.” He tried to raise her spirits by giving her gift certificates to purchase plants at local garden centers; she had indicated that seeing them grow and prosper gave her a sense of hope.
“It was lovely of Julian,” Mrs Vodden said at the time. “We were two very energetic school kids. He would say, ‘Come on, Lucy’, to get me to do things. He was the bravest boy in school.”
No, hon. You were brave. You, too, were brave.
And Julian Lennon has lost someone else who was part of his memories of his father. I feel for him and his story; there is very little that he has of his father, and he lost his father just as he was coming to terms with his parents’ divorce.
And I loved that album when it came out in 1967. A Granada TV documentary, It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, which was shown once or twice in the U.S. and never again, is one of the best that captures that particular time with The Beatles, and how Sgt. Pepper was actually the culmination of a lot of influences and borrowings. It was based on the reminisces of Derek Taylor, The Beatles’ press agent, and it was made to coincide with the publication of his book in 1987. Granada has never put out the documentary for sale. I’m wearing out my lone copy, but there are bootlegs abounding.
The song that made Lucy Vodden famous will not be played at her funeral.