Tara Browne

Mar 04, 1945
Dec 18, 1966

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From Wikipedia:

Tara Browne (4 March 1945 – 18 December 1966) was a London-based Irish socialite and heir to the Guinness fortune. His December 1966 death in a car crash was an inspiration for the Beatles’ song “A Day in the Life“.

Early life

Browne was the son of Dominick Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne, 2nd Baron Mereworth (an Anglo-Irish peer and member of the House of Lords who served in that house for 72 years, longer than any other peer up to that time, finally being evicted during government reforms in 1999) and Oonagh Guinness, an heiress to the Guinness fortune.

Browne was a member of Swinging London’s counterculture of the 1960s and had stood to inherit £1 million at age 25. In August 1963, at age 18, he married Noreen “Nicky” MacSherry; the couple had two sons, Dorian and Julian.

For his 21st birthday, he threw a “lavish” party at Luggala, the Gothic Browne family seat in the Wicklow Mountains, where “two private jets flew the 200 or so guests to Ireland, including John Paul Getty, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones [and] Jones’ then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg.”

Browne induced his friend Paul McCartney’s first LSD trip in 1966, at Browne’s home in Belgravia.

His life was captured in Paul Howard’s biography I Read the News Today, Oh Boy, published in 2016.


On 17 December 1966, Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lotus Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggesting in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h). He was under the influence of alcohol and other drugs at the time. Browne failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a parked lorry. He died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed that Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.

Following his death, his estranged wife launched a public legal battle for custody of their two young children; Browne’s mother also sought custody. A judge eventually ruled that the boys should live with their grandmother.

“A Day in the Life”

The death of Browne is captured in the song “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles, which was released on their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In a 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, John Lennon said, “I was reading the paper one day […] the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash.” Lennon, who was a friend of Browne, read the coroner’s verdict into Browne’s death while composing music at his piano. It was this news which inspired him to write the following lines:

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords

In 1997, Paul McCartney gave a different explanation of these lines:

“The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case; certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The “blew his mind” was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash.”

However, in his 2021 book The Lyrics, McCartney confirmed that the lyrics were about the death of Tara Browne. […]

I did once have an accident in Liverpool where I fell off a moped and busted my lip open, and we had to get the doctor round to my cousin Betty’s house. That was around this same time, when I was twenty-something and going out on the moped from my dad’s house to Betty’s house. I was taking a friend, Tara Guinness. He died later in a car accident. He was a nice boy. I wrote about him in ‘A Day in the Life’: ‘He blew his mind out in a car / He didn’t notice that the lights had changed’. Anyway, I was with Tara and had an accident – fell off my moped, busted my lip, went to Betty’s, and she said, ‘Get a doctor, get a doctor. It needs stitches.’

Paul McCartney – From “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present“, 2021

Last updated on August 27, 2023


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