Beatles' lyrics headed for British Library

Hunter Davies, Beatles biographer with a manuscript of the lyrics to "In My Life", during a photocall to announce a major Beatles acquisition for the British Library at the British Library in London, May 22, 2013. AP Photo/Yui Mok/PA

LONDON Shakespeare, the Magna Carta — and now some of John Lennon's finest lyrics.

The British Library on Wednesday added substantially to its already formidable collection with handwritten lyrics to Beatles' classics "Strawberry Fields Forever", "She Said She Said" and "In My Life."

Although these three songs are legally credited to Lennon and band mate Paul McCartney, the wistful, evocative lyrics are primarily associated with Lennon. The manuscripts and a number of Lennon's letters were donated to the library by Hunter Davies, a Beatles biographer with longtime connections to the Fab Four.

"The British Library is the perfect home for it," he said of his unmatched Beatles collection.

The library already had some rare Beatles material on display, including some scrawled partial lyrics to earlier songs written on hotel stationery during the band's tours. The new material, however, catches the band near the height of its creative powers, with Lennon's haunting lyrics often offset by McCartney's sunnier take on life.

The foreboding "Strawberry Fields Forever" captures Lennon's ruminations about their childhood home of Liverpool, while McCartney's "Penny Lane" — the flip side of the single record — offers a much more cheerful take on the city of their youth.

Davies said he is pleased the unique collection will be kept together and put on public display. Library chief executive Roly Keating said the existing Beatles' material in the library's Treasures Gallery already draws throngs.

"Visitors from all over the world are thrilled to see such legendary lyrics in their very earliest draft form," he said.

In exchange for the gift, Davies will receive a reduction in his tax liability.

Handwritten lyrics by the band have recently sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.



Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.