Tara Browne (4 March 1945 – 18 December 1966) was a young London socialite and heir to the Guinness fortune. According to some sources, he was the inspiration for the Beatles song "A Day in the Life".
Browne was the son of The 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne, an Anglo-Irish peer and a member of the House of Lords since 1927 who later became famous for having served in that house longer than any other peer, finally being evicted during government reforms in 1999; and Oonagh Guinness, an heiress to the Guinness fortune and the youngest of the three "Golden Guinness Girls". One of his older brothers was The Hon. Garech Browne, of Luggala, County Wicklow in Ireland, an enthusiast of traditional Irish music and a founder of The Chieftains, Ireland's leading group of traditional musicians.
Tara Browne was a member of Swinging London's counterculture of the 1960s.
The life of Tara Browne is captured in the biography by author Paul Howard in "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 not under the influence of drugs or alcohol 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.
Browne was survived by his wife Noreen (Nicky) (MacSherry), born 1941 (died 11 June 2012) and their two sons, Dorian and Julian Browne.
"A Day in the Life"
On 17 January 1967 John Lennon, a friend of Browne's, was composing music at his piano whilst idly reading London's Daily Mail and happened upon the news of the coroner's verdict into Browne's death. He worked the story into the song "A Day in the Life", which was later released on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The first verse includes the following lines:
According to Lennon, in his 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, "I was reading the paper one day and I noticed two stories. One was the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash."
However the song's other lyricist-composer, Paul McCartney, had a very different inspiration. He is quoted as saying: "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."
Lennon remembered McCartney's contributions differently however, saying in Playboy, " Paul's contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song 'I'd love to turn you on.' I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn't use for anything. I thought it was a damn good piece of work."
A less well-known memorial to Browne was composed by Seán Ó Riada.