The Radiohead Song Thom Yorke Wrote As A Farewell To His Ex-Wife

A songwriter almost always puts bits from their personal experiences into the mix while writing a song. While most of these efforts are romantic love ballads or uplifters, some have a tragic story behind them. For instance, Stevie Nicks had to get an abortion due to her busy schedule, but this incident affected her so profoundly that she wrote ‘Sara’ to express her sadness over making this decision. On the other hand, Ringo Starr wrote his ‘Never Without You’ after the late Beatle George Harrison’s passing.

In music history, there are many examples of songs written after breakups or the passing of loved ones. Artists pour their hearts and souls into those songs and express their sadness in every note they sing. Thom Yorke also followed the same steps when he parted ways with his 23-years-long partner Rachel Owen. He created a timeless Radiohead classic that honored the 23 years they spent together in a loving relationship.

Thom Yorke met Rachel Owen while the two were studying at the University of Exeter. The couple then started a relationship and stayed together through thick and thin for 23 years. There were rumors that the two weren’t married, but it later turned out that Yorke and Owen had gotten married with a discreet ceremony in Oxfordshire. Owen was a photographer, printmaker, and lecturer on Italian Literature, and she inspired Yorke to write the songs ‘I Might Be Wrong’ and ‘Optimistic.’

Rachel Owen had stayed by Yorke’s side since Radiohead’s formation. As an artist, she contributed to Yorke’s 2018 soundtrack album ‘Suspiria’ with her artwork, while their son Noah played drums on two songs. Although they had an admirable relationship, Thom Yorke announced their separation in 2015 with a brief statement. “Rachel and I have separated,” said Yorke. “After 23 highly creative and happy years, for various reasons, we have gone our separate ways. It’s perfectly amicable.”

A year after their separation, Rachel Owen passed away of cancer at the age of 48. Radiohead then decided to dedicate the reissue of their 1997’s ‘OK Computer,’ ‘OKNOTOK,’ to Rachel’s memory. As it turns out, Thom Yorke also wrote a song months before his former wife’s passing. Titled ‘Daydreaming,’ the ballad features lyrics expressing Yorke’s sadness over his split from Rachel. The music video for the song also has interesting details.

In the music video for ‘Daydreaming,’ Thom Yorke walks through various passageways and doors leading to different locations. As curious fans noticed, the amount of these doors and passages is 23, representing the years he spent with Owen. The lyrics ‘It’s too late / The damage is done’ and ‘Beyond the point / Of no return’ indicate that their relationship was in an irreversible state.

Many fans and music critics believe Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is dedicated to Rachel Owen as well. Apart from ‘Daydreaming,’ ‘True Love Waits’ is another song fans believe was written about her, as at the end of the song, Yorke heartbrokenly cries, ‘Just don’t leave.’ Following Rachel’s passing, these songs and the album found a new meaning and became a sad reminder of Yorke and Owen’s 23 years of relationship.