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updated 9/28/2009 11:17:07 AM ET 2009-09-28T15:17:07

Lucy Vodden, who provided the inspiration for the Beatles' classic song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," has died after a long battle with lupus. She was 46.

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Her death was announced Monday by St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, where she had been treated for the chronic disease for more than five years, and by her husband, Ross Vodden. Britain’s Press Association said she died last Tuesday. Hospital officials said they could not confirm the day of her death.

Vodden's connection to the Beatles dates back to her early days, when she made friends with schoolmate Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son.

Julian Lennon, then 4 years old, came home from school with a drawing one day, showed it to his father, and said it was "Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

At the time, John Lennon was gathering material for his contributions to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," a landmark album released to worldwide acclaim in 1967.

The elder Lennon seized on the image and developed it into what is widely regarded as a psychedelic masterpiece, replete with haunting images of "newspaper taxis" and a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes."

Rock music critics thought the song's title was a veiled reference to LSD, but John Lennon always claimed the phrase came from his son, not from a desire to spell out the initials LSD in code.

Recent reunion
Vodden lost touch with Julian Lennon after he left the school following his parents' divorce, but they were reunited in recent years when Julian Lennon, who lives in France, tried to help her cope with the disease.

He sent her flowers and vouchers for use at a gardening center near her home in Surrey in southeast England, and frequently sent her text messages in an effort to buttress her spirits.

"I wasn't sure at first how to approach her," Julian Lennon told the Associated Press in June. "I wanted at least to get a note to her. Then I heard she had a great love of gardening, and I thought I'd help with something she's passionate about, and I love gardening too. I wanted to do something to put a smile on her face."

In recent months, Vodden was too ill to go out most of the time, except for hospital visits.

She enjoyed her link to the Beatles, but was not particularly fond of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

"I don't relate to the song, to that type of song," she told the Associated Press in June. "As a teenager, I made the mistake of telling a couple of friends at school that I was the Lucy in the song and they said, 'No, it's not you, my parents said it's about drugs.' And I didn't know what LSD was at the time, so I just kept it quiet, to myself."

Young deaths
Vodden is the latest in a long line of people connected to the Beatles who died at a relatively young age.

The list includes John Lennon, gunned down at age 40, manager Brian Epstein, who died of a drug overdose when he was 32, and original band member Stuart Sutcliffe, who died of a brain hemorrhage at 21.

A spokeswoman for Julian Lennon and his mother, Cynthia Lennon, said they were "shocked and saddened" by Vodden's death.

Angie Davidson, a lupus sufferer who is campaign director of the St. Thomas' Lupus Trust, said Vodden was "a real fighter" who had worked behind the scenes to support efforts to combat the disease.

"It's so sad that she has finally lost the battle she fought so bravely for so long," said Davidson.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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