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now and then

Pop Culture

The Beatles return with their 'last' song, John Lennon's gorgeous 'Now and Then'

All 4 Beatles appear together on a song 6 decades in the making.

The Beatles in 1967.

April 24, 1976, was the last time former Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, saw each other. McCartney would later recall that the last words Lennon ever spoke to him were, “Think of me now and then, old friend.”

Lennon would be gunned down in front of his apartment on December 8, 1980.

It feels somewhat prophetic that the final Beatles song featuring all four members, released on Thursday, November 2, is called “Now and Then.” The song was built from a demo that Lennon recorded at his Manhattan apartment in 1978. Although no one knows if it was written about McCartney, it’s a redemptive ballad about how Lennon found the strength to overcome hardships through a loved one.

I know it's true

It's all because of you

And, if I make it through

It's all because of you


The song was written at a time when the pair had gotten past years of hard feelings and legal battles after the Beatles’ breakup and had considered recording together again. Of course, the song could also have been about his wife and creative partner, Yoko Ono, who was the subject of some of Lennon’s most heartfelt ballads.

“Now and Then” has one of the most prolonged gestation periods of any piece of modern music. The Lennon demo was already about 16 years old when it was handed to the surviving Beatles by Ono as part of the Beatles ' Anthology project in 1994. Although the surviving Beatles would complete Lennon’s “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird,” the band did work on “Now and Then” but never finished the song.

McCartney says the band “ran out of steam and time,” and, in the past, he’s claimed that Harrison didn’t like the song. Harrison would die in 2001 from lung cancer.

But thanks to an AI program developed by filmmaker Peter Jackson that was used to make The Beatles' “Get Back” documentary, the band was able to complete the song. "Since Peter took John off [the cassette] and gave him his own track, it's like John's there. It's far out," Ringo Starr said in a BBC documentary.

While some feared that McCartney and Starr were using AI to resurrect Lennon from the grave, their use of AI is tasteful because it doesn’t create anything new. It just bring’s Lennons voice to the forefront.

“My dad would have loved that because he was never shy to experiment with recording technology. I think it’s really beautiful,” Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, told the BBC.

The performances by all four Beatles over 6 decades were augmented by sweeping orchestrations composed by McCartney and producer Giles Martin, son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin.

Although there are sure to be more projects involving the surviving Beatles and the band's legacy as recording artists, this is the last time we will ever get to hear a new song from the group. “Now and Then” is a fine curtain call that sits nicely along with their incredible catalog of music. It’s a song about perseverance through the power of love and friendship, a theme that’s prevalent in the band's most important songs, from “Help!” to “All You Need is Love” to “Hey Jude.”