Music | December 1, 2020 6:00 am

Revisiting the Last Day of John Lennon’s Life

On the 40th anniversary of his death, a new book offers a detailed look at the end of Lennon's life

John Lennon and Yoko Ono 1980
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in New York City in 1980.
Brenda Chase/Newsmakers/Getty Images

In the years and decades since his death, there’s been a lot of time spent revisiting the life of John Lennon — from historical looks back to fictional reconstructions of periods of his life. With the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s death taking place this year, it’s understandable to see even more retrospectives on his life and legacy.

One such retrospective comes from Kenneth Womack with his new book John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life. Smithsonian Magazine has published an excerpt from Womack’s book, focusing on the last day of Lennon’s life.

Womack’s account of the day offers up a sense of how utterly busy it was — Lennon and Yoko Ono were in the midst of working on their song “Walking on Thin Ice,” and were also being photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the cover of Rolling Stone.

The account is a frenetic look at two creative and romantic partners, both with plenty of awareness of what being in the public eye entails, making their way across the city. The whole thing is given an air of tragedy, though, given that we know how this day came to an end.

Womack’s descriptions of Lennon, Ono and Leibovitz exploring cover concepts offers a great fly-on-the-wall moment of three skilled artists negotiating and collaborating. And the quotes from Lennon, ranging from a few self-effacing comments to his thoughts on cartoons, offer a candid look at his view of the world. The end result is an insightful and bittersweet look back into history.