Remembering The Final Months Of John Lennon’s life
John Lennon on "Jealous Guy" - johnlennon / Youtube
John Lennon would’ve been 80 today if he wasn’t shot outside his home, New York’s Dakota Apartments, on December 8, 1980. Reliving what became the final months of Lennon’s life is easier with the help of Beatles scholar and author Kenny Womack in his new book, “John Lennon 1980: The Last Days In the Life.”
In an interview with TODAY, Womack talks about Lennon’s stay in Bermuda and his time as a sailor, along with other previously unknown facts.
Lennon learned how to sail in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, and decided to join the crew of a charter boat called Megan Jaye. The boat sailed from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda in June of 1980. “There was a massive storm and John took the wheel for a while when everyone else had seasickness, and he said it was the most exciting, self-affirming moment of his life,” Womack said.
The former Beatle grew fond of the paintings of American artist Nancy Gosnell which were hung in a home he was renting in Bermuda. He commissioned her to paint a portrait of Sean, who was four back then, and himself to give as a present to Yoko. The father and son tandem showed up in shorts and T-shirts and sat on the rug of the living room as she painted the scene. The painting hung in Lennon and Ono’s Dakota Apartment back in NYC.
Lennon also took inspiration from a movie for a song while staying in Bermuda. “A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story” was a TV film that featured Blythe Danner, who is Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother as well. Danner’s character, Eleanor, receives a letter from her husband quoting Robert Browning’s 1864 “Rabi ben Erza” poem, “Grow old along with me.”
Yoko Ono woke up one morning with the music of “Let Me Count the Ways” in her head, calling Lennon to play it for him. The song was inspired by the Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1845 sonnet, “How Do I Love Thee?” The two worked together on the ideas and came up with “Grow Old With Me”, which appeared on the posthumous album, “Milk And Honey”. “So much literature has suggested that John and Yoko lived these bifurcated lives, but she really rooted hard for him — worked to get him in the studio. He had a lot of fear over that,” Womack said.
Lennon and Ono also happened to own multiple apartments in Dakota. Dirty Dozen actor Robert Ryan subleased is apartment in the Dakota to the couple, who wanted to buy it after the actor’s death but weren’t initially welcomed as permanent residents at first. Womack shares, “Ryan and his family were considered ‘family types,’ but having the Lennons as tenants wasn’t something the co-op board was thrilled with.” They won the board over, however, and went on to buy more property in the building. Their main residence were No. 71 and 72, a first-floor suite for an office, No. 9 for storage, No.4 for Sean’s nanny Helen Seaman and her husband Norman, and No. 911 for storage. They had to have a seance, however.
“They had to see if the apartment had good supernatural karma. Yoko called Ryan’s daughter Lisa afterward to let her know her (late) mother was doing fine,” Womack said.
Lennon also neighbored Lauren Bacall and Leonard Bernstein. Bacall didn’t have a problem with him, but another thing can be said about Lennon’s fans. Bacall would go out and drive them away from hanging out in the vicinity.
Bernstein was a longtime Lennon fan, however, and when the annual building potluck came, the conductor/composer and his daughter took a poem from one of Lennon’s books, “The Moldy Moldy Man” and turned it into a singing activity.
According to Womack, Lennon would have done a lot of reading if he were around today: “Probably his single greatest pleasure was reading … and he would be very engaged with politics. Hopefully he would be enjoying a splendid retirement. He and Yoko had this dream where one day, when their travels and adventures were done they’d buy a seaside place in England and get postcards from Sean, all about his adventures.”