It’s been 40 years since the singer and songwriter was murdered on the night of Dec. 8, 1980, at age 40. While numerous books have since been published about Lennon’s heinous death, Kenneth Womack was determined to take a closer look at the final days of his life.
After releasing “Double Fantasy” in November of that year, he was poised to hit the road and create more music. Womack told Fox News he reached out to those who collaborated with Lennon in 1980 to paint a portrait of a bright life that was tragically dimmed.
“I loved learning about how creative John was feeling at this point in his life,” Womack explained. “You could almost feel this change happening in him as you study his material. And that change moved into other parts of his life, such as his life with Yoko and their son.
“You can feel this positive emotion during this year,” Womack continued. “It was really heartwarming. Even on the last days of his life, John was so excited about what he was doing and how fully involved he was in his music. He was thrilled to help Yoko with her own music and was proud to be a good husband to her. He wanted to be a great cheerleader for her as she was to him. He was also a doting father to Sean, an experience he greatly enjoyed.”
Womack shared that previously, Lennon faced insecurity in stepping out on his own. The Beatles took Britain by storm in 1963 before “Beatlemania” spread to the United States in 1964, History.com noted. The group sold millions of records before they disbanded in 1970.
According to the outlet, Lennon put music on hold in 1975 to focus on his home life with Ono, now 87, as well as their son. It wouldn’t be until 1980 when Lennon made a comeback with “Double Fantasy,” a celebrated album that paid homage to his love for the Japanese artist.
Lennon and Ono married in 1969. That union lasted until his death.
“John even has a song called ‘I’m Stepping Out,’” said Womack. “If we study his music, we can really see him having, using his own words, stepping out. The music industry had changed since his so-called retirement. You’ve got punk and disco. John knew he really wanted to get it right on his own terms. So you really see this focus, this determination for John to say, ‘Hey world, this is me.’”
The British artist was also experiencing a different kind of love — with New York City.
“He loved New York,” said Womack. “He wanted to be in this place that was the starting point and ending point to so many journeys. He was attracted to what felt like a kind of anonymity where he could be around people and have private experiences in the city. That appealed to him greatly.
“Somebody would occasionally ask for an autograph or simply wave hello,” Womack continued. “But at the same time, he could be at a restaurant or wander into Central Park and no one would pay attention. He liked the energy that New York City offered, but also the kind of access to privacy that he couldn’t find elsewhere.”
Womack said that many fans still believe that Lennon and former bandmate Paul McCartney weren’t on speaking terms after the Beatles broke up. However, he said that’s far from the truth.
“They were certainly at a place where they weren’t afraid to pick up the phone and call each other,” he explained. “And they would do just that on several occasions. They really seemed to have reached a nice spot in their relationship. John would follow Paul’s music and really admire the fact that his former partner was taking chances and doing something different and interesting. We also see John referring to Paul very often in a very positive light. At one point, he would say, ‘my dear one.’
“Even on the last afternoon of his life, when talking to his sound crew, John was asked about Paul. He said, ‘I would do anything for him. And I believe he would do anything for me. We care deeply about each other,’” Womack revealed. “Their friendship was extraordinary and it showed.”
Mark David Chapman, who killed Lennon just hours after the singer autographed his album, was denied parole for the 11th time in August of this year. The 65-year-old is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence at Wende Correctional Facility, east of Buffalo.
Chapman previously said that he felt “more and more shame” every year for the crime.
“I was too far in,” Chapman told a parole board in 2018. “I do remember having the thought of, ‘Hey, you have got the album now. Look at this, he signed it, just go home.’ But there was no way I was just going to go home.”
Chapman’s next parole hearing is scheduled for August, 2022.
Womack said he purposely omitted Chapman’s name from his book because it aims to focus on Lennon’s life — not the way he died.
Womack does hope his book will shine a spotlight on Lennon’s positive outlook on a life cut short.
“It’s an inspiring story of what’s it like to come back, fight your demons and pursue your passions,” he said. “I hope readers experience the same kind of momentum John experienced as he was working on his music and being on top of his game. It was an exciting journey for me. I know it was thrilling for John and I hope readers can experience that, too.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.