The final song of the iconic band 40 years later.
The Beatles add one more single to their prolific collection. Credit: Getty Images
The Beatles broke up decades ago, and there are only two living members, but they’re about to drop a single.
On Thursday, the official Beatles website announced a song called “Now and Then.” But here’s the kicker: the tune was created with AI audio software that captures John Lennon’s vocals.
When will ‘Now and Then’ get released?The new Beatles song will drop on Nov. 2.
John Lennon wrote and record the demo before his assassination in 1980. Previous technological limitations couldn’t separate Lennon’s vocals from the piano, which rendered it unusable for sound engineering. However, AI software developed by director Peter Jackson (and his team behind The Beatles: Get Back) successfully isolated Lennon’s vocals, making it possible for The Beatles to jam in the studio one last time.
Did the Beatles consent to this AI-assisted song? There have been controversies around the use of AI to create audio deepfakes, namely a song by anonymous creator Ghostwriter who used Drake and The Weeknd’s voices. But much of the outrage stems from a lack of consent. Conversely, the remaining members of the The Beatles were actively involved in bringing this AI-generated song to fruition.
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it. It’s a genuine Beatles recording. In 2023, to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing,” said Paul McCartney.
“It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us,” Ringo Starr added.
Teased in an interview with McCartney last June, Beatles fans have been anxiously awaiting more details about the song. Lennon had recorded a demo of the song with his vocals and piano in the ’70s, which was eventually given to the remaining members, McCartney, Starr, and George Harrison in the ’90s by Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono. The demo was shelved until Jackson’s docuseries unlocked new possibilities for extracting Lennon’s vocals.
WingNut Films, Jackson’s production company, developed a machine-audio learning (MAL) technology, which de-mixed the audio from the original documentary footage for Get Back. This enabled the filmmakers to isolate and re-mix instrument and vocal audio, including juicy snippets of conversation. By applying MAL technology to the demo, Jackson and his team got the audio quality needed to re-record the song with the remaining members of The Beatles.
Starr and McCartney completed the song in 2022 by adding their own parts and vocals. The song also incorporated guitar recordings from George Harrison who died in 2001.
“If he were here today, Dhani and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of ‘Now And Then,'” Harrison’s widow Olivia said.
Cecily is a tech reporter at Mashable who covers AI, Apple, and emerging tech trends. Before getting her master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School, she spent several years working with startups and social impact businesses for Unreasonable Group and B Lab. Before that, she co-founded a startup consulting business for emerging entrepreneurial hubs in South America, Europe, and Asia. You can find her on Twitter at @cecily_mauran.