The Beatles may have disbanded years ago, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped making music. In a surprising announcement, the official Beatles website revealed that the iconic band is dropping a new single titled “Now and Then.” What makes this release even more remarkable is that it features vocals from the late John Lennon, thanks to the power of AI technology.
A Long-Awaited Release
Fans of The Beatles won’t have to wait long to hear the new song. “Now and Then” is set to be released on November 2nd. The track is based on a demo that Lennon wrote and recorded before his tragic assassination in 1980. However, technical limitations at the time prevented the separation of Lennon’s vocals from the accompanying piano, rendering the demo unusable for further sound engineering.
AI to the Rescue
Thanks to the efforts of director Peter Jackson and his team behind “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary, AI software was developed to isolate Lennon’s vocals. This breakthrough allowed the remaining members of The Beatles to come together one last time in the studio and create a fully realized version of the song.
Consent and Collaboration
The use of AI in creating audio deepfakes has raised concerns about consent. However, the remaining members of The Beatles were actively involved in the production of this AI-assisted song. Paul McCartney, in particular, expressed his excitement about the project, stating, “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.”
Ringo Starr also shared his emotional connection to the song, saying, “It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us.” This unique collaboration between technology and musical genius provides a bittersweet yet thrilling opportunity for fans to experience the magic of The Beatles once again.
Unleashing the Potential
The journey to bring “Now and Then” to life began with a demo recording that Lennon made in the 1970s, featuring his vocals and piano. The demo was later given to McCartney, Starr, and George Harrison in the 1990s by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono. However, it remained shelved until Peter Jackson’s docuseries unlocked new possibilities for extracting Lennon’s vocals.
Using machine-audio learning (MAL) technology developed by WingNut Films, the production company behind Jackson’s documentary, the audio from the original footage was de-mixed and re-mixed. This innovative approach allowed the filmmakers to isolate instrument and vocal audio, including intimate snippets of conversation. By applying this MAL technology to Lennon’s demo, Jackson and his team obtained the audio quality needed to re-record the song with McCartney and Starr.
A Beautiful Collaboration
In 2022, Starr and McCartney joined forces to complete “Now and Then” by adding their own parts and vocals. The song also features guitar recordings from the late George Harrison. Reflecting on the project, Olivia Harrison, George’s widow, expressed, “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.'”
This upcoming release not only offers a new opportunity to immerse ourselves in the timeless music of The Beatles but also showcases the harmonious blending of past and present. The integration of AI technology, deep respect for Lennon’s legacy, and the collaborative spirit of the remaining band members have breathed new life into this long-awaited song.
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