Each member of the Fab Four started developing their musical projects when The Beatles broke up in 1970. Throughout the 1970s, John Lennon took a sabbatical from music but returned at the close of the decade with a bang. His fifth studio album, Double Fantasy, was released in 1980. Yet, Yoko Ono noted that the album didn’t include the last song Lennon ever penned.
Grow Old With Me, Lennon’s final song, was a heartfelt lament that was undoubtedly motivated by his love for Ono.
They both put a lot of effort into making Grow Old With Me come to life for Double Fantasy, but they finally decided it would suit better on his next album, Milk and Honey, since it would have given them more time to work on it.
A month after Double Fantasy reached the market, on December 8, 1970, John Lennon was assassinated in front of his New York City apartment complex, The Dakota. He never had the chance to finish the song as a result.
Yoko remembered, “We were working against a deadline for the Christmas release of the album, [and we] kept holding Grow Old With Me to the end, and finally decided it was better to leave the song for Milk And Honey so we won’t do a rush job.”
The Beatles Anthology and two freshly recorded songs, Real Love and Free as a Bird, which was based on some previously unheard tapes, were released by the Fab Four in 1994, more than ten years later.
Grow Old With Me was the ideal follow-up song to the first two singles, Ono told the three surviving the Beatles.
The final track would have been arduous to get, in Paul McCartney’s opinion, and “John’s original demo required too much work,” as he said during the Anthology.
Harrison resisted working on any more new material, but there were still some traces of a tune named “Now and Then” that were mentioned. McCartney agreed, but he understood why the other members of the band didn’t want to use it.
He told Beatles Monthly, “There was only one of us who didn’t want to do it. It would have meant a lot of hard work, the song would have needed a lot of re-writing and people would have had to be very patient with us.”
McCartney chose to look back on the happy days, recalling how joyful it was to work with Lennon from beyond the grave, and also enjoyed “Free as a Bird.” There are still demos that might have easily been turned into Beatles songs, but McCartney wanted to remember the good times. He commented, “John hadn’t finished it. On the middle eight he was just blocking out lyrics that he didn’t have yet. That meant we had to come up with something and that now I was actually working with John”
Grow Old With Me was never included in The Beatles Anthology, although it did reach the airwaves decades later after being worked on by one passionate Beatle.
2019’s What’s My Name, Ringo Starr’s 20th studio album, has a cover of Grow Old With Me.
Ringo sang the song, and McCartney contributed background vocals and a bassline to it as well. Also, one sequence of notes initially performed by George Harrison was included in the arrangement of the song’s strings by Lennon’s producer, Jack Douglas.