The death of John Lennon shook the world to its very core in ways never seen before, especially to those who knew him best like Paul McCartney. Even 40 years on, his loss still leaves an irreplaceable void that is agonisingly felt by music lovers everywhere as Lennon remains an icon to this day. But, in reality, it was the people closest to him that suffered most greatly, especially his old songwriting partner.
Following the split of The Beatles, John Lennon said some rather coarse words about Paul McCartney, and their fall-out played out in public. Thankfully they buried the hatchet and rekindled their friendship before Lennon sadly lost his life. Even though they didn’t see each other often, whenever their paths crossed, it was a special moment, and their brotherly relationship resumed without a snag. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
Famously, McCartney’s ‘Too Many People’ from Ram featured a sly dig at Lennon and Ono that escalated their rivalry. “I was looking at my second solo album, Ram, the other day and I remember there was one tiny little reference to John in the whole thing,” Macca later said. “He’d been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit. In one song, I wrote, ‘Too many people preaching practices,’ I think is the line. I mean, that was a little dig at John and Yoko. There wasn’t anything else on it that was about them. Oh, there was ‘You took your lucky break and broke it in two.'”
Lennon responded with the brutal track, ‘How Do You Sleep’, which only amplified the bad feelings. There was no love lost between the duo at this point, but after many years of experiencing separate lives and solo careers, the pair grew up and left the past behind them. They resumed a friendship that had benefitted them both personally and professionally before it was too late.
“I was very lucky before he got killed we were mates and we were ringing each other and we were talking about – I don’t know – we used to make bread,” McCartney later told Jonathan Ross. “So we’d talk about, ‘what’s your recipe, man?’ So it got very normal again.”
Just days before his death outside the Dakota Building, the BBC’s Andy Peebles interviewed Lennon at his family home. The pair got on so strongly that they overran for numerous hours and then went out for dinner.
“He explained how he loved living in New York, and how much he missed England,” he notes in the book, Who Killed John Lennon? by author Leslie Ann Jones. “He told me about McCartney turning up at the Dakota and ringing the doorbell, and John not letting him up, yelling down, ‘I’m baking bread and looking after the baby! If you think I’m coming out clubbing, you’ve gone mad!'”
Peebles revealed that Lennon opened up to him about his “lifelong ‘sibling rivalry'” with McCartney. The journalist recounted how Lennon had no hard feelings towards Macca and held nothing but love in his heart for his former bandmate. When the programme aired following Lennon’s death, halfway through the broadcast, a call came through to Peebles from McCartney telling him he was doing a “wonderful job”.
McCartney was grieving, and he needed to speak to Peebles personally to find out everything about the conversation he had with Lennon. He wanted to fully grasp his mindset before his death and uncover his true thoughts about their relationship.
“Paul McCartney and I had a private conversation,” Peebles added. “He needed me to reassure him that John still loved him, despite all the post-Beatles fallings-out.”
He continued: “‘John talked about you in the interview,’ I told Paul. ‘He was sarcastic, funny and irreverent but there was no doubting his fondness for you.’ We both became very emotional. I knew Paul well enough… I felt awful for making him cry.”
Despite everything that they’d said about each other both in public and behind closed doors, Lennon and McCartney had an unbreakable bond. Ever since losing their mothers as teenagers, they were kindred spirits who knew each other better than they even knew themselves and together, they lived out a shared dream.
Although McCartney will never truly get over the loss of Lennon, knowing they had fully repaired their relationship remains a small consolation for him. It would have been the greatest regret of his life if they didn’t fix things, and Peebles provided McCartney with the reassurance he was desperate to hear.