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The song that John Lennon recorded on the day he died

On the day of John Lennon’s murder, The Beatle spent his final evening doing what he loved most: working in the studio with his beloved wife, Yoko Ono, creating the hauntingly fitting ‘Walking On Thin Ice’.

Only a month before his death, Lennon released Double Fantasy, and it only took a matter of weeks before he returned to the studio. His recent LP was his first album of original material in six years. At long last, Lennon’s burning appetite for creativity returned ferociously, which cruelly coincided with his life being cut short.

Lennon was entirely in work mode on his final day. This intense schedule, by his standards, was a drastic change from the last half a decade he spent mainly at home being a hands-on father. After enjoying a leisurely breakfast, Lennon was then photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone before conducting a radio interview with Dave Sholin.

Once all of his chores were dealt with, Lennon could enjoy the side of his job that made it all worthwhile, and in the evening, he ventured to The Record Factory with Yoko to finish work on ‘Walking On Thin Ice’. David Geffen interrupted the session and informed Lennon that Double Fantasy had just gone gold. Everything was perfect during that moment. However, their elation was only momentary. 

The dance-orientated track that was completed on Lennon’s final night is infectiously euphoric, juxtaposing the lyrics that flirt with mortality, making the song harrowing considering the events that would imminently follow. In the first verse, Yoko horrifyingly sings: “Walking on thin ice, I’m paying the price, For throwing the dice, In the air, Why must we learn it the hard way, And play the game of life with your heart?”.

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At the end of the track, Ono painfully concludes: “I may cry someday, But the tears will dry whichever way, And when our hearts return to ashes, It’ll be just a story”.

“That feeling came to me after we recorded it, but I wasn’t sure about it,” Yoko Ono told American Songwriter in 1992 about the song’s spoken word section. “I just knew it had something to do with a girl who is walking. Then I sang the song, and I was still sitting in the chair by the mic, waiting for them to change the tape. That’s when it just came. So, I just wrote it down quickly. I said, ‘I got it!'”.

She added, “Lake Michigan is so big that you don’t know the end of it when you look at it. I was visualising Lake Michigan. I was just thinking of this woman that is walking Lake Michigan when it is totally frozen, and is walking and walking – but not knowing that it’s that huge”.

Once they completed the recording and took a limousine home, Lennon’s life was brought to an inhumane end as he clutched the recording of ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ in his hand.

Mark Chapman’s barbaric act would make ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ Lennon’s final offering to the world, and in some regards, it was fitting. Yet, it’s heartbreaking to look past how much more he was still willing to give. Lennon was ready to tour for the first time since The Beatles and music had become the centre of his universe again, just as his future was mercilessly stolen from him.

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