Creepy Cool: John Lennon is Still Dead But “AI” Is Putting His Voice On Beatles Final Song
New technology is amazing - and simultaneously troubling. As a Beatles fan I'm both curious and mildly offended that John Lennon, killed by a troubled fan outside his New York City home on December 8, 1980, will be somehow singing one more Beatles tune later this year, reportedly the last Beatles song.
What is going on here? Sir Paul McCartney, Lennon's former bandmate, told the Today program on BBC Radio 4 that they have completed a new recording using an old demo tape by John Lennon, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) tools that were able to isolate Lennon's voice.
That's right. Using snippets of Lennon's voice found on a cassette recording made before his death, they were able to separate out John's voice from the sound of the guitar and other background noise, and McCartney will reportedly sing harmony while following Lennon's lead. "We were able to take John's voice and get it pure through this AI" McCartney said. Wow. Like a "Black Mirror" episode, huh?
McCartney did not name the new tune, but according to The BBC it is likely to be a 1978 Lennon composition called "Now And Then". Sir Paul had received the demo a year earlier from Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. It was one of several songs on a cassette labelled "For Paul" that Lennon had made shortly before his death in 1980.
The forthcoming AI-assisted track brings up a host of urgent questions and challenges. Who owns the rights to your voice? Unless you have a will that explicitly states you do not want your voice to be used on future tracks or albums, gifted computer programmers could, in theory, use a digital thumbprint of your voice to sing songs that haven't even been written yet.
No further details are available, but the new track with Lennon and McCartney singing together should come out later this year. According to CNN "While McCartney’s not on the internet much, he said, he’s aware of AI being used to do things like have Lennon sing one of his songs – which he said was “kind of scary.” No kidding. It's a brave new world, one where we increasingly ask "is it real - or did a computer do that?"
There’s “a good side and a scary side” to AI, McCartney said, so “we’ll just have to see where that leads.” Yep, It's a brave, new (digitally-enhanced) world out there.
Some days I wonder where this is all headed - and if we'll have the good sense to put up a few legal guardrails to protect our voice, likeness and IP when we're gone from further digital manipulation. Whatever happened to rest in peace?
Is it real or computer-manipulated? We will be asking that a lot in the years to come.