Last updateWed, 28 Oct 2020 1pm


Dr. Ken Womack Publishes Latest Beatles Book

WomackKenneth Womack Ph.D., Professor of English and Popular Music, published his latest book, John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life, on Sept. 15.

“It’s about this amazing comeback at the end of John Lennon’s life where he comes back from a five-year self-imposed retirement and begins making music again,” said Womack, a Beatles fan of 43 years.

He continued, “There was no book that demonstrated and detailed how he had come back, why he came back, how he composed the 10-30 songs that he recorded in the fall of 1980, and how long they were in gestation. I wanted a book to exist that told the story of that incredible comeback of this guy deciding to make a go of it again in a very competitive industry and pulling it off.”

Research for the book included interviews with Lennon’s friends and associates, as well as producers and engineers who worked on his recordings.

“I’m very interested in the process in which art is made,” said Womack. “I want to learn about how someone takes an idea, a ragged idea, and turns it into something in this case that will endure for all time.”

Since beginning his professional writing career in the mid-1990s, Womack has covered all things Beatles, including Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles (2007), The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (2009), and The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four (2014).

This semester marks his third time teaching the music course “Introducing the Beatles” after initially teaching it at Penn State beginning in 2002. The class analyzes the music from perhaps the most influential band of all time, their impact on music history, and their upward trajectory from their origins in 1960, their unwavering success in 1969, and until their split one year later.

“Theirs is a very instructive story for students,” said Womack. “What we can learn from them is how they went at their industry. They didn’t just go through channels and try to be like everybody else. They came in and knocked over an entire establishment with a smile on their faces.”

Womack is also no stranger to the fiction genre—his four published novels include John Doe No. 2 and the Dreamland Motel (2010), an FBI thriller, The Restaurant at the End of the World (2012), a fictional retelling of the restaurant on the top floors of the Twin Tower’s North Tower, the suspenseful Playing the Angel (2013), and his most recent one, I Am Lemonade Lucy! (2019), about a Muslim girl who moves to an unfamiliar town for college and the friendships that ensue.

“When it comes to the writing, I like to do it very quickly because I want to feel the energy of the story,” said Womack of his writing process. “I’ve always been fascinated by books and words. [Writing] is just a remarkable way to experience the world.”

He continued, “[I am Lemonade Lucy!] was my attempt at young adult fiction, and I’m proud of it. I think it’s like the John Lennon book in the sense that I wanted to put a certain level of energy in it so that it has a forward momentum. Those are the kinds of books that I want to read.”

“It’s head-spinning how prolific he is,” said Joe Rapolla, Specialist Professor and Chair of the Music and Theatre Arts Department. “Between book projects, articles and interviews, Womack maintains a constant stream of scholarly output. He manages all this while developing programs that create opportunities for students, colleagues and the entire Monmouth University community. His personable manner is engaging to all audiences, and with the shifting of events online, that audience has grown boundlessly.”

“After knowing him as a teacher and friend for many years, I can say without a doubt he is one of the brightest minds I’ve come across in my academic journey,” said Mark Rodriguez, a Monmouth alum who was a student of Womack’s before becoming a teaching assistant for his Beatles course.

He continued, “His sharp wit and extensive knowledge combine to create a fun, lively, and engaging academic setting in his classroom. I’ve read several of his books, and his ability to write both creatively and informatively is unmatched. Not to mention, he has personally guided me through many academic and life decisions; he is my most trusted confidant and mentor.”

Womack’s next project consists of co-writing another music-related biography about the making of two legendary albums from the 1970s—George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Eric Clapton’s Layla.

“I love music in the same way we disappear into a beautiful novel,” said Womack. “It’s just a different kind of world. I like being in those places.”


PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University

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